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Published May 13, 2016

In this latest instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, our morally righteous protagonist finds himself feared and hated by those he once saved, and wanted by the government. Meanwhile, a technologically-armed hero of differing ideals tasks himself with taking the protagonist down. Didn’t I see this movie a month ago? Captain America: Civil War is more light-hearted than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but this isn’t in itself enough to make it a better film. There’s nothing wrong with a little darkness; the trouble begins where other elements are forgotten. Fortunately, Civil War has a firmer grasp on this, and while it’s not a great movie, it’s at least an enjoyable one.

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After another in a long line of Avenger-related incidents resulting in the deaths of civilians, the United Nations draft the Sokovia Accords, officially eliminating the team’s autonomy. As expected, some are willing to sign, and some aren’t. It’s weird, though; Tony Stark is all for it, and Steve Rogers is against. It’s a very strange reversal of ideals from what we’ve seen in the previous films. Tony’s always been the one to stick it to the man, to show the governments of the world who’s boss. He refuses to share designs for his suit, even after it’s proven that others can make near-identical ones. He hacks into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s system and reads private files. And in the most recent film, he builds Ultron without consulting anybody (with the exception of Bruce Banner). It could be argued that he learnt his lesson from this, but he didn’t; he did exactly the same thing later on in the same film when he creates Vision. He’s an arrogant man who believes the power to decide is safest with him.

In Civil War, Captain America utters this very sentiment about his own self “The safest hands are still our own.” Captain America, the guy who just wants to serve. Captain America, the guy who was furious at Tony building Ultron and the Vision without first consulting with the others. It’s all well and good to note the character’s development between The Winter Soldier and this film (after all, they’re both directed by Anthony & Joe Russo), but he’s appeared in another film since then. The character’s consistency within the same franchise shouldn’t depend on the director – especially when being passed back and forth (his last four appearances were a Russo film, a Whedon film, a Russo film, and a Whedon film). Despite all this, the one time Rogers has ever disobeyed a genuine order was when he deserted in order to save his friend, Bucky, in the first Captain America film.

The awkward character motivations (and don’t worry, they get much sillier later) are perhaps one of two reasons the film-makers felt there was a need to throw Bucky into this movie – the other being that they realised how silly their premise was. In the comic arc on which the film is based, it’s a Registration Act, similar to what we saw in X-Men: The Last Stand. Perhaps because the Avenger’ identities are already known to the world in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this was also changed. The thing is, once you’ve changed the setting, the characters, and the plot, what are you even adapting? The answer is simply “Iron Man fights Captain America”. Unfortunately, not much else seems to have made it to the screen.

Even Spider-Man, a character who I’m sure everyone was looking forward to as much as I, was an entirely pointless character, far removed from his role in the original comic. When they announced the title of the film, the question “how can they do that without Spider-Man?” was asked more than once. In the story, an adult Spider-Man is persuaded by Iron Man to reveal his identity, showing the world that the Registration Act was nothing bad. After discovering the prison where Iron Man is holding Captain America’s allies, Spider-Man switches sides. In the film, the teenage Spider-Man is in two scenes. Iron Man asks him to give him a hand fighting Captain America (yes, he recruits a child to take down an international super-powered criminal), then they fight them. This is about two-thirds of the way through the film, after which Spider-Man isn’t seen again. It’s very disappointing, and demonstrates that there was really no need at all for Marvel and Sony to reach any sort of agreement in regards to featuring Spider-Man in the MCU; he wasn’t vital to the story at all. He wasn’t even a little important.

This is to take nothing away from the character himself, though. He was great, and Tom Holland was great. It’s also exciting to see that we’re going to have a teenage Spider-Man grow into an adult over the course of the franchise. Black Panther was awesome (at one point, he and two other characters fall from a great height. The other two hit the ground with thuds, and he doesn’t make a sound. Very, very cool.), and Chadwick Boseman gave an excellent supporting performance, outshone only by Robert Downey Jr, who steals his every scene. It’s terribly exciting to see the hero of five films the antagonist in another, and the strength of his performance is one of the high points of the movie. The rest of the supporting characters are all fine (aside from a few weird line deliveries), and Chris Evansreminds us why he was cast as the Star-Spangled Avenger; it’s very difficult to imagine anyone else in the role.

The effects, for the most part, are very good. The music by Henry Jackman is solid, but Alan Silvestri‘s work for The Avengers remains my favourite MCU score. I did take issue with the location titles being huge, white, bold, block capital letters across the middle of the screen. It’s almost like the Russo Brothers were poking fun at how intrusive they were by making them as obtrusive as possible. Also, the subtitles had grammatical errors. Don’t think I didn’t notice those comma omissions.

The big action sequence of the film (seen in the trailers) at the airport is nice and fun. The fight between Hawkeye and Black Panther was the one to which I was looking most forward, so I was a little disappointed that it was over in less than thirty seconds. The smaller, more intimate fight that comes later on, between Captain America and Iron man, is very good and emotional, but they’re silly, nonsensical emotions – the aforementioned degradation of character motivation hits hardest here. They’re just fighting because the film-makers had to make them fight and the audience wants to see them fight. There’s no deeper level to it at all. While the actual fights are enjoyable, and the performances are solid, much of the film is a bit of a Civil Bore.

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