At this point, the Marvel films are known to come with a certain level of safety. Everyone loves them, everyone sees them, and the films can end up somewhat critic-proof. For every Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: the Winter Soldier, there’s a Thor: the Dark World or Ant-Man, playing it safe to cash in on brand recognition. With the start of Marvel’s third phase of films, expectations are high for the seeds planted in previous films to start paying off. And while Captain America: Civil War handsomely rewards longtime followers, it manages to provide a thought-provoking look at our favorite heroes that even newcomers will love.
After an international incident leaves the world questioning the place of enhanced heroes in the world, the United Nations create the Sokovia Accords, which would make The Avengers have to follow the UN’s orders. With each member making up their mind on the accords, a line is drawn between Captain America and Iron Man, taking the sides of anti and pro the accords respectively. Further complicating things is Cap’s old friend Bucky (aka The Winter Soldier), whose possible involvement in a bombing has drawn the attention of the worlds governments, namely King T’Challa aka the Black Panther. Throw in a new villain in Helmut Zemo, and the introduction of Spider-Man into the MCU, and theres certainly not a lack of things going on in the films 2 1/2 hour runtime.
With the task of being a sequel to the previous Captain America film, a pseudo-sequel to the previous Avengers film, an adaptation of the Civil War comic and the beginning of Marvel’s third phase of films, Civil War has a lot of different expectations to live up to. Were the Russo Brother’s not at the helm of directing, the film could have easily faltered in its translation of the seminal comic event. Luckily, as they showed when they directed Captain America: the Winter Soldier, the Russo Brothers are among the best directors working in Hollywood right now because of their ability to juggle tones in equal measure. While Civil War is certainly a darker and more tragic super hero tale, it’s doesn’t forget that it’s still a Marvel film, providing a number of fun fight scenes and well-placed jokes in between the dark subject matter.
Thanks to the well-written script, Every character receives a good story arc and some standout moments. While certain characters may be placed in specific roles (e.g., Ant-Man and Spider-Man are mostly relegated to comedic relief roles), the motivations for why everyone chooses Cap or Iron Man’s side is made clear, and stays in line with what we know of each character. This does become a little too obvious in the beginning, as the first half of the film is packed with numerous scenes of different Avengers debating what they think about the Accords, almost tipping over into overkill. Thankfully, the conversations really highlight how talented the main cast is, and eventually transitions naturally into the more action-heavy second half.
Speaking of action, if you’re someone who hasn’t been keeping up to date on the Marvel films, and are only looking for a good summer action film, Civil War delivers in spades. Keeping in line with the darker tone of the film, fights are far more physical and brutal, with characters like Black Panther out for blood. The fight scenes combine the best of CGI, with beautiful graphics that show off Spider-Man and other superheroes in their best iterations yet, and plenty of hand-to-hand choreography, highlighted in the multiple fights between Winter Soldier and Black Panther. The highlight of the the film, a 10-15 minute Airport fight scene with the entire cast, stands as one of the best action scenes of the 21st century, and is a marvel to behold on the big screen.
None of that action matters, however, if the audience cant identify with the characters. Thankfully, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans fully embody Tony Stark and Steve Rogers respectively, and their differences in ideology lead to great discussions on who is “right.” While the film is titled “Captain America: Civil War“, the merits and flaws in both character’s arguments are made clear, which is likely to lead to several different arguments for people being #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan. Even at the films end, which thankfully doesn’t reset to everyone being friends again, neither side is declared a “winner”, and the debate between these two sides are clearly going to remain a big issue in future Marvel Films.
The rest of the cast does a fantastic job with their characters, so i’ll just highlight the standouts. Chadwick Boseman does a great job with Black Panther, whose fighting prowess doesn’t forgo his more charismatic and royal qualities. Tom Holland is the best on-screen adaptation of Spider-Man we’ve had to date, constantly quipping and acting as a teenage superhero would, and thankfully commits the “with great power…” speech audiences have grown tired of. Finally, as much of the plot concerns Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, Sebastian Stan’s portrayal deserves special recognition. The tragic nature of Captain America’s brainwashed friend is brought to the forefront of Bucky’s arc, as Stan portrays a man who must atone for his actions, even when he wasn’t in control of them. This is made more important in the film’s third act, which see’s Evans, Downey Jr. and Stan give their most faithful portrayals of each character to date.
Without getting into spoilers, my only problem is with the films main villain, Helmunt Zemo (Inglorious Basterds‘ Daniel Brühl). While Brühl does a good job with his role, and Zemo certainly stands as one of the better Marvel villains, his inclusion still feels somewhat unnecessary. By the end of the film, the conflict between Iron Man and Cap feels like it was inevitable, so having a villain try to orchestrate the films’ events felt like it was simplifying things. Making matters worse, the film keeps his motivations a mystery until the very end, causing many crucial scenes to leave audiences confused until the film third of the film.
Captain America: Civil War isn’t just one of Marvel’s best films, but their most mature. Despite the number of super heroes and quips throughout, Civil War is ultimately concerned with telling a tale of two men who want the same thing, yet let pride and personal feelings get the best of them. But even for viewers who haven’t seen every Marvel film to date, the abundance of action and character moments are sure to hold viewer’s attention long after the credits have finished rolling. On par with The Winter Soldier as the best Marvel film to date, Civil War is the next step in the evolution of not just super-hero films, but Summer blockbusters in general.
Arbitrary Numerical Rating: 9.5 More Times I Want to See This Out of 10