Release Date: 29 March 2016
Running Time: 147 mins
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie
Just over a month after Batman fought Superman in the thoughtfully titled Batman v Superman, more heroes are punching each other in the face in Marvel Studios’ latest mega-blockbuster Captain America: Civil War. There must be something in the air.
After a mission in Nigeria goes fatally awry the team are hauled up in front of the United Nations. Global concerns about the destructive potential of the Avengers has led to calls for more accountability and the signing of a treaty that would see them working as a sort of peace-keeping force in capes at the behest of an international security council. Still reeling from his role in creating the evil super-robot Ultron in the last Avengers movie, a guilt-ridden Tony Stark is firmly behind these so-called Sokovia Accords. Captain America on the other hand is not. Having uncovered a decades long conspiracy at the heart of supposed good guys SHIELD, Cap is fearful of serving the agendas of politically corrupt governments. And so, the stage is set for the Avengers team to duke it out.
There are certain striking similarities between Civil War and the recent Batman v Superman. Not only do both films feature heroes at war but both plots spin off from ideas about collateral damage and the use of power. However, where the latter laboured to find reasons for these two icons to fight, the decisions characters make and the sides that they take in Civil War seem very plausible. It’s the advantage of having several films worth of backstory for most of the characters; audiences have seen how these guys have changed and understand the reasoning behind their decisions.
All of which means that despite having at least a dozen superheroes fighting for space onscreen, each character is given something interesting to say or do. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo impressively manage to keep all these plates spinning at once; the story whips through an astonishing amount of content without ever feeling too much like an exercise in setting up future instalments in the Marvel franchise. All this and they still manage to make a fun, thrilling action-blockbuster with lively fight scenes and funny one-liners.
Still, regardless of how well imagined and creatively staged the action sequences are, the cinematography is largely workmanlike. Without the cool precision of Wally Pfister’s work on the Dark Knight trilogy or the painterly composition of Larry Fong’s photography in Batman v Superman, Civil War seems content to rely on its script over any visual pizazz or directorial flourishes.
Still, its main strength is not the superheroic pyrotechnics but the relationships that inform these tussles. Watching plot lines and characters arcs come to fruition after being set up over several years and multiple films is way more exciting than seeing yet another tower block being toppled. Plus, Spider-Man is in it and he kicks ass.