I won’t go as far as to say Captain America: Civil War sets a new bar in Superhero films, but its pretty darn good. When I first walked out of the screening a few weeks ago, I was on a giddy high, thinking it was probably one of the best films of the year, but now that I’ve had a few weeks away from it, the hyperbole is a bit toned down. Of course I have a tendency to forgive a film’s obvious flaws the first few hours after an initial viewing.
First thing you need to know is, really this isn’t a real Captain America film. It’s a straight up Avengers film. Which is great because last year’s Avengers film was a mess. This movie is just as much about the characters as it is about the action sequences. It can almost be used as a study on how to properly make big tent pole action films. All the action in it, there’s a LOT, is done in service of the story. While the first half of the film feels incredibly jumpy as it moves at a breakneck pace from one location to another it all comes together nicely towards the middle of the 2nd act.
One big gripe is the growing, tired idea of the bad guys always having video cameras in places they shouldn’t or just conveniently having access to said surveillance. It’s become the modern day Deus Ex Machina. They did it in Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice so much that it got irritating. Here the plot device is used once in the 3rd act and you can’t help but shake your head at the plot twist and marvel at the idea that there was a camera out in the middle of the woods.
As someone who read the original Civil War event, it was a little hard watching this big screen adaptation because it’s very loosely based on that book. There are some nods to it, but they are shallow. What makes this film work so well is that both sides aren’t inherently wrong and I love that the events of all the previous Avengers and Captain America films had an impact on the real world impact.
You can sympathize with the regular people on the ground who are directly impacted by the city wide destruction and collateral damage that is caused when Superheros do battle. It’s one of the aspects of Batman vs. Superman that I loved and love it here as well. I hope it doesn’t become an overused “gimmick” in future Superhero films.
At some point we just want to go along for the ride and not think about all the property destruction and people who would die if these conflicts happened in the real world. Especially the standard shot of idiot New Yorkers who don’t have enough sense to run away.
I did think the idea of having Alfre Woodard play a grieving mother who blames Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and the Avengers for the death of her son, both affecting and hokey at the same time. She is the catalyst for Stark hard on for forcing all heroes to submit to an international oversight committee.
Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) of course disagrees, saying the last thing heroes need to be is essentially an armed force for the Govt. The two find themselves at odds on this issue. At the same time Rogers is on a personal mission to try and save his long time friend Bucky ( Sebastian Stan ) who gets blamed for blowing up a Nato conference and killing Black Panther’s (Chadwick Boseman) father.
I’m not going to waste your time with a laundry list of all the characters in this film except to talk about the two newest additions Spider-Man and Black Panther. As someone who read the book, I sort of gave the hope that Spider-Man would even be part of this, so the fact we got him here was one of the films true wow moments.
Unfortunately I think the trailers ruined the surprise. He’s not a player here and his appearance amounts to glorified Fan service – not that there’s anything wrong with that. I thought they made him way too powerful in this brief appearance. He was taking people out left and right. Which, as an old school Spider-Man fan I know he’s fully capable of. The point of including him in this is to let fans know that yep, Tom Holland‘s Spider-man is going to be awesome when his own film comes out.
What I said about Spider-Man applies to Black Panther as well but he has more scenes in the film. While he’s on Stark’s side, I don’t remember him having a discussion about why – other than he wants Bucky dead for killing his father.
Boseman brings a quiet dignity and class, benefiting of a King to the character. He is the perfect embodiment of the character from the pages and everything fans would hope for. The movie does a nice job of introducing Black Panther without getting bogged down in a tedious origin story. It’s here he is, he’s pissed, let’s go.
Usually I roll my eyes at Superhero conflicts because most of them are caused by simple misunderstandings that would never happen if they just spent 2 minutes talking before throwing punches. Not to mention you know after five minutes they will hug it all out and go after the real villain. See Batman v. Superman for an example of this.
Captain America: Civil Works precisely because there was a debate and there’s no bridging the divide that formed. This movie doesn’t have a traditional “villain” and there’s no simple “let’s work together bro” moment in the movie, well there is, but that moment lasts literally 4 minutes.
There is someone who, it turns out, is manipulating events behind the scenes, but the big reveal felt anti-climatic and dumb. I’m not going to go on my soap box about the Marvel verse butchering yet another major villain, but come on. His appearance and reasoning at the end felt like forced way to call a momentary truce.
Ultimately once the genie is out of the bottle, there’s no easy way to put it back in. This Civil War is going to be around for awhile now, the split feels real and that should lead to some interesting consequences in future installments of the Marvel U.
Final Grade A