Use of Characters
Release Date: May 6, 2016
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (screenplay); Mark Millar (comic book); Joe Simon and
Jack Kirby (characters)
Stars: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Captain America: Civil War really is a triumph.
It’s a film that has to service a lot characters (both familiar heroes and new faces), weaving them together into a complex narrative that operates in morally-ambiguous shades of gray. There are so many ways it could fall apart along the way. And yet, somehow everything blends together beautifully, delivering a fun and satisfying story that makes previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe seem even more important and compelling in hindsight.
The film pits two of the Avengers against each other – Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Stark begins to feel remorse for the collateral damage their actions have caused; believing the best course of action for the team is to hand leadership over to the United Nations, who will decide when and how the Avengers should respond to global conflicts. Rogers doesn’t trust this solution. But, more importantly, he can’t really give up his autonomy, since his childhood best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who was brainwashed into becoming the Winter Soldier, is now a wanted man who Captain America would be forced to hand over to the UN. Cap believes he can save Bucky, or that he at least has to try.
The rest of the Avengers are forced to choose sides. New recruits from previous Marvel films – like Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Vision (Paul Bettany) – are also brought into the fray. And there are two new characters introduced – T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Peter Parker/Spider-man (Tom Holland) – who also find themselves in the middle of the action.
As I mentioned above, it’s impressive how well the film does servicing all of these characters. Films have felt overcrowded and jumbled with far less people involved. Yet Civil War finds a way to make everyone matter, giving all of the heroes at least a few moments to shine. It’s particularly impressive with Black Panther, a character likely to be less familiar to the general audience, who nonetheless feels like an integral part of the story. They do a masterful job making you care about T’Challa and getting you excited about seeing him in future films.
Likewise, the introduction of Spider-man is perfect. In just a few short scenes, they introduce you to this version of the character and get you intrigued about his dynamic with Stark, who recruits him to his team while also shamelessly flirting with Parker’s surprisingly-attractive aunt, May (Marisa Tomei). The Spider-man franchise has been on rocky ground for a while now, but Marvel manages to right the ship in just a few short scenes, putting the character in a place where I’m very excited for his next standalone film (which isn’t something I’ve felt post Spider-man 2). Sony has to be very happy with the partnership they struck with Disney to share the character.
When you call your film Civil War, you build up an expectation that there will be a huge confrontation between your heroes. Obviously, for the movie to work, it has to meet or surpass those expectations. Civil War does that in spades. When Team Cap and Team Iron Man confront each other on an airport runway, I was giddy with anticipation. And the ensuing battle feels epic, with both sides throwing everything they can at one another. Each team member was spotlighted. The scene is edited together masterfully so you always know who you are following and what is happening. It is quite possibly the best action scene in a Marvel film to date, which is no small feat.
The climax of the film, while not quite as epic, really dives into the moral relativity. It toys with your emotion, making you question which side of this battle you should be on or, more accurately, if either side is right. That’s a tough stance to take in a successful superhero franchise with future films hinging on this one’s success; but the ending shakes things up in a wonderful way that has me genuinely curious how things will look going forward.
Inevitably, this film will be compared to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, since both movies are thematically and structurally similar. But that comparison is a disservice to Captain America: Civil War. This film is better by every conceivable metric; so much so that it actually makes Batman v. Superman look even worse in hindsight. This is the film DC Comics wanted to make, but was clearly incapable of pulling off. Civil War benefits from careful planning and attention to detail, as well as a clear understanding of all of its characters and their motivations. Hopefully, DC Comics takes note.
Civil War is a brilliant film that breathes new life into an already-powerful franchise that showed no signs of slowing down. The action scenes are fun, the characters are rich and vibrant and the story feels different from everything that’s come before it. Whether you are Team Cap or Team Iron Man, we all come out winners in the end.
Written by Joel Murphy. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org