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
Great review! I loves this movie so much, but I did think it felt more like a Cap film then an Avengers one. Infinity Wars (or whatever they’re going to call it now) will be interesting.
Interesting. It felt more like an Avengers movie to me but with Cap as the main character. Especially when you compare it to the other two movies. Still loved it though.
This was a phenomenal film. Everything felt…balanced. That’s a hard thing to do in a movie of this scale, when you have so many important characters and plot points to cover. I think Robert Downey, Jr gives his best performance as Tony Stark in Civil War. Everybody else is just as good, though. The film also blazes through the story. For a 2.5 hour film, it didn’t feel like it. It doesn’t slow down when introducing new characters like Black Panther, who absolutely fantastic. For me, personally, I think that Civil War is the best MCU movie to date. Considering that Winter Soldier was a truly exceptional film, that’s quite an achievement in my eyes. This is the movie that Age of Ultron should have been.
I completely agree. Age of Ultron hasn’t left that much of an impression with me. This one is much better. Well made and a lot of fun too.
Great read Keith, man this thing has really struck a chord with everyone (myself included, a skeptic when it comes to Captain America films). One of the main praises its receiving is its ability to balance all the characters and give them each a chance to shine without really “outshining” anyone else. (I suppose you can always make the argument Tony’s signature wit still is the most prominent ‘characteristic’ of any of them but still, even he dialed back the snark here. Things are serious man!) I really enjoyed it and gave it a much higher score than I ever thought I would.
It’s really good, right. I think Winter Soldier may still be my favorite Marvel picture but this is close. It is really well written and well made with only a couple of things that I didn’t feel worked. But still (as you touch on), juggling that many characters and that big of a story arc is pretty tough. Miraculously they pull it off.
Nice review. I wasn’t as big a fan as everyone (thought it took a while to get going and I didn’t feel the initial action scenes), but in the end I did think it was entertaining and I would like to see the airport fight scene again.
Thanks. I really went for the action scenes. I really like the way they film hand-to-hand combat and chase sequences. It really fits characters like Cap, Bucky, Panther, Widow, etc. But I also appreciate how well they do when it’s time to go big. The more fantastic superpowers are also very well represented. Pretty much liked them all.
I’ve always loved the MCU, despite some of it’s mediocre entries (Thor 1&2, The Incredible Hulk), but this one just might be my favorite. Deeply rooted in emotion, breathtaking action, and a plot that emphasized the consequences of what it means to be a superhero. I can see this becoming one of the quintessential movies in the genre a few years down the line. Great review!
Thanks man. I loved how this one asked some deeper questions but doesn’t just leave them for all of the normal cliches. It makes the emotional themes a pivotal part I the story. Loved that!
Another great review. Your points match my own. In particular the villain’s story. I felt that if you removed his events the film moves along just fine. I much prefer this to Age of Ultron.
Yes! I’m glad to hear someone else agree with that point. The villain of the film was such a far cry from the actual comic book version which is okay, but he was so generic and his payoff wasn’t that impressive. Is that how you saw it?
Pretty much. The only scene where I felt something for him was the end with Black Panther, but by then it was too late.
Too late indeed. And to be honest I thought that scene showed such an overused motive. Just didn’t work for me. But he is a smaller part to an otherwise great experience.
I’m glad this film is getting an excellent response as I had fun watching it as well as the fact that it was willing to ask some big questions which is what blockbuster films should be.
True. And not only ask the questions but be willing a to stick with them and explore them. Really caught me off guard (in a good way).
Glad to see you had such a good time with this one. While I liked it, I definitely didn’t love it like the previous two films. Too little Captain America for my liking.
You agree too? It didn’t feel like a Cap movie, right? Sure he was a main character but it didn’t have the intimacy of the other two.
Absolutely didn’t feel like a Captain America film at all. This should have been Avengers: Civil War, if anything.
Yep. It definitely has put the characters in some very interesting positions.
