The buzz over the latest Marvel blockbuster has been through the roof. It’s already made over $200 mil internationally before it even opened here in the US, so no doubt it will wipe out any competition here this weekend.
I have to say that despite my increasing superhero fatigue, I was still looking forward to this one mostly because I love the first two Captain America films, and I have faith in the Russo brothers’ direction. Like Zack Snyder with Batman V Superman, Anthony & Joe Russo had the tricky task of not only continuing the thread of the Avenger story, pulling off a large ensemble cast AND help launch/introduce individual standalone films (Black Panther, Spider-man). Suffice to say the Russos did a much, much better job than Snyder in delivering an entertaining Summer blockbuster that’s actually has depth and thought-provoking ideas. Interesting that The Avengers and Superman share a similar predicament in their effort to safeguard humanity, and how the DC and Marvel tentpole movies are dealing with the issue of accountability.
The ‘Civil War’ in the title stems from an ideological conflict about what should be done in that issue of accountability and collateral damage, and whether a governing body (in this case the UN) should oversee them. Now, the fact that the perceived common enemy happens to be Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) BFF Bucky a.k.a. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), it’s easy to see which side the Cap is on. The events in The Winter Soldier has undoubtedly made Cap wary of big government and how a centralized power could be manipulative and corrupt. So it makes sense that he won’t be so easily persuaded to sign something like The Sokovia Accords that’d essentially put the Avengers under UN control.
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow: Just because it’s the path of least resistance doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path. Staying together is more important than how we stay together.
Steve Rogers/Captain America: What are we giving up to do it?
Whilst the motive behind Captain firmly believing in self-regulation is more clear cut, I’m not as convinced why Tony Stark would support it with little resistance. A cameo by Alfre Woodard briefly reveals the burden of guilt on Tony’s part as the Stark companies supplies most of the weaponry (including Captain himself who was created in the lab of his dad Howard), but still I’d think he’d be more apprehensive about government interference in the Avengers.
I have to say that the film has a pretty slow start. I understand they’d have to establish the conflict and a reason for all the fighting, but it went on a bit too long for my liking and frankly, it all feels a bit tedious. Thankfully, things do pick up as soon as an incident happens at the UN meeting and before you know it, Captain becomes a hunted man wanted by the government along with Bucky. It’s there that we meet new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)’s member Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and he certainly looks the part. This is perhaps one of the most diverse cast in a Marvel film aside from the X-Men franchise.
I think the fact that the same writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, are involved in the Captain America trilogy so far makes the film flow nicely and has a cohesive storyline. They also did a decent job showing the events in previous films to viewers who might not be familiar with the Avengers story, i.e. the battle in the fictional Eastern European country Sokovia in Avenger: Age of Ultron that caused massive collateral damage. Marvel fans would especially enjoy the references and inside jokes, especially during the actual civil war battle involving a dozen MCU superheroes. This is also the first time we see the new Spider-man (Tom Holland) as part of MCU and he’s definitely a highlight. Spidey is supposed to be a wisecrackin’ teenager and Holland’s captured that. All his comments as he’s fighting the other heroes, like referencing Empire Strikes Back and saluting Cap before he fights him, are a hoot.
Spider-Man (to Bucky): You have a metal arm? That is awesome, dude.
The intro to the appropriately-aged character is full of good humor as he’s fanboying over Iron Man, who somehow still has time to flirt with aunt May (Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr’s co-star in the rom-com Only You) despite a brief 36-hour deadline to arrest Cap. There’s a lot of fanboy-ing going on in this movie that’s so hilarious. My fave part is when Ant-Man (the immensely affable Paul Rudd) meets Cap which got one of the biggest laughs in the theater.
Scott Lang/Ant-Man: Look, man, I know you know a lot of super people so… thinks for thanking of me.
Captain America: Civil War is commendable for having the right balance of story, character, emotion, humor AND high-octane action. The fight scenes are well-choreographed that you can actually see the action despite the sheer number of people fighting. It wasn’t so bombastic that it’s headache-inducing. The story never feels cartoonish even with SO many characters involved and the battles feel sprightly and fun without being frivolous or silly. When one character is injured, we feel the emotion of fellow team members and the sense of solidarity is definitely there. The Captain America trilogy benefits from the strong base of Steve/Bucky relationship established in the first film. I totally believe why Cap would go to such length to protect his best friend and stand by his side regardless of what he’s done, and I think Bucky would’ve done the same if the situation were reversed. I love Evans and Stan even more as they become more at ease in their respective roles, and Anthony Mackie is always so charming and fun as Falcon. I also have to mention how I appreciate Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow more and more, and the fact that she’s undeniably torn between the two sides is a testament to her intriguing character arc.
The key in making a huge ensemble cast work is they have to have a reason for us to care for the characters. It’s getting immensely tricky here but I think keeping the focus on just a small group helps. The final battle between Cap, Iron Man & Winter Soldier is not only cool to watch but it also carries a certain emotional weight because there’s something personal that affects the three of them. It’s perhaps one of the most compelling dramatic moments from RDJ that I’ve seen in all the Iron Man & Avengers movies so far.
That said, I don’t think this film is perfect and I don’t think it’s the greatest MCU film so far, as many critics have said. I’ve mentioned about the rather sluggish start, but there are also moments that don’t really work. Daniel Brühl is a perfectly capable actor but he barely makes a dent here amongst an ocean of characters, though I think the character’s motive is a pretty decent one. The romance between Cap and Sharon Carter also feels so obligatory and the lack of chemistry between Evans and Emily VanCamp doesn’t help. Oh how I miss Hayley Atwell‘s Agent Carter who’s such a strong female character who doesn’t need any superpowers to make a difference. I also find the music unmemorable as I barely remember any of it, which is odd given I LOVE what Henry Jackman did with The Winter Soldier.
All in all, it’s a VERY good film that ties all three Captain American movies superbly well and would rank amongst the best film trilogies. After this, I’m even more confident in the Russo brothers’ directing talent and MCU is definitely in capable hands if they continue to make Marvel movies. I love the end credits of the first two Captain America movies and they did an excellent job here as well. In terms of replay-ability value, this one ranks third after The Winter Soldier and The First Avenger, both of which I actually just re-watched last night and I still enjoyed them immensely!
So have you seen ‘Captain America: Civil War’? Let me know what you think!