Captain America: Civil War exceeds all expectations as this marvelous epic ensures every other summer blockbuster is vying for second best. I’m not even sure how this film could have possibly been any better. Without hesitation though, Civil War is by far the best film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe if not the entire superhero movie genre.
There’s no overstating what directors Anthony and Joe Russo accomplish here. They continue advancing the standalone saga of Captain America, pick up significant plot threads from Avengers: Age of Ultron and seamlessly weave in two much anticipated characters in Spider-Man and Black Panther all in one epic superhero smash fest.
Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Winter Soldier) had a daunting task of juggling nearly 20 characters, but they‘re more than up to the challenge. Markus and McFeely make it look easy and without forcing characters and interactions in just for the sake of it. I liked Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice despite its flaws, but Civil War handles the themes of superhero accountability about a million times better.
Accountability has become a major theme in comic book films. No longer is it enough to save the day by stopping alien invaders or psycho murder bots, but being just as mindful of the victims and collateral damage left in these destructive conflicts.
Captain America (Chris Evans) and his New Avengers squad of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) get caught in another tragedy. While their actions saved countless lives, the United Nations wants to hold them accountable for the lives that were lost by making them sign a policy that would dictate when and where they’re called to battle.
Surprisingly agreeing to the government oversight is Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who believes the Avengers do need to be put in check.
Further complicating matters is the return of The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Cap’s childhood best friend, who was linked to a devastating attack that has drawn the wrath of the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). All while a mysterious figure (Daniel Bruhl) carries out a secret, long gestating plot.
For my initial concerns that Robert Downey Jr. would dominate the film and all the other characters involved would just make this the de facto third Avengers movie, Civil War is definitely first and foremost a Captain America movie that just so happens to include Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers.
Evans has really grown into the role and made Cap so much more complex than a simple always do right Boy Scout. Cap is conflicted here. He recognizes the repercussions from The Avengers’ actions even with the best of intentions and even considers the law. But the moment his core beliefs are challenged, Cap is unwaveringly back to doing what he believes is best. That internal struggle is the heart of the film and Evans shines in his strongest MCU performance to date.
And while Evans is positioned and well-deserving of headliner status, the rest of the cast is equally impressive. Downey Jr. benefited from being established as the funny one in most of the films. Now he’s added a welcome level of depth to Stark to make him sympathetic.
Mackie and Stan have terrific chemistry as Cap’s battling best friends while Paul Rudd once again is completely charming as Ant-Man. Boseman’s commanding performance as Black Panther does the character so much justice it’s going to be a very long wait for his standalone movie in 2018. And Tom Holland is wonderfully refreshing and pitch perfect as Spider-Man.
If The Winter Soldier had more of a 1970 conspiracy thriller feel, Civil War is more of a 80s James Bond tone with world-spanning events and grandiose action.
The film’s climactic airport battle is going to be very hard to top anytime soon and is better than you’ve heard.
As well as they handle the smaller character beats, the Russos have become unequaled in delivering large-scale comic book scope action on the big screen.
It helps they don’t have an obvious favorite or agenda to spotlight any character. Each hero gets numerous showcase moments.
While Ant-Man and Spider-Man have arguably the most scene-stealing bits, this is a fully-realized comic book action scene that’s worth the price of admission alone.
Just as important – we get a definitive answer on who wins between Captain America and Iron Man.
It might take two more years to find a film that can touch Civil War. That’s only because the Winter Soldier/Civil War team is reuniting for Avengers: Infinity War Part I and II.
The foursome has continually proven up to the challenge and in their hands Infinity War is already poised to be another classic.
Civil War marks a perfect conclusion to the unofficial trilogy starting with The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron. It also solidly sets the stage for an intriguing future that once again dramatically changes the MCU status quo.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures