While an understandable superhero movie fatigue has sat in for many, longtime invested fans look forward to each new installment to the Marvel in DC cinematic universes. For me personally, the Captain America films have been particularly exciting. Part of it is due to my love for the Cap character dating back to my childhood. But it is also because the previous two films have been among Marvel’s best especially 2014’s “The Winter Soldier”.
The third Cap movie holds an unusual position in Marvel’s grand picture. It doesn’t actually feel like a Captain America film. It feels much bigger and broader – an Avengers-like installment if you will. Anthony and Joe Russo return to direct a screenplay by Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus. The filmmakers have certainly made a movie which seeks to expand the MCU’s narrative rather than telling a tighter more focused Captain America story.
The story is inspired by a fantastic Marvel comics crossover event that ran from 2006 through 2007. The story had a ripple effect that reached to several individual hero comics most notably Captain America’s. Here (as expected) there are few similarities to the comic arc other than a rift between the Avengers. The massive destruction and casualties following the Avengers previous battles have driven governments worldwide to adopt the Sokovia Accords which places the Avengers under United Nations control.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) signs off on the resolution seeing the Avengers as no better than criminals if they are unwilling to play by rules. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) stands firm in his trust of the team’s judgment and his distrust of the politics behind governments. The rift between heroes presents itself early on but the film takes its time in developing it. Along the way the it ties up several loose ends from the previous two Cap movies as well as put heavy emphasis on his continued search for Bucky, A.k.A. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
“Civil War” features so many moving parts and most of them function well. The established characters still have the same charm and charisma and I still enjoy spending time with them. That’s one reason it is easy to be effected once the tension springs up. Marvel Studios has done a great job introducing their characters and developing the relationships between them. A couple of noticables are missing here but some new players are added into the fold (Chadwick Boseman is fantastic as Black Panther and Tom Holland takes on the role of Spider-Man). Storywise things are the best when the focus is on the. But it flounders a bit in telling the story of a mysterious Sokovian militant played by Daniel Brühl. His story is a bit scattered and never has a satisfying end.
Another strength of the film is its pulse-pounding action. Part of what made “The Winter Soldier” great was that it used a lot of traditional effects and stunt work. It’s the same here. Intensely choreographed action sequences come in spurts and each are incredibly impressive. Of course we get some CGI, but the hand-to-hand combat and wild chase sequences are mainly done via old-school means and several of the scenes are still carved in my memory. The film also steers clear of the big, mind-numbing, CGI laden finale. No crumbling skyscrapers or citywide devastation. It’s still a violent ending, but much more personal and consequential.
The movie should also be commended for genuinely trying to ask some significant questions and deal with some weighty issues. And it doesn’t just toss them out there and them leave them behind. These dilemmas run throughout the film. Characters wrestle with death and loss. Others struggle with responsibility and consequences. And while the film may not be an appeal to deep thinkers, among its large amounts of fan service it does explore areas that few from the genre care to.
“Captain America: Civil War” feels like it could be titled “Avengers: Civil War”. In fact, it actually serves as a better Avengers sequel than last year’s “Age of Ultron”. But we do still get plenty of Captain America and his character is still the most intriguing piece in this entire puzzle. But as a whole the movie does more to alter the landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. By the end things are much different. Characters have been impacted. Relationships have been affected. Most importantly it sets before us a very interesting landscape and the potential for some incredibly intriguing storylines. I can’t wait to see where things go next.
VERDICT – 4.5 STARS