Directed by The Russo Brothers
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Bruhl
Those who know me well know I’m not typically first to heap tremendous praise on the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact I’m often very critical of them.
So it should say a lot when I tell you “Captain America: Civil War” is not only a great MCU film, it’s arguably one of the best all-time super hero films to date.
It has its issues but what problems the film does have is overall inconsequential to what is a hell of a start to the summer movie season.
While you’ll definitely need your popcorn for this action packed film, get ready to bring tissue too because not only is this one of the MCU’s best action films it’s easily its most emotional.
(So prepare yourself if you haven’t seen it…)
“Captain America: Civil War” follows the events of last summer’s “Age of Ultron” where after the Avengers accidentally cause more collateral damage the world calls on stricter regulation of their mightiest heroes. Spurned by guilt of past events, Tony Stark aka Iron Man sides with the world in enacting the Sokovia Accords but Steve Rodgers aka Captain America sees only a leash to keep the team from performing their duty. Meanwhile after a bomb results in the death of the king of Wakanda, Cap’s old friend Bucky is implicated in the terrorist attack. Cap decides to set off on his own to apprehend him before the authorities of the world can, setting off a rift between him and Stark that may never be repaired.
It would be easy to say “Civil War” is everything “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” should have been but that would be a disservice to the former and give the latter waaay too much credit. The most these two share is a common hero vs hero angle and that’s about it.
(”Wait, guys! What about Martha?!”)
I’ll say this though, “Civil War” proves the folks at Marvel Studios know what they are doing and anything the Russo Brothers get their hands on is worth watching. While I’m not sure I would put this ahead of “Winter Soldier” yet, “Civil War” is more of what I would like to see in this series.
It’s a film that is emotionally driven, pitting friend against friend, and while the film does have its quip moments that it’s known for it doesn’t detract as heavily as it normally does from the seriousness of the movie.
Chris Evans continues to own his role as Captain America and in this film we see how his relationship with Bucky drives him a little over the edge. Bucky represents the last bit of Cap’s former life in the 1940s after (SPOILER) Peggy Carter passes away during the film. Cap is not only trying to save Bucky from Hydra and the world but also trying to save what part of his old life he still has left.
This desire to save him creates a tremendous amount of drama in the film bringing half the Avengers closer to him and the other half toward Stark. There’s many brilliant character moments during these scenes and you can see how it is hurting Cap to choose between his old friendship with Bucky and his newer one with Stark.
(Side Note: We get the most gratuitous bicep curl since the opening scene of “Predator” in this film.)
But besides being a great Captain America movie it is also the best Iron Man movie as well.
This is the best we have probably seen of the character and Robert Downey Jr. plays his role perfectly. Instead of the normal quips and banter (which we still get plenty of in the film) we see more than ever the hurt of Tony Stark, the regrets, the pain and what he really cares about.
He clearly feels terrible for his past transgressions as a military arms dealer but now he sees that even as a reformed man he has still caused damage across the world. In the Sokovia Accords he sees a way out, a way to shift his problems to the world to figure out, perhaps to keep himself from hurting others. It’s remarkable after eight years of movies and 13 films, not to mention a few TV shows, we are still seeing a new angle to this character. I came into this movie thinking I would be #TeamCap from start to finish and it would have been really easy to just paint Stark as the misguided fool and enemy of freedom against Cap but by the end of it a decent part of me was definitely siding with Stark.
I don’t think I have ever enjoyed RDJ more as Tony Stark in any of the films; it’s easily his best performance out of all of them.
This all makes the film’s final scene all the more powerful (SPOILERS AHEAD).
In the buildup, after Stark and Cap makeup and team together with Bucky to stop the bad guy Zemo, played beautifully by Daniel Bruhl, we are led to believe that he is just manipulating Bucky so that he could get his hands on Hydra’s super soldiers at their hideaway artic base. What feels like an obvious buildup to another big battle sequence between Iron Man, Captain America, Bucky and a bunch of super soviets turns out to be a far more sinister trap.
Zemo’s plan was never to just mindlessly have a bunch of crazed super soldiers duke it out with Earth’s mightiest heroes it was to show Stark the damning footage of Bucky assassinating Stark’s parents, thus causing an irreparable rift between Stark and Cap. It’s a brilliant bait and switch by the Russo Brothers and it’s a much more dramatically satisfying scene than any generic super human battle could’ve done.
My friend Husain Sumra wrote a much better piece on this part of the movie that you should all read btw.
(Check out Swiftfilm btw, good reviews and write-ups *Cha-ching*)
Remarkably, given all this focus on the movie’s title characters, the film still gives plenty of time to every other Avenger as well in the story.
If you’re a Black Widow fan you’ll get plenty of her. Like Falcon? The dude gets plenty of great quips and action scenes in. Ant-man is much better in this film than his solo film last year and even Don Cheadle’s War Machine plays a fairly significant role in the film.
(Ant-Tony is still very dead though. Sorry, kids.)
But this review is not complete without talking about the series two newest additions and that’s Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-man.
Boseman nails the role as both an African warrior king to be and sympathetic hero, delivering one of the film’s best monologues. It’s amazing that in a film that is heavily centered on two characters that a character like T’Challa gets his own arc at the end of the movie. Since I went waaay too long on Iron Man and Cap I’ll once again pass the topic to my friend’s much better written article.
Meanwhile, despite Holland’s role as Spider-man feeling a bit shoehorned at times, it is undeniable that it is AWESOME that Spidey is finally in the MCU after wasting away in that horrible rebooted franchise that must not be named…
…But he also fits the role extremely well. While we don’t see much of his Peter Parker, his Spider-man is spot on capturing his humor side perfectly and adding a ton of fun to the movie’s best action scene.
(Also Aunt May tho…)
As mentioned, the film does have a few minor weak points. Zemo’s plan feels a little too large scale and articulate to be played off so perfectly, the film does at times lose focus on the seriousness of the plot with its lighthearted jokes and as mentioned Spider-man, while enjoyable, does feel a bit needless. It also bares little resemblance to the graphic novel that it gets its name from but that’s such a neck-beardy complaint that it’s completely inconsequential to its quality.
(*breathing heavily* ”No Iron-Spider suit? 1 star…”)
It is undeniable that this is arguably the series’ strongest entry into the MCU and easily one of the best all-time comic book films to date. It’s a quality film that deserves more than one watch and, to put it lightly, blows DC’s own attempt at a “Civil War” out of the water.
So take note Warner Bros, cause as far as the MCU is concerned you’re still little brother.
4.5 out of 5
Where’s your Martha now!?