I was not a fan of the comic series Marvel’s Civil War, it took characters I had read and loved for decades and twisted them in directions I did not like, but hey that’s their sandbox and one can’t be too pissy about such things, but it was that comic run that made me at first a little leery about Captain America: Civil War as I was afraid Marvel Studios was going to do the same thing with their movie franchise as they did with the comic. Thankfully that is not the case. There are some similarities between the comic series and this movie, Cap and Iron Man do fight in both, but much of the story is vastly different.
Where the comic failed to create any nuanced character moments, Mark Millar’s Tony Stark is a complete dick verging on Hitleresque, but in this movie the Russo Brothers deftly handle the interactions of good friends finding themselves on different sides of an ideological question very well. The movie dives right into the action with the Avengers battling it out with a group of terrorists trying to steal a biological weapon, but when Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) uses her powers to save Captain America (Chris Evans) the ensuing blast she shifted takes out several floors of a nearby building and killing many civilians. This is when the government steps in, led by U.S. Secretary of State Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt), as 117 countries of the world have united to create the Sokovia Accords which will put the United Nations in charge of where and when the Avengers will act. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is reeling from his failing relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow not seen in this movie) and from the fallout from their battle in Sokovia, as seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and so he sides on the side of government supervision.
Note: I had a small problem with Tony Stark using the disaster that was the Battle of Sokovia for justification in signing the accords when all that death and destruction could be laid solely at his feet.
Steve Rogers, a person out of time, is not keen on losing the freedom to act when deemed necessary, and doesn’t trust a bureaucratic committee to make that call. The rift between team-mates is messy; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Vision (Paul Bettany), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Scarlet Witch all voice valid reasons for the side they choose. At first it’s just a case of Steve Rogers walking away, refusing to sign the accords, but when the world sees Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) blow up the signing ceremony, and they put a “shoot to kill” order out on Captain America’s oldest friend, well it’s time to get off the bench.
This is not only an amazing action film but a movie with some serious messages, and not just “Big government is bad,” we have characters making choices based on emotion and not necessarily on facts or reason. This creates great conflict and makes one see where each side is coming from. The Russo Brothers proved they could tell an intelligent story amongst spectacular stunts and visuals with Captain America: Winter Soldier but in this outing they go even farther into the exploration of the human side of being a superhero. When Tony Stark and Steve Rogers throw down it’s more than just a punch fest, these are two friends being torn apart in every way imaginable. Not to say that this a grim and depressing film full of angst and despair, that is not the case at all, Marvel is the studio that hasn’t forgotten that superhero movies are supposed to be fun, and I laughed out loud several times during the film’s 146 minute running time. This brings us to one of the film’s highlights, Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
I thought Tobey Maguire did a fine job as Spider-Man in the Sam Raimi movies (well maybe not so much the third one), but Tom Holland completely nails it here. This is a geeky high school kid that is just super excited that he has powers, and when in combat not only is he an acrobatic badass but he is also damn funny. The taint of the Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man will soon be nothing but a distant memory. Spider-Man isn’t the only superhero making his debut here as one of the victims of the bomb, supposedly set by the Winter Soldier, is the father of T’Chall/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and the Black Panther now wants Bucky’s head. Boseman gives a remarkable performance full of gravitas and fury, and he backs it all up with some of the coolest fighting moves put to film. All helped by his snazzy vibranium Panther suit.
My only real complaint I have is that some of the action sequences relied too heavily on the shaky-cam. Why have astonishing choreographed action sequences, performed by some of the world’s best stuntmen and women, and then hide it with unnecessary shaky-cam? Worse is that much of the shaky-cam is on close-up and medium shots making it even harder to tell what’s going on, and certainly not helped by the fact that fast motion and 3D do not work well together. It’s possible that it will look better in 2D but I still wish directors would learn to just “lock the fucking camera down” once and awhile. Sorry, that came out a bit harsh, but that is one filming technique that I think has had its day in the sun and needs to be retired.
That caveat aside this is possibly the best Marvel movie yet, Captain America: Winter Soldier being the strong contender, so I’ll have to see it a couple more times and give it a little distance to clarify that, but it’s certainly kicks the crap out of DC’s recent cinematic universe entries, and at no point during Captain America and Iron Man’s fight do either of them yell out their mother’s name. Captain America: Civil War is the new benchmark for superhero movies.
Final Note: Ant Man (Paul Rudd) does his best to steal any scene he is in.