Words like "...now this is how one makes a superhero movie," have got to bite, especially for the makers of Batman vs Superman. But it is difficult to find better words to sum up 'Civil War' - an ensemble movie that lifts the idea of a superhero film to a whole other level. 


In this, Steve Rogers aka Captain America, assisted by the half a dozen members of the Avengers team, continues to wrestle with the reality of leading a covert superhuman team that does many unpleasant things versus the idealism that is the core of his character. 


As the civilian casualties pile up with each international battle, others on the team - led by billionaire tech genius Tony Stark aka Iron Man - feel the time has come for the Avengers to submit to governmental oversight and restraint. To submit to a government whose agenda may one day turn unsavoury is a move Rogers cannot bring himself to do. Meanwhile, his hunt for his childhood friend - the H.Y.D.R.A mind-controlled assassin Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier continues.


The two threads meet when a bomb goes off at the UN ceremony to ratify the Sokovia Accords, a United Nations-backed treaty that puts the Avengers team under the control of a multi-nation UN panel, killing Wakanda's King T'Chaka and several others. Evidence points to the bomber being the Winter Soldier, and a worldwide manhunt is immediately launched for Bucky. 


Those who believe in oversight - either because they are used to it (War Machine, Black Widow), believe in it (Vision) or carry immense guilt for their unrestrained actions (Iron Man) - decide to hunt Bucky down under the auspices of the UN.  Captain America is more dubious of such oversight and believes in Bucky's innocence. Those who trust Captain's personal morality - Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and Falcon - choose to back him and by association, Bucky. 


The hunt for Bucky becomes the focus for these opposing points of view, expanding into the titular 'Civil War'. 


Completing the roster on both sides is Black Panther (Wakanda's new king T'Challa, son of the slain monarch), Spider-man and Ant-Man. The rest of the film is an argument about who is right, Bucky's unexpected past and the real mastermind behind the UN bombing - interspersed with some of the best superhero action ever put on screen. 


The film rises above average thanks to the characters. All of them have good reasons to be on the side they are in, but none of them have a perfect one - unaffected by emotion or personal history. And if they change sides, it feels like the natural outcome of the doubts they express throughout the film. And thanks to nearly eight films since 2008, these characters have complete depth. 


And the plot is interestingly complex. Several factors, not mentioned here, provide engaging twists. The rest of the film is spectacular as well. The fights are breathtaking and vivid, without the headache-inducing shaky-cam or excitement-killing dark tones. The extended cameos of Spider-Man and Ant-Man are near perfect. 

 

The bad is few and far between. The eventual lynchpin of the plot makes sense but is easily the flimsiest of all the characters in the film. And too much attention is paid to Steve Roger's friendship with Bucky at the cost of Captain America's fight against Iron-Man, whereas the reverse would have probably made more sense in a movie titled 'Civil War'. 


Ultimately, Marvel has made a near-perfect superhero flick that checks all the boxes of a good 'friends who have a fallout' thriller. The superhero gimmicks are just icing on the cake. 


The might of Marvel is on full display, and it is wonderful to see. 

 

PS: A special note on Tom Holland as Spider-Man. He is easily the greatest version of the Scarlet Webster ever to grace the big screen. Tiny, powerful, agile, naive, quick-mouthed and (most importantly) a teenager from Queens, every minute of this version is a delight. Holland will be getting his own stand-alone Spiderman movie soon. One can hardly wait.