Captain America: Civil War review
Consequences of collateral damage
The two competing American comic book entities (Detective Comics and Marvel Comics) released remarkably similar films this year which amounted to a small surge in pop culture, advertising, and social media. If a movie goer only wanted to attend one, the plot would unfold in identical circumstances. Each features the two most popular super heroes of either universe fighting each other over philosophical differences resulting from collateral damage as a villain pulls the strings behind the scenes. Three years ago, both films—Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice for D.C. and Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War—booked this first weekend of May 2016 to debut until Warner Brothers eventually blinked and moved BvS up to March in what now looks like a smart move as Civil War will be remembered as the superior film. Striking first remains the only bragging point D.C. has until Suicide Squad hits cinemas in August. In the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure, the figurative chickens of the Avengers’ international incidents finally come home to roost with exciting, entertaining, and thought-provoking conflict.
Marvel “virgins” heading into the third Captain America will certainly not have a clue following the plot (the directing duo of the Russo brothers have stated as much), but the action spectacle still gives value to the price of a ticket. After New York in The Avengers, Washington D.C. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Sokovia in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a new event in Civil War’s opening sequence, 117 world leaders want Earth’s mightiest heroes to answer to some version of higher authority—“The Sokovia Accords”—subsequently followed with a split decision among the team as to whether or not they should accept such terms. When governments control/ decide who the heroes are, wouldn’t they soon decide who the villains are as well? When blame for the newest incident gets tied to Captain America’s childhood friend, Bucky, Cap goes rogue defending and searching for him. Each member of the Avengers then faces a choice of siding with either the rogue Captain America/ Steve Rogers, or the pro-Accords side led by Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man/ Tony Stark.
Chris Evans returns to lead his fifth adventure as Captain America after two Captain America and two Avengers movies. Even though the film’s ambitious scope extends far beyond that of Captain America, Evans’ performance certainly stands out among the enormous ensemble cast as the emotional core and moral compass. Downey’s Stark counters Cap’s loyalty with overwhelming guilt, becoming the governments’ poster boy for siding with authority. In all of Downey’s Iron Man performances, he’s never shown a side that cares for rules and, ironically, he decides to take up suit against his fellow Avenger. It’s an interesting angle for the actor to approach, but only RDJ can turn a superhero into an equally likable antagonist of sorts.
Disregarding the Captain America title, Civil War stands as the best MCU adventure to feature the Avengers—even without The Incredible Hulk and Thor. A couple of heroes make their MCU debut, and an unexpected ally of Cap steals the show. Chadwick Boseman (42, Draft Day) becomes the first actor to portray the Marvel hero Black Panther/ T’Challa in a major motion picture. Like Cap, T’Challa serves as another exemplary character of moral esteem whose vengeful motives put him at odds with Bucky, just like Iron Man. Tom Holland (The Impossible, In the Heart of the Sea) brings Spider-Man to the MCU in awkward, teenaged fashion. Established Avengers from across the broad film franchise appear, as well. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow appears yet again to do what she does best—play both sides. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man has a featured cameo and winds up stealing the show. Additional Avengers getting screen time include Falcon, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Vision. The Russo Brothers tend to get off track at time in regards to the Captain’s arc, but make their plot divergences are generally worth the distraction.
In terms of antagonists, calling Sebastian Stan’s (Black Swan, “Gossip Girl”) Winter Soldier/ Bucky the “bad guy” probably isn’t fair. The events of the previous Captain America film established the evil organization HYDRA’s reeducation of the former P.O.W. character. Stan makes Bucky the film’s most interesting character in the first couple of acts until plot tangents get the narrative off track a little bit. Like his friend Steve, Bucky is a man out of time with a guilt complex larger than anything Iron Man expresses throughout the film, having carried out numerous assassinations throughout the last 70 years for HYDRA interests. Daniel Brühl (Rush, The Fifth Estate) also pops in and out with a mysterious role as a psychologist with sinister intentions.
Although Captain America: Civil War may get off point with a few sequences in regards to the film’s main arc, the distractions typically equate to a moment for a side character to shine which is something necessary in an ensemble narrative. Despite a more satisfying, unexpected twist from The Winter Soldier, Civil War packs plenty of earned surprises and plot points with sequences of epic 3D super hero action exhibition and character development in between to become a superior Avengers film. The Disney/ Marvel blockbuster already exploded on the international scene last weekend with a box office haul north of $200,000,000 and expects to repeat as much in its wide North American release.