Another Marvel film, another review! I think I review these the most, because I usually see them as soon as they come out (in part from excitement, in part to avoid spoilers!), whereas it seems less relevant to review a film weeks late. Anyway, being a fan of most of the MCU films thus far, and with Captain America being my favourite of the superheroes featured so far, I admittedly went into this one with a fairly strong bias, both for liking the film, and for Team Cap. As to the former, I was not disappointed, and as to the latter… well, things get complicated!
This is a fascinating film in many ways, as the line of good and evil, hero and villain, becomes far more blurred when a group of heroes begin fighting each other. The catalyst for the events of the film is an external one, but it plays off of the characters’ traits and personalities, bringing to light feelings and opinions that they already held. In all honesty, it was a little bit upsetting to see them turning on each other like that, especially Cap and Iron Man, and Black Widow and Hawkeye. As their conflict unfolds, the reasons behind each side of the argument become clear, and I can understand where both sides are coming from. At various points, my loyalties began to drift, and it is very difficult to determine who is right – perhaps everyone, perhaps no one. It’s a difficult choice they face, and it leaves you questioning how people with the gifts and abilities that they have, should be allowed to operate. Are any of us qualified to say what is right and wrong? Ultimately, I remain Team Cap, but that doesn’t mean that he is right about all of it, all the time.
The other big theme in this film is vengeance, and it raises the important question of when is it avenging, and when is it simply revenge? A vicious cycle can arise, and so very nearly does in this film. While some of the characters are acting based on their beliefs, and what they think is the right path, others are acting out of more selfish motivations. Even Cap, who is honest, moral, kind and whole-heartedly good (i.e. all the reasons he’s my favourite), has personal motivations beneath his wider beliefs, namely in the form of his extreme loyalty to Bucky, whom he would do just about anything to protect, it seems (though there is no revenge plan at work for Cap at least). The film shows us how grief, and then the desire for vengeance after, can consume a person, and make them turn on friends, or act recklessly, to achieve their goal – and does it actually make them feel better in the end? Psychologically and morally, there is a lot to explore within this film.
I was torn about my loyalties at points, as said, and I was also on the edge of my seat and times, as while I don’t want to see these heroes hurt at any point, the possibility of them seriously hurting each other was even more stressful. There were several scenes – mostly involving Cap – that were truly heartbreaking to watch, from both the acting and the storytelling at work. But of course, mixed in with all the emotion and drama, there are those trademark moments of humour, so integral to the Marvel films, and which definitely round things out and make the whole thing more enjoyable – this particular instalment might just have been my favourite Stan Lee cameo to date!
As for the cast, well, it’s a big one! I was concerned about the size of it beforehand, as I wanted this to be a Captain America film, not another Avengers, especially since we just had one of those! I was getting both irritated, and concerned, by all the promotional material that featured both sides equally, when the film has Cap’s name in the title! Fortunately, the focus does remain on Cap for the most part, and many of the other characters who have larger parts, would only get those in a Cap film anyway, such as Bucky and Falcon. A lot of the other heroes really only appear in the big fight sequence, which is very well planned out and executed – I can get bored of drawn-out fight sequences, but this one, where the two sides of the eponymous war face off, has it’s own little twists and turns, and it’s so exciting to see how everyone’s different powers match up against each other. Being completely honest, I would have liked to see a little less of Iron Man – not because he isn’t a great character, but when he’s had his three films already, plus Avengers appearances, I feel like that character was stealing too much screen time from Cap by appearing so much in this too (though I understand why he is integral to this particular plot).
Most of the characters we have seen before, and they remained true to what I expect of them, and every role was as well acted as ever. It also got me a bit more excited about the new characters – I keep wondering if Marvel will ever hit a lull, or when we’ll all tire of superhero films again, since there’s so many lately, and more still to come. However, based on what we saw of Black Panther and Spider-Man here, it’s safe to say I’m pretty keen for those films. Black Panther is majestic and stately, as well as quite mysterious, and since I’m not a comic book reader, I don’t know much about him yet, so I’m excited to see where that goes, especially as his African heritage and warrior status there, give him a uniqueness in amongst all the other heroes. And while his appearance in this film was brief, we might just have finally found the Spider-Man we’ve all been waiting for. Both the original and rebooted films from Sony were problematic in several ways, but Marvel might be getting it right at last. Tom Holland was everything I expect Spider-Man to be, based on the knowledge I have of him (again, not a comic reader, but he is one of the most famous out there!). He was an actual teen for a start, and was clever, dorky, witty, side-splittingly funny, awkward, and adorably endearing. I thought bringing Spider-Man into a film already so saturated with superheroes might be overkill, but it was executed fantastically, giving us just enough of him to make me excited for more.
My only complaint now, is that this is Cap’s last solo film. Out of all the Marvel films so far, I think his three have been my favourites, both for the character in himself, and for the superb plots in them, which offer far more intricacy and complications than a simple hero vs villain episode. I’m excited for the new characters Marvel is bringing to us now, but I’m sad that the originals are all nearing the end of their solo outings – we’ll have to wait and see who’s back for Infinity War though! Anyway, while some people may be tiring of superhero films, and I’m certainly not desperate to see every single one being released (sorry DC, but you’re just not cutting it for me), the Marvel franchise remains strong, and has yet to disappoint me. Civil War could have gone wrong, especially if the focus drifted from Cap, but I think they got it pretty right.