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New Release Review - CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

Iron Man and Captain America find themselves on opposing sides.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily Van Camp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, Marisa Tomei, Martin Freeman



The marketing for Captain America: Civil War encourages viewers to choose a side - Team Cap or Team Iron Man. I'll side with the referee; they can't blow the final whistle on this mediocre franchise soon enough.



For a few years there blockbusters shared an annoying trend of refusing to acknowledge the collateral damage wrought by their supposedly heroic protagonists, be it Bruce Willis wisecracking "I'm on my vacation!" while crushing Russian motorists in a stolen tank, or Vin Diesel pulling the very same stunt on a Spanish highway. And of course there's Superman recreating 9/11 tenfold with his misdirected and narcissistic rage. In the past couple of years blockbusters have begun to directly address this, as though responding to thinkpieces. Last year's Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation saw Tom Cruise and colleagues threatened with shutdown over the residual mayhem caused by their impossible exploits. Last month we had Batman flying into a rage over the aforementioned destruction caused by the Man of Steel. Now it's the turn of Marvel to get in on this act.



After an intro set-piece that sees the Avengers riffing on Mission Impossible ends with an explosion, causing unplanned deaths, the team find themselves in two opposing camps when asked to sign an accord that will limit their abilities and hopefully reduce such collateral damage. The pro-accord side is led by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey) with Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) leading the opposition (it's unclear where they stand on texting in cinemas).

When Cap's old chum Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) disrupts the accord signing with an explosion, the rift widens, with Cap desperate to defend his friend, and Tony Stark determined to bring him to justice.



Increasingly with these Marvel movies it feels like we're taking a trip to the cinema to binge watch the latest episodes of a long running TV show. With former sitcom directors the Russo brothers at the helm, this latest installment is decidedly short on spectacle, its visual aesthetic falling somewhere between contemporary network TV and '90s Michael Bay. Essentially an overblown martial arts flick, this is the Marvel movie that suffers the most from the studio's reluctance to hire visionary directors. Most of the set-pieces boil down to extended punch-ups, rendered interminably dull by the Russos' bland staging. It's all too obvious that we're watching actors rather than skilled martial artists at work. Rather than immersing me in the action, each monotonously choreographed beatdown had me pondering how great it could be with a Gareth Evans or Jackie Chan at the helm.

While Marvel take great pains to homogenise the visual aesthetic of their extended franchise, their scripts veer wildly in tone. It's difficult to place this mostly sombre film in the same universe as the largely comedic Joss Whedon penned Avengers movies and Shane Black's Iron Man 3, the most entertaining installment so far thanks to Black's hijacking of the franchise for his own purposes. The few moments of comedy we get here are of the annoying, audience-winking variety.



It wouldn't be a Marvel movie if it wasn't selling us on future episodes, and this one introduces us to Spiderman (Tom Holland), who finally returns home to Marvel after being bought out from Sony. Holland is nicely cast as a younger web-slinger than we've previously seen on screen, but his entry into the Marvel cinematic universe is as underwhelming as the rest of the movie; the publisher's greatest icon deserves better.

The marketing for Captain America: Civil War encourages viewers to choose a side - Team Cap or Team Iron Man. I'll side with the referee; they can't blow the final whistle on this mediocre franchise soon enough.
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