For nearly a decade, starting with IRON MAN (2008), Marvel has been churning out quality superhero movies year after year, and their latest installment, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016) continues this trend.
It’s the best superhero movie of the year so far.
Yeah, I know, I loved DEADPOOL (2016), and I still do, but by the length of Ant-Man’s pinky fingernail, I prefer CIVIL WAR. There are just so many good things about this movie that lift it to the top of the class.
And yes, I realize the Tobey Maguire SPIDERMAN movies and the X-MEN films pre-date IRON MAN, but for me, Jon Favreau’s IRON MAN was the movie that jettisoned the recent explosion of high quality Marvel superhero films.
The only thing problematic at this point in these Marvel movies is there have been so many films in the series, it’s often a challenge to keep track of the multiple storylines and characters. The writers need to keep this in mind and do a better job explaining plot points from previous films. For example, I don’t want to spend precious minutes in the theater trying to remember just how it was that Vision got hold of Loki’s technology. When I do that, I miss what’s going on in the movie. Other than this, these films are clicking on all cylinders.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is about the rift that occurs between Captain America and Iron Man over the future of the Avengers, a rift that leads to an all out war between the two factions. The governments of the world have grown tired of the destructive collateral damage inflicted by the Avengers every time they go about saving the world. They’re weary of all the death and destruction, and so they want the Avengers to sign an agreement saying they will no longer act unilaterally, that they will only act when instructed by the United Nations to do so.
Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) has been riding an emotional roller coaster lately. His girlfriend Pepper Pots has left him, and he’s recently been feeling extremely guilty over the deaths he has inadvertently caused in the line of duty. In his mind, the Avengers are a bunch of loose cannons, and some restrictions would be a good thing. Put the responsibility on someone else’s shoulders, for once.
Captain America (Chris Evans) has the exact opposite reaction to the agreement. His best friend Bucky, aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is blamed for an international assassination and terrorist attack. Since Captain America believes Bucky was framed, he wants to investigate on his own without the sanction of the United Nations, which wants Bucky arrested. In Captain America’s mind, if the Avengers give up their freedoms now, it will only get worse later.
And thus the battle lines are drawn. The Avengers are suddenly divided. It’s Team Captain America vs. Team Iron Man, and these two sides do more than just verbally spat. They engage in an all out war, in a battle sequence that is as good as any other in the entire Marvel movie series.
There’s a lot to like about CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR.
Let’s start with the cast. A lot of these folks have been playing these characters for a while now, and so they have really grown into these roles. Chris Evans has always played the all-American superhero Captain America to near-perfection, in both the previous CAPTAIN AMERICA movies and in THE AVENGERS series. He’s even a tad better here as his all-American image takes a hit— up to a point. When he goes rogue, on the surface it seems like something Captain America wouldn’t do, but then again, there are certainly those who embody American patriotism who would shudder at the thought of reporting to the United Nations. Sure, in this movie the Captain is also rebelling against the U.S. government, but in the current political climate even that decision doesn’t seem far-fetched.
And while technically this is a CAPTAIN AMERICA movie, it does play more like THE AVENGERS 2 1/2. As such, Iron Man plays just as big a role in this one as Captain America does. Robert Downey Jr. has been phenomenal as Tony Stark/Iron Man ever since he first played the role in IRON MAN (2008). This marks the sixth time Downey Jr. has played the character, following the three IRON MAN movies and the two AVENGERS films. I, for one, have not grown tired watching Downey Jr. play the role.
His Tony Stark is a wise-cracking playboy badass who is actually more interesting and fun to watch than when he wears his Iron Man suit. That being said, Downey Jr.’s Stark, like Chris Evans’ Captain America, goes through some changes here. He has developed a conscience in his “old age,” as he is feeling increasingly guilty over the innocent deaths he has caused in the line of duty. Since he’s usually such a rebel, the fact that he’s the one who wants to side with the government, goes against type. Combined with Captain America’s similar unexpected reaction, it makes for some fresh and compelling storytelling.
Scarlett Johansson returns as Black Widow, and she is every bit as good as she’s been the previous four times she’s played the role. Likewise, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Anthony Mackie as the Falcon, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Paul Bettany as Vision, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, and Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, all return to reprise their roles.
Ant-Man is an incredibly entetaining character, and Rudd takes advantage of nearly every moment he’s in the movie. Likewise, I enjoyed Elizabeth Olsen even more here as Scarlet Witch than the previous two times she played the role. She has a lot more to do in this movie, and for the first time you really get to know her character.
If all these actors and characters weren’t enough, there are also two impressive debuts in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Chadwick Boseman is impressive as Black Panther. Boseman, you might remember, played Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013).
But even better than Boseman is young Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Holland is so impressive as the smart-alecky Spidey that he just might have nailed the best performance in the entire movie. He’s that good. And in an interesting bit of casting, Marisa Tomei plays Peter Parker’s Aunt May, a considerable younger version of the character. But I really liked Tomei in the role, and with with Holland’s Peter Parker really looking like a high school student, the younger Aunt May made perfect sense here.
One character I’m not nuts about is the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). While Stan is fine in the role, the character does little for me. Thankfully, even though the plot revolves around Captain American’s buddy, he’s really not in the film all that much.
The Marvel superhero movies always seem to struggle with their villains. The bad guy in this one, Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) is meh, but it’s less of an issue in this movie since the Avengers are fighting each other. You might even argue that this film has the best conflict in the Marvel series since they are indeed fighting one another.
Speaking of that fight, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely got the conflict right, something that the writers of the recent BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016) failed to do. In that flick, the rift between Batman and Superman seemed forced and contrived. In this movie, I bought the divide between Captain America and Iron Man hook, line, and sinker. Plus, the movie takes the time to develop the supporting characters’ beliefs, and so when they choose sides, it also makes perfect sense.
CIVIL WAR clocks in at 146 minutes, and as a testament to the terrific job done by directors Anthony and Joe Russo, those 146 minutes flew by. I did not feel as if I were sitting in the theater for a long time at all. The film caught my interest early on and held it to the very end.
In the tradition of the Marvel supehero movies, there are two post credit scenes in CIVIL WAR, one in the middle of the end credits and one at the very end, so if you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll want to stay till the last credit rolls. I always stay. Why not, right?
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo also handle the action sequences with ease. The chase scene involving Captain America, the Falcon, the Winter Soldier, and Black Panther is a keeper, and as I said earlier, the sequence where Team Captain America takes on Team Iron Man is among the most exciting and entertaining sequences of the entire Marvel supehero series.
CIVIL WAR is also a nice balance of light and dark. As always with these Marvel movies, the humor is spot-on. There are several laugh-out loud sequences, especially the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, which caused the theater to erupt with laughter.
It’s also quite dark, as the film truly captures the angst both Iron Man and Captain America, as well as the rest of the Avengers, feel at the prospect of going up against each other and really going all out to hurt each other. This authenticity of emotion is something I never felt in the recent BATMAN V. SUPERMAN.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is one movie you do not want to miss, especially if you’re a Marvel supehero fan. With apologies to DEADPOOL which I liked almost as much, it’s the best superhero film of the year so far.