Film Review – Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War
It is hard to review a film like Captain America: Civil War, since it might be arguably the most critic-proof movie of the year. Critics are already heaping praise on it, and I’m not going waste your time posturing like I disagree. It is an incredibly fun, if flawed, superhero action movie. Besides starting phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it once again showcases that the futures of the Marvel world are in the capable hands of directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo.
As important as Joss Whedon was in setting the tone for the MCU, if there was any concern that the transition to the stewardship of the Russo brothers, they have once again eliminated it. Here they have raised the bar, following up on perhaps what I think is the best film in the MCU so far Captain America: The Winter Soldier. They understand the characters on a level that is pleasing both to fans, but also in honoring who the characters truly are in the comics. Not only have they again shown they can direct an engaging action movie, but they have proven they are more than ready to take on the Avengers: Infinity War and helping to set the tone as Marvel moves forward.
I am the first to admit I have been a skeptic about Captain America. I’ve always been a bigger fan of the Justice League, but I have enjoyed watching the MCU unfold. One of the few characters I had more than a cursory familiarity to begin with was Captain America, so naturally I was intrigued when Captain America: The First Avenger was being prepped for release. I never really understood what made him a superhero, but I was excited to see… What unfolded was one of the most bland, if not least interesting, films in the MCU. There was not a moment where it ever felt like he was in danger nor did he really show off too much in the way of special skills. Even more than before, I was skeptical of the character. That all changed when the Russo brothers stepped in to work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He finally felt like a force to be reckoned with. Thankfully, here they have continued to build on that base here and it finally feels like he has displaced Tony Stark as the heart of the Avengers.
Despite the title, we all know Captain America: Civil War is, in essence, another Avengers movie. The film picks up in the wake of the fallout from Avengers: Age of Ultron in a world in which there is increased scrutiny on the superheroes and the damage that occurs during their battles. The premise isn’t necessarily bad, but one of the movies greatest flaws is the exploration of how the debate divides the team. Captain America takes a firm belief that every organization has an agenda and to put a governing body above the Avengers is rife with danger. Leading the opposition to his belief, and in support of the change, is Iron Man, whose rationale is essentially boiled down to one passing conversation with a mother whose son died in one of the Avenger’s battles. Most of the other characters get even less explanation for which side they are on; they just show up and fight. It doesn’t really matter, you just go with it; it makes for a more enjoyable experience that way. I didn’t really love or hate Avengers: Age of Ultron, but this is the Avengers film that should have been. It is more cohesive all together, from plot to character selection to action. Thankfully, Civil War doesn’t feel like its action beats have been added for the sake of filling time. The final third of the film finally fleshes out the fracture between Captain American and Tony Stark in a meaningful way, and sets the tone for how phase 3 of the MCU will unfold.
The core of the movie is about the fractured relationship between Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). As the two leaders of the Avengers, as they go, so goes the rest of the Avengers team. Comparisons to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are inevitable when you release two movies about battling superheroes within two months. While I didn’t dislike Batman v Superman as much as most, the conflict between the characters makes more sense in there but it is so superficially fleshed out that it never really takes advantage of it. In contrast, though, the chemistry between Evans and Downey Jr. feels much more organic than that between Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill. Perhaps it is because they have worked together many times already or that the script dialog was just better; regardless of the reason, it just feels more natural. Additionally, one of the best parts of Captain America: Civil War was the action. Unlike Batman v Superman, it didn’t feel like a non-stop CGI fest (with the exception of the airport fight scene). The raw kinetic energy, particularly the first chase scene with the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), felt much more real and engaging. I still remain hopeful that a cohesive Justice League movie is possible, but the Russo brothers once again reinforced just how large the gap is to catch up.
The clear standouts of the movie are the supporting characters, most notably Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who steal the show at times and clearly do a great job of inspiring interest in their upcoming solo projects. Additionally, much in the way the original Avengers provided characters like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) a chance to finally shine, this movie definitely highlights why characters like Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) deserve to be included on the team.
One other note/forewarning: The 3D in the film isn’t bad (also not great), but it can make it a little chaotic at times to watch the action. If I had the opportunity to do it over again, I definitely would opt to just watch it in 2D.