The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been the closest thing to a genuine experiment the notoriously risk-averse Hollywood film industry has undertaken at least since rolling the dice on Peter Jackson’s original Lord of The Rings trilogy. For all the talk of action movies always having been a provable genre at the box-office and superheroes often even more so, the gamble with this franchise (or collection of franchises) has always been the risk as to whether or not audiences will tire of one or more parts of the ongoing story-continuum and imperil the prospects of the rest.
Could one outright failure on Marvel’s part bring the MCU tumbling down like so much random Chitauri canon-fodder? Well, it looks like we be finding out any time soon. The review embargo has lifted for Captain America: Civil War, and according to early reviews Marvel and Disney have another hit on their hands.
These first (positive) Civil War reviews have hit the ‘Net a week out from the lifting of the social media embargo and shortly after the film’s own gala unveiling at the 2016 CinemaCon Las Vegas. The good buzz should come as welcome news to fans of Marvel’s output but also to superhero fans in general, many of whom were no doubt left feeling discouraged in the wake of the critical furor that has surrounded Warner Bros. Pictures’ Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice in recent weeks. Thus far, the difference in the overall reaction to the two films is night and day; critics are lauding Civil War as a success in and of itself but also citing the ways in which it builds on the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe storylines and expressing excitement about where the Marvel characters will head next.
For more on that, check out these excerpts from some of the first Civil War reviews (link the respective links for the full reviews):
The shaming of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” will continue apace — or better still, be forgotten entirely — in the wake of “Captain America: Civil War,” a decisively superior hero-vs.-hero extravaganza that also ranks as the most mature and substantive picture to have yet emerged from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Very much an “Avengers” movie in scope and ambition if not title (the conspicuous absence of Thor and Hulk notwithstanding), this chronicle of an epic clash between two equally noble factions, led by Captain America and Iron Man, proves as remarkable for its dramatic coherence and thematic unity as for its dizzyingly inventive action sequences; viewers who have grown weary of seeing cities blow up ad nauseam will scarcely believe their luck at the relative restraint and ingenuity on display.
Corporate filmmaking with an enormous economic investment at stake has the power to force creative people to operate within the art-destroying prison walls of a marketing strategy. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an empire building itself on a foundation that roughly amounts to a house style, tends to stay relatively on balance. Screenwriting team Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (responsible for the previous two “Captain America” films) efficiently move plot blocks into place and check off interlocking points of order, but they do so while never forgetting that their characters are more than brands to build.
“Who needs a villain when you have Steve and Tony? Both protagonists. Both antagonists. And drawing other power-people to their cause in surprising ways. The clashes go far beyond the set-up squabbles of Avengers Assemble. Or even that other big 2016 superhero showdown. Forget Batman v Superman. Here you get Ant-Man v Spider-Man, Hawkeye v Black Widow, Scarlet Witch v Vision, The Winter Soldier v Black Panther and (well, duh)Captain America v Iron Man, all rolled into one. And that is what you call the ultimate Marvel superhero event.”
“In many ways, Civil War is the Marvel team-up sequel Age of Ultron should have been. If The Winter Soldier was about SHIELD being ripped apart from the inside, Civil War pulls the same trick with the Avengers themselves, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely carving out satisfying character arcs, or at the very least moments, for every major player (minus the MIA Thor and Hulk). Crucially, despite the colossal cast of characters and sprawling runtime, the oft-repeated assertion that this isn’t just Avengers 2.5 holds true – it’s also a Captain America movie through and through, further exploring The Winter Soldier’s major theme – the cost of freedom – while Bucky is even more integral to the plot than he was in the film that bore his own name.”
Captain America: Civil War marks a watershed moment in the vaunted annals of comic book cinema: finally, a big budget superhero sequel that manages to be both effortlessly entertaining and utterly sobering, instead of just one of those things—or, as we’ve endured too frequently in the past, neither of them. (Looking at you, Batman v Superman.) You might argue that other films that have come before Marvel’s Captain America threequel have achieved such equilibrium, but let’s be real, you’d be lying to yourself. Not even Disney’s Marvel machine has yet been able to shake off formula or self-seriousness in service of spandexed superhero franchising.
An emerging theme among the reviews is the nuance with which Civil War handles its difficult central conceit, which finds Captain America and Iron Man leading rival teams of heroes on opposite ends of an ideological struggle over whether or not super-powered crimefighters should see their actions regulated by a United Nations committee. So far, critics are positively affirming that neither side is made to look totally in the right. Others are also making it a point to highlight the contributions of newcomer characters like Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man, both of whom are making their debut in the high-profile sequel before striking out on new solo ventures of their own.
While fans will no doubt find these reviews encouraging, many also come with a scattering of reservations; including questions as to whether or not the film is too long, suggestions that certain characters could have used more screentime and intimations of some subplots not entirely playing out to satisfactory ends. Still, these are an encouraging collection of early looks, and point to Marvel fans having a lot to celebrate come May – regardless of whether you’ve pledged Team Cap or Team Iron Man.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange– November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1– May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.
Source: Various (see the above links)