Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Review #1,296

Director:  Anthony & Joe Russo
Cast:  Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl
Plot:  Political interference in the Avengers' activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.

Genre:  Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi
Awards:  -
Runtime:  146min
Rating:  PG13 for some violence.
Distributor:  Walt Disney Studios

“I know we're not perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.”

Marvel has successfully proven to nullify any perceived audience fatigue over superhero movies with another winner in their bag.  Captain America: Civil War, the third instalment after The First Avenger (2011) and The Winter Soldier (2014), is essentially an Avengers-esque movie with a collection of superheroes.  Only that this time they battle each other as internal strife threatens to consume everyone. 

It's easy to wax lyrical over everything that is awesome about this new Marvel release, and how it puts Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) to utter shame, but I will leave it to other reviewers to do that. 

This review will instead make two key arguments for Civil War that I think are worth expanding on.  The first point revolves around politics, while the second centers on narrativizing spectacularity.  The Marvel movies have come a long way since Iron Man in 2008.  Envisioned in a creative bubble that prizes continuity, legacy and anticipation, Marvel's latest does all of that, but intriguingly veers sideways into the territory of politics. 

Well, you may say that most superhero films are about politics and power play, but Civil War is different—it is fiercely political.  The narrative arc puts us into two separate camps as disagreements—particularly between Iron Man and Captain America—over the signing of a United Nations superhero regulation act blow up into something bigger. 

Why the movie works is because neither camp is right nor wrong.  Any conflict that arises is sprung out of a far nobler, even practical, assertion of personal beliefs and collective values.  The film goes beyond power plays and egos—even if it may seem to be reduced to that on the surface—and shows how storytelling of a blockbuster scale can involve ideas and themes that reflect real-world problems and consequences in often dilemmatic circumstances. 

On another note, Civil War is the closest Marvel has come in making a movie that relies heavily—and cleverly—on narrativizing spectacularity, a technique rarely accomplished effectively in blockbusters.   This is the kind of filmmaking where characterizations and narrative are propelled through spectacular action. 

Two exemplars would be James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), a masterclass in this form of filmmaking, and The Dark Knight (2008) by Christopher Nolan.  Civil War delivers well on this front, especially how its action set-pieces and fight scenes are made to be so integral to the whole storytelling process.  On this note, I can't wait to see what the Russo brothers have in store for the two-parter Avengers: Infinity War in 2018 and 2019.

Verdict:  Marvel meets sky-high expectations with another winner, and actually does what blockbusters rarely do effectively—propel characterizations and narrative through spectacular action.


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You forgot the Dark Knight! It should be another exemplary example of how blockbusters weave the narrative and characterization with awesome action!
Eternality Tan said…
Indeed, that's another exemplar!

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