Film Review: 'Captain America: Civil War'

Captain America: Civil War doesn't need to be perfect to be thrilling. (Marvel Studios)

Captain America: Civil War doesn't need to be perfect to be thrilling. (Marvel Studios)

★★★

The severe collateral damage of several events' past has finally come back to haunt Captain America (Chris Evans), when him and his squad accidentally detonate a building full of innocents during a capture mission. While him and his team feel certainly feel remorseful - especially the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who is mostly responsible for the tragedy - it's Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) who feels the most remorse after learning his efforts in Age of Ultron were responsible for the death of a child.

So when the United Nations attempts to put the Avengers under legal watch, Iron Man leads the side advocating for placing themselves under control. On the other hand, Cap - an old-fashioned American who firmly believes in his rights - believes the Avengers can only do their jobs unperturbed. The rift between the heroes is created, and other members of the team begin taking sides. Let the civil war begin, where differences can only be settled by letting fists fly. Civil War is a loud, jaw-dropping showcase of superhero might and fury. 

"Cap wants to keep his rights, and Iron Man wants to restrict them" is a good summation of the film's opening act, but it's nothing compelling enough so that the opening scenes are must-sees. What is compelling, however, is how the movie dies deeper into the Winter Soldier / Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and his brainwashing by H.Y.D.R.A., and there's a real secret in his past that Iron Man will not like.

(Marvel Studios)

(Marvel Studios)

It's a better preamble to what we're all here for in the first place: to watch superheroes duke it out, and boy, are there fireworks. Civil War's titular battle is an unforgettable one. Among the combatants are Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and the hilarious Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). It's not just the scale of the battle that's impressive but also the choreography itself, as the heroes pull off some truly amazing feats that are exhilarating to witness. 

Luckily, Civil War is not so one-dimensional in that there's plenty of other action to be had elsewhere throughout the film. Cap and Bucky navigate their troubles by mostly fighting their way through other minor baddies. The two are a hell of a team, with Cap using his shield in such clever, never-before-seen ways that even routine beat-em-ups still feel new.

And in breaking from tradition, the villain of the story is Zemo (Daniel Brühl), who is not an immensely powerful being that can match the superheroes blow-for-blow. Instead, fueled by loathing and disdain, he concocts and executes a plan to make the heroes fight each other instead. He's a more cerebral villain in the MCU's array - a refreshing departure from the usual world domination types - but due to a shortcoming in casting, Zemo doesn't leave as deep of an impression as you might expect.

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But this is a movie full of superheroes, so there's plenty of impressions to be had elsewhere - in particular from both Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, and newcomer Tom Holland as Spider-Man, an absolute nailing of the casting with and without the mask. Black Panther - who loses his father in a bombing of a UN meeting - is an intriguing force of nature, and Spider-Man, ever the skilled wise-cracker, steals the show in his limited screen time. Marvel is insanely good at laying down the groundwork for future films, and when it comes to both Black Panther's and Spider-Man's solo films to come, we're already chomping at the bit to see them.

It should be pretty evident by now that it's just plain impossible to resist comparing, contrasting, and ranking Marvel movies with one another. Given how much the films build off of and rely on one another, there's no such thing as viewing a Marvel movie in a vacuum. That being said, Civil War lacks the sharp political and moral intrigue of The Winter Soldier, and its scene-setting first act feels like an introductory political science class - almost worth skipping.

But the payoff for sitting through the class lecture is huge: Civil War boasts some of Marvel's very best action sequences to date, and its clever use of such a wide array of characters makes this a better Avengers film than Age of Ultron. But given how little the film focuses on Cap - it's really more concerned with Iron Man's plights - should Civil War be called a Captain America movie? At this point, who cares?

Rated PG-13.

147 minutes.

Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (screenplay) and Mark Millar (comic book).

Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo.

Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Scarlett Johansson.

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© 2015 Rex J. Lindeman.   All rights reserved.   |   (760) 274-5948   |   rexlindeman@gmail.com

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