The year 2016 is a huge year for superhero movies. We’ve already seen ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and there are still plenty on the way like ‘Suicide Squad’ and ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’. But with all of these comic book adaptations on the way, many are predicting that the bubble is going to burst on this sub-genre of films and the general public is finally going to get tired of seeing capes and cowls dominate the box office. Well, to the people that think that will happen this year, it definitely won’t happen because of ‘Captain America: Civil War’.
Throughout the twelve films of Phase One and Phase Two, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have managed to save the planet from some massive threats. But at what cost? Though their intentions are noble, the Avengers have left a trail of collateral damage since they first assembled that can be seen in all corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Sokovia being the last straw, the United Nations have stepped in to propose that the team be overseen by a world council to hold the heroes accountable for their actions, both good and bad. While Iron Man is willing to comply with the government, Captain America believes that the Avengers should be able to defend humanity without government interference. Now the heroes are divided to the point of where they’ve come to blows and another scheme is brewing underneath it all to make it way worse.
A story like that sounds quite heavy, but Marvel Studios had the right people carrying it. Back when Joe and Anthony Russo signed on to direct ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, it was impossible to predict that they could have become some of the best things to happen to the MCU. Though they came from a background in comedy and were mostly known for their television work, their first film with the Sentinel of Liberty proved not only could they handle massive action-filled blockbusters, but they really know and care for these beloved characters. With that established prior to their second film starring Steve Rogers, it was hard to imagine how they could top it with ‘Civil War’. One of the most noticeable things that they did was step up the action. A number of new toys were added to the toy box this time around, but none of them went wasted. The Russos managed to create these epic moments for their expansive cast, even outside of the big battle at the airport (which we first caught a glimpse of in the trailers). Everyone had their chance to shine, some in ways that we’ve never seen before.
Since they are the figureheads for the two sides of this war, it’s hard not to focus on Cap and Iron Man while watching ‘Civil War’. But honestly, the movie gives the audience a lot to look at. There’s plenty to say about Chris Evans and his portrayal of the ever-vigilant Captain America, but Robert Downey Jr.’s Stark is much darker than we’ve seen him before. When he’s brought into the conversation, he’s at a pretty low point in his life because where his public and heroic life seems to be soaring, his personal life and relationships are suffering. It goes without saying, but RDJ definitely knows this character backwards and forwards, so when it comes to the huge moments where he’s being hit with literal and figurative blows onscreen, you really feel the impact. Steve Rogers may be the name of the airline, but Tony Stark is the pilot flying the plane of emotions and it constantly feels like things are going to go up in flames at any moment. Naturally, I mean that in the best way possible.
That’s not to say that the rest of the returning MCU cast members didn’t shine as well. We got to see Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Vision, War Machine, Ant-Man, and Black Widow develop as characters and get an idea of where they could be going next. And now that the Winter Soldier is trying to undo the damage done to him, we see more glimpses of the old Bucky breaking through. He and Sam Wilson even have some great comedic moments together, which were unexpected but certainly very welcome.
Although when it comes to welcome new additions to the mythology of the MCU, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Helmut Zemo. These three characters were everything that any comic fan could have asked for and then some. Tom Holland’s Spidey is amazing with banter, delightfully nerdy, and thinks as fast as he talks. It’s too early to say for sure, but this might be the best live-action interpretation of the web-slinger yet. Chadwick Boseman as the Wakandan King T’Challa comes off as very regal and driven. You can easily relate and empathize with his plight. The Panther puts the noble in nobility and without a doubt he rules in all senses of the word. And Daniel Bruhl as the villainous Zemo modernizes this character in such a way that he’s taken to new heights. This Zemo doesn’t need the Masters of Evil to be destructive or menacing. He does it all on his own in extremely cerebral ways that leave the audience with their jaws dropped at the revelations of just how treacherous his plans are.
Finally, the big question about the source material cannot be overlooked. Yes, this ‘Civil War’ differs a good bit from the seminal comic series that it’s based on. We should’ve really seen that coming after ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’. However, the movie does such a good job of capturing the essence of that story that it doesn’t matter. The themes and the feelings are there one hundred percent and are applied to this complex, engaging tale of extraordinary people. The Russos, along with screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, didn’t just give us a great superhero movie. They gave us a great movie that happened to have superheroes in it. When it’s all broken down, this is a very human story at its core. We as people are constantly divided by issues that aren’t necessarily black and white and the filmmakers managed to show that masterfully through these larger than life heroes.
‘Captain America: Civil War’ is a triumph in many ways. As a comic book fan, especially one that holds ‘Civil War’ by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven in a very special place, I was beyond pleased to see how things unfolded on the big screen. From the standpoint of a film critic and a screenwriter, every aspect from the costumes to the cinematography to the writing to the performances were on point. If I had to nitpick, there was only one very small complaint that I had about a slightly out of place beat in the plot, but it’s so minuscule that it’s not even worth mentioning. And as a movie fan, I enjoyed the hell out this epic blockbuster because it kept me thinking and engaged while exceeding the expectations of the usual summer popcorn flick. This is how you do a superhero movie the right way. Marvel Studios knocked it out of the park once more and I can’t wait to see it again.
Despite being a “professional writer”, Ben likes run-on sentences and puns far too much. Also, he’s a bit long-winded when he’s passionate about something, isn’t he? For more of his attempts at being funny and the occasional insightful thought, follow him on Twitter and Instagram.