Much like the character’s personal history, the Captain America franchise has gone from an unassuming and underestimated weakling, to a true titan of the industry. In 2011, Marvel Studios released a quirky period action film, Captain America: The First Avenger. It was about a scrawny soldier who undergoes an experimental procedure to become a genetically enhanced warrior to fight Nazis in WWII. The movie ended up on the lower scale of Marvel Studios’ successes, but managed to establish the first Avenger within the cinematic universe. However, when Joe and Anthony Russo took over the franchise with its sequel The Winter Soldier, not only did it signal a maturation of the character, their filmmaking was an indication that the entire MCU would soon be growing up. All of these elements culminate in the triumphant film, Captain America: Civil War.
The movie follows the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron as Captain America aka Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), is leading a strike team attempting to stop a terrorism attack in Africa. They prevent a larger catastrophe, however there are still causalities which is add to a growing list of prior events, where the Avengers prevented greater destruction with unfortunate collateral damage. While Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) seems more comfortable in a three piece suit nowadays and is confronted with the death of a civilian that shakes him to his core. The World Council draws up the Sokovian Accords in response, which would effectively turn the Avengers into a government sanctioned strike team. Meanwhile an unseen force attempts to tear the team apart from the inside and a Civil War is born.
It’s immediately apparent that this is the most mature and dramatic movie that Marvel Studios has ever created. From the first action beat, the Russos shoot their sequences with a kinetic energy that is reminiscent of the Bourne franchise, yet with the spectacle that you would expect from a comic book movie. It definitely should be noted that the directors of John Wick, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, were the second unit directors on the movie and consulted on the overall action. Their creativity in staging complex and jaw-dropping fight choreography is a delight to watch. The Russos also do a masterful job of having meaning behind all of the action, which often leave the characters with emotional scars in addition to the physical ones.
Captain America: Civil War throws away the out-of-date “good guy vs bad guy” formula which impacts all of the characters, particularly Steve Rogers. Evans simply owns the role of Captain America and it’s hard to imagine another actor carrying the shield. However, this may be the first movie to show Rogers as flawed and at times you may not be in agreeance with his decisions. The film shows how his loyalty and unwavering principles can actually be a flaw in his character. While the title of the movie does carry his name, this truly is an ensemble piece and the chemistry between the performers is just as attention-grabbing as the set pieces.
All of the events of the previous films have affected each character in very specific ways, especially Tony Stark. This is a different Stark than we have seen before. Most of Downey’s trademark quips and deflective humor are largely absent in Civil War, largely due to the overwhelming sense of guilt that he carries. This is the most emotionally challenging performance of the character yet and it’s hard to see where Marvel will take the character next, as Downey literally gave the performance of Iron Man’s career.
The movie is filled to the brim with super-powered characters, yet the Russos are able to give each hero a chance to shine with well-rounded motivations and memorable character moments. Which is a testament to the screenwriting abilities of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who are following up their acclaimed work on The Winter Soldier with another crowd-pleaser. There are many to choose from, but the true standout character was T’Challa, aka Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman seamlessly slides into the role of the Wakandan ruler, diplomat, and anti-hero out for revenge. While the Russos don’t spend too much time on his backstory or abilities, they do a fantastic job of setting up a unique character within the MCU, that will play a vital role in its future.
The entertainment value found in Civil War is off the charts, however there are some story decisions that may seem more glaring on repeat viewings. It’s refreshing that the villain of the movie, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), didn’t have aspirations to take over the world. However, much of his “scheme” relied too much on coincidence to truly feel like a master plan. With that being said, this is not the cliched, mustache-twirling villain that Marvel Studios has drawn criticism for before.
On the other hand, Spider-Man brings a huge amount of levity and viewing pleasure in his brief appearance, yet it’s hard to overlook how problematic his inclusion is in the plot. Stark is willing to fight his own friends over registration, yet aggressively recruits a teenager to fight along side him…without signing the Sokovian Accords. It flies in the face of much of the conflict that has built up to that point. However, Tom Holland’s performance as Peter Parker will certainly endear you to the new iteration of the character and make you forget about the details.
The Captain America franchise has transitioned into one of the best espionage and thriller series in modern cinema…that just happens to be a superhero movie. Nitpicks aside, it’s hard to imagine getting a better summer moviegoing experience than the one that you get from Captain America: Civil War. While the movie will surely hit you on more levels if you have been watching the Captain America, Iron Man, and Avenger franchises, Civil War is the definite movie to see this season.