CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is essentially THE AVENGERS 3 and with the exception of Thor and Hulk the whole gang is back together. Add some newcomers to the team and you've got a royal rumble of superheroes, each flaunting their abilities and vying for the most impressive action sequences.
Following the wake of destruction left behind the Avengers previous escapades, the governments of the world demand accountability. No longer prepared to accept reasonable collateral damage, the United Nations impose a set of sanctions on the private organisation and promise criminal prosecution should the rules be ignored. These new measures cause a division within the group, and when Captain America refuses to tow the line, the scene is set for an inner conflict that will test each of their moral compasses.
Forget the title. This is an all-in adventure, where Iron Man's character development is as significant as Captain America's, and where the others chip in equally. The one major flaw with this Avenger-heavy concept, however, is the absence of Thor and Hulk. Their non-attendance weakens the story and with all players expected to sign an agreement with the UN you wonder how the hell that works without them? Nevertheless when you put that qualm aside the film is a savvy and proficient contribution to a heavily saturated market.
Marvel clearly understand their audience and they're getting smarter with each film. In CIVIL WAR they have begun to examine the moral ambiguity and responsibility that comes with being a superhero. Of course this isn't a new concept, but they tackle these themes better than anyone else thus far. The film does what BATMAN V SUPERMAN was unable to. It successfully scrutinises the moral perimeters and explores the psyche of it's characters. All of the destruction of past films is brought to account and the necessity of such excess is put under a microscope. It's this philosophical aspect that keeps the film on its feet. Without this strength, it could have been a messy affair indeed.
150-minutes is too long for a superhero movie, and CIVIL WAR certainly pushes its luck. In attempting to flesh out backstory, while balancing elaborate set-pieces, the narrative struggles under the weight. Thanks to an audience that demands instant gratification, it would seem that Marvel has compromised some of its integrity by overdoing the action. The film is excessive and the style is uneven. It pinballs between a gritty, washed-out aesthetic to colourful and cartoonish frivolity. That's not to imply that the action is bad... to the contrary. In fact one major set-piece sets a new standard for the genre. It involves an all-on brawl that would seem ludicrous to passive movie-goers, but will connect with comic-book fans on a very personal level. It's the contrast between serious and fun that took me out of the film at times.
Irrespective to those apprehensions, CIVIL WAR is an absorbing entry into the superhero genre that builds upon a strong foundation. The characters are well established and their plight is engaging, and despite being self-indulgent, the action is well executed and wonderfully mischievous. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have done what Zack Snyder couldn't. Good on 'em.