At long last, Captain America: Civil War is in theaters! How does the latest Marvel Studios movie stack up? Find out right now!
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlet Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Bruhl
Directed by: Joe and Anthony Russo
I always find myself going into a new Marvel movie with the thought that there’s no way they’ll surprise me anymore. At this point, I’ve pretty much seen everything there is to see from Marvel studios. Thor fighting Loki on the Bifrost? Check. Captain America taking on the Red Skull? Check. The Avengers assembling? Check. The Hulkbuster taking on the Hulk? Check. Tony Stark drinking? Double check. And yet time and time again, Marvel Studios keeps finding ways to surprise me with things that I never expected to see in a superhero movie, and their most recent release, Captain America: Civil War, is no exception. There are moments in this film, which arguably stands as one of their strongest features to date, that nearly moved me to tears of joy as the little comic book loving nerd inside of me saw things that I didn’t think possible before, and not just because of studio contracts.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Captain America: Civil War, if you haven’t guessed by now, pits Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron man (Robert Downey Jr) against each other over a controversial United Nations act that calls for super powered individuals to register and be a part of a global task force. After the events of the previous Marvel films (and the beginning of this one), the U.N. is tired of their “heroes” constantly causing damage and accidental deaths, and demands that they sign up. Tony believes that they should be kept in check, what with the fact that he helped create a genocidal robot, while Cap, who’s always been a little distrustful of modern government, thinks it’s a bad idea.
This central conflict is the entire basis of the film. Sure, there’s a mysterious villain named Zemo (an underused Daniel Bruhl) who’s manipulating things behind the scenes, but the reintroduction of the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Black Panther (a stunning Chadwick Boseman) and the nation of Wakanda, and even the inclusion of my beloved Spider-Man (Tom Holland, who steals the entire movie) are all spun out of this conflict. And while it seems like there’s a lot in this movie, at no point does it seem overstuffed or buckling under the weight of over arching Marvel Studios game plan.
Much of that comes from the strength of directors Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers behind the last Cap movie, The Winter Soldier. To say these two have a gift for movie making is an understatement. They have the uncanny ability to craft a film that both serves their corporate overlords but ALSO is entertaining for the average moviegoer. The Russos keep the movie going along at a break neck pace, but they also allow for some great character moments. There are some extremely moving scenes for both Cap and Iron Man, and both Evans and Downey absolutely sell the hell out of their roles. Plus, while the Russo’s can’t give us a ton of time to set up Black Panther or Spider-Man, they wisely give us just enough of an introduction to both of them to not only instantly find them appealing, but also want to see more of them.
Of course, we’re not going to get out of this review without touching upon Spider-Man. Tom Holland’s turn as the wall crawler is extremely brief, but he makes a great first impression in this movie. Spidey’s brought into the fold thanks to Tony Stark, and the small scene that Holland and RDJ share will instantly turn off any naysayers who doubted Holland’s ability to go up against the Marvel mainstays. The Russos and Marvel really do a great job of distilling the core aspects of the character for Civil War, and it’s hard to walk away from the movie without believing that Spidey steals the show.
However, with any Marvel movie, there are some flaws, even with one as near perfect as this one. Unfortunately the biggest flaw here is one that has plagued many Marvel movies: the villain. Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo is Helmut Zemo in name only, and while I actually kind of liked this new take on the character, he doesn’t have a ton of screen time to really make an impression. He has a pretty great plan (that in the end works), but he could’ve been called anyone else and you still would’ve had the same villain. In the end, calling him Zemo only ends up wasting that character for future use. Also, Civil War is a not a movie that you can just go into blindly. It does require at least a basic knowledge of the events of Avengers, Winter Soldier, and Age of Ultron, but for those that do their “homework”; it’s a super rewarding experience.
There are two sides to being a part of a cinematic universe, and Captain America: Civil War definitely falls on the positive one. This is a movie that uses other movies in the franchise as a benefit to tell an extremely engaging and emotional story. You end up really feeling for every character involved because you’ve seen them in multiple movies (sometimes multiple times). It’s unfortunate, but this movie is going to get compared to Batman V Superman, and that’s not really fair, because while these two movies have a similar concept of superheroes smacking the hell out of each other, they couldn’t be more different in tone, ideas, or execution. Captain America: Civil War stands as not only one of the best Marvel movies, but it might also be one of the best comic book movies too. The bar has been raised considerably, and it might be hard for even Marvel to top it.