Captain America: Civil War
Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Screenwriter: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, and Daniel Brühl
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Rated PG-13 | 147 Minutes
Release Date: May 6, 2016
There are no successful superhero film franchises under one roof like the ones over at Marvel Studios. Time and time again the studio has repeated its success, risen to beat expectations, and even found ways to reinvent itself to keep their respective franchises fresh and engaging. These sequels are no longer sequels, they are political thrillers, fantasy adventures, buddy cops comedies, heist capers, space operas, and much more to come.
Now the studio will christen Phase 3 of the MCU with a bold new storytelling direction. Starting off with Captain America: Civil War, where our heroes and their beliefs come into conflict as Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) will engage in an ideological battle that will determine the fate of the Avengers.
There is no doubt that a film of Civil War‘s size will be dense one. The number of characters, plus the themes that are explored in it, there is a lot to take in. Despite its density, we get a very compelling story thanks to directors Joe and Anthony Russo emphasizing the importance of storytelling and leave everyone cheering no matter if you are on #TeamCap’s side or #TeamIronMan’s side.
A year since the events of Age of Ultron, and the Avengers continue to willfully act on their own accord. While the world may owe the Avengers a great debt, their actions has its casualties, and governments from around the world want the Avengers to be held responsible for their actions. In order to keep a system of checks and balances on the team the United Nations enact the Sokovia Accords, a policy that puts government oversight on the team. This splits the Avengers into two different factions: Steve Rogers aka Captain America who is fully against government oversight, and Tony Stark aka Iron Man who makes the surprising decision to support government regulation. Things only get worse from there when Bucky (Sebastian Stan) comes out of hiding after he is accused of a terrorist attack.
It is actually quite refreshing to see the Russo brothers reinvent the political thriller subgenre of the Captain America films again. Once again, they have raised the bar in how superhero films should be presented and how their stories should be told. This time, they nearly bring all of the fan favorite heroes together for a mega-ensemble event unlike anyone has ever seen. Despite having heroes we would see in the Avengers, this is not the Avengers 3. This is a Captain America film, through and through. There should be no confusion as to who this film is about, and the film never loses sight of that.
You can have great action in a superhero film, but without a good story, that action is meaningless. In Captain America: Civil War, the action scenes have actual weight to them because our heroes have an unwavering belief that they are fighting for the right ideology. They willing to sacrifice their friendship and lay down their lives prove that theirs is the right one. There are no character moments in this film, each of them getting their chance to show their strength of that commitment to that belief and allegiance to their respective leader.
Every action has a consequence, and with these consequences the action builds, and when the consequence builds, the following action sequence gets bigger and more intense. This battle scene is also an excellent opportunity for the film to explore those complicated relationships between the feuding characters. All of it has weight to it. The battle at the Berlin airport – the big splash page scene – looks like it has been ripped from the pages of a king-sized double comic book issue. It’s a whole lot of fun to watch on screen, and there is enough humor in the sequence so that it wouldn’t get monotonous and boring.
That element of interjecting just the right amounts of humor only proves that you can have fun while still exploring dark themes. Having a film be consistently dark is just is depressing. There needs to be a moment of levity, otherwise, the film is going to come off as cold and distant. Civil War knows when the audience needs that break from a deep plot of politics and vengeance by giving its audience a break by having them laugh or even sympathize with a romantic gesture. Even during those simple moments with scenes between Falcon and Bucky are fun to watch.
The politics and the heroes’ opposing ideals on government oversight works and is more compelling because of its storytelling. A lot of credit goes to Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who have also written the previous two Captain America films, in addition to Thor: The Dark World and the two-part event film Avengers: Infinity War. Not only that but they were also able to introduce two new characters, Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and T’Challa aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) organically, without having the film feel overstuffed. There is an incredible character dynamic within the entire cast of Civil War. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have a very interesting relationship while Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky almost have a brotherly one. And things change for Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). All of this makes one thing clear, the Russos and Markus and McFeely care about these characters.
However, the film is a bit dense, and there are a number of complex themes. But that doesn’t mean Civil War is not enjoyable, it just means that there is a lot to take in. It is still a whole lot of fun to watch. Though Marvel Studios’ villains have suffered a great deal because of a lack of development, Civil War provides a great story for Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl). To avoid spoilers, I won’t get into specifics, but Zemo is a rather untraditional villain who doesn’t do any grandstanding like any of the villains that came before him. So I could see how that approach to the villain could rub people off the wrong way.
That’s where Spider-Man and T’Challa aka Black Panther come in. Though both fight on the side of Team Iron Man, the two are recruited for different reasons. T’Challa’s father is killed when a bomb goes off before the world governments could sign the Sokovia Accords. Seeing the both of them on screen is exciting, in their own different ways. Spider-Man is just amazing to watch, emphasis on the word amazing. Holland is the best Spider-Man you will ever see on the big screen. An early introduction shows us that Holland is the right man to play Parker. He’s young, inexperienced, and still keeping his heroics a well-kept secret. But it is in the battle sequence that we really get to see Spider-Man be Spider-Man. Just like any young kid, there is an eagerness to impress his fellow teammates by putting his talents on full display. Spidey isn’t afraid to throw out a few sarcastic quips and he way he moves is not like anything we have ever seen in any of the Spider-Man films. It’s energetic, agile, and a whole lot of fun to watch.
Boseman plays as T’Challa with strength and confidence. He is an outsider who is forced to take on the role of King when his father is assassinated. Of course, there is a hesitancy to take on such a title as there are fears that he cannot fill the role after the legacy that his father left behind. Still, with a strong sense of justice and duty, T’Challa is a welcomed addition to the MCU.
If anything, their roles in Civil War tells us that their standalone films will definitely be worth watching.
In the end, Captain America: Civil War isn’t as easy a watch as the MCU films that came before it. It’s dense and complex, but it is oddly well balanced with humor and tragedy, and it is constantly engaging. The Russos have raised the bar once more by tackling this ensemble film, and proving that they are ready for Avengers: Infinity War Part I and Part II. But as of right now, Captain America: Civil War is the BEST comic book movie out there. Hands down. No doubt about it.