Captain America: Civil War

This movie is everything a Blockbuster should be.

I know this review is late, but it has taken multiple viewings for me to collect my thoughts. I have seen this movie four times, and I still want to see it again. Maybe it’s the comic fan in me, but this movie just gets it right. The action is great. the acting is on par, and the ending leaves you anxious to see what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has planned for its next phase.

With the launch of Iron Man in 2009, Marvel has redefined the comic film and the summer blockbuster. With its multi-character mashups becoming their bread and butter, Marvel consistently broke audience expectations and box office records since the Avengers. Now with Captain America: Civil War, the bar has been raised yet again as the film features more characters than ever before. And this time our beloved heroes are pitted against each other in a fight that will redefine comic films for generations.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the third Captain America installment is a gigantically complex vision of ramifications, taking bits and pieces of the MCU and utilizing each resonant segment for a storied experience of crumbling friendships and episodic catharsis. Through its grand 2-hour 20-minute run-time, Civil War operates like a culmination *and* an antithesis of the Marvel brand, narrowing its focus to showcase conflict among heroes even though the brawls escalate towards geeky, rapturous highs.

The film opens with an Avengers mission gone wrong: Captain America, played to perfection by Chris Evans, has been hunting down the notorious Crossbones – a Hydra agent turned terrorist who was first revealed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Though Crossbones’ attempt to unleash a bioweapon in African country of Lagos is stopped by Cap’s new team of Avengers which includes: the fierce Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the telekinetic Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and the high-flying Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie). The Avengers win the day, but the battle has tragically unforeseen consequences.

The U.S. secretary of state (William Hurt), fed up with the trail of fatalities and mass destruction that the Avengers have left behind them, believes that it’s time the government begins to regulate this rag-tag team. The Avengers are pushed to sign the Sokovia Accords which mandates that the team of super-heroes will no longer have full autonomy but will instead be placed under the jurisdiction of the United Nations.

Haunted by his own role in the civilian deaths that occurred during the big-bang climax of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony Stark/Iron Man, (Robert Downey Jr.)  wholeheartedly supports this solution; he is backed by his faithful friend Lt. James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), and the otherworldly humanoid philosopher known as the Vision (Paul Bettany). But while Natasha and Wanda both understand the logic of Tony’s decision, Captain Steve Rogers is having none of it.

To submit to the U.N., Rogers feels, would effectively destroy their ability to mobilize and act as needed. Captain America’s defiance only intensifies when yet another deadly attack occurs, this time in Vienna, and the Winter Soldier aka Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan (who has dialogue in this film) is clearly implicated. Rogers and the audience learn that Barnes has been framed and decides to go against the new chain of command in the Avengers – effectively making Captain America a war criminal and dividing the heroes along two clear ideological lines: restraint and oversight vs autonomy and civil rights.

What Makes It Great:
This film accomplishes what Batman vs Superman failed to do; it delivers action and emotion. The MCU has been building these characters over course of several films. We know these characters. We are invested in their emotional struggles and thus, watching these characters clash is compelling. We understand why these characters do what they do, and we are rooting for them. 

In BvS, character development was sacrificed for action effects and fanboy propaganda.
But Captain America: Civil War has a cohesive narrative, clear ideological differences, and still tackles the question of how much power is too much – a question that BvS tried to address and failed. Iron Man champions restraint while Captain America worries about the agendas of government. Ideologically, Cap embodies the rugged individualism of neo-liberal America while Iron Man represents corporate socialism. Both sides have their merits, and the movie goes to great lengths to ensure that none of their heroes are villainized. Also, the introduction of Spiderman and Black Panther is sure to make you cheer.

While there is plenty of fun to be had, the movie doesn’t bank on the clashing fight scene where all the heroes line up and punch each other out. No – the climax of the film pulls away from the pomp and effects of high action and becomes deeply personal. Tales of friendships and brotherhood live within each frame, interweaving with forces of revenge and haunting representations of the past now committed to time.

Never has an MCU film dug so deep into its own skin, scrambling through its hard-wired mechanics and conveyor-belt release cycles to find some peace in its heart and soul. The Russo brothers have showcased with Civil War that while Marvel will continue to expand the fights and the fireworks, there’s always room for fascinating, introspective ideas and a dash of poetry.

The Verdict: Worthy of a Midnight Showing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s