Film of the Week: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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The Russo Brothers direct Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jnr and Sebastian Stan in this third Cap film that really is a third Avengers film in all but name.

If you take away the super fun but barely integrated Guardians of the Galaxy, then the Captain America flicks have been the best entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Chris Evans’ old fashioned valued but quick to evolve action hero has proven the most emotionally complex and therefore the most involving superhuman in an ever increasing cast of enhanced and mutated freaks that currently rule the box office. But this third film often struggles to find room for Steve Rogers to do what we like most about him despite his name on the poster and top billing. A more box office friendly title  (and trading standards untroubling name) might be Iron Man: Civil War or The Avengers: Civil War but the most appropriate in terms of screentime and character arc would be The Winter Soldier: Civil War…try selling that. And while certain sequences had me bouncing in my seat like a child and grinning like a loon (it really is a must see for comic book fans) it’s hard not to focus on all that Whoever’s Civil War gets wrong. It is just as messy as Batman Vs Superman – try explaining the plot rather than the pitch in a few simple sentences to someone uninitiated, or even a fan for that matter. Impossible. Like Batman Vs Superman, too many characters are introduced to the film’s detriment – Black Panther in particular robs Cap of his trademark distinctiveness by being even more honourable, decent and patriotic than the title character who is built on these values, and not in way where you feel that was intended as part of the fun. Like Batman Vs Superman, the final grim fight over dead parents and a villian preternaturally pulling strings could be avoided if the characters just talked to each other – and considering these are characters who share a bunkhouse and talk all the time that is even more ridiculous a plot hole to leap over than the similar one in the more maligned film. Like Batman Vs Superman, after a thrilling sequence where people die in Africa most of the mega powered rough and tumble takes place in pointedly unpopulated areas – though to give Civil War some extra credit that opening Lagos set-piece tops anything you’ve seen at the cinema this year and makes rare, brilliant use of the 3D gimmick. Like Batman Vs Superman they take a bright and fun character and make him introspective and dull – once the life and soul of the blockbuster party, Robert Downey Jnr looks bored for most of this film, only his scene with Marissa Tomei’s Aunt May has any of the old angel dust energy. So if previously you cast any of the above stones at BvS, but can’t see the same deserving targets for criticism in Civil War, then your prejudices are pretty obvious. Luckily these are sins I can overlook in both films and enjoy them for the tonally very different rides they are. Civil War often is a sillier and lighter film. The big everyone-against-everyone-face-off is filled with quips about how everyone will still be friends after this tussle. This makes the kinetic brouhaha all feel a little inconsequential, rightly so the Russos are far better at gaggy sitcom energy than portentous consequence. The characters who shine are the more human and self aware ones – Hawkeye, Spidey and especially Ant Man prove the universe can exist without a now rusty Iron Man through charming daftness alone. In fact you might leave the cinema not caring if anyone returns apart from Paul Rudd. His size shifting thief pretty much steals the film in three great scenes. As a night out to the big screen, Marvel Numero 13 proves all over the shop but one hell of a trolley dash.

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