“I could do this all day.”
The following DOES NOT CONTAIN SPOILERS (but will reference stuff from the trailer).
A year ago Avengers: Age of Ultron came out, it was the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film I’d seen in the cinema and it took me weeks to get round to see it (I plan on writing a Reading List post devoted to the MCU but you can find stuff about Marvel & me in my Ant-Man post). Not so this year with Captain America: Civil War.
I had already planned on going home the Bank Holiday Weekend of its release* to (among other things) see the film with my family, when, on the Wednesday before it opened (the 27th), my housemate mentioned that her plans to see it on Friday had fallen through and that she was almost tempted to just go see the midnight screening. To which I responded that I wasn’t doing anything tomorrow night… And so that is how I ended going to my first midnight screening (which must be a geek milestone). In fact we chose to fully embrace our geekhood and opt for the screening that showed Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier beforehand.**
Those 7.5 hours flew by and while it’s normal to lose track of time in a cinema plus action films do tend to be fast-paced, that I didn’t get tired of watching Captain America in all that time is a true testament to the films’ quality and characterization***.
3D characters are something the MCU excels at. As someone who really enjoys a good action film, I’m happy to admit that the level of characterization in them usually ranges from basic to appalling but Marvel somehow manages to keep producing new, interesting superheroes. Black Panther is incredibly cool (and sexy) and Spider-Man is so funny, plus he’s actually looks and acts like a teenager. Tom Holland looks set to be ‘My Spider-Man’**** as this is the first time I’ve really cared about the character, though I’ll allow that this is probably because the only other Spider-Man film I’ve seen is the first Amazing Spider-Man one so I’m hardly well-versed in the character. That Marvel can have repeated scenes with multiple superheroes in (including the big airport battle with everyone) and it not feel like I’m seeing the same character again and again shows their skill. It would be easy to decide on a ‘superhero personality’ that you’d end up giving to all your heroes but each of them is clearly unique with their own motivations and ways of reacting to things. The film also really puts a focus on personal relationships and team dynamics. Most of these heroes know each other but the relationships that exist between individuals vary. Even apart from what side they’re on how Tony and Falcon interact is clearly not the same as how Black Widow and Falcon interact, the latter know each other far better than the former. Look out for Scarlet Witch and Vision, Iron Man and Spider-Man, Black Panther and Black Widow. Plus there’s the long-term (since before we were superheroes) friendships of Black Widow & Hawkeye and Tony & Rhodey; Cap/Falcon’s whole ex-military, brothers-in-arms thing; Hawkeye/Scarlet Witch’s kind of mentor/mentee thing develops; and of course the whole Cap/Bucky relationship, crossing almost a century now (even if both of them spent a lot of that time frozen), is a big factor as is Cap/Iron Man (there wouldn’t be a ‘Civil War’ if not for them heading the two sides). Basically more or less pick two characters and there’s a dynamic, even if it’s just of the “hey we just met but I guess we’re fighting” variety.
Though the comedic moments of the film had me crying with laughter I was also known to shed a far sadder tear. Overall these moments were really well handled, subtle not heavy-handed ‘here this is sad, feel unhappy’ attempts to make an emotional impact. There’s a text received quite early on in the film that is such a beautiful, understated way to punch you right in the feels. At the climatic final battle of the film I actually gasped and clutched my chest (because, you know, I‘m in a period drama) when I figured out how it was going to play out. Marvel’s success (/presumably very skillful casting directors) mean that the films can attract great actors who can really pull off these kind of scenes*****.
Scenes we really expect from superhero films are action scenes of which there are loads of amazing ones in this movie, from the big fights to smaller moments like Bucky doing something insanely cool with a motorbike or the scene with Cap and the helicopter that we all know (and love 😉 ). The airport battle is epic (basically the ultimate “In a fight between x and y who would win” discussion/argument) and what you could call the final showdown manages to be a great fight scene while still keeping the deeper emotions at play at the forefront. Characters, particularly those introduced in Age of Ultron and later, have had their superpowers expanded upon and developed. I read last year about the process behind developing Quicksilver’s run, how it had to be different from Cap’s more parkour style etc. and it’s made me appreciate the physicality of the performances and the thought that goes into them more, for example Black Panther is definitely quite feline and predatory in movement.
I feel I must mention Martin Freeman, playing government agent/official Everett K. Ross. It’s not exactly a big part but I hear we will see more of him in the future – I hope so, Freeman’s a really good actor and the character definitely had potential even if it’ll always be quite a small, sideline role. It’s straight-up bizarre to hear him speak with an American accent (how dare these actors act!) and what with Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange this October I’m going to be so confused by the time Sherlock series 4 finally arrives and returns them in my mind to Britishness.
Captain America: Civil War – basically an Avengers movie plus and minus a few Avengers. Great characters, both old and new, and great action. Many laugh-out-loud moments (special mention goes to Spider-Man) butalso big emotional moments when the tears were not from laughter. A brilliant start to Phase 3 of the MCU.
I particularly like how it acknowledged that things have consequences, people get hurt. Be it saving the world or a fight between friends, stuff doesn’t just go back to normal and I look forward to seeing how this plays out in the new Phase.
* 29th April – I wait months to see loads of great U.S. shows, you bet I’m going to gloat that (for some reason) we get Marvel films one week earlier (sorry, but not that sorry).
** This also gave me the opportunity to see these films in the cinema in HD, with amazing quality sound etc.
*** Ok, it’s not just Captain America’s characterization that I don’t mind watching for over 7 hours 😉
**** Think this deserves the same approach as Doctors and Mr Darcys.
***** I don’t mean to imply that comedy doesn’t require the same skill, they’re great actors who can pull off funny scenes too.