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Captain America: Civil War Is The Avengers Movie We’ve Been Waiting For

If Batman v Superman left a bad (okay, very bad) taste in your fanboy mouth, Captain America: Civil War should restore your faith in the great, big superhero smackdown. But let’s backtrack a bit. 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier was an unexpectedly smart superhero sequel many of us didn’t see coming. Before it, sibling directors Anthony and Joe Russo only had a pair of so-so feature comedies under their belt (2002’s Welcome to Colinwood and 2006’s You, Me and Dupree) and a handful of TV gigs, notably for much-admired shows Community and Arrested Development. How they managed to deliver arguably the most gripping instalment in the MCU was a very pleasant surprise. Lucky for us, this wasn’t just some fluke. Captain America: Civil War is another sharp dose of drama, wit, and expertly crafted action. Moreover, while Civil War’s packaged as a Captain America sequel, it outdoes both Avengers films when it comes to juggling a huge roster of new and old superheroes, while taking full advantage of all the character development we’ve invested ourselves in since 2008’s Iron Man.

In the eight years since Tony Stark revealed his secret identity, the Avengers have been involved in numerous conflicts that have added up to a lot of collateral damage. This literally hit new heights during the climax of last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, when a large chunk of Sokovia was lifted off the ground, killing countless innocent victims in the process. While our heroes are clearly trying to save the day, the death and destruction left in their wake has progressively risen.

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Enter the Sokovia Accords, a contract that would force the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to operate as part of the UN, instead of just acting as well-intentioned vigilantes. Tony’s the first to sign on, but following another mishap involving Steve Rogers’ off-and-on bud, Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier), things get complicated for Captain America. As we all know from the film’s aggressive social campaign, the Avengers become split between #TeamCap and #TeamIronMan. Obviously, the whole choosing hashtags thing is a marginally clever marketing stunt, but the characters’ shifting alliances feels like something we’ve been heading towards since the first Avengers flick. All the same, I was more captivated by the amusing quips and superhero vs. superhero action, both of which are top-shelf.

Civil War presents a headier, more internal struggle than anything the Avengers faced before, and that goes a long way in reinvigorating the franchise. At the end of the day, the MCU is nothing more than delicious candy, and the Russos have perfected the recipe. The only self-harm Civil War inflicts is it creates huge stakes for Infinity War, which will surely be a bonanza of superheroes, supervillains, and maximum, city-levelling carnage.

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Moving on to casting highlights: Black Panther (franchise newcomer Chadwick Boseman) has a cool suit, nifty moves, and packs an emotional punch, but he’s overshadowed by Civil War’s secret weapon: Spider-Man. After five hit-and-miss big screen adventures, I thought I was spent on Spidey, but Tom Holland proved otherwise and actually left me excited for yet another reboot. Full of goofball humour and teenage wonder, he’s certainly the most accurate live-action portrayal of Peter Parker we’ve seen thus far. While Black Panther plays a more integral role in moving the plot along, Spider-Man’s youthful spark gives the film a much-needed adrenaline boost during the midway point. Even if they took out his highly memorable fight scene, Spidey’s banter with Iron Man alone adds fresh superhero chemistry to an increasingly familiar circle of heroes.

Speaking of chemistry, Vision and Ant-Man liven things up the moment they enter a scene. Ant-Man’s flat-out hilarious during the film’s highly publicized Royal Rumble (which is hands down the best action sequence the series has ever seen, boasting just the right mishmash of superpowers and personalities) and Vision’s downright heartwarming as a house-sitter to Scarlet Witch following one of her botched missions.

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As for the film’s big bad, there’s no archetypical villain. Actor Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds, The Bourne Ultimatum) plays the instigator, but he keeps his distance from our family of superheroes (which also includes Black Widow, Falcon, War Machine, and Hawkeye—the only missing Avengers being Hulk and Thor). This is a good thing, being that Brühl’s the least memorable part of the film.

Like the dwindled number of heroes left standing to fight by the time we arrive at the climax, Civil War will leave you exhausted after the credits roll (and, yes, there are two post-credits treats that don’t amount to much). But that’s only because the abovementioned superhero standoff that occurs about 30 minutes prior is just un-toppable. All in all, I don’t see myself being more razzle-dazzled by this summer’s onslaught of blockbusters than I was here (perhaps X-Men: Apocalypse will challenge that statement). I’ve nothing but admiration for Joss Whedon, but Civil War runs laps around both Avengers, and Infinity War now has some Thanos-sized shoes to fill.

Captain America: Civil War is out Friday, May 6. Watch a pretty dope clip below:

INNERSPACE CLIPS