The MCU Ranked: ‘Captain America: Civil War’
Release Date: 2016
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Heroes: Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland)
Villains: Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), Brock Rumlow/Frank Grillo (Crossbones)
Support Cast: Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt), Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), Howard Stark (John Slattery), F.R.I.D.A.Y. (Kerry Condon), T’Chaka (John Kani), May Parker (Marisa Tomei), Maria Stark (Hope Davis)
Cameos: Jim Rash, who worked with the Russo Brothers in Community, plays a very similar education administrator. Joe Russo himself appears as psychiatrist Theo Broussard. Damion Poitier, the original actor for Thanos, pops up as one of Crossbones’ troops during the opening scenes. Stan Lee makes his usual cameo as a Fed-Ex delivery man.
Plot: As The Avengers continue to get involved in international incidents they are forced to confront the consequences and collateral damage of their actions. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark clash on how to best proceed. When The Winter Soldier resurfaces the disagreement escalates to a full battle between heroes, with all members of the team taking sides.
Review: At the time of release Captain America: Civil War was described as being The Avengers 2.5 as it’s the first of the solo films to feature other members of the franchise in more than support or cameo roles. In fact, with the exception of Thor and Hulk, almost everyone shows up for the fight with Iron Man sharing top billing with the title character and new faces Spider-Man and Black Panther being introduced.
So…we have Cap and Iron Man getting Avengers punching each other, a mysterious figure up to something in the background, the introduction of Wakanda and Black Panther, Spider-Man’s debut, the beginning of Vision and Wanda’s relationship, the Winter Soldier’s story being resolved, the death of Peggy Carter…it should be a jumble of ideas skimmed over instead of being given the required weight. But the Russo’s do a remarkable job of building a tight narrative that embodies it all.
The first way they do this is by assuming the audience is up to date with proceeding events and characters. All previous films had, to some degree, some path for new viewers to enter the film. Civil War drops you right into it and never feels like it’s holding our hand. The second strategy they successfully use is telling the story in subtle moments and character reactions rather than dropping everything into exposition.
When Scarlett Witch voices her concerns that she’ll be held up in public as the cause of destruction during Crossbones’ attack in Nigeria, Vision tells her that they won’t let it happen. The camera lingers of Scarlett Witches’ reaction, demonstrating a growing bond and trust between the two. The film is littered with small details like this that add up to larger story arcs. It’s deftly handled visual story telling that cinema as a whole could use more of.
Taking the time to give some of the secondary characters a chance to develop contributes just as much to the sense of a fully fleshed out universe as the big character moments. Vision discussing the nature of the Mind Stone, Rhodey and Sam arguing about the accountability of the Avengers…it’s the small details that give these larger than life figures dimension. A minute between T’Challa and his father was all they needed to get us hyped for a Black Panther movie.
It’s a good film is what I’m saying.
We also get some of the best action scenes in the franchise. The Russo brothers have already proven a talent for this in The Winter Soldier. In deference to current trends they don’t slow things down to focus on ‘big’ moments designed to wow us with scale, instead string together fast paced small movements that better showcase characters like Cap. They never get boring, even on repeated viewers.
It’s easy to see why these guys have been picked to helm Infinity War. Joss Whedon’s style was good for setting up the team and establishing their dynamic but he didn’t seem to know what to do with it afterwards. The Russo’s demonstrate here that they’re the best people to pick up the ball and run with it.
Finally we have the first villain in the MCU movies to really break the mould. Zemo, in strong defiance of his comic book counterpart, is a megalomaniac, he doesn’t have a grand ideology and he isn’t super-powered. He’s a man who was hurt and wanted revenge. His family was killed during the events of Age of Ultron and he put the blame on the Avengers (not unjustly) and he saw the only way of destroying them to be turning them against each other. Although he is captured by Black Panther and imprisoned at the end of the film he did succeed in his goal, as the team is completed disbanded with War Machine severely injured and Captain America a fugitive.
Civil War takes advantage of the previous films to add emotional weight, understands that the interaction between the characters us more satisfying that most villain battles and delivers the best action sequence in the airport battle we have seen to date. Top effort all around.
Credits Scene: We have two scenes. The first is a conclusion to the Winter Soldier’s plot with him going into the freezer in Wakanda while they cure him of brainwashing. This is our first look at Wakanda and it’s somewhat jarring as it doesn’t resemble the art style used in Black Panther at all.
The second is a return to Peter Parker’s room where he explains away his bruises and plays with some new tech created by Stark. It’s more a tease for the upcoming solo film than anything else.
Most Notable Easter Egg: “I could do this all day” is a nice call back to The First Avenger, but the best Easter Egg is this nod to previous Russo Brother work on Arrested Development.
Phase 2 Hand Loss: Poor Bucky just can’t hang on to that arm of his. The Empire Strikes Back running reference belongs to him once again as Iron Man blasts his metal arm clean off.
Coolest Moment: The entire airport sequence. Just brilliant from start to finish.
THE MCU MASTER LIST
It looks like we’ve got something to challenge for the top spot! With the larger roster of characters, an equally interesting villain and greater investment in characters this does push The Avengers of the top spot.
Click those titles to see the original entries!
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
2. THE AVENGERS
9. IRON MAN
17. IRON MAN 3
21. IRON MAN 2