Director: Joe and Anthony Russo
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Shaw, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, and Tom Hollander
Running Time: 147 minutes
Release Date: April 29th
“Universe” is a euphemism for “cash-cow” in the film industry. It justifies sequels, prequels, spin-offs and gimmicks, but more importantly, it drains an idea dry with fans saying thank you all the while. Deadpool is a solid example, because really it was little more than a plethora of dick, “meta” and inside jokes welded onto a thin plot, the sole outcome being a new character for the X-Men franchise – an already jam-packed ensemble series. In a sense, it wasn’t a film, but rather, an expensive public statement. Just when you thought that the tiny car could not hold any more clowns, another five step out, followed by one more, and then a few others several seconds later.
The only problem here being that while yes, producers are open to adding names to their list, they are also afraid of striking them off it. More characters makes it possible for more spin-offs, more money, killing somebody off does the exact opposite. Batman V Superman is my case in point, because even when Superman died, he didn’t.
There is always some way to bring somebody back from the dead, whether through superpowers, or money. It is only unfortunate for the Russo Brothers that their latest installation in the Avengers series, ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is forced to follow up Zack Snyder’s cinematic showdown, because now, this fact is blatantly obvious. The stakes are much lower than Iron Man versus Captain America proclaims, and this was backed up long ago, when it was revealed that the Marvel Universe has at least another dozen installations left to go.
Yet, the Russo brothers, who directed this particular work, to their credit use this limitation to their advantage. They acknowledge the limits to their Civil War and so, base it primarily around ideological debates. Since the future is already determined off-screen, Captain America: Civil War has to work within the posts, and surprisingly enough, in doing this, the viewer is treated to good dialogue, interesting character development and twists, which can impress without the need of backing it up with gratuitous fight-scenes.
A step away from the bravado of heroic battles and looking instead at the consequences of previous battles, Civil War focuses primarily on UN accords, which seek to reduce collateral damage inflicted while the Avengers head out on their quests. Comparable to the scene in Clerks, wherein Dante and Randall discuss the loss of life on board the Death Star in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Civil War acknowledges that the conduct of the Avengers has indeed also resulted in innumerable unnecessary deaths. Hence, before the franchise progresses any further, they must do battle with regulations, before they can take on the bad guys. The Spiderman aphorism, “With great power comes great responsibility” is extremely apt, and by giving the webbed wonder his debut, in his second reboot, the message, while unspoken, is certainly implied, only this time the UN are saying it.
As the Avengers are confronted with the fact that to be in possession of superhuman strength does not make them above the law, this truism creates a rift. The crew split. Those who subscribe to vigilantism sidle up with Captain America and those who believe that a moral and legal standard ought to be set align with Tony Stark.
Divided over these accords, their diverging ideologies are met with a challenge when Bucky Barnes, AKA the Winter Soldier is accused of bombing the UN headquarters. A subconsciously brainwashed Soviet agent, this act of destruction allegedly executed by him may have been done against his will, though it may be a set-up. Nonetheless, under the UN accords, he is an enemy, a terrorist, and as the Captain attempts to rationalise this act of chaos, his decision to act outside of the law could lead to the implosion, or dissolution of the Avengers.
It is a story about grey areas, strengthened by the wit of the dialogue and the ensemble’s collective performance. And yes, while the car-full-of-clowns issue is present, it is essentially incorporated into this story, which explores how too many voices creates a deadlock. Too many cooks spoil the broth, too many superheroes spoil the plot, and indeed, by spoiling the plot, we are left instead with an array of well-done character studies. This turgid, but unpretentious study of opposing ideologies actually works, provoking thought at the same time as being utterly compelling and amusing.