I thought you’d enjoy this, partly as a comic book fan but also because you enjoyed The Winter Soldier so much. This is a different kind of beast from the earlier Russo brothers film in many respects but it sits alongside it comfortably, and it’s one of the most fun times I’ve had at the cinema with a Marvel film. Liked the action scenes a lot, liked the new introductions, and there was a good blend with the returning ones too. I’m in a weird state where I’m trying to balance the old superhero fatigue with a desire to see standalone films for Black Widow, Black Panther, Spider-Man and Ant-Man sooner rather than later. I think I’d really dig a Bourne- or Bond-style Black Widow film.
Marvel has done a really good job overall. I can see it being so easy to grow tired of these films. But they give us such fleshed out and compelling characters each with their own uniquenesses and identities. And then they give them good stories to tell. I also think their casting has been fantastic for the most part.
Yeah, I agree. I think one or two of the villains haven’t been particularly memorable, but I think that’s down to the writing rather than the casting or anything the actors in question are doing wrong. Only Hiddleston’s Loki has really stood out for me, though if you take The Winter Soldier as a villain/antagonist, as he was in the last film, then I guess Stan was pretty cool too. (And I remember one great review of Thor: The Dark World where the reviewer asked the question ‘why would you take the most compelling villain Marvel have had to date and leave him locked up in a cell for an hour and a half?’, but I’m digressing now!)
I agree. Not the best track record with their villains overall. I to think Winter Soldier was great even with his complexities. Hopefully they can make Thanos legitimately good as well.
I too may the point that this could easily be called Avengers: Civil War, but if you did that, the absence of Thor and Hulk would be felt more and more people would be in more uproar.
But, I very much liked this film. Its success in handling 12 characters all at one is outstanding, but also the result of the universe taking its time over the years and actually giving their characters proper exposure, instead of being thrown into one big heap a la BvS. Probably not as good as Winter Soldier (liked that action a bit more), but still a great time and unlike AoU, you actually feel legit change. Great post.
I so agree with you on several things most notably Winter Soldier, AoU, and how the universe has successfully built up these characters over time. It definitely has put the Avengers in an interesting place.
Great review, I just wish I could agree with you! I’m glad you enjoyed it though, I really really wanted to. I really liked The Winter Solider, and I didn’t mind The Avengers. But this just fell totally flat for me for some reason. What I don’t understand is that I loved Spiderman, who was one of the few characters that wasn’t from previous films, so I didn’t know him. I sure will be seeing his movie though, whenever it comes out ;D
Odd though, I knew all the others but I didn’t find myself invested in the battle. I also thought they kinda went overboard with the collateral damage part, they took about an hour just to introduce that theme! I do agree with you though that it is nice to see a film of this genre actually tackling such a theme, and doing quite well with it, even if I thought it was a tad overdone.
For me, I enjoyed Bruhl as the villain, I thought he was great. I do agree though that his story was a bit scattered, definitely. His acting though was great I thought.
And I’m with you that it could have been an Avengers movie. I think the best thing about this flick is how well they managed such a huuuuge amount of characters.
Your last paragraph interests me too, causes me to think about the film and the genre as a whole a little differently. Nicely done 🙂
sorry for the massive reply there 😛
Thanks for the thoughts. It is always interesting when people have different reactions. I do see where you are coming from. I just had a much different experience. I thought this one had a lot more heart and much higher stakes particularly on personal levels.
Bruhl’s performance was fine. Really good actor. I just found his character to be lightweight and his ultimate motivations were pretty weak. We’ve seen that so many times in so many movies. I think that was my main gripe about him.
Yeah I’m with you on the character, I just hadn’t seen Bruhl before, not that I remembered, and i thought he was really good. I hadn’t considered the emotional consequences of the film, it does have more going on than I first realised. Didn’t stop me from going on a rant about it though 😛
Thank you. Did you enjoy the movie as well?
I loved it so much! It’s one of my favourite movies. I’m attracted to thought provoking deep films, so I really enjoyed this one!
I agree. And I think this one surprised a lot of people who were expecting a lightweight and simplistic popcorn movie.
Great review Keith, I hope that the ripple effects follow through to Infinty War and aren’t just so easily resolved – just like in the comics. I like the direction Marvel took with this and Age of Ultron, still fun superhero films but with a slightly more serious and thought provoking streak.
100% agree. I can’t help but think there will be more complexity to it. Really anxious to see how everything falls.
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