John's Take: Captain America: Civil War

It’s a pretty awesome time to review movies. I wonder how people will look back on this period in film, or if this is even a period when it comes to comic book movies. People have been saying that the comic book film craze was going to since it first sank it’s teeth in (pun intended) with Blade in 1998. Comic book films seem to be in their heyday every year, and every year they reach a new high surpassing what anyone could have imagined. At this point, their staying power…thanks almost exclusively to Marvel, is past the ebb and flow in popularity of other genre specialties like horror or action, the fact that “Comic Book” has become its own genre says something more on its own then I could hope to reach here. I lead in with this preamble because we have just come to a new stage of the genres evolution with Captain America: Civil War, Marvel speaks of these films in phases but it’s obvious to me now that at the end of the day the MCU will be BCW and PCW, ‘Before Civil War’ and ‘Post Civil War’.

Captain America: Civil War opens with the Avengers team we saw assembled at the end of Age of Ultron taking on Crossbones and a team of mercenaries as they attempt to steal a biological weapon. The results of that mission, coupled with all of the major events tracing back to the original The Avengers lead to a need for governmental regulation of the Avengers in the form of the Sokovia accords. The rift between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers begins to widen as they stand on opposite sides of opinion when it comes to the Avengers answering to a governmental body, with Stark seeing it as accountability and Rogers seeing it as a road that leads to the team becoming a tool of what the UN wants to accomplish instead of a safeguard against any evil. Meanwhile Bucky Barnes, The Winter Soldier, comes back into play when a bomb goes off at a UN summit on the Sokovia accords killing the King of Wakanda, leading his son T’Challa, the Black Panther, to commit himself to catching and killing his father’s apparent murderer, Bucky Barnes.

I’m amazed I was able to summarize this flick in that small of a paragraph, synopsis are something I’m notoriously bad at and this film could have easily ended up with a two page run-down. Look guys, I’m not even sure why you’re reading reviews…is there any way this movie wasn’t going to be amazing? Marvel has found some secret sauce that makes all of their product taste amazing while any imitators (See DCU) fail. Civil War takes from each of the Marvel films before it is mixed together by what I believe to be the pre-eminent MCU directors, the Russo Brothers. How those two went from sitcoms like Community and Arrested Development to making the best comic book films to date is beyond me, but damn do they do it. There’s something in their direction, especially of Cap, that lends a real weight to everything that occurs. One scene specifically, when the team is being introduced to the Sokovia Accords and are made to rewatch news footage from all of the disasters in which they were involved, is shot with Cap dead center and everyone else around him. The camera angle is slightly upward and pulled in close, without being a close up. Something about this makes you feel the weight of the responsibility on Rogers. This is what makes these films transcend the label of “action movie”. That being said action seems to come naturally to the brothers Russo, and it comes by the truck load. They know just the right touches in just the right places. When the Black Panther makes his dynamic appearance it would be enough to see that amazing costume to keep audiences impressed, instead of keeping it all flash they add a flourish here and a flourish there. When the panther drops down from three stories up he lands like a cat, softly and gracefully. It could be missed but it’s addition does more than someone with less foresight then the Russo’s would have guessed.

There was always question as to how they could recreate the neo-classic storyline that is Marvel’s Civil War comics. The answer is they didn’t, but they kept its soul. The core conflict of team Cap vs team Iron Man is obviously maintained but most everything plays out differently. The important thing is that they kept the heart of the comic series even if the events themselves were vastly different. Proper reverence was paid, recreating several classic moments including my favorite all time Cap quote. In the film it’s delivered by Sharon Carter as part of a eulogy, its inclusion though not delivered by Capt. Rogers, is a gift to fans and it’s one that we appreciate. The film clocks in at 2hrs 23 minutes, similar to Batman V Superman, the difference being the masterclass of tight writing, story structure and balance of characters demonstrated by Team Marvel. There were no less than 10 superheroes in the film and none feel like they were short changed. Everyone gets their moment. I almost feel like I don’t need to say anything at this point about Tom Holland’s Spider-man…but I’m going to anyway. It IS as good as everyone has told you. Pitch perfect. I loved Andrew Garfield’s version as they finally brought in the sarcasm Spidey’s known for but Holland’s webslinger takes it another step, keeping the sarcasm and adding in a realistic 15 year old kid thrust into the spandex of a superhero. The other standout is Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, it may seem like his character is shoe horned in but it’s one of those catch 22 moments. Do they slow the movie down to explain why Scott Lang decided to come along or does he just show up and we accept it? I’m going for the latter every time. As I’ve made pretty clear already the action is amazing, with what seemed like 5 or 6 major action set pieces it’s astounding that there is such a cohesive and meaningful story behind it all. Obviously the major battle between all of the heroes takes the top prize but literally every other scene could contend for best action scene in any one of the other Marvel films.

If I have any complaints about the movie it would be in the title. This really should have been called Marvel: Civil War, Cap is a the center but with so much going on it really could have been better served keeping the universe itself as the centerpoint. I suppose you could say that Daniel Bruehl’s Helmut Zemo, the villain of the film, is little more than a side note but I think that would be dismissive. Though there’s no flash to him and he really doesn’t occupy much screentime he may actually be the most accurate villain in any of the films. Pulling the strings from behind the scenes, never actually coming toe to toe with our heroes. He’s also the only Marvel villain to win…but I won’t elaborate on that.

Obviously the events of this film have drastic implications for the future of the Marvel universe, but we’ve heard that before. Honestly it’s said after every major Marvel film. This is the first time those words are true, however. By the time the credits role it’s difficult to predict how the team will come back together to defeat Thanos and if anything will be anywhere near the same…but that’s one of those special traits that makes Marvel what it is, they aren’t afraid to take chances and put their universe in places that may not be easy to come back from. On the technical/business side of things, I don’t think 3D is necessary…though I never really do. It goes without saying that this is one for the theaters but this is one of the few that I will recommend you go multiple times to get the full effect. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited, and at the same time uncertain, about a film franchise in my life…Star Wars included. 

4.5 Out of 5 Guttenbergs