Released after Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, I was equally excited to see what the latest instalment of the Captain America franchise had to offer. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo have certainly proved themselves capable of directing a mega-franchise. In fact Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favourite film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But the idea of turning one of the most significant comic book events into a 2 hour film was always going to be a challenge. And the end result is something that’s entertaining but also deeply flawed.
Firstly, the action set pieces are pretty special. The chase scene between Bucky, Cap and Black Panther both shows the Russo brother's eye for filming action, but it also proved to be a well-conceived way of introducing the character of Black Panther. Of course, the airport scene is the clear highlight of the entire film, again suitably introducing the latest Spiderman into the mix. Overall from a typical blockbuster standpoint, it was an action-driven one that looks and sounds good.
However my main problem with Civil War boils down to the writing. Liberties were taken to transfer the renowned comic series Civil War onto the screen, and it evidently proved too grand and complex a challenge. The film attempts to simultaneously highlight and showcase the division within the Avengers, emphasise the changing attitudes towards them, introduce the likes of Spiderman and Black Panther, and pave the way for the Infinity War storyline. And the film never really succeeds at explaining any of those narrative elements. Instead we're given a series of absurd coincidences, woeful justifications and a questionable level of hypocrisy.
But the more worrying problem is that when you step back and look at the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, the only narrative tread that is connecting it all together is through the arrival of Thanos. Civil War attempts to use the aftermath of Sokovia, New York and Washington (with some laughable death tolls) to justify the film’s conflict; the UN enforcing a registration act on the Avengers. There’s no global tension or resentment towards the Avengers. Instead you have frustrated government officials and passing comments from news stations, but there isn’t an atmosphere of anger towards superhero kind which feels decidedly necessary to the entire story.
In my opinion, Marvel really needs to actually do something significant with the overall narrative of it’s universe, something with genuine consequences. In fact Marvel did this with the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D and the rise of Hydra during the events of Winter Soldier, but never really built anything decent from it. Civil War has similar opportunities to instigate real repercussions, but the film plays it far too safe. The death of James Rhodes (Warmachine) would have added some emotional weight to the conflict. Meanwhile the entire premise of a divide and conflict between Captain America and Iron Man is subsequently made redundant through an email between the two at the end. It's all too safe.
In the battle between the superhero blockbusters, Civil War proved to be the better overall package when compared with Batman Vs Superman. But after watching it, I still think that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favourite of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Civil War had the action set-pieces, the characters and the visuals, but I don’t have a urge to watch the film again and continue to ask “Why is there a Civil War in the first place?”.