Something remarkable takes place in Captain America: Civil War. Or doesn’t, rather, for this is a superhero movie in which not a single building falls. Not one. No skyscrapers tumble, no factories collapse, not even a tiny workman's shed lists slightly to one side and crushes some petunias. In a cinematic world now so inured to (and bored by) the sight of 9/11-esque dust clouds chasing hapless citizens through crumbling streets, Civil War doesn’t just eschew this trend, it centres its entire story on the consequences of those previous destructive nightmares.
That’s not to say there isn’t any action. Quite the opposite. Civil War features some of the most exhilarating chase sequences and flight scenes in recent memory, choreographed with a balletic-like precision in which the emphasis is on small, considered flourishes rather than sheer brute force. Every punch, block, shot, weave and parry has been painstakingly conceived to reflect the individual personalities of each character involved. We see Cap (Chris Evans) bouncing his shield off walls like Ronnie O’Sullivan on a 147 break, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) dispatching villains with scientific swagger and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) trapping explosions instead of creating them. It’s the very opposite of ‘mindless violence’, and it’s as refreshing as it is electrifying.
The other key feature of Captain America: Civil War is its story, in part because it actually has one. There’s no fighting for fighting’s sake here, and indeed most of the action is driven by a determination to stop the violence. As with its previous instalment The Winter Soldier, this is a film about oversight and accountability - acknowledging the terrifying (and unchecked) power of the Avengers, then seeking to control, regulate and restrict it by way of a UN accord. The world knows it owes an unpayable debt to these people, but collateral damage and civilian casualties can only be excused for so long. Here, then, lies the conflict at the heart of the so-called ‘civil war’: self-determination versus oversight, freedom versus control, Team Cap versus Team Iron Man. It’s a compelling and plausible fissure along which the line in the sand is drawn, and as with any great story - neither side is universally right.
Marvel, to its credit, knows its tone better than perhaps any other franchise, and here again we find its signature combination of edge-of-the-seat action and laugh out loud comedy. The performances teem with an emotional complexity rarely found in blockbusters, and the new character additions - whether they be previous Marvel Universe ring-ins like Spidey and Ant Man, or totally fresh inclusions like the outstanding Black Panther - ensure no one actor commands too much of the screen time. Plot driven, fast-paced and terrifically funny, Captain America: Civil War is an outstanding film and the most fun you’ll likely have in the cinema this year.