Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writer: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl, William Hurt
Running time: 147mins
What’s the story: When Tony Stark backs United Nation plans to regulate the Avengers, simmering tensions between him and Captain Steve Rogers threaten to erupt. This threat becomes greater when Rogers’ friend, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier returns, seemingly fallen back into old, murderous habits.
What’s the verdict: For those paying attention we are now into Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Phase One began with Iron Man and ended with The Avengers. Phase Two kicked off with Iron Man 3 and closed with Ant-Man.
And to be honest, while enjoyable, Marvel Cinematic Fatigue had started to take hold with the last three Phase Two Movies. Namely Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and aforementioned Ant-Man.
Production line slick but flavourless, the formula needed shaking up. And with 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier the best Marvel movie to date (fact), no surprise that Cap’s third titled outing is the one to do that.
Gone is the anonymous villain. Gone is the fight in the sky climax. Gone is the awkward multi-tasking of telling one story while laying groundwork for future movies.
Not that a working knowledge of recent Marvel fare (particularly Avengers: Age of Ulton) isn’t useful. The spectacular events of that movie’s climax plus an opening mission here gone explosively wrong sets the stage for Stark and Rogers’ titular conflagration.
Although the title is slightly misleading. With Thor and Hulk the only major absences (remarked upon as akin to “missing nukes” by William Hurt’s Secretary Ross) this is pretty much an Avengers movie.
But with Anthony and Joe Russo helming, The Winter Soldier’s gritty 70s thriller feel is retained. Allowing for a genuinely engrossing mystery plot and weighty themes of unchecked power, public distrust, global terror and family tragedy that Batman v Superman fumbled but are here handled with genuine flair.
As is the multi-character line-up. The Russo Brothers shoot their movie like Michael Mann’s Heat and seem to be vying for an equal number of speaking parts. Yet, with a plot tighter than Spider-Man’s undies nothing is superfluous or confusing.
Despite introducing two new superheroes to the MCU. Black Panther (Boseman), true to his comic-book origins African royalty, is gunning for Stan’s Bucky Barnes for very personal reasons.
And the webslinger himself, winningly brought to life by teenager Tom Holland and finally getting a worthwhile reinvigoration. Introduced with irresistible, hilarious brush strokes that those “Amazing” instalments never achieved, the only disappointment is the trailer gave away Spidey’s inclusion in the line-up. Oh, the excitement of watching Civil War and realising who this Peter actually is…
The directors achieve the difficult feat of gritty Bourne style dust-ups (a fight and flight from German armed response is breathtaking in the choreography) and outlandish fisticuffs torn straight from the pages of Golden Age Marvel comics (Spider-Man reveal aside, the airport rumble is only hinted at in the trailers).
And with Evans, Downey Jr, Johansson, et al now wearing their characters like a second skin, there is something dramatically at stake when the superhero smackdown begins (and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man works better as a supporting “meta-human” than as hero of his own film).
There is a nominal baddie outside the group, but the film lives up to its Civil War title. The TeamCap and TeamIronMan hashtags aren’t just empty marketing. There are ethical dilemmas to Captain America’s stubborn refusal for regulation that hopefully won’t be brushed aside when Infinity Wars arrives.
Not so unlucky then for the thirteenth film in Marvel’s grand cinematic project. X-Men: Apocalypse and Suicide Squad (and Doctor Strange for that matter) have their work cut out to top this superhero action spectacular.