WHEN we look back at 2016 we will remember it as the year that superheroes beat the ever living crap out of each other on the big screen. After the DC titans squared off in the mediocre Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (see my review) Marvel released their own superhero battle royale with Captain America: Civil War.

The movie has made more than $200 million in the US box office and more than $737 million worldwide. It is both the fifth fastest movie to do so and the fifth biggest five day total of all time according to Forbes. On Rotten Tomatoes Civil War has a 90 per cent rating with critics and the audience liked it even more at 92.

I went into this movie with pretty high expectations as the directors from 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Anthony and Joe Russo, were returning and that was one of the best Marvel movies and superhero movies of all time. That movie blew me away twice over; the first Captain America movie, 2011’s The First Avenger, was just alright.

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Well this cat’s out of the bag…

With Civil War we have Captain America, always played competently by Chris Evans, facing off against his friend Tony Stark/Iron Man, a role Robert Downey Jr. was born to play. But they are not alone. We had almost all of the Avengers returning – Thor and Hulk were MIA – the introduction of Black Panther, a character I have loved since I first saw him in comics as a child – and the first appearance of Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The hype train was off the rails for this one.

For the film we have two factions facing off, #teamcap and #teamironman, over the Sokovia Accords an agreement though which the US government is seeking oversight over the Avengers following the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Captain America is against it while Iron Man is for it and they both have their supporters. A line is drawn in the sand and it is on like tinned cream corn.

At the Digicel IMAX premiere I saw mostly Captain America tee shirts so most people were probably #teamcap. Or it could be that there are more Cap tees available than Iron Man. Joining us for the viewing were Cap, Iron Man and Spider-Man cosplayers. They just walked in, took their seats and enjoyed the movie. Thankfully Cap and Iron Man did not come to blows in the theatre. But I digress.
You want to know if the movie lived up to all the hype? Well choose a chair, pick a side (to sit) and read on.

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I can keep this up all day Tony

JUICY PARTS

One of the things this film did better than others (cough, cough, BVS, cough, cough) was that you understood where both sides were coming from and the opposing points of view made sense. The drama of seeing former friends turn on each other draws you in and gives the film an emotional heft.

Cap’s former friend and fellow soldier Bucky Barnes turned brainwashed assassin The Winter Soldier returns in this film and he is the catalyst for much of the conflict. His character is a thread that weaves through the three movies – which are a period piece, spy thriller and superhero drama respectively – and connects them. And I am a big fan of connection and continuity.

I have to give the Russo brothers a slow clap for this movie. They masterfully balanced a dozen heroes – two of which they had to introduce (Panther and Spidey) – and seamlessly blended action sequences, comedic turns and emotional drama. Juggling burning chainsaws would have been easier than this.

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What is it good for?

Unlike the less than stellar Age of Ultron every character gets a chance to properly shine, their characterisation is on point and the arcs are fulfilling. I really appreciated seeing more of Vision and Scarlet Witch and they are done more justice here. I also felt like Black Widow was redeemed here after that ill advised forced romance with the hulk in Ultron.

Of all the characters Chadwick Boseman stands out as Black Panther and he is fantastic. He brings a sense of strength and royalty you wish that Halle Berry had as Storm in the X-Men franchise. He steals every scene that he is in and the character kicks major posterior. He should have everyone panting for his solo film scheduled for release in 2018.

Tom Holland was enjoyable as Spider-Man, the third film incarnation of the character, though I was not blown away by him. His web swinging and slinging does make for some great action pieces.

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Welcome to the MCU Underoos

On the action – oh my goodness gracious me – that battle in the airport that is the centrepiece of all the trailers is even better than you expect it to be. It is a wall to wall action and effects extravaganza but the Russos keep the various battles tight so you never get lost or confused. It is the best superhero group action sequence I have ever seen.

And, unlike the CGI ballet from Ultron, the action is well choreographed and visceral. You feel every punch, blast and hit. Another surprise is the comedy in the film. It flowed really well and was a good relief in the midst of the fighting and heightened emotion. Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, another favorite of mine, brings a good bit of the laughs and I enjoyed seeing more of him in this film.

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Do you see what your nitpicking has done?

SOUR BITS

The dozen heroes in the film is both a blessing and a curse. Sure it is great having a movie with so many characters but an inevitable downside is that your hero does not get a chance to shine. It is a bit like Blade in Blade: Trinity only that movie was awful and this movie is pretty dang good.
While we have some great action and dramatic scenes with Cap he is overshadowed and, unlike his previous outing, it does not feel like a Captain America film and I did miss that. Maybe Avengers: Civil War would have been a more apt title. The villain of the film is a bit lukewarm though I enjoyed that his motivation was not generic.

FINAL SLICE

Now I have seen people describe Civil War as the greatest superhero movie of all time. In my opinion they are getting a bit carried away. It is really, really good but I would put The Dark Knight and its predecessor The Winter Soldier above it. But it accomplished what it set out to do so you have to give Jack his jacket and Jane her blouse (we don’t want her to be cold now do we?)

I had a superb time with this film and it is one I can rewatch again and again. I loved Black Panther, enjoyed Spider-Man and was impressed by all the sweet hero on hero action.

Rating: Captain America: Civil War gets 4 evenly divided mangoes out of 4.

So what did you think of Civil War? Feel free to comment below.

For the DC superhero smackdown of Batman v Superman you can click here and for a more irreverent Marvel movie you can click here for my Deadpool review. And for more marvelous movie posts you can follow me on Twitter @suprememango012.