MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action/ Stars: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, William Hurt, Frank Grillo, Martin Freeman, John Slattery, Marisa Tomei, Alfre Woodard/ Runtime: 147 minutes
At this point in film history I think it is safe for us to say that the team-up film truly is Marvel Studios’ bread and butter. This can be stated as not only did they set the world on fire back in 2012 with Whedon’s The Avengers, but in the years since that historic milestone they have continued to excel in orchestrating creative groupings and pairings which then demonstrate the tremendous fun and inventiveness that comes from bringing absolutely engaging, interesting characters together. The most astonishing thing about this feat is not only have they as a studio repeatedly set a high bar in this area, and constantly reaching for it, and usually succeeding, with each new project, but they also now have the entire industry attempting to do it, too.
However upon seeing Captain America: Civil War, I can safely say that this film has done the incredible and succeeded in ways that raise the bar higher than we ever thought it could possibly go. This is because the film, which functions as both a sequel to Captain America: The Winter Solider and Avengers: Age of Ultron, was, at the time, easily far and away the most comprehensive MCU chapter to date. Indeed while that must’ve been a great deal to put on writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, this movie still manages to soar because not only is this challenge accepted, but it is answered in truly brilliant and highly entertaining fashion and in the process manages to bring together tremendous character dynamics, an emotional narrative which actually feels earned after years of story work, and spell-binding, fun action sequences to give us easily one of the best films Marvel had ever done up to that point.
The plot is as follows: Inspired by the 2006–2007 Marvel Comics event series, the film picks up with the titular character working with his Avengers teammates — Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Black Widow, and War Machine in their continuing efforts to stop terror and villainy and all that bad stuff around the globe. However after what should’ve been just another routine mission in Africa winds up causing a tremendous deal of collateral damage, the team suddenly finds itself under scrutiny and the subject of controversy and in an effort to finally put the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in check, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (yes the Thaddeus Ross from the Edward Norton Incredible Hulk film) presents the team, as well as former members Tony Stark/Iron Man and Clint Barton/Hawkeye, the opportunity to continue their work, but only if they sign the Sokovia Accords.
These so-called Accords happen to be a proposed piece of legislation named after the Ultron-destroyed city from Avengers: Age of Ultron that in essence forces The Avengers to work under a United Nations committee that will determine exactly when and where the team goes into action. Indeed while this idea is supported by some, including Tony, Vision, Black Widow and War Machine, it is safe to say that Captain America, Falcon and Scarlet Witch are not shy about their resentfulness of the idea behind this, but while the Sokovia Accords are the powder keg for everything that eventually happens it winds up being Bucky Barnes/The Winter Solider who inadvertently lights the fuse as a terrorist attack soon happens that is pinned on Captain America’s best-friend-turned-assassin, and while Cap is instructed to leave the situation alone, it’s an order that he rebels against thus turning him into a fugitive and soon battle lines are practically being drawn and everyone is set on a collision course that by the end of the film will change the course of the MCU forever…..(dun-dun-dunnn!!)
Now it is no secret that Captain America: Civil War features the absolutely largest ensemble we’ve seen yet in a Marvel Studios movie. Despite the large character volume on display however, the film still manages to give us some truly amazing and quite terrific character work in that not only do we get to truly understand who these pop culture icons are at their core, but we also get to gleefully see them play off of each other as well. In regards to that, I honestly feel there truly is no better example of the former that we get to witness in this film than Mr. Chadwick Boseman as the newly introduced superhero T’Challa a.k.a. Black Panther. This is because Boseman not only does a fantastic job with this character, but he plays the character in such a way that we get a big screen interpretation that really truly is every bit as regal, intelligent, bold and passionate as the hero that we read about when we read the comics.
