April 28, 2016
In reviewing "Avengers: Age of Ultron" last year, I asked if we were already reaching the saturation point for superhero films. Obviously, the answer is no. This year is big on continuing superhero sagas which eventually lead to several spin-offs and solo starrers for its characters. For DC, "Batman v Superman" introduced a new Batman and debuted Wonder Woman. In Marvel, this film "Civil War" promises to do just that as well, introducing a new Spider-Man and debuting Black Panther. The hype and anticipation leading up to its opening day yesterday was just so crazy high!
Because of the rising number of human collateral damage when superheroes fight (particularly in Sokovia as we saw in the last Avengers movie), the United Nations had drafted a so-called Sokovia Accord to monitor and regulate superhuman activities. While a guilt-ridden Tony Stark (Iron Man) agreed with this issue of an oversight committee to assure accountability, Steve Rogers (Captain America) did not, as he wanted the Avengers to remain free of interference when and where they decide to render their super services. The rest of the Avengers pick their sides, eventually resulting in the monumental faceoff which the title promises.
So in terms of plot, it seems this had something in common with the recent "Batman v Superman" of DC -- the prickly issue of the danger superheroes pose to the human population they purport to help and the internal disagreement among the superheroes themselves about this very issue. However, in "Civil War", there are more layers which were offered in its complex story. Family and vengeance, in particular, became the motivation of more than one character. Add to this the spectacular introduction of new characters Spider-Man and Black Panther, so there were slight detours to give some background about them.
The fight scenes were incredibly executed in such a speeded-up frenetic way, it was impossible not to feel breathless. Some shaky-cam scenes may cause dizziness. The important element of humor is not forgotten, as Ant-Man and Spider-Man adequately tickled our funny bones with their impertinent wisecracks. As fans were expecting, Marvel gives us TWO extra scenes, one within and another one all the way after all the closing credits had rolled up. There were so many intersecting story threads being woven in, but only occasionally did this bog down the momentum of this 2-1/2 hour long film.
Veteran actors Chris Evans (Captain America), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Don Cheadle (War Machine), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), and Paul Bettany (Vision) all really embodied their characters so well as expected to portray their respective characters. We got to see more of the newer actors like Anthony Mackie (as Falcon), Elizabeth Olsen (as Scarlet Witch), Emily VanCamp (as Sharon Carter) and especially Sebastian Stan (as the deeply scarred and conflicted Winter Soldier Bucky at the center of many revenge storylines here).
Making a smashing debut as a very young Spider-Man is Tom Holland. This 19-year old actor/dancer, who got his showbiz debut on the West End in "Billy Elliot" in 2008, looked better here onscreen than in any of his pictures I see of him online. His childish, chatty, smart-alecky portrayal of our friendly neighborhood webslinger will definitely whet everyone's appetite to go see the reboot film "Spider-Man: Homecoming" set for release in July 2017. On the side we will also meet a newly-envisioned Aunt May which will surprise you.
A more serious and dignified yet similarly auspicious debut was that of Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther, Prince T'Challa of Wakanda. I honestly do not know much about this superhero but seeing what this character can do here in this film also makes us look forward to the Black Panther solo movie scheduled in 2018. He has this unique form and skill of ferocious hand-to-hand combat fighting is very exciting to watch.
Despite Cap's name in the title, it did not really feel like a Captain America film because Iron Man almost shared equal screen time. In fact all of the other heroes were featured significantly in their own smaller way, having their own big moments. It was really a wonder how directors Anthony and Joe Russo managed to squeeze everyone in yet not leaving anyone feeling underused. With "Civil War," Marvel holds its ground convincingly and stays on top of the superhero film game. 9/10.