It’s 6pm on Thursday 28th April, six hours before I can see Captain America: Civil War, and I’m already convinced that I’m going to fall asleep standing up. I’ve been awake for twelve hours (for no particular reason, because I’ve got the day off) and caffeine’s making me jittery, not alert. I can’t settle to anything so I end up binge-watching Community, only remembering a few episodes deep that it’s got the Russo Brothers link. I am oddly pleased with my subconscious for suggesting it.
8pm, binge over, and I’m certain I should just go to bed. For some reason, on this day when staying up is actually important to me, 8pm seems like a late night. I’ve had dinner, I’ve had a shower, and I know that I’m not going to stay awake – so why bother trying?
10pm. I try to have a nap, but I’m too excited to even shut my eyes. Or nervous. I’ve never been great at telling the difference, especially when I’m basically holding my own head upright with my hands.
11pm and we’re off to the cinema. It’s bloody freezing outside and raining so that wakes me up a bit, if nothing else. Inside we get in the queue for sweets early, convinced that there’s going to be a rush – which actually doesn’t look to be coming, bizarrely, until hordes of fans come streaming up the escalators all at once. Everyone’s either a student or a Marvel nerd, and quite a few are both. We all pile into our two different screens – 2D for us, IMAX for others – and sit, slightly groggily, waiting for the trailers to roll. As we edge closer and closer to the film I feel myself getting more and more hyped, to the point where I’m beginning to worry for my health. Is exhaustion tipping me over the edge? Am I just that far gone over these movies?
And then the film starts, and I think of nothing else for 147 minutes.
I go home, sleep for four hours (stupid, regular, strong body clock), and then I go back and see it again in IMAX.
Yeah, for the first time in my life, I’ve been to the cinema twice in one day to see the same film. It seems fitting that this was for Captain America: Civil War. After all, I broke my repeat viewing record with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, seeing it four times in three different cinemas, with three viewings in less than a week. I booked time off work to go to the midnight release of this film. I’m so head-over-heels crazy in love with these movies and the part they’ve played in my life that I needed to see it as soon as I physically could – and, while I know that that’s really oddly intense, I can’t bring myself to be too ashamed of my actions. This blog post can’t even come close to explaining why these films mean so much to me. But it can say that this isn’t just blind devotion. The fact of the matter is that Captain America: Civil War is really bloody good.
The plot, probably fairly common knowledge by now, is simple: following a series of events, including the finale of Avengers: Age of Ultron, it is deemed necessary that superheroes follow the Sokovia Accords – a document which places them under the control of the United Nations, who choose whether or not they should be deployed. Tony Stark, along with some other members of the Avengers, is all for it. Steve Rogers, and some different members of the Avengers, is not. The return of The Winter Soldier, i.e. Steve’s friend Bucky, and the sinister presence of Daniel Brühl’s character, makes the situation a bit more complicated.
The plot’s engrossing, but it isn’t this film’s main strength. For me, it’s all about the characters.
Despite having, like, fifty names heading up the poster, this film knows exactly how to deal with each and every one of them. I’m not saying they’re all given equal screen time because they aren’t – it’s a Captain America film after all, and Cap and Tony are this film’s main players – but everyone has a clear arc, and defined, reasoned motivations that make sense for them as characters. Every character feels real – and this isn’t simply a case of applying previous judgements of well-known characters to this new piece of the puzzle, but actually forming opinions of people who haven’t appeared in this universe before. Sure, it helps that we all know Spider-Man’s motivations because good grief, do we know that character inside-out by now, but it doesn’t change the fact that everything you need to know about this Peter Parker for this film is up there on screen. The previous investment argument can’t be made for Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, a character I had NO prior knowledge of. Following this, he’s now fairly well-defined and waiting for further exploration in his upcoming solo movie – which I for one can’t wait for, because I enjoyed every moment he was on screen. And everyone gets their chance to shine in that airport showdown. It’s one of my favourite action set-pieces in years, with so many action beats and so many gags. All of which come from those characters.
This is no mean feat, because there are tonnes of them. It’s the mark of a really, really good screenplay from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who just get everyone they’re writing for. Everyone makes sense. And every argument makes sense too – I’ve been banging on about being #teamcap for ages – Cap’s a good guy, why would I back anyone else? – but as I watched the film I fully understood Tony’s perspective as well. This is the man who brought Ultron to the world, the man who is forced to confront some of the consequences of his actions right at the beginning of the film, and it makes perfect sense to me that this confrontation leads him to conclude that, to prevent future mistakes, it is the Avengers’ responsibility to report to a global authority. It also makes perfect sense to me that Steve Rogers, member of the greatest generation and deeply distrustful of a government which distrusts everyone else, wouldn’t want to submit to a higher power which prevents immediate response to a bad situation and, in his words, is made up of people with their own agendas. As they made their points, each argument resonated. I somehow rooted for both characters, even as they were at odds with one another. It’s so strange, and weirdly refreshing, to be torn between two perspectives.
Then there’s everyone else. I’ve talked about Spider-Man and Black Panther already, but they’re joined by a hell of a bunch – in that airport scene my MVP might even be Ant-Man, as former con Scott Lang has almost as much fun surrounded by these high-powered heroes as sixteen-year-old Peter Parker. He’s also got the best gag of the scene, if not the entire film, which I don’t even want to HINT at for fear of spoiling the surprise. There’s also an amazing scene between The Vision and Wanda involving cooking which is so sweet and funny that I can’t cope with it properly. Sam and Bucky have at least two exchanges in particular that made me cry with laughter. There are small but wonderful moments between Black Widow and Steve and Tony. Honestly, there are so many great two-hander scenes in this film that it’s hard to keep track.
The Russos have done a job that, a few months ago, we were all sort of worried was impossible. They’ve made a character-packed movie, which still manages to be a Captain America movie, that doesn’t really neglect anyone. What sounds like a mess of people on paper turns out to be a well-oiled achievement. This movie is funny, and it is emotional, and by God it is good. It is the film I have been waiting for for three years, and it gives me no small amount of joy to say that it was worth waiting for.