Warning: Contains Spoilers!
The new entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been released to much critical acclaim. This review will contain spoilers so to see my final verdict/thoughts please skip to the conclusion.
Without a doubt this is one of the best acted films in the MCU. This comes from both the already established cast and the new cast. Chris Evans as Captain America is superb once again as well as his co-stars with Scarlett Johansson, (Black Widow), Robert Downy Jr (Iron Man), Don Cheadle (War Machine) and, Anthony Mackie (Falcon). Evans and Downy Jr have been playing their characters for years now and now they perfect for their roles. Compared to Captain America: The First Avenger Evans as the titular character is perfect. Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier is surprisingly good as well. He very much gives off the appearance of someone broken and struggling to regain his lost life. Elizabeth Olsen is far better in this film than she was in Avengers 2. In the last film her attempt at a vague eastern European accent was very off-putting. In contrast, her performance in this film is far better. The accent is far more toned down and she placed acting over fake accent. The accent is still there but it is not distracting as it was last time. This film brought two new heroes into the MCU: Spider-Man (played by Tom Holland) and Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman). Boseman is incredible. Black Panther is my favorite Marvel hero and I was worried in case the Black Panther that I love would be misrepresented in the film. The exact opposite happened. Boseman portrayed the Black Panther flawlessly, he portrayed someone wanting revenge so much that it was consuming him and, this was with an accent. His accent seemed to be natural and suited his role perfectly. If anything it added to the acting. Tom Holland is really good as Spider-Man. I would say he is the best live action Spider-Man so far. He puts across really well the cheeky, little punk early Spider-Man really well and his work alongside already established actors like Evans and Downy Jr added to this. The only criticism in regards to acting is due to Martin Freeman as Everett Ross. The acting is let down by this American accent. While Boseman's accent added to his role Freeman's accent took everything away from it. If he didn't have that accent it would have been good performance.
Plot and Characters
Following civilian casualties during an Avengers mission in Lagos on top of damages during the Avengers, Captain America: Winter Soldier and Avengers 2 the UN proposes to place the Avengers under its control. This splits the Avengers and following Bucky supposedly bombing a UN Summit in Vienna Captain America vows to protect his friend. However, battlelines are drawn as Captain America, Falcon, Scarlet Witch (Olsen), Bucky, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) clash against Iron Man, War Machine, Black Panther, Black Widow, Spider-Man and Vision (Paul Bettany). All the while someone called Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) is plotting in the background. The plot is very good. It is very well paced so the two hour twenty minute runtime just flies by. The fight scenes are well choreographed and are very engaging. The airport fight scene is now perhaps one of my favorite moments in the MCU. Due to the amount of characters and story arcs I was worried that it would all feel shoehorned in but the Russo brothers did a very good job in avoiding this. I must also give them credit for actually adapting the Civil War storyline and doing it well. Civil War spanned almost the entire Marvel Universe and many influential characters in the story, (like the Fantastic Four, Namor and Wolverine), are not owned by Marvel Entertainment. They did a good job of making it fit into the MCU as well as making Captain America the center of the film. They managed to create a film which spans most of the MCU which also keeps the focus of whose film it actually is.
The characters are also well written. Black Panther hating Bucky until the end is highly justified and is portrayed in a realistic manner. Captain America's support for Bucky is highly justified as well and Iron Man's support for the UN proposal. The relationship between Vision and Scarlet Witch feels natural, the friendship of Black Widow and Captain America (and Hawkeye) feels natural, Iron Man and Captain America regretting feels natural. I love also how Ant-Man reacts in awe of Captain America. In the MCU he would be a massive figure so Ant-Man reacting the way he does actually feels natural. It is done for laughs but in real life that would likely be a realistic response. Spider-Man's reactions with other heroes is very well done. They perfectly captured who Spider-Man as a character is. Even the villain, Zemo, is done very well. At first I thought he would be another throwaway villain like all other MCU villains bar Loki. Instead he was a good villain. His goal to break up the Avengers because his family were indirectly killed by them in Avengers 2 is realistic for a man of his background. The fact that you actually feel pity for him as well when it is revealed that the message he keeps listening to is the last message his wife sent to him adds so much to the character. This is the film that I wish Batman v Superman was. It has the same message of controlling power, the same hero v. hero dilemma and the same motive of the villain wanting a hero to fall. Here though the reason they fight, (even the last fight of Iron Man v. Bucky and Captain America), actually is a reason, enough time is allotted to both characters and, the villain actually makes sense instead of Lex Luthor's eccentric garbled mess of a plan which still does not make sense.
Like other entries in the MCU the effects are still very good. It's a small thing but one scene shows a young Tony Stark and it looks very good. I like also the blend of live action and CGI. I was worried that most of the film would be just one giant CGI blast like Jurassic World or Man of Steel. Instead they actually used a mix of both techniques. It added much to the film. I am very glad that movies are now more willing to blend practical effects and CGI together (I am hopeful that Warcraft will have good effects judging by how they are doing this). During the airport fight scene at times I did struggle to guess which parts were CGI and which were practical effects. However, at times the CGI does look somewhat fake, incidentally the airport fight in my opinion has some of the best and worst effects in the movie, which can be off-putting. However, this is rare and I would rather have a film with some effect mishaps than an entire CGI blast to the face.
Trivia and Easter Eggs
Like other MCU entries there are multiple references to the comics. The above image actually appears in one of the comics. In Avengers #224 Ant-Man rides Hawkeye's arrows as he does in the film which is really nice. Vision and Scarlet Witch appear to have a growing bond between the two of them throughout the film. In the comics they started a relationship and got married, which ended up going spectacularly wrong as what always seems to happen in comics. Falcon, also, uses a drone called Redwing in the film. In the comics Falcon has an actual falcon called Redwing. Iron Man is also influenced to support hero's working for a government by a mother whose son who was indirectly killed by heroes. In the film her son was a volunteer who was killed by falling buildings in Sokovia while in the comics the son is in elementary school and is killed by the villain Nitro's blast while fighting a teenage hero group called the New Warriors. (I've done a Comics Explained on Civil War of you want more details: http://historyandgeekstuff.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/comics-explained-marvel-civil-war.html). Bucky also loses his arm in the same tradition of MCU films since Phase Two where a character loses an arm/hand in homage to Empire Strikes Back (also mentioned by Spider-Man in the film). Spider-Man's costume is also a mixture of two of his most famous costumes: one by Steve Ditko and one by John Romita Sr. Iron Man also makes Spider-Man his suit while in Civil War he makes Spider-Man a new suit. The two credit scenes both set up the upcoming Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming set to be released in 2017 and 2018. Finally during Captain America's and Iron Man's final fight one shot directly homages the cover of the last issue of Civil War.
Captain America: Civil War is a must see for comic book fans and comic book movie fans alike. With overall good acting, good pacing, well written characters, good effects and spectacular fight scenes it is a must see. I would give Civil War a 8.5/10 for these reasons. If you have seen it go see it again, if you haven't seen it go see it and if you've not seen any MCU films watch Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers, Captain America: Winter Solider and Avengers 2 and then see this one.