‘Captain America: Civil War’ (Non-Spoiler) Review: Marvel’s Magnum Opus
The ‘Kid from Brooklyn’ has returned for his third solo outing, and Civil War takes superhero storytelling, action and gravitas to another level. Captain America: Civil War is as good as you’d hope. In fact, its better. Here’s my non-spoiler review.
Captain America: Civil War is the ‘best superhero movie’ of all time. There I said it. That designation is sure to garner a lot of attention. Could it really be the best though? I’m sure that question is going through your head as you take in my bold statement. I hope my review sheds some light on why I feel the way I do and have made this audacious claim. You have to understand that Civil War is as bold as the statement I’ve just made. Its daring in its action, storytelling, scope and so much more. Captain America: Civil War subverts so many cliche tropes of the superhero genre and this is why it’s so damn good. Not to mention, the action is out of this world, the acting is top notch and the storytelling is incredibly engaging.
While the title and the marketing might give you an idea of what the film is about, understand that the story is far more complex than Team Cap and Team Iron Man battling it out. (Though there is an amazing battle. More on that later). Let’s dive in.
The plot is simple. The Avengers have been operating as an independent group, no longer under the sponsorship of the spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D., and the nations of the world have taken notice of their collateral damage. A laundry list of countries decides Earth’s Mightiest need to be ‘put in check’. A bill is passed. The ‘Sokovia Accords’, which states that the Avengers are now accountable to the world’s governing bodies, more specifically the U.N. However, in order for this provocative bill to be passed, the team must all agree to sign it and abide by its rules. This causes a huge rift resulting a clash of ideologies between Cap and Stark. Sides, must be chosen. Team members are torn. That’s enough plot for ya. I don’t want to spoil you as I’ve previously said.
There’s a lot of politics in this film, much like in The Winter Soldier. However, it’s all pretty much comprehensible. The film is very complex, but all of the intricacy is presented in a logical manner. In many ways the movie’s divide is extremely subtle. There’s the requirement of world-colliding battles between Team Cap and Team Iron Man, but it all makes sense and has implication due to the well fleshed out story.
The Russos shift the political, psychological thriller and superhero genre with this film. They change the way superhero films should be presented and how their stories should be told. The political affairs and the heroes’ contrasting ideals works and is immensely captivating because of its storytelling. Seeing how heroes respond to the threat of limitations is enthralling.
This film is about the personal war between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Storytelling is about connecting to people. The film wants the audience to see what the characters see. Civil War does a perfect job of making you care about the story. Sometimes folks believe that story is shaped by characters. In this film, it’s the other way around.
Character is Held in Such High Regard
Captain America is in this movie—duh. So is billionaire playboy Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Ari Force Colonel James Rhodes is as well. Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Falcon, Vision, Hawkeye, Black Panther, Ant-Man and Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man are also a part of this grand adventure. That’s a very extensive list of superheroes. How do you juggle all of these characters? How do you make them all have meaning in this film? No one wants to feel left out. And fortunately, no one does.
Fans have been grouchy about the amount of characters jam-packed into Marvel sequels, but there is no need to worry here. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo manage to make each character significant and they all have their moment in the limelight. These two comic book filmmaking geniuses make every character have a distinct and important perspective on the main conflict. Again, going back to the long list of heroes in this film, none of them ever feel pointless. The film never feels overstuffed by all of these characters.
Characterization is key in this film. You need to understand why these people are coming to blows. What makes them tick. Sure, we’ve grown to know these characters over the course of a long cinematic universe, but it important to reiterate their beliefs and even evolve them as well.
Chris Evans, provides his best performance to date in his final solo outing as the title character. His delivery of dialogue is amazing. Steve Rogers’ archaic characteristics are to be greatly admired and Chris Evans convincingly expresses his decency without shoving it down your throat.
Stark is the most solemn he’s ever been. He gives some truly pivotal emotional moments. In a surprising and befitting development that focuses on Tony, past and present collide in moving and heartbreaking ways.
The strong reasoning behind the Tony and Steve’s views is worthy of a standing ovation. You are constantly thinking about who is really in the wrong.
Black Widow is truly torn. Her relationship with Cap is built on respect, admiration and genuine love. You can tell she cares for Cap deeply, more than any other teammate (besides Barton). On the other hand, she understands Tony’s need to be held accountable by others. She’s been deceived by SHIELD and affected by years of acquiring ‘red’ in her ledger as well. She’s caused plenty of destruction on her own and you feel as if she’s still looking to stamp out the red. The Accords is a logical way to do it. A logical way to somewhat upend the guilt she has over the questionable things she’s done in the past even. You can feel her displeasure about the whole struggle. She hates being conflicted. She takes on a big leadership role in this film too.
