Marvel never fails to surprise. Age of Ultron as the second Avengers movie was a shocking announcement, but Civil War might have it beat. The idea of a film adapting the famous comic story was but a dream years ago and the company has made it reality today. The original comic is lauded by many as one of the greatest Marvel events of them all. It was the first big “hero vs. hero” story which is so abundant today. The idea was to have Captain America go against the country he has on engraved on his shield, to stand up for ideals while Tony Stark agreed with the government on a controversial subject: the registration of superheroes. There’s a fascinating political backdrop of course but the main draw was to see which sides the heroes would take and of course the Cap vs. Iron Man conflict. In many ways their relationship is like Batman and Superman’s. The films have done a solid job at exploring that, and today they go head to head. Civil War is one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in a theater. It’s a fantastic film and you’ll walk away feeling like you got your money’s worth.
Political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability when the actions of the Avengers lead to collateral damage. The new status quo deeply divides members of the team. Captain America (Chris Evans) believes superheroes should remain free to defend humanity without government interference. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) sharply disagrees and supports oversight. As the debate escalates into an all-out feud, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must pick a side.
The Russo Brothers made their directing debut with The Winter Soldier, which many still consider to be the best MCU film. They return here and showcase how to do a movie featuring multiple characters. Often a film is unable to devote enough time to so many people (and in this case, introducing three big players) but the directors succeed. Every character is given adequate screen time. What I personally like however is that despite having all these Avengers, the film still watches like a Captain America story. Early on in marketing fans jokingly called it “Avengers 3,” but it’s a Cap story guest starring the Avengers. One could argue of course that Civil War is better from a general perspective, because the audience watching a Cap film would be leaning toward his side automatically. I believe the story however does an excellent job showcasing both viewpoints.
It’s only in recent history that comics started to explore the collateral damage of superhero conflicts. Because the Avengers are enhanced humans operating outside the government, should they be registered with the UN? This is a question the film throws at the viewers. To back up that idea, we’re shown scenes of the past movies from the civilian perspective. Tony Stark blames himself for Ultron’s destruction of Sokovia, so it makes the viewer consider that point of view. (Also the mother saying she blames Tony for the death of her son in that country.) Cap challenges this question of registration, and the writing is fantastic. The round table discussion with the characters was a lot of fun to watch. Even if you know which side you’re on going into the film, the story does a good job making each at the very least understandable.
It’ll be a sad day when a new actor is chosen to portray the Sentinel of Liberty, because Chris Evans once again does a great job. The thing about Captain America is that he doesn’t wield the shield to represent America, he wields it to represent American ideals, which is freedom, truth, and justice. As seen in the comic and the film, he will rebel against the country when he believes it is conflicting with those ideals. (Even though he wasn’t the one to say it in the film, I’m glad this famous quote was used.) The road to him rebelling against the government here was well established with, as I’ve said, fantastic writing. The entire Winter Solider angle was heavily marketed, almost as if it would be the entire point of Cap turning against the law. Thankfully it’s more of an add-on than the absolute main reason.
The films have briefly explored Tony Stark’s problems with depression, and of course one can imagine the saddening thought of being responsible for the creation of a sociopath robot whom destroyed many innocent lives. It makes sense that he would agree for registration, which in his mind helps right wrongs. The back and fourth dialogue between him and Cap was a blast to watch. While the two are the heart of the conflict, every character is a highlight. Just about every line Falcon had gave me a good laugh and Scott Lang’s arrival was fun, just for a couple of examples. This is best exemplified in the film’s big middle conflict.
Interestingly enough, the movie’s big highlight isn’t the climatic fight, it’s the center conflict. This is the battle marketed in trailers where we see both teams come at each other. Words cannot describe the amount of fun one has while watching it. This is where all the good stuff happens. This is where we see Spider-Man (more on him soon) and iconic moments which shows just how in tune the writing is with the comics. It’s incredibly done and pretty much the epitome of a fan’s dream. There’s so many highlights in this sequence it’s hard to think anything will top it.
Of course it’s a lot of fun when you’re sitting there and watching, but at the same time from another perspective the fight feels like it should be a little more serious. Just about everyone the whole time is cracking jokes and based on their faces look like they’re having a good time. In the comic when the teams first collide it was brutal, and the reader could see that. Here were these longtime friends fighting for real, fighting to win. Even though the film’s version of their first fight is a great time, I think it would have been great to see that gritty, bloody battle between old comrades. It’s a Civil War after all, not sparring practice. Another thing is that because the middle conflict is so great to watch, it kind of takes away from the climax fight. After all, once the story introduces Spider-Man, it’s hard not wondering why we don’t get to see more of him after that battle.
As a longtime Spider-Man fan, seeing him alongside Cap and the others was a treat I’ll never forget. The way he fights, talks and just about everything does not disappoint. While technically not being significant to the overall story, (you can cut out his role and it wouldn’t affect the plot) he added another whole dimension of epic enjoyment. Tom Holland in his brief scenes portrayed a young Peter Parker well. I’m very excited to see how he does when the focus is completely on him in his solo film, Homecoming. Of course, Spidey isn’t the only new hero established. Black Panther also makes his debut. Somehow the story manages to incorporate his origin, and amazingly it works. As stated earlier, this film is the perfect example of how to juggle so many characters at once.
Mysteriously, almost none of marketing featured the film’s antagonist, Baron Zemo to the point where many forgot he was even in it. Even with the superhero conflict happening, the story manages to interweave his plot into it. Zemo wasn’t bad, even solid. Though, it would have been nice to get a costume reveal at some point and a bigger conflict with Cap. Steve’s biggest nemesis is Red Skull, but a close second is the Baron. Hopefully in the future we’ll see that conflict. Also, it’s great to see Hydra still being a force in the background. Like the comics, they’re always there in some capacity.
The fights in the Captain America movies tend to be the best from Marvel, and this one is no different. The opening act battle with Crossbones was easily one of the best choreographed fights from any comic book film. The chase/battle sequence between Bucky and Panther was also very good. The climax as stated doesn’t quite reach the greatness of the middle, but at the very least features some of that brutality I was referring to earlier. Though, the circumstances are a little plot convenient and felt like just an excuse to have Tony and Steve come at each other again. The soundtrack is pretty strong throughout. I particularly liked how early in the Wakanda sequence the soundtrack would feature fast-paced music for the intense fights and then slow down with detective-like music as Falcon surveys the area.
Overall, Civil War is a blast. It’s a Captain America story at its core as he fights for what he believes in. As a comic book fan it’s quite amazing seeing all the characters come together. There are too many iconic moments to name, and the film is expertly paced. There’s no sense of dragging on or a rather long wait for an extended action sequence. (As was the case in Batman v Superman.) As an adaption it captures most of what made the original story captivating. The idea of registration is nicely explored from both sides of the argument. The Bucky aspect of the story was definitely interesting, though the ending to it is kinda disappointing. Any disappointment however is forgotten when one remembers how amazingly spectacular Spider-Man was. If it’s one film that can combat the first Avengers for sheer enjoyment, it might be this one.