It’s been eight years since Iron Man introduced us to what would become the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since then, we’ve had over ten(!) films dealing with these comic book super heroes. From The Avengers to Thor, each one of these films saw our heroes working together to stop the looming threat of a powerful enemy. However, in Marvel’s newest film, Captain America: Civil War, our heroes aren’t at odds with the forces of evil, but with one another. Does this inner conflict work to make Civil War a MCU standout? Or, should Civil War remain on the pages in which it came?
Captain America: Civil War picks up approximately one year after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. After the opening scene of the film (combined with the events from previous MCU movies) the Avengers are presented with an option. Titled the Sokovia Accords, this “registration” would establish a rapport between the United Nations and the Avengers. The UN would oversee any and all future activities that The Avengers would take part in. Tensions flare as Tony Stark (Iron Man) is all in favor for the Accords, while Steve Rogers (Captain America) is hesitant to let the government interfere with their work.
That’s the groundwork for the film. And hey, it works. Having the sins of The Avenger’s past come back to bite them is a great premise. Marvel has done an exceptional job giving brevity to the previous films’ actions. From the leveling of New York during an alien invasion, to blowing up a building in the heart of Wakanda, collateral damage / loss of innocent life plays a huge role in Marvel films. While the tension between the two differing sides (yes, each one of the other MCU characters chooses a side), Marvel continues to strike out with their “big bad” guy. Marvel has never had exceptionally strong villains and Civil War is no different. Helmut Zemo serves as a convenient plot device to help continue to create friction between Ironman and Captain America. Daniel Bruhl does an exceptional job playing Zemo, but his character is lost in cliche and conformality.
Civil War is a big movie. It includes almost every MCU character. (Sorry Thor and Hulk — we’ll see you next year). It also introduces a number of new characters as well. In Civil War, both Spider-Man and the Black Panther join the fight. For the first time, Marvel truly nails Peter Parker / Spider-Man. Making him younger was a brilliant decision. This Spider-Man isn’t quite sure of himself as he’s still in the early days of his crime fighting career. Civil War nails the tone and humor of the character and does such a great job introducing him into this world. He has a bunch of great one-liners, his action scenes are a ton of fun, and he just feels like the Spider-Man we know and love. I’m super excited to see Spider-Man: Homecoming when it’s released in 2017.
Not to be outdone, Marvel also does a great job introducing viewers to the Black Panther. Wakana, along with its inhabitants is an important part to the movie, and the events that happen there add to the Black Panther’s story. It’s a great opening chapter to the superhero that will be explored more in depth when we get his stand alone movie in the future. The craziest part of Civil War is even with these new characters, and a huge cast of returning ones, everybody gets their chance to shine. Whether it’s comedic moments, or parts more pivotal to the story, Civil War acts as a better Avengers movie than Age of Ultron did. It’s also great seeing characters like Ant-Man come in and steal the show with their limited screen time.
Now, how does Civil War work as a Captain America movie? I mean, his name is in the title after all. And, well, the answer is … it’s serviceable. The Russo Brothers continue to do a great job with exploring the character of Steve Rogers. It makes sense why Steve is hesitant to sign the Accords, especially after the ending of Winter Solider. One thing that continues to be lackluster is Captain America’s relationship with the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes. The Winter Soldier really is just another glorified plot device used to get our characters from point A to point B. The previous Captain America films do a great job setting up Captain America as a man who will do anything to protect his country. I mean, this is the guy who gets angry in The Winter Soldier when he finds out the government is using drone warfare. But, in this film, Cap goes out of his way to protect what is essentially a living weapon of mass destruction.
Now, I think this is also the fact the relationship between Bucky and Steve has been sub par at best throughout the course of the Captain America films. While The First Avenger was a more adventurous and playful movie, it did nothing on the front of connecting us to Bucky, and the relationship he has with Steve. They want us to care, and we just … don’t. That being said, we can understand why Captain America holds onto his friendship with Bucky and why he will protect him at all costs. Steve Rogers is a man out of time, and Bucky Barnes is his last link to a time long forgotten. Maybe, by protecting him, he’s holding onto a little bit of himself. Needless to say, I didn’t think his motives worked entirely well in this film.
On the other hand, Tony Stark’s did. Robert Downey Jr. gives one of his best performances as Stark. The reason being is because, we believe it. We believe that this character is the same one that we’ve seen since 2008’s Iron Man. The same one who carried a nuke into space, the same one who almost got the love of his life killed in Iron Man 3. The same Stark who built a killer robot who was bent on world domination. It shows. It also shows in the fact that Stark doesn’t use his Iron Man suit until the ending of the film, when it’s almost absolutely necessary. This man is in an incredibly tough situation, it it just gets added to throughout the course of the film.
If there’s one thing that excites me about what Civil War did, it’s where the movie leaves our heroes. On opposite ends of the law, it will be interesting to see what Marvel does, and where they pick up the stories for these characters. Also, I didn’t mention it before, but Civil War has some fantastic action set piece moments, culminating in an airport showdown between all of our heroes. That scene in particular is fantastic, and represents everything the MCU has done before it. And that’s really what Civil War represents as well. It’s a movie that knows what it is and what it wants to accomplish. It rests on the fact that viewers know this universe and is made more impactful by previous films events. While it certainly has its issues, Captain America: Civil War is another exceptional Marvel movie and one that you should definitely check out. Just don’t go into expecting anything incredibly deep.