Captain America: Civil War, Captain America, Steve Rogers, Chris Evans, Iron Man, Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr.

Movie Review: Captain America – Civil War (2016) *Marvel Outdoes Themselves*

Captain America: Civil War, Iron Man, Captain America

Issue, ahem, film #13 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and the first of Phase 3) is Captain America: Civil War.  This is going to be my very best attempt at a spoiler-free review, but here’s what you need to know in a nugget: go, you will not be disappointed, and you do not know anything you think you do from the trailers.  In a 2.5-hour super hero epic that is the pinnacle of everything Marvel’s been doing right for the last eight years, Marvel flips its universe on its head, introduces Black Panther, fixes Spider-Man, does justice to every character it uses and only leaves you wanting the next installment.  I am not sure if Civil War is the best MCU film, but that’s only because I have no distance from it yet.  I’m not sure if it’s the best movie of the year because there’s another pretty flawless film in The Jungle Book to weigh it against.  But to walk out of the biggest film of the summer with those as really my only problems is not a problem at all.

Captain America: Civil War, Iron Man, War Machine, Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle

Civil War is loosely based on a Marvel Comics event of the same name, but really the only thing the two stories have in common is the basic premise.  This Civil War is very much the continuation of Avengers: Age of Ultron; really the pay-off to that film.  So much of what has happened thus far in the MCU comes under extreme examination.  Civil War is really about the consequence of actions.  Every action has a consequence.  The brilliant thing about Civil War is that it has twelve films worth of actions to bring weight to these consequences.  It’s built each of these characters up, lent them back stories and history, so that by the time Cap and Iron Man are beating each other relentlessly in the third act, you feel almost this sense of dread.  You can see exactly why Cap is doing what he’s doing and why Iron Man is doing what he’s doing and their motivations lead them into direct conflict without compromising either character.  That’s a statement that can be expanded to every member of the cast.  Every character in this film, leaves with scars.  But scars are what make characters interesting.  It’s what makes them relatable when they’re these gods and monsters.  We all can compare scars, and in that sense see ourselves in the context of this super powered world.

Black Panther, Iron Man, Vision, Black Widow, War Machine, Captain America: Civil War

The marketing for this film has been really brilliant.  The trailers have given everyone a sense of feeling they know what is going to happen in the movie, or making you feel like maybe they’ve wasted or given away too much.  The airport fight that has been the focal point of the trailers: is so much better than you could ever imagine.  You have no idea how good that showdown is or what the consequences (there’s that word again) will be of that much firepower being released.  You also are lead to believe it’s the showdown of the film.  It’s the spoiler-free review, so all I can say on that note is…you don’t know what you think you know.

Black Panther, T'Challa, Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman

I have been raving about Chadwick Boseman since I first saw him in 42.  I thought his casting as the Black Panther was awesome, and he is the featured character introduction to the MCU of this film.  T’Challa is in the film almost as much as Cap, Iron Man, and Bucky, probably more than any other supporting character.  They give him a strong foundation, and I would say he’s going to be the breakout star from the film, but my audience may have loved one other character a hair more.

Tom Holland, Spider-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker

Marvel sure knows what to do with their characters.  You make lousy Punisher movie after lousy Punisher movie; Marvel fixes the character in two episodes of Daredevil.  You say you’re so sick of Spider-Man you never want to see him again (which was pretty much my attitude after Amazing Spider-Man 2); Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man ever.  He accomplishes, in a supporting role that is pretty confined to the movie’s middle act, to make you love Peter Parker again.  He’s completely and totally a high school kid.  They know you’re sick of the origin story.  He does quippy Spidey in fights more effortlessly than has ever been achieved in the five films Sony put out.  He owns this character.  He also has a great dynamic with Robert Downey Jr.  The two characters naturally have a bond as inventors, and I walked out of the movie stoked to see this character again in his own movies.  I can’t wait to see Spider-Man: Homecoming now.  That’s the point of introducing him here.  All the negative baggage from Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s tenures is cleared.  Spidey fits right into the MCU.  THE EYES!  That the eyes on the costume have movement…is so fantastic.  I don’t care what the tech is behind it to make it plausible, it’s so much better for the character (which, naturally, is why Marvel did it).

Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Winter Soldier, Chris Evans, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan

A lot of people have been calling this film “Avengers 2.5” and that’s honestly accurate.  This is every bit as integral a story for Iron Man and the Avengers as it is for Captain America.  You could as easily say this is Iron Man 4.  It’s essential to Tony Stark’s character development to see what happens to him in this film.  Captain America is the cornerstone of Marvel Comics, but Iron Man has been the foundation of the MCU.  It’s a testament to what Chris Evans has done with the character over four (this his fifth) films that now it feels like you could only really have this kind of MCU-wide event within the confines of a Captain America film now.  This film is extremely deft at knowing the Marvel formula, executing it, but managing to juggle 25 or so characters with ease.  That’s promising for Infinity War (which will also be directed by the Russo Brothers, who have been fantastic directors in both Winter Soldier and this) when they’ll be balancing roughly 70.

Winter Soldier, Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr., Sebastian Stan, Captain America: Civil War

There is a gravity to everything that happens in Civil War, more so than in any Marvel film previously.  The simple world that began with Tony Stark bumping into Nick Fury at the end of the first movie is now a sprawling, complex universe.  There are real, character-changing consequences (yep using that again) for all the participants in this war, but it’s also a very funny film.  It manages to inject humor into all the serious events, and they string the tension along so relentlessly that you really need the laugh when it comes.  I have been home for my screening now for about two hours, trying to think of a reason not to give this movie a 10, and I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like in the film….oh, ok, there’s a song in the end credits and I have no idea why it’s there, but it seems weird.  That’s my only flaw that I can find after an initial viewing, and I don’t think that’s enough.  I’ve only given one other Marvel film a 10 and it was Captain America: Winter Soldier.  I don’t want to keep fawning over what Disney does like I can’t pick apart a film, but they’re on such a roll right now that I am handing them their third 10 since December (Star Wars & Jungle Book).  I’ve had YEARS where I don’t give 10’s, but this happily won’t be one of them.  Remember to stay through ALL of the credits for two scenes.  You probably won’t want to leave any way.

13 thoughts on “Movie Review: Captain America – Civil War (2016) *Marvel Outdoes Themselves*”

  1. Mortal franchises would have jumped the shark ages ago, but It’s been eight years since Iron Man, and after Civil War was over it hit me that things are only just now getting really, truly interesting.

    BvS was like the entertainment at someone’s funeral, for all the enthusiasm it received in the theater where I saw it. It was like the in-flight movie in a plane that was going down. In CW, things are actually at stake for characters people care about, and the audience ate it up.

    Hollywood finally got Peter Parker right. Black Panther was awesome in the extreme. They didn’t overwhelm the story, and the film didn’t feel like a commercial for their solo films. Yet I walked out of the theater anticipating those solo films so much. And if there’s any justice in the world, Olson will become as famous as her sisters, and based on merit.

    Now that the MCU is gaining so much more gravitas and strangeness, there’s going to be less opportunity for the DCCU to distinguish itself, and less of a reason for me to root for WB to pull it all together.


    1. No, DC really doesn’t have a chance to gain a foothold they way they’re going and I’m afraid they’ll flood the market with crap films and create genre fatigue. I loved both the new characters, both had specific parts to play in this epic. Spidey got his baggage cleared, was introduced to pretty much the whole MCU and set up his mentor relationship with Tony. This was almost a Black Panther movie as well. T’Challa figured through all three acts and Boseman did a fantastic job creating somebody instantly on par with the big guns. Holland and Boseman make you see the future of the MCU. Young actors who can play these roles as long as Downey Jr. and the others have (heck, Holland could do it for 20 years at his age, take through Peter’s whole life).


  2. Press Release: Alternate Warner Bros., in the Alternate Year 2016, unveils its plans for the Alternate DCCU…

    The first movie will be a Superman prequel: a very cool, very dark, very violent space opera set entirely on Krypton, except for the very end, when we see the pod landing in Kansas.

    Then we move onto the first Batman solo film. This is an older, grizzled, sadistic Dark Knight, and the plot chronicles his legendary struggle with the Joker. The structure is much like Godfather II, with multiple flashbacks, some of which dramatize the Joker’s slaying of Robin in the past. The Joker is incarcerated at the end, and Harley Quinn is teased.

