Title: Captain America: Civil War
Release Date: May 6th, 2016
Studio: Marvel Studios
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Release Format: Theatrical
Captain America: Civil War is a film, in theory, that should not work. It’s a film that’s not only trying to balance the returning relationships of characters we all know but also introduces a plethora of new heroes to The Avengers team. While many may scoff at Marvel’s ability to churn out film after film, if the company hadn’t spent close to a decade developing various characters a film like Captain America: Civil War would shatter under its own weight. This is why Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to deliver on the lofty promises of seeing two heroes rip each other apart as we had not received the chance to establish relationships with the characters. We’re a dozen movies in now, which directors Anthony and Joe Russo take full advantage of. Characters like Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) are inserted into the story under the assumption that we have seen his previous film and are familiar with his powers and personality. It’s this sheer confidence that Captain America: Civil War has, that allows it to become one of best comic book films ever made.
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Now that’s not to say Captain America: Civil War doesn’t have some issues. The character of Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) tries to serve as the movie’s central antagonist, but honestly, he gets lost in all of the conflict brewing between the various characters. Sure, he has a clear stake in it all, but Zemo really didn’t serve much of a purpose besides setting in motions some of Captain America: Civil War’s bigger more important moments. That’s not to say Zemo is a bad character or that Bruhl doesn’t give a fine performance, as I suspect in any other Marvel movie he would have made a fine stand alone villain. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel the movie having to consistently remind us that Zemo is still a thing and will eventually be important to the plot. In a film juggling upwards of ten superheroes, someone was bound to be lost in all of the chaos regardless. Sadly Zemo is completely forgotten about once the emotional turmoil kicks in, even if his motives and even plan are genuinely interesting.
Thankfully, the plot overall is surprisingly coherent and deceptively deep. At the risk of spoiling anything major, the story itself is fairly straightforward at first glance. After another mission goes wrong, the world governments have banned together in an effort to help regulate and restrain the freedoms that superheroes have. This obviously challenges the various ideologies our colorful cast has, tearing the group apart into two separate teams. All of this culminates once Captain America’s (Chris Evans) friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is believed to cause the assassination of a world leader. Captain believes Bucky is innocent, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) wants to bring him in regardless and you can see where the plot’s going with this. While this may seem like an excuse to just have a bunch of superheroes beating the hell out of each other, Captain America: Civil War has much more emotional weight than we’ve come to expect from a Marvel movie. Even if it’s third act feels a bit stretched out after a brutal finisher to the second act.
It’s scary how well Captain America: Civil War manages to not define a true antagonist between Iron Man and Captain. Naturally you’re going to root for the one you like best, but the film never truly tries to frame one as the bad guy and one as the good guy. Once all the chips are down and the final fight commences, you cannot help but hope both parties come out unscathed. The Russo brother’s ability to balance the various motives and emotional weight our two primary heroes have is borderline scary. In theory, we should hate Stark for trying to shut down Captain America, yet I couldn’t help but understand why he wants this law to pass. Tony’s demons have come back in full force, fracturing the man’s ideology and trademark narcissism. Tony is a perfect foil for Steve Rogers, which is only boosted by the amazing performance given by Robert Downey Jr.
One might worry that Captain America: Civil War is really just another Avengers movie and while it’s full of various superheroes, make no mistake – this is very much Captain America’s movie. Chris Evans delivers another great performance and his relationship with Bucky is genuinely an interesting one to watch develop. Stan still puts on a great performance as The Winter Soldier that will remove all doubt about his ability to display an emotional range outside of confused and cold-faced killer. Yet, the real standouts of Captain America: Civil War has to be both Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and our new Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Panther actually receives a full origin story here and has his own character arc that truly got me invested. His motives are real and the driving force behind his actions all have substantial weight. This is only elevated by Boseman giving a great turnout as the costumed hero, as his dangerous presence is instantly felt. In terms of Spider-Man, yes the rumors are true about Holland. The kid gives an amazing performance and instantly nails the awkward wit that Peter Parker is supposed to have. I’m genuinely interested in what Spider-Man: Homecoming is going to do with the character and his inclusion felt like much more than just fan service.
However, I am 100% confident that none of this is what people will be talking about down the road when it comes to Captain America: Civil War. While all of the action scenes are spectacular, holy f#%$ is the airport fight scene amazing. The trailers may have teased it, but there is almost nothing that will prepare you to experience this mind melting battle of titans. Every hero turns their powers up to 11 for this battle and it’s a glorious spectacle that may be remembered as one of the greatest fight scenes in the history of film. No, not just comic book movies, all of the film itself. This fight alone is worth the ticket price, but even final, more personal battle is enjoyable.
Captain America: Civil War may be one of the best Marvel movies as its flaws are far outweighed by everything it gets right. Characters and their motives feel real and the introduction of big players like Black Panther don’t come off as set ups for future movies; (despite totally being set-ups for future movies). Even with some obvious flaws with Zemo and some pacing issues once the third act rolls in, the film is largely an enjoyable one. This isn’t another Avengers movie, even if it is a far superior movie than Age of Ultron, but a deep emotional narrative that involves almost everyone in the MCU. From the jaw-dropping action to the beat by beat storytelling, Captain America: Civil War is a damn good movie.
- Characters: While every hero receives some much needed and interesting developments, only the main antagonist of Zemo feels sie-lined for the rest of the plot.
- Cinematography: Another beautifully shot film that makes no bones about showing off every detail of the action.
- Story: The emotional and ideological motives driving the plot works well with the various character’s involved int he central conflict. Though there was a bit of an issue in the third act, as you could tell Captain America: Civil War ran a bit out of steam.
- Acting: Everyone delivered a great performance, but it was Robert Downey Jr. who stood out among the rest – and yes, Tom Holland will be a fine Spider- Man stop worrying.
- Deep, Emotional Narrative
- Airport Battle
- Black Panther
- Good Balance Between Action and Story
- Third Act Runs Out Of Steam
A recent graduate of Arcadia University, Collin MacGregor is a freelance video editor and writer. He covers video games, television, and film for The Nerd Stash. Collin currently is the head film/television reviewer for the site.