Triumph is a pretty big word for a movie that hasn’t even opened in North America yet. But the word absolutely fits Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War.” It has opened in a few overseas markets where it’s already doing gangbusters at the box office and the opening weekend domestically is expected to break the record of Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
Unlike my normal reviews, this does have a few light spoilers in it. But if you’ve seen the trailers, you can pretty much piece together what I mention. But for those who wish to remain pure, here’s my spoiler-free review “It’s as good as everyone says it is.” If you don’t want spoilers about the basic story and some characters, then stop reading now.
Through the course of phase one and two, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become an extended tapestry of stories, but inevitably it links back, Mobius strip style, to a few key points in time and the people who are at the center of the universe. In “Captain America: Civil War,” the third phase opens with the Stark’s, represented by Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) and Captain America (aka Steve Rogers) also a product of the Stark family having a little dust up.
Okay. It’s more than a little dust up. There’s a pretty spectacular battle that’s at the center of “Civil War” which pits 6 of your favorite superheroes against 6 more of your favorite superheroes in one of the genre’s best action scenes ever. The action pairs a gritty tension with some marvelous humor, and high personal stakes.
At the end of the movie there’s also another battle, where the stakes are also very personal, although the motivation behind the fight is different. How the Russo Brothers get from one civil war to the other is what makes “Civil War” the movie so brilliant.
The events of phase two movies have shaken not just the team but also the confidence of some of the Avengers. At the end of “Age of Ultron” Tony Stark had already decide to hang up the mask for a while and other characters just left. But it’s not just the Avengers who are nervous, the governments of the world are feeling pressure to put enhanced individuals in check. The result is the Sokovia accords, which divides the Avengers into two sides, those who sign the accords and those who won’t.
In a twist from their original motivations, but carefully explained in the movie, bad-boy Stark goes for the Law and Order routine and signs the accords, while All-American Hero Steve Rogers, rebels and feels that The Avengers won’t work if they’re tasked to take on jobs that they may not agree with.
Into this milieu saunters the films actual villain, Hemut Zemo (played so wonderfully by Daniel Bruhl). Zemo sets into motion a series of events that ends up in a moment so shocking, that the audience let go in a long collective gasp.
And that’s the brilliance of the movie, it’s a Super Hero movie with some of the best superhero action ever put on film, but at its heart its a character piece. Each of the 12 super heroes (and a few of the supporting characters) are given time to reflect and deal with the fallout from the revelations of “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
Some of the standouts include Paul Bettany as Vision who portrays the character’s uncertainty with his own place in the world wonderfully. Black Panther (who will get his own movie in 2 years) is played by Chadwick Bosemen. His character has the biggest arc to traverse and it’s a joy to watch, even though perhaps a bit too much of it occurs off screen. I loved it when Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man finally arrived on the scene, he provides some excellent comic relief while still proving that heroes come from all backgrounds.
Speaking of comic-relief, “Civil War” takes the opportunity to reboot the Spider-Man character yet again. Tom Holland was cast in the role as a young Peter Parker. He’s charming, funny and brings a level of comic-book madness into the movie at a time when it was much needed. There’s a wonderful scene in the movie when Tony Stark goes to recruit Parker that serves as an origin story without actually being an origin story, which is nice, since we all pretty much know what happened already.
Robert Downey Jr.’s talent and charisma makes you believe he can play Iron Man pretty much in his sleep, but there is some very believable nuance in “Civil War” and he manages to make the character’s motivations seem core to who Tony Stark is. Chris Evans, remember him, it’s a movie about his character Captain America after all, does a wonderful job, but unfortunately, Steve Rogers the character doesn’t really have much of an arc in terms of character development, he does have internal struggle though. In this film, he’s the fulcrum around which other characters resolve, his struggle sets events in motion. Evans, thankfully, is able to pull that off.
While Civil War is at its heart the story of Captain America, at times it is a buddy cop movie (with Bucky and Steve on the run), and other times it’s an Avengers movie. That’s okay, because it means everyone gets their moment to shine and the storylines that were set in motion in earlier films are given a chance to develop and, in a few cases, pay off.
I’m happy to say that “Captain America: Civil War” is my new favorite film in the core Marvel movies. “Guardians of the Galaxy” still wins for the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe films. “Civil War” is epic, emotional, and well-crafted. It’s the culmination of the previous 12 MCU films and a wonderful launch pad for everything to come.
If you haven’t already, go see Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” and then come back and share your review in the comments below.