Ferociously political as Marvel’s movies have been, observant of militarization and surveillance, Civil War may be the least impacted by commentary. Odd, considering the premise. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers tear into one another over a worldwide accord to regulate superheroes, but politicization quickly fades. It’s lost in a bevy of laser blasts. Fun laser blasts, mind you.

Two years shy of a decade-long run, the marketable “Cinematic Universe” has turned into an elaborate TV series (and some actual TV series). New pieces enter with successive sequels, Civil War benefiting from 12 films of build-up. Marvel’s writing collaborators Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus still inject new blood if narrative backing isn’t there. In Civil War’s case, there are two origin stories in a film with one dozen total heroes. Their ability to achieve writing clarity is dazzling.

While improbable given the time frame of release, Civil War appears to wink at its competition. The scuffle frames itself with manipulation, scared politicians, and deceased parents, a la DC’s recent foray; Batman v Superman had no chance. It’s nigh arrogant when Civil War makes certain to evacuate an airport prior to the film’s grandiose clash between Marvel’s two sides. Afterward, there is a show of empathy and no one dies as a result – what a sensible ideal for superheroes to follow.


Lengthy at two and a half hours, the film has no reason to rush. It’s free to explore its own narrative as much as continue one. Considered as a whole, Civil War enters the downer phase of the greater story. This is where a buddy cop movie separates the leading duo for a bit. Or, the romantic comedy sends two lovers reeling into a break up. Guardians of the Galaxy was the fun loving montage. Maybe Ant Man, too.

An opportunity to settle down, away from the punch-a-thons, feels wasted.

Since the central conflict is not concerned with a hyper-powered uber-villain, Civil War creates hostility by dangling the idea of restricted freedom. Elected government, in rare worldwide agreement, want the Avengers regulated. Viewers are forced to swallow a specific reality: Funny quips, made-for-trailer one-liners, and explosions leave a trail of bodies behind, all unsanctioned.

However, discussion of peacekeeping remains disappointingly brief; one scene, then the debate erodes down to Iron Man/Captain America bickering. An opportunity to settle down, away from the punch-a-thons, feels wasted. Exploration and focus on where these characters fit as societal vigilantes dissipates. Instead, everyone ignores the government rulebook which supposedly binds the story and nothing is allowed to be solved. The sequels are coming.

Marvel has generously placed their sci-fi fantasy in real world circumstances but discards most – if not all – of the socio-political drama powering this Stark/Rogers showdown. Civil War feels skittish, as if combat between licensed heroes would somehow further divide the country amidst a raucous election cycle. As such, sequences which create terrorist actions abroad (uncomfortably so) lose their thematic thrust. Blending such a menagerie of characters takes the bulk of screentime, leaving the insinuations of false imprisonment and other ethical concerns untouched. Universe building over film building. That’s a mistake.


That creates a disappointing yet tiny ailment. Civil War’s rather dour opening act begins a segue into Marvel’s familiar comedic spirit. Tom Holland carries a bulk of these festivities. He forms the screen’s cleanest, brightest Spider-Man, doing in 15 minutes what Sony could not in their five movies (despite some high spots). Marvel comes with a counter to the fanboy-ish Spidey in Chadwick Boseman. He successfully lifts the angry Black Panther onto film, bringing anger over the political processes within his country.

In totality, it’s a success. Civil War finds the means to depict Avengers-level catastrophe on a more truncated scale. This doesn’t feel like the lesser. Enormous visual effect sequences dazzle to infinity; it’s still not tiresome to watch Iron Man fire missiles or Captain America sling a shield. The visual creativity necessary to duck the repetition over this many films is a blockbuster achievement unlikely to be duplicated – ever. Yet this all keeps happening, with a consistency which should be working against them. It doesn’t, and here audiences are given another round of giddy comic book joy, but only after stumbling when grounding the turmoil in political reality.

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While skipping some of the greater context of its story, Captain America: Civil War strikes another success for Marvel’s endless domination of this genre cycle.

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