Captain America: Civil War (imdb) opens in the US today after being out internationally for about a week, and it is the de facto next Avengers movie fans wanted. The writing is good, the characters have story arcs, the humor is well timed and the action sequences…. Oh wow. Don’t wait for this one on bluray, go see this one on the big screen. And don’t read this review until you’ve seen the film. I can wait. Really.
Oh and PSA: There are two stingers in the credits, so stay until the very end. You know the drill, Marvel Cinematic fans!
Ready? Let’s begin.
Hellooooo, MCU, I have missed you.
Captain America: Civil War opens with a flashback, a scene from 1991 without much context except that it’s a mission performed by Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier. He causes a car crash, steals some fluid packets from the trunk and takes them back to his handler. This scene turns out to be the crucial interaction for everything else that happens in the rest of the film, but it’s all right if you don’t catch all the details; it will be shown again.
Flash forward to the present day, and Steve Rogers’s (Chris Evans) current Avengers team finds themselves in yet another instance of mass destruction and innocent lives lost in the course of them trying to be the Good Guys. Steve feels like even with the tragedies that happen, that on the balance he’s saving overall more lives, while Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr), eaten up with the guilt that has driven everything about his role as a superhero, feels that they all need more oversight and tries to convince the Avengers to sign themselves under the control of the United Nations. They have drafted the Sokovia Accords, signed by 117 countries, including tiny but wealthy Wakanda, the world’s only source for vibranium, which is of course famous for being the metal of Captain America’s shield.
The team is divided about signing the accords, and this seems to be the root of the titular Civil War, but the layers keep unfolding bit by bit. Most of the team seems to side with Tony, but he tries to put Wanda Maximof (Elizabeth Olsen), aka Scarlet Witch, under house arrest under the care of Vision (Paul Bettany) and it doesn’t go well at all. While those who are willing to work for the UN, including Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson), aka Black Widow and Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), go to the convention to meet with the nations who are ratifying it, Steve and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), aka Falcon, go to England for Peggy Carter’s funeral where they re-encounter her niece Sharon Carter (Emily VanKamp), a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent still working for the Department of State. The delegates meet T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the son of the king of Wakanda, moments before an explosion rocks the building. Evidence points to the Winter Soldier and the wedge in the team is driven even further.
Steve and Sam, with quiet help from Sharon, go to take Bucky alive against the UN sanction which is calling for his immediate death. Tony and the others who have aligned themselves with the UN try to talk Steve down, but being who he is, he holds onto his own ideals and refuses. Everything devolves from there.
So now you have the basic set up, but that’s not really what I want to talk about. It’s a good story for these characters, and borrows from other Marvel storylines that work well with the MCU-established timeline and characters. But let’s look at some of the other big part of this movie, shall we?
First, I want to touch on the action sequences. The blocking for these was very well done, and it was fun to see how the teams worked together. Beyond that, each character got a featured fight sequence that was long enough that we could enjoy seeing each one do what they do best, from Black Widow taking out a whole group of assassins to Falcon swooping over the scene with aerial acrobatics and bullet-blocking moves. And then, of course, there is the huge confrontation in the empty airport between Cap’s team and Iron Man’s, where we get to see Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) in action as well as the much-anticipated Spider-Man (Tom Holland, who is actually introduced very nicely earlier in the film).
Next, let’s talk about the massive cast. The Avengers films already had huge casts and this film doubles even on that number, without even bringing Hulk or Thor into it. Tony and Steve each have a band of loyal teammates, and each has their own reason for siding with the person they chose. Many of Tony’s team are interested in protection or operating out of loyalty to him, while Steve’s are the ones who hold more to his “this is our responsibility” ideal. Still others are reacting to the events around them.
My favorite addition to the line-up is hands down Black Panther, T’Challa’s mantle he wears to protect the people of Wakanda. He is so much fun to watch on screen, his character is fascinating and well developed, and I’m so looking forward to his stand-alone movie. Every action sequence with him in it is exciting, and I cheered the first time I caught a glimpse of him chasing after Bucky.
We also got more of Wanda as Scarlet Witch in this film, and her powers are featured much more heavily as she is able to control everything from objects to clouds of toxic gas. She also was the one who surprised me the most choosing to side with Steve despite her guilt in the role she plays in the destruction around them.
Finally, the ultimate Civil War confrontation between Iron Man and Captain America turns much darker, and far more personal, than I could have expected, but I felt like the film had earned it by the time we got there. Everything fell into place and the whole rest of the film made sense within the context presented, and it led to one of the roughest but most exciting superhero fight sequences I’ve ever seen. The special effects were amazing, and one shot in particular made me audibly gasp in the theater with its beauty. I’ll link it here because I don’t want to take that moment from you in case you didn’t follow my advice and go see the film first. It’s breath taking.
I’m curious to see where the bigger story in the MCU is headed after this film, and wondering how they will deal with the ramifications of where we’re left after this one. One of my biggest frustrations with the Avengers proper films is that I felt like there was too much action and not enough actual plot. This film has none of those issues, with only some odd pacing trouble in the first half. The story itself works well, and I feel invested in what happens to these former friends as the world continues to get more complicated.
So what did you think of Civil War? Favorite scene in the film? Let me know!