    The next film, the first proper solo Superman movie, is about the rise of both Superman and Lex Luthor. The film begins with Clark’s youth in Smallville (we will borrow from the screenplay of our aborted Man of Steel project, because that part of the script was perfect) then moves on to the donning of the Superman mantle. There is no angst to the character, and there is no ambiguity. Superman is like Christ, but at the same time he is not quite perfect: this is a very young and naive iteration of the character. Once he moves to Metropolis, we get a darker version of Clark than the one we’re used to. He acts more like a real reporter, by which I mean that he’s not above being dishonest. He embarks on dangerous detective work with Lois Lane, uncovering the sinister plot at LexCorp that the film centers on. Diana Prince enters the picture and tangles with Clark (not Superman), and she is highly memorable but is not revealed as Wonder Woman. The mystery aspect of the film feels like a genuine film noir rather than a dopey caper. It’s dark and it’s filmed in a stylish, retro manner, with some surprisingly intense and realistic violence. And it balances out the magical parts of the film, where Superman reveals himself to the world through his heroics. We feel the awe that Superman would inspire in mere mortals, if he really existed. The film climaxes with Luthor, much like the devil, tempting Superman with power if he will only work for Luthor, who wants to use technology (and Superman) to institute the world’s first perfect police state. The film ends with the first big clash between Superman and Luthor. This movie is plot-driven, with only a few big action scenes. Those scenes, however, are spectacular. Also, Bruce Wayne gets a cameo midway through, and the coda gives an indirect hint of Diana’s alter ego.

    Suicide Squad is next, followed extremely closely by a Wonder Woman solo film. Then the next Superman solo film gets to the business of Zod, and largely follows the plot of the second two thirds of our aborted MOS, except that Luthor is there, playing both sides (Kryptonians and Earthlings) as he exploits the conflict to rise to power. The plot centers on the fall of an icon. By participating in mass destruction, however necessary, Superman plummets in the public’s estimation as he is vilified by the politicians and the press. By the end, when he breaks Zod’s neck, he is shrouded in ambiguity in the audience’s mind as well. A broken man, he accepts government oversight and ends the film as a lackey.

    Next, in a second solo Batman installment, several of Batman’s worst enemies, led by the Joker, uncover his identity as Bruce Wayne, and set out to make him suffer by killing the people he cares about, including Gordon, Barbara, and Alfred. The villains succeed on all counts. With his life in ruins, the inexorable end result of the path he chose so many years ago, Bruce goes into self-imposed exile, out of Gotham City.

    A lighter film, a solo Green Lantern movie, cleanses the palate. This film plays a lot more like a science fiction epic than a superhero movie, and adds some scope and diversity to the DCCU, ensuring that the audience will not start to zone out, and promising some very cool stuff to come.

    The next film is set several long years after the previous solo Batman outing. It’s called Batman v Superman, and it involves Batman coming out of retirement in Metropolis, in order to combat the troubling rise of Lex Luthor, who has grown into a corrupt, fascist politician/demagogue, and is manipulating global politics. And because Superman is now being controlled by the government, he is ultimately being controlled by Luthor. Batman and Superman meet in battle; Batman wins, and is rejuvenated. And Superman is redeemed at the end, casting away Luthor’s yoke. Superman does not come across as boringly virtuous, like he sometimes does. Instead he is a man who has faced his demons, been to the darkest place imaginable, and emerged victorious. That is what he draws his emotional strength from, and his emotional intelligence. The coda pulls together Wonder Woman, Green Lantern… and Joker.

    This first batch of films will conclude with a standalone film chronicling the tragic story of Mr. Freeze. This film is set before the first Batman standalone film, and Batman only has a few cameos. We’re in talks with Patrick Stewart to star as Victor.

    Now let’s move on to the business of that Justice League movie, which comes next.


    1. Sorry, I played fast and loose there. It would be better than what we’re getting, though, and it took me all of five minutes to dream it up.


    2. I forgot to add that as an insurance policy, Luther is holding Lois in stasis, and reveals it to Superman when Superman threatens to break away, midway through BvS. Before this, Superman’s love for Lois has really been played up; it is emphasized that his love for her counteracts the loneness and alienation he naturally feels as an alien being.


    3. Luthor’s closest bodyguards carry staffs with kryptonite tips, and for years before Superman was under his thumb, Luthor studied film footage of Superman in action and pinned down Superman’s fighting style, in order to train the guards how to combat Superman if necessary.

      Sorry for all of this by the way, I’m suffering from insomnia and trying to pass the time.


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