Unless you’ve been off the grid, in a coma or just really hate pop culture, you should know all about Captain America: Civil War. Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) face off as the world begins to question the Avengers’ autonomy. Should they answer to a higher authority or be free to take on any threat they want? The situation becomes complicated as The Winter Soldier returns.
The film’s advertising asks us, “Are you Team Cap or Team Iron Man?” Basically are you for freedom (Team Cap) or order (Team Iron Man). It seems like a simple choice, but the film does a good job of showing that there are merits to both sides. While inadvertent, innocent people have died. But is oversight that much better? What keeps the politics of the the overseers out of the decisions they make?
As the film goes on those ideals seem to fall to the wayside. The narrative suffers slightly because of that, but it makes up for it by making the conflict increasingly personal. Stark and Rogers are in conflict and it brings in most of the other Avengers. And these characters are what make the film work.
Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have some strong interactions here, though Olsen’s accent still goes in and out. But she brings a solid human core to the issue of “Enhanced Humans”in this world. And Vision’s genuine care for Wanda is surprisingly effective.
Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) get some of the biggest laughs in the film, especially together. And Stan does some excellent work as a haunted man.
Paul Rudd gets the most out of his short screen time, reminding me why I liked him so much as Ant Man. And while Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) make appearances, they feel a bit wasted here.
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) becomes a voice of reason as the battle between the Rogers and Stark escalates, as she seems to be the only one who sees that no one will come out of this conflict unchanged.
Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) make their MCU debut here and they are both great. Spider-Man is simply a joy. They found the right actor for the role. And Black Panther is just a bad ass (I know, I know, fanboy-ish…but damn he is really cool in this).
My biggest complain is that I didn’t see enough of some of the characters, but I know that’s because they need to focus on the two leads…and the film belongs to them.
This is probably my favorite Robert Downey, Jr performance as Stark. He is his usual charming self in the film, but there is a lot of genuine emotion. He will start with the usual wit, but a frustration breaks through more and more. While part of it is ego, much of it is because Stark genuinely cares for Rogers’ welfare.
Evans is great as ever as Rogers, but I felt like the character was a bit shorted in his own movie. It’s not as bad as Batman v Superman where Superman seemed to barely be in his own movie, but I wanted more from Evans. I was never a fan of Captain America growing up, but Evans’ performance as the character won me over in the previous films. I wanted just a bit more with him in this.
The film is incredibly fun. The action sequences are amazing, chief among them the airport fight that appears in every trailer. I could not stop smiling during the sequence. Every character has a “moment” and you will gasp and laugh throughout. And while I love that sequence, there is one fight sequence later that I absolutely loved for different reasons. Maybe I’ll do a spoiler review for it…you know, for my two readers.
Now while I think the movie succeeds, part of me wonders how much of that is because I have seen most of the Marvel films. The big emotional moments pay off, but is that because I’ve seen these characters for so long? Would someone who has never seen any of the other Marvel films have the same reaction that I did? Honestly, I’m not sure if they would.
The narrative itself is a little over-bloated. The villain Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) has interesting, but ultimately cliched, motivations, and his plan is needlessly over complicated. It feels like he’s not even needed. And the ending is a bit of a (tiny, tiny, tiny) let down for me.
However, this film is still incredibly satisfying because of strong performances from the two leads and amazing action sequences.
Score: 8 out of 10