It’s no coincidence that Marvel and DC are releasing suspiciously similar movies shoulder to shoulder, and let’s not pretend it’s anything less than a pissing contest. Whilst Batman Vs Superman left an convoluted mess on the seat, Civil War has proven its aim true. As much as I wish DC’s full basket of eggs had been a decisive success, it’s the Marvel movie-machine that has not so surprisingly won with its staple competency and charm.
It was inevitable for superhero movies to become self-cynical in a post-modern context. The wanton destruction left behind from its stories have not been lost on Marvel. So much that Civil War is a reflection previous movies have been building upon, and the real-world consequences that would ensue had a cadre of trigger-happy superheroes inadvertently caused as much property damage.
Civil War doesn’t provide any answers, but does raise the arguments. The eponymous battle doesn’t have so much to do with a difference of opinion so much as the Winter Solider, and the lengths Captain America will go to protect his friend, but everything eventually runs full thematic circle. Neither does it resort to the convenience of a common enemy to heal the wounds it began. Resolution is an idea largely left out in place of relatable resentment and grudgery. It has all the complications and reluctance that comes with family drama, but also the retributive reactions when things get out of hand.
Its success at asking and exploring questions with the token Marvel suave shows serious subjects don’t have to be equally serious in tone to validate their debate. The smart-mouth worldview so synonymous now with the Avengers proves appropriately able to ask the hard questions and joke about the small stuff. In fact, much of Civil War’s accomplishment owes itself to Marvels’ insistence on being playful when it makes sense not to.
Dawn of Justice tried approaching the same topic with a grumpy face and a grim outlook, and that might’ve worked, and certainly did for The Dark Knight trilogy. But sometimes people want a superhero movie to be a superhero movie, and not a think-piece dressed in a costume.
Civil War just misses the precipice on Mt Complicated, and would be had it not juggled multiple ideas, plot threads and new characters with skilful nonchalance. For a film already so tightly-squeezed to introduce a new member like Spider-Man more convincingly than most dedicated origin stories, and to then give said character a satisfactory part in the play, tells to the cinematic synergy wielded by the Russo brothers.
Rarely does a film become everything it should be, and convert me into writing a review for a franchise that doesn’t even need my help. I’m disappointed in myself for not finding fault with Civil War. I’m also disappointed it happened with a movie so brazenly mainstream. Sometimes you can almost see the pressure of its story giving way, but as if by sorcery, maintains narrative composure to continue an unabashedly fun tradition of comic charisma.