Directed by: The Russo brothers
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Robert Downey Jr.
The Civil War story is an ambitious one to tell in a single film. The fundamentals of the story in the comics were fascinating but most fans agree that the yearlong story lost steam at several points. Smartly this film simply takes those fundamentals and uses them as a landscape to paint the finale of the Winter Soldier story on. Some reviewers and fans are calling this an avengers movie; make no mistake this is a Captain America story through and through. This film finishes the Captain America story arc started in Captain America: Winter Soldier, not just Bucky’s story but also Steve Roger’s arc as he continues to react to the events of Winter Soldier.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been able to cleverly meld the fantasy and sci-fi elements of super heroes with grounded drama and real word repercussions of their actions. DC Comics and Warner Brothers tried to react to criticisms of Man of Steel not taking responsibility for destroying an entire city with Batman V Superman but they just can’t find the magic in that storytelling that Marvel has. Marvel Comics has always been somewhat grounded in reality though, from real world problems to real world locations.
The Avengers have been at the center of quite a bit of destruction and death across the globe since they were formed. The governments of the world are reacting by trying to force the Avengers, and the individuals that make up the team, to be overseen by the U.N. The Avengers wouldn’t simply react to situations they would be called in to help when the U.N. felt it necessary. Tony Stark is the one who has been most affected by the destruction the team has caused, even having PTSD, so he is in support of the plan. Captain America sees things much more black and white; when something bad happens he will stop it regardless of the consequences. He doesn’t believe in the plan because he fears people with agendas will govern them. Stark agrees the plan isn’t perfect but he sees something worse in the future if they don’t compromise. The heroes eventually choose sides and the battle begins.
It’s interesting to me in talking to those who have seen the movie to learn that so many of them come out hating Tony Stark. The question remains how would these filmgoers feel if the police in their neighborhood just swooped in unmanaged and handed out beat downs or if the military randomly rolled tanks into their neighborhood and flattened their house while chasing a bad guy and then did nothing about it later? It’s actually a pretty fascinating discussion for a comic book movie. In the end, after all of the amazing fight scenes this movie is most surprising in its layers of drama and grounded commentary. The movie definitely skews in Cap’s direction but that’s really because of a secondary story on top of all of actual Civil War events. In the end both characters lose focus on the big picture due to personal issues. They are really two sides of the same coin. The character drama, especially between Stark and Rogers is palpable and often moving.
When a comic book is firing on all cylinders it’s progressing a great story, building drama that has impact, featuring amazing battles, and still offering moments of levity. This movie nearly perfectly does all of this in the epic final fights. The biggest beats of humor come from Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Any doubts about him as the web-slinging hero are washed away in this film. He could bring us the very best rendition of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man if the standalone film is good enough. Chadwick Boseman is riveting as the Black Panther too. The Vision gets some further character development in this film, it’s subtle but it works great at hinting where he will go. The Scarlet Witch gets more screen time and importance but her real story comes in scenes with Vision. Virtually every character brought into this film gets a moment to shine. That’s a big statement considering the film still manages to be a Captain America movie.
Captain America: Civil war may very well be the best film in the MCU to date. Guardians of the galaxy remains the tightest and most unique of the films but Civil War swings for the fences with a complex story and villain and it succeeds almost completely. The action here matters more than the action of any other Marvel movie and multiple plot points and perspective make the drama weighty but not melodramatic. The only real issues with the film are that it drags in the middle for about ten minutes and the blatant hints at Tony stark’s future feel a little ham-fisted compared to the rest of the film. Also, while surely stark is at his most dramatic in this story his brand of charismatic humor only comes in brief moments and it’s missed because that’s really who his character is. There is one issue of Captain America being able to globe trot in a matter of minutes too. Those complaints aside, Captain America Civil War sets the bar extremely high for future Marvel films.