Captain America: Civil War (dir. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, 2016) – Political interference drives a rift in the Avengers initiative, where former allies stand divided.
Thoughtful themes ignite a thrilling internal strife, safe but effectual in its outcome.
Some celebrate heroes for the lives they save. Others mourn the lives they did not. In due time, vigilantes will be held accountable for their unregulated missions and the consequent collateral damage.
Enter The United Nations and their proposal of the Sokovia Accords, seeking to legitimise their oversight of The Avengers initiative. Here, the assembled heroes reach an impasse: Steve Rogers against surrendering their independence, and Tony Stark for entrusting control to bureaucracy.
Former allies are driven apart by their established ideals. Exploiting its advantage of a solid cinematic history, Captain America: Civil War does well to justify the opposing camps.
Steve Rogers puts faith in the Avengers’ own processes for a good reason: his former trust in the system had culminated in Hydra’s reveal. Besides, in mandating the registration of superheroes, the accords echo a disquieting part of recent history and understandably put the WWII veteran on the edge.
Against the implications of red tape, Team Cap has us convinced that The Avengers minimises civilian casualties. But Team Iron Man counters that they might be the cause and objectivity could be what they need. Vision puts it best, “Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict breeds catastrophe.”
Reminded of the fatal consequences of his unconstrained bids at privatising world peace and creating Ultron, Tony Stark recognises the need for power to be kept in check. He also sees the dangerous assumption that Rogers has made – that he, or SHIELD, is incapable of erroneous judgement.
The ensuing debate on the limits of civil liberties is complex, and suitably well-reasoned. There are no real answers, too; trust the people of Gotham and more to have looked. Yet we value varying perspectives in each contention, and Civil War holds its own with adequate focus and depth.
Amidst the brewing battle, directors Anthony and Joe Russo are quick to remind us that this is essentially a Captain America sequel. All, while maintaining rare coherence in the very layered narrative.
Where we last left off, brainwashed supersoldier Bucky Barnes is on the run after abandoning his post as a seasoned assassin. Time does not forget his crimes, and instead adds extra counts of murder to his list.
Mourning his father’s death, T’Challa hunts down the Winter Soldier for vengeance. The new King of Wakanda dons a slick armoured suit as the Black Panther and leaps into some of the most incredible practical stunts on film. Intrigue for the kingdom’s technological capacities amasses greater excitement for his solo film, which is already proving to have one of the best ensemble casts yet.
The impressive newcomer is joined by another, swinging by in the name of Peter Parker. Why Tony chooses a confused teenager over weathered superhumans, we will never understand. But we are given good reason to see past his contrived induction. Fun is what the teenage Spider-Man aims for, slinging more humour than any real damage.
It is here where we admit that the film is imperfect. Parker seems to have no real investment or reason for battle, and he is not the only one. Idol worship does not a strong motive make, especially with a bigger debate in the backdrop.
Granted that the clash of the Avengers is perhaps the most fun idea that Marvel has ever fulfilled, the sprightly showdown lacks sense and falls short on emotional impact. This is a team bonded by a decade of healed battle scars and overcome trials, but their difficult split fails to be as impassioned as it deserves to be.
Some of that missing emotion comes through the larger plot at hand. A villain unveils his remarkable plan of subtle manipulation, vapid in his motive but not in outcome. Enmity turns personal, as his ploy successfully trades politik for an intimate and seemingly irreparable conflict between Tony and Steve.
In its end, Civil War plays it too safe for my liking, improving the ambitious Batman v Superman in retrospect. Still, puzzle pieces fall neatly into place in a reasonably well thought-out film, leaving an interesting uncertainty upon the heroes’ troubling future.