Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)… I lost count of the superheroes that switch in and out of their costumes in a film misleadingly headlined by Captain America (Chris Evans). In actuality, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s screenplay is a Marvel Hall of Fame with the Avengers divided into two factions standing on different sides of an ideological spectrum. While Steve Rogers/Captain America leads one side, Tony Stark/Iron Man, who is still smarting from the debacle depicted in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), marshals the other.
The opening scene is a messy fight in the middle of a congested Nigerian town that ends badly for the Avengers. The United Nations has decided it’s time to intervene. Stark and Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) are supporting the Sokovia Accord, signed by 117 countries, which will keep the Avengers in check. The collateral damage caused by their heroics has been unacceptably high and the UN believes the Avengers need to be reined in. Captain America disagrees. The result is the division of the Avengers and myriad superheroes into two combating teams colliding in an extravagant action sequence that forms the centerpiece of this action adventure.
Besides being a smorgasbord of caped cameos – from Spiderman to Ant-Man, and an introduction to new crusader Black Panther – directors Anthony and Joe Russo dwell more on the introspective non-suited personas of the characters. There is also conflict between Stark-Rogers, Scarlett Witch-Vision and Black Widow-Hawkeye. For fan-boys and Marvel geeks, this might be a delight, but for the rest it takes some remembering as to why Iron Man hung up his suit or why Captain America is so protective of the Winter Warrior.
While the first hour is all about putting the several pieces and plots in place, the film picks up half-way, around the time Stark visits Peter Parker (a clever introduction to Tom Holland who slips into the friendly neighbourhood saviour’s suit) in New York City. This is about the time the repartee and punches kick in, which are usually the mainstay of a superhero movie, along with smart gadgets and weaponry-heavy action. Finally the film begins to soar. It’s cheeky, breathless and crowded with ideas.
William Hurt, Martin Freeman and Daniel Bruhl also appear in pivotal roles joining the rest of the cast that is given scope to perform outside of their masked avatars. Captain America: Civil War makes up for the dullness of the previous Captain America films, and Chris Evans, with his pumped-up muscles and thawed-out all-American good looks, adds greatly to making this a satisfying watch.
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