Wanda is looking for redemption and a home. Vision wants to understand humanity on a more intimate level. Rhodey doesn’t condone vigilantism. He’s a dutiful solder through and through. Sam follows Cap. He’s had boots on the ground and he doesn’t believe the suits know how to make the right calls. Bucky just wants stability; yearning to regain his mind and Cap is his path towards that goal. Hawkeye’s wily nature makes him a good candidate to support Cap and his any-establishment cause. Ant Man is just happy to be there and Spidey….(wait until you see the film). Each one of these characters’ motivations is clearly conveyed. There attitudes, methodologies and thoughts are understood and heard.
There is an incredible character dynamic within the entire cast of Civil War. I have to mention that Scarlet Witch and Vision have a very fascinating connection. It’s something to see. It was one of my favorite relationships in the film.
Shout out to the screenwriters of the film, Markus and McFeely, for really caring about these characters. I feel as if the The Russo Brothers get non-stop praise, and its well warranted, but the film’s writers are sometimes missing out on that. They deserve the commendation.
Action is the king. The Russos keep the film’s action heavy on impressive hand to hand brutal combat and inventive ways of displaying the more powerful characters’ abilities. You can tell that The Russo Brothers really love The Raid films. The hand to hand combat is something to behold. Its fast, its intense and its memorable. You won’t forget some of the fights you see in this film. It’s more merciless than ever, and a few action sequences will leave you breathless. Some of them are a gut punch.
The Airport sequence is ‘the greatest action sequence’ I’ve ever seen on film. Also, look out for a chase scene that’s incredible.
Levity is Important
The film is quite dense but the dire moments are sometimes peppered with one-liners and real laugh out loud moments that fit the narrative. Its escapism cinema at its best. That tough task of interjecting humor is taken on by The Russos, and the screenwriters, and is handled beautifully. A film that’s reliably dark can be overwhelming. The audience sometimes needs a break from all of the dark themes and tone and this film knows when to give them one.
There’s also a bit of romance to dampen some of the direness.
Apart from the two headliners of this film, the heroes who really steal the show are the two newcomers Spider-Man and Black Panther. Spidey is young, witty, clever and quite cocky. Don’t let that deter you. His boastful behavior comes from his sharpness. He’s also REAAAAALLY good at pop culture references.
Black Panther is a force to be reckoned with. He fights like a cat. He’s very guileful and smooth. He’s also brutal and vengeful. THIS GUY IS ANGRY and he has good reason. Boseman injects such a majestic and intense demeanor into T’Challa. His accent makes him stand out and is really unique. Panther is driven by a hunger for revenge and you feel the anger oozing from him. Boseman is flawless in the role. He plays Panther with strength and self-assurance. His acting is soooooo good. I think he gives the best performance in this movie. He is the best casting in my opinion since Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans.
Zemo. The guy everyone is wondering about. I will say this, he’s a highly intelligent, cunning and strategic character. If you like grandstanding over top villains, he’s not for you. He’s a minimalist villain; he keeps everything simple and straightforward. He’s anything but ostentatious. This is another example of The Russos subverting the superhero genre. Maybe this lack of an ego-maniacal attitude, a common trope for comic book villains, is why some don’t like him or feel he was wasted (if you’ve read some of the early non-spoiler reviews from critics, Zemo seems to be the only thing folks have a qualm about concerning this film).
After initially feeling he was a bit squandered, I changed my tune after really thinking about him. Civil War provides a really interesting and layered story for Zemo. His motives are clear-cut and plausible. You can really connect with him and why he’s doing what he’s doing. I think he’s the most intelligent villain we’ve ever had in a comic book film since Heath Ledger’s Joker. This guy is ruthless.
I can only describe it in three words: EMOTIONAL, BRUTAL & SHOCKING.
Excitement, horror, delight, anxiety and astonishment were among the feelings I witnessed other movie goers experience around me; I even noticed a few tears (I was holding some back). We have all enjoyed watching these characters grow on the big screen for almost a decade. We’ve laughed, cried and cheered as they’ve saved the world. When you witness them fall apart, it hits hard. It feels like a farewell to the original team, reminding us of moments we saw watching The Avengers unite back in 2012.
The Russos understand and really love these characters. Same can be said for Markus and McFeely. But, the directing job done by the sibling duo is a weighty achievement. GO AND SEE THIS! I truly believe it’s the greatest superhero film ever due to its incredible performances, subversion of the genre, taut script, amazing direction, groundbreaking action and fearless storytelling. It’s so grand and yet intimate, in everything it does. Never have you seen a comic book film like this.
Captain America: Civil War is the BEST comic book movie out there. Hands down. No doubt about it.