Also while they don’t have as much screen time as some of the other Avengers characters nobody in their right mind should walk away from this film not loving and appreciating the absolutely brilliant return of Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man whose hero worship of his fellow teammates, snarky quips, and just pure joy at being able to play this character is still just as delightful and evident as it was during his solo outing from back in 2015, as well as the long-awaited arrival of Tom Holland as our new Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Indeed while I can’t say much about him I can tell you that Holland manages to do the amazing and incredible and in just the handful of scenes he is given manages to completely and fully encapsulate everything that the fans of this legendary character love about the spectacular web-slinger and have been waiting to see from a big screen adaptation that I promise you it will overwhelm you with excitement about the future of this iteration. He is that phenomenal.
To be fair though, this is a film that isn’t just about singular impressive performances however. This is because the film is also an opportunity to see how these heroes both not only relate to each other, but also how they act when they are at odds with the headliner, of course, being the key conflict between Captain America and Iron Man and honestly their battle isn’t just physical, but emotional as well and it’s hard just watching the conflict that has been simmering under the surface of their friendship finally just erupt into an all-out fight between the two. Indeed I promise you that by film’s end their fight truly will tug at your heartstrings and even make you want to tear up a little bit as well because the truth is while neither one of them is 100% wrong, neither one is 100% in the right either.
We also get to see best friends of Cap, teammates, and former opponents Falcon and Bucky go at it and they honestly have, besides Steve and Tony, one of the most complex relationships in the movie, but this is also one that actually translates into a ton of laughs whenever they’re paired up and then, on the more serious side of the story, we get to see Wanda and Vision be wonderfully brought together and not just because of their relationship in the comics, but also because there is a bond between them as they are what could be considered “newborns” in the superhero realm.
Indeed it really just seems like everybody gets a moment with everybody, and yet the film still manages to bring it all together in a way that allows to feel organic and also never swing too far away from the central plot either to the extent that it is safe to say that all of this couldn’t be pulled off is this film followed the most basic superhero movie structure. Thus I applaud the fact that this film actually burns that proverbial book and trades the ashes of that book for a much more unconventional and risky approach and, without giving anything away to you guys, the film decides to trade out a big, splashy, blockbuster finale and instead gives us something much more intimate and personal that unsurprisingly works if for no other reason than the fact that this is something that the audience has honestly earned over the last eight years due to the terrific stories that have come before this moment as well as the fact that we genuinely do really care about the characters. Yet, while some could argue that this film takes some big swings I can safely say in response that it’s because of those that Marvel is able to knock this film out of the park like everything else they’ve done if not more so.
Now while it is incredibly easy to respect this film because of the emotional and quite thoughtful approach it takes towards its characters instead of just having them punching and kicking each other until they stop due to both their mothers being named Martha, here’s looking at you Batman v. Superman, I can safely tell you that the proverbial punching and kicking in this film also happens to be pretty phenomenal as well. This is because in terms of action sequences Marvel truly has come a long way since the ehhh not too bad, but still could’ve been better final battle in the first Iron Man film, and while The Russo Brothers did blow audiences, this critic included, away with their battle and set pieces in Captain America: The Winter Solider, I can safely tell you that their sequel ups the ante in every way.
Indeed from the Avengers’ explosive opening mission at film’s start to Cap and Winter Soldier’s attempts to escape from a building that is teeming with cops, every single set piece and every single bit of action is all intricately crafted with the utmost care as well as incredibly memorable. Yet every scene in this film, although great in their own rights, all still pale in comparison to the airport-set hero vs. hero battle in the second act. I say this because that right there is a scene which, without going into any specific details so as to avoid any spoilers, will quickly go down as one of the absolute best in the history of the comic book genre. Indeed all I can say is that once you see it you will never forget it.
All in all the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the whole truly has been filled with great, fun-filled blockbuster gems, and it can be said with confidence that Captain America: Civil War was able to continue that at-the-time 13 movie trend spectacularly as this is a movie that is equal parts thrilling, fun, emotional, smart, and indeed truly thought-provoking. On a scale of 1–5 I give Captain America: Civil War a solid 4.5 out of 5.