Captain America: Civil War Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Screenwriter: Christopher Markus, 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 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures | Marvel Studios
Rated PG-13 | 147 Minutes
Release Date: May 6, 2016
“United we stand. Divided we fall.”
In 2011, Super Soldier Steve Rogers made his debut in Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Influenced by Raiders of the Lost Ark and Johnston’s own 1991 film, The Rocketeer, The First Avenger was designed as a ’40s adventure serial. 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, was a ’70s political thriller in the vein of Three Days of the Condor and All the President’s Men.
The Russos’ follow-up, Captain America: Civil War, is influenced by movies like The Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back, sprawling sagas that tell intricate stories where every character has an arc. And like those enduring classics, Civil War is a gripping, emotionally resonant film that enriches and deepens a mythology and our connection to it. Its greatness lies in the groundwork laid by its predecessors; twelve films that comprise an unprecedented experiment in long-form storytelling, the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
A year after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) attempt to stop HYDRA’s Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) from stealing a biological weapon from a lab in Lagos, Nigeria. After the mission results in collateral damage, the United Nations passes the Sokovia Accords, which will install a system of accountability and establish a governing body to oversee and control the Avengers.
The team is divided over the Accords. What if the United Nations sends them somewhere they feel they shouldn’t go? What if they’re needed elsewhere and the UN won’t let them take action? What’s fascinating about this conflict is the reversal of Steve Rogers’ and Tony Stark’s beliefs. When Jon Favreau’s Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) was a rebel — a brash billionaire who did what he wanted, how he wanted. But after the events of Age of Ultron, Stark is a changed man. As the creator of Ultron, Stark is responsible for the destruction of Sokovia. To borrow a term from Black Widow, he’s got red on his ledger and he’d like to wipe it out.
Steve Rogers, on the other hand, is a company man. He takes orders, so if the government feels that something is for the best, then who is Captain America to question it? But after HYDRA infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., Rogers has serious trust issues when it comes to authority. Complicating matters is his relationship with the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a fugitive who many believe Rogers is protecting. Both men make compelling cases, forcing the rest of the Avengers to choose a side.
Joining Stark are Black Widow, Vision (Paul Bettany), War Machine (Don Cheadle), and newcomer Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who holds the Winter Soldier responsible for the death of his father, King T’Chaka of Wakanda. Rogers isn’t convinced of his friend’s involvement and recruits a team to investigate what really happened. Joining him are Wilson, Maximoff, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and the Winter Soldier himself, Bucky Barnes.
Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have crafted a brilliant psychological thriller where each character is both a protagonist and an antagonist. Everybody’s a little right and a little wrong, and because we’ve lived with these characters for eight years, we’re empathetic to their opposing points of view. And when they fight, it means something. It hurts.
While our heroes are busy fighting each other, a mysterious man named Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) is hunting down HYDRA agents, seeking information about a mission the Winter Soldier carried out in 1991. Zemo is the villain of the piece, but his ambitions are not those of Loki or Ultron. Zemo doesn’t seek to rule the world or exterminate humanity; his motivations are more personal.
Another character making his first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland. Recruited by Stark, high school student Peter Parker swings into action as the definitive friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. 19-year-old Holland looks and acts the part. As Parker, he’s an awkward whiz-kid with amazing abilities. In contrast, Holland’s Spidey is an energetic motormouth who uses quips and wisecracks as a defense mechanism because he’s a kid in over his head. And while his role in Captain America: Civil War is a modest one, the web-slinger is involved in the greatest piece of superhero action committed to the screen. The airport fight, which pits Team Iron Man against Team Captain America, is the cornerstone of the film and a dream come true for comic book fans.
Civil War is a smart, satisfying masterwork, with fantastic performances and tight screenwriting. It isn’t just a great comic book movie. It’s a great movie, brilliantly executed and lovingly rendered. It’s the culmination of eight years of storytelling and an unbelievable accomplishment that will have a profound impact on future films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Moving and immensely entertaining, Captain America: Civil War is a joyous cinematic experience. For the film’s 147-minute runtime, my grin was so wide it was pressing against the walls of the theater. While cynics and pretentious pundits comment on “superhero fatigue,” I’ll be watching my childhood dreams play out on the big screen in spectacular fashion. This, my friends, is modern-day myth-making at its finest.