Marvel’s approach to their cinematic universe has been quite similar to a television or anthology series, telling multiple stories with a similar tone and feel throughout. If this description is accurate then ‘Captain America: Civil War’ could be looked at as the midseason finale with a big ass story, some resolution and leaving plenty of dominoes standing for the next few episodes to tumble.
Joe and Anthony Russo return to direct ‘Civil War’ working with a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely making up a team familiar working within Marvel’s system. The plot for ‘Civil War’ is best described by the powers that be as “Political interference in the Avengers' activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.” This “rift” between the main heroes sets up some pretty interesting conflict based on different ideologies. Cap doesn’t feel that the world Governments should have any control over the actions of the Avengers while Tony Stark is all for that shit, mainly driven by his own guilt and depression and inability to deal with who he is as a person (shitty). Cap’s unstoppable do-good attitude drives him to operate independently from any Government organization as they may put the kabash on an impromptu rescue mission someday resulting any unneeded casualties. So noble.
Right out of the gate ‘Civil War’ feels even more like a spy thriller than ‘Winter Soldier’ with some well-coordinated action sequence and globe-trotting complete with location-based title cards flashing across the screen a la Jason Bourne. This allows the Russo brothers to keep the film moving and avoid stagnation while also allowing the setup for before unseen characters, most notably the Wakandan prince T’Challa. You’ll know him as Black Panther pretty quick. On top of all of that, this also allows the story to setup the framing of Bucky Barnes, AKA The Winter Soldier for a terrorist attack that takes place during the signing of the Sakovia Accords. The Accords are the documents that will hold the Avengers siding with Stark accountable for their actions.
Once Bucky gets framed Cap goes on the hunt, hoping to find him before he is arrested since he just knows deep down that his bro is still a good dude experiencing some rough times. But enough about the plot, that’s all you need to know! The global scale, conflicting ideals of the main characters and all around skill of the filmmakers at work here make for a damn good time. The fact that two television directors who worked on ‘Community’ and ‘Arrested Development’ along with directing ‘You Me and Dupree’ can balance humor, character driven drama, blockbuster spectacle and grounded action so well is astounding. When add in the juggling of seven main characters and multiple villain stories, there’s no reason that ‘Civil War’ should be as good as it is. The Russo brothers do a pretty damn good job at pacing this two and a half hour action flick as I didn’t look at my watch once during this runtime. The even more challenging task of juggling so many important characters is handled with an equal amount of finesse.
What I found most intriguing here is the both obvious and less obvious comparisons this movie will bring on between itself and ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” (Christ! Who Okayed that title?). Both of these flicks feature the leading two heroes of their respective universes who end up going head to head over conflicting ideologies and end up at a turning point with situations that involve mothers… Within these similarities came the most shocking takeaway of ‘Civil War’, me switching sides from Cap to Iron Man. I was on the side of Captain America for two reasons. I enjoy his films and character much more in general but I also agree with his stance on giving up superhero faculties to Government committees. When you add to this the braggadocious and grating nature of Tony Stark as a character, Cap seemed to me the logical choice. During ‘Civil War’ I slowly switched sides based entirely on the actions of Captain America. While I understand the loyalty to such an old friend, there must come a point where Bucky’s actions must be answered for. Brainwashing or no brainwashing there has been a lot of death and mayhem laid in his wake and I feel that Cap gives him a few too many free passes.
The main action of Cap’s that had me switching sides is also one of the coolest if not THE coolest sequence of the movie. You’ve only seen the smallest fraction of the airport fight sequence from the multiple trailers that have come out and that is for the best. Against all odds the Russo brothers made an amazingly balanced and well choregraphed fight scene that includes Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch, The Vision, Hawkeye, Spider-Man, War Machine, Falcon and Winter Soldier. Wrap your head around that real quick. Double digits. This fight shows off the best of each heroes’ abilities as well as some cool tricks we haven’t seen yet, but the best takeaway is the addition of Spider-Man. This is the best on-screen depiction of this character yet with an actor who is of the right age and a representation of a quippy nerd who can’t believe that he’s rubbing shoulders with these superheroes. It’s just great and now I can’t wait until next summer when Spidey gets his standalone reintroduction.
The other new addition to the crew, Black Panther is portrayed fantastically by the criminally underrated Chadwick Boseman but he isn’t given enough to do. He is given his motivation, acts on this and then has a change of heart. I suppose there isn’t much more to be expected until his standalone but so much was done with Spider-Man’s limited screentime and I wish Black Panther was given the same chance.
Lack of development for Panther isn’t my only gripe here either. This movie does very little in the way of improving Marvel’s villain problem. Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo kind of drives the plot along and kind of has some reasons for his actions but they are shown to the audience a little too late and in too small a way. Much like the other villainous portrayals so far, this isn’t the fault of Bruhl as he does what he can with what he is given but he almost seems like an afterthought that was tacked on after the Captain America V Iron Man parts of the script were complete. Oh well. I have come to expect this.
Marvel has reignited my interest in the MCU with ‘Civil War’ after snuffing that flame out with ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ and I couldn’t be more thankful. With a well-balanced movie full of amazing characters, explosive action and a tone that leans so heavily into the comic book origins in a way that I haven’t seen Marvel do yet, I couldn’t recommend this movie too much more. Take a trip to the theater and let’s hope that this tone is continued and expanded in the upcoming Phase three films.