Synopsis: When political interference threatens to regulate the Avengers’ activities, a rift forms between former allies Captain America and Iron Man
Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo
Stars: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Bruhl
Genre: Fantasy / Adventure
Release date: April 29
Running time: 147 mins
Though nominally a sequel to Captain America: Winter Soldier, this latest Marvel superhero blockbuster follows on directly from the events in Avengers: Age of Ultron – and essentially assumes that its audience will be intimately familiar with every previous Marvel movie, up to and including Ant-Man.
Similarly, the plot takes its central conflict and battle lines from a comic event series of the same name, though the story itself is largely removed from its source material, outside of a few nods to fans.
The result is one of the best Marvel movies to date, delivering handsomely in terms of character, action, spectacle and humour (though there is a minor wobble in the plot department).
When the Avengers’ latest mission results in a number of unforeseen deaths, Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt) proposes the Sokovia Accords, which would turn the Avengers into a U.N.-led strike force.
Stricken with guilt over the deaths in Sokovia during the battle with Ultron, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) agrees, but Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) refuses to sign.
Things get more complicated when Steve’s former friend-turned-brainwashed-metal-armed-assassin Bucky (Sebastian Stan) resurfaces, apparently responsible for a bomb attack, and when Cap and a splinter group of Avengers try and protect him, battle lines are drawn.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo proved they could handle large-scale superhero action with the previous Captain America movie, and they deliver spectacularly here.
The central battle at the airport (teased in the trailer) is, hands-down the best fight sequence in any Marvel movie to date. It’s expertly choreographed and gives each character (out of about a dozen) a chance to shine, as well as pulling off some joyous surprises that it would be churlish to spoil here.
That approach extends to the even-handed story-telling, which spends significant time with each of the ostensibly secondary characters, so that, for example, there’s character development between the Vision (Paul Bettany) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) alongside the central plot.
On a similar note, the clever #TeamCap vs #TeamIronMan marketing turns out to be more than a gimmick, because the script takes time to ensure that both sides are equally right, presenting a morally complex situation that invests the final conflict with powerful, even heart-breaking emotional depth.
On top of that, the film is packed with the sort of character-based humour we’ve come to expect from the MCU (Anthony Mackie’s one-liners are practically his superpower), while guest star Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) puts in a delightful, crowd-pleasing appearance.
New characters Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) both get wonderful introductions that leave you genuinely excited to see their stand-alone films.
If there’s an issue with the plot, it’s only that the role of ostensible villain Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) feels at best underwhelming and at worst uncomfortably reminiscent of Lex Luthor in Batman Vs Superman, at least in terms of his overall goal and the insane levels of manipulation required to get there.
Niggling plot issues aside, Civil War delivers everything you could possibly want from a movie about comic characters fighting each other. And puts a certain other superhero vs superhero movie to shame…