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Captain America: Civil War - Review

Sometimes families fight and of course when they do the fighting gets dirty because everyone knows each other’s weaknesses. Thus goes the premise of Captain America: Civil War, another slick action-packed ensemble film to add to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) arsenal.

Quick recap (please note mild spoilers for the first hour of the film):

Captain America (played by Chris Evans) and the rest of his Avengers are fighting bad guys in typical superhero fashion, blowing things up, asking questions later. In most superhero films (and as we’ve seen in previous MCU films) collateral damage is just a minor blip in the story of saving the world. However, the consequences for those actions are finally coming back to bite them. A building gets blown up in Lagos, Nigeria and several innocent people die. World governments start asking for accountability and thus 117 countries ratify an agreement for the UN to begin overseeing the Avengers Initiative, to hold these superhuman beings accountable for their incredible power and the collateral damage they cause.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) who we’ve seen in the last few movies become increasingly worn down by his role as Iron Man and the violence he has caused both through Stark Industries selling weapons to terrorists and through deaths caused by Iron Man. He immediately agrees with the UN’s Sokovia Accords (named after the vaguely Eastern European country destroyed in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron) because he believes that the Avengers do need to be held accountable and have something in place to keep them in check.

On the other hand, we have Captain America who has become increasingly anti-government, particularly noted when he disbanded S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: Winter Soldier, because they had been infiltrated by the neo-nazi terrorist organization H.Y.D.R.A. He opposes the Sokovia Accords and the control of the Avengers by the United Nations. When the UN is bombed (supposedly by his friend the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan), all hell breaks loose as Cap attempts to get to the truth to save Bucky through means outside the law. Thus, a Civil War, (or family feud, as I like to call it) is born.

The most frustrating aspect of this film is the lack of communication between characters (but, honestly, isn’t that what most family fights are about anyways?). Cap thinks he’s right operating outside the law to save Bucky at all costs, even if that means fighting his own friends to do it. Tony is desperately trying to keep everyone together and working to save the world in a legal manner. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) tries to act as the mediator to keep all her boys together.

Thus we have Avengers fighting Avengers in an epic battle that feels pretty rough because you really have no idea who you want to root for and win. How do you pick sides against your own family where you love them all? The movie acknowledges this pain in little moments like when Black Widow asks Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), “We’re still friends, right?” even as she beats him up.  When War Machine (Don Cheadle) gets badly injured, hit accidentally by Vision (Paul Bettany), the reality of the fight hits home. This is the first MCU film where the stakes truly feel high because we’re not sure if our heroes can actually win when they’re fighting each other.

I give a lot of credit to the writers, who did a wonderful job of balancing the fight between Iron Man and Captain America so people would leave the theatre arguing over who was in the right. They wrote the fight to be in such a grey area, with a lot of room for the audience to choose whom they side with, which I think created great balance to the film. Should the Avengers have to answer to the government? Should they be able to govern themselves autonomously? I don’t have the answers, and neither did it seem, do the Avengers.

The special effects in this film looked great and were not overwhelming. The fight scenes were well choreographed and there are several beautifully framed shots in the film. Also true to the MCU franchise there is a beautiful blend of drama, humor, and action that lead the viewer seamlessly through the film.

This is a stellar ensemble cast and even when they introduce two new characters, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spiderman (Tom Holland), the movie doesn’t suffer and their characters actually get some level of development without hurting the overall story. It’s really a tribute to the actors themselves who pull off so much emotion with little screen time in a film filled with so many people.

On the introductions of Black Panther and Spiderman respectively, they did an excellent job. Boseman pulled off the role of King and warrior of Wakanda with gravitas and mad fighting skills. I can’t wait for the new Black Panther movie slated for 2018. The introduction of this latest iteration of Peter Parker as Spiderman, so soon after the Amazing Spiderman films with Andrew Garfield, had me worried, but the choice to bring in young Holland to play Peter Parker as a teenager really lends itself well to the film. He gets many of the comic relief bits as he joins Iron Man and fight with and against his idols. Neither of their introductions took away from the movie as a whole, and in fact added even more depth to the movie, if that’s possible.

Overall the movie was an excellent addition to the MCU franchise. I would personally rank it #3 in the MCU behind #1 Iron Man (2008) and #2 The Avengers

 (2012). For any fans of the MCU it’s a must see. I continue to be impressed by both the depth and breadth of the MCU. They really are building the comic book universe in the movies and with their television shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. The scope of this long-term strategy was a truly bold move, but it continues to pay off. As they keep churning out movies, the movies continue to feel less like a money grabbing franchise trying to sell stories that are overly worn out and more like the world-building stories of the greats like J.R.R. Tolkien and G.R.R. Martin. Here’s to hoping they can keep this momentum up with the upcoming Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch in November, 2016.

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