Captain America: Civil War
Honestly, I don’t know what you’re doing reading this. If you’re at work, leave. School? Skip it, the year’s coming to an end anyway. Finals? Who needs ‘em? A fun bash of superhero action has just been released, and it’s called Captain America: Civil War. It’s here. Where are you? If you’ve seen it, see it again. If you have a bad taste in your mouth for comic book movies because of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, take a big swig of this movie and call me in the morning. And DC/Warner Bros…take notes. Despite being angry at your latest cinematic endeavors, we’re all rooting for you. We really are.
So what’s the setup for the rock ‘em sock ‘em superhero on superhero action fest? Well, I could easily say the connected 12 or so Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films that have come before it (minus, maybe, Guardians of the Galaxy), but Civil War’s writing is tight enough to allow the movie to function on its own, though it drums up past climactic battle sequences to highlight the destruction left in the wake of The Avengers “saving the world”. Captain American: Civil War, directed by Anthony and Joseph Russo (the Russo Brothers, and the same team that brought us the previous Captain America film, The Winter Soldier), opens with a simple manhunt in Lagos, Nigeria gone wrong, putting in question Captain America (Chris Evans) and his Avengers team. Enter the Sokovia Accords, a set of rules put together by the United Nations on how and when The Avengers should operate. Steve Rogers (Captain America) is skeptical of the Accords while Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) feels they’re necessary and urges the other Avengers to sign it. One of the great, and subtle, dynamics between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers is that you understand how Steve is a soldier and Tony is not. Stark’s driving force appears to be guilt from allowing his creation Ultron to get out of control and harking all the way back to his company being used to supply terrorist organizations with weapons. A lot of his arguments for the Accords come from his ego, trying to fix the consequences that his unchecked ego and inability to listen has brought. While Steve plays it cool, understanding war and trying to get a handle on whom The Avengers are and who they are not.
While I didn’t find myself flopping sides when presented by their arguments (I was Team Cap all the way), screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely lay clear reasons as to why each character takes the side they choose, and it’s all understandable. The friction grinds even harder, and adding fuel to the growing fire, is a terrorist act on the day the Accords are scheduled to be signed, and Captain America’s brainwashed friend and old war buddy Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan) is implicated in the deed. Captain America hunts his old friend down, not only because he believes he might be innocent, but to keep casualties low from anyone sent to take his friend down. This doesn’t sit well and splits The Avengers in two. The action happening in Africa helps bring the long-awaited character T’Challa (played in splendid regal form by Chadwick Boseman) into the fold, and we get to see him take up his warrior-king mantle The Black Panther.
Daniel Brühl plays comic book villain Helmut Zemo, a shadowy figure manipulating events for his own gain (as most villains do). Don’t expect the purple, black-pinstriped mask-wearing villain you might be accustomed to in the comics. Helmut is unmasked here, and he’s unsuspectingly sympathetic as the big bad. This also has to be mentioned for the plot itself. This isn’t a direct adaption of the Marvel comic book Civil War storyline. Certain beats are taken, but the MCU is its own, and should be treated that way.
The film’s narrative is handled appropriately, and neither the writers nor directors allow the story to stumble over itself, a feat worth mentioning considering how many players and subplots are at play and how complex the story gets at times. If this was the first MCU film viewed by a person living under a rock, he or she wouldn’t have too much trouble keeping up. While past MCU films are referenced, their context fitted within the current story makes the references easy to pick up.
Black Panther isn’t the only newcomer to the MCU. There’s also a bit of a homecoming for another beloved Marvel character. Spider-Man. This to me was when I actually felt like I was watching a crossover event. Though The Avenger’s first film was a gathering of characters rustled together from previous films, but that was all expected, hinted at through dialogue and after-credit sequences. But Spider-Man has always been on his own, trapped in the cinematic rights over at Sony films. Now a deal has been made. A new actor (Tom Holland) has taken up the webslinging, and it was a great to meet him as Peter Parker (recruited by Tony Stark for Team Iron Man). All the correct beats for the character are made: humorous, awkward, and still a kid learning his abilities (which is why I was a little forgiving when people caught Spider-Man off guard. I mean, c’mon, the guy can dodge bullets. He’s got a Spidey sense. No one should be catching him off guard…in real life).
“With great power comes great responsibility!”
The biggest action set piece, staged on a tarmac in Germany’s Leipzig/Halle Airport is the peak of fun. Our heroes clash against one another. Everyone trades off. Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) go up against Iron Man and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Captain America trades blows with Spider-Man. Vision (Paul Bettany) tangles with Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). It’s nothing short of fun with humorous moments and great deal of action. The heartbreaking battle between Cap, Iron Man, and Bucky was reserved for later. It’s emotionally gut-wrenching, even if you see the reasons for it a mile away.
I’ve said too much. Not in the way of spoilers, but just at all. Time has been wasted. It’s an awesome film. Don’t believe me? Go see it for yourself. Captain America: Civil War is another piece in Marvel’s grand, cinematic narrative, and in Marvel fashion it’s an excellent (and appropriate) blend of dark, moody moments, humor, action, character and world building.
Honestly, I don’t know what you’re doing reading this. If you’re at work, leave. School? Skip it, the year’s coming to an end anyway. Finals? Who needs ‘em? A fun bash of superhero action has just been released, and it’s called Captain America: Civil War. It’s here. Where are you? If you’ve seen it, see it again.