From hair raising action sequences to gritty-as-hell, spine tingling dialogue, the newest installment of the highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (as well as the third Captain America film), “Captain America: Civil War” is finally here and offers one of Marvel’s most engaging and gripping films to date. After a series of battles taking place in cities all over the world involving the Avengers, the government has finally decided to step in and put a leash on the superhero team by creating a new program that will only require their actions when the government deems it necessary. Tony Stark, or Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.) believes the plan will be effective, given his guilt over the immense amount of deaths that have taken place due to the heroes’ actions. However, Steve Rogers, or Captain America (played by Chris Evans), finds the plan to be convoluted and believes that the government will only use it as a way to misuse their powers. Other members of the Avengers (as well as some new faces who tag along), begin taking sides on the matter, and from here, we are given one of Marvel’s most mature efforts as our characters duke it out physically, mentally, and emotionally, all while discovering new details that will make them never look at each other in the same way again.
In all honesty, the thought of “Civil War,” while a cool one that sounds guaranteed to make any comic book fanboy’s dream come true, did worry me a lot. With such an immense cast, my main concern was that we were going to get another overstuffed plot that would contain little to no focus on what should really be the main conflict throughout, which is an issue that several superhero films have faced in the past including “Spider-Man 3” (2007), “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014), and most recently, DC’s problematic “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016). However, I am beyond glad to report that “Civil War” exceeds all expectations. The brilliant screenplay, detailed direction, stellar cast, and mind-blowing action make this one of the must-see cinematic experiences of the year.
The film’s strongest point, and the one that surprised me the most, was just how incredibly emotional the experience was. Not since “Spider-Man 2” (2004) has a superhero movie been able to floor me with such intense grit, brutality, and depth. Each character’s motives are completely understandable and the film does a remarkable job at not having a bias toward one particular ideology of the major dilemma. The characters’ actions have major impact here. These intense emotions really kick in during the action scenes, with every punch and kick being thrown succeeding in having weight rather than just being put in to have something mindless and fun to look at.
Speaking of action, “Civil War” contains some of the most memorable action sequences of all superhero cinema. The airport fight that has been seen highlighted in the trailers is easily one of the most jaw dropping and exciting to ever be put in a Marvel film, thanks to the wonderful direction by Anthony and John Russo that allows for the focus to stay on the characters throughout the fight, rather than big explosions or spectacle. Each hero gets their time to shine during this scene as comedy, suspense and pure excitement play out. While this particular battle may have been the most anticipated, several other engaging fight scenes are also scattered throughout that contain the same level of on-point direction, as well as some heavy dialogue that makes the action just so much more powerful.
Of course, what is a superhero movie without superheroes? Here, we are given a special treat as many old favorites from the previous MCU movies make a return such as Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Vision, Scarlett Witch, Antman, and since his name is in the title, Captain America. All these characters are fleshed out remarkably well, but it is ultimately Cap and Iron Man who carry the film with each having grown much more mature from their previous outings and now with more set beliefs on what should be done to keep everyone safe. It makes for great tension and effective suspense, and both Chris Evans’ and Robert Downey Jr.’s performances truly help drive the film.
Two notable newcomers to the MCU make their debuts to the franchise here as well — Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (played by Tom Holland). Both characters end up complementing the film perfectly, bringing new points of view into the dilemma. Starting with the friendly neighborhood superhero himself, Spider-Man is portrayed to near perfection by newcomer Tom Holland, who succeeds at capturing the character’s clever wit and funny personality with a true down-to-earth teen who feels real and relatable. To my surprise, however, I found Black Panther to be the more interesting of the two newcomers. Even though the character is given some rather clichéd backstory, he is always a highlight when he gets into that suit, as his action sequences are always hardcore, savage, and the best looking of all the characters, hands down.
Given all its strengths, “Captain America: Civil War” still suffers from a few minor issues. The villain here is not the most engaging or memorable (to be honest I can’t even remember his name) and he lacks any real charisma, which is sad, given his surprisingly interesting backstory and wicked plan. Fortunately, the film knows where its true conflict is coming from and focuses more on that than the villain. The only other flaw the film has, and undeniably, it is its biggest — unless you have seen many of the previous installments in the MCU, particularly “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2014) and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), many aspects of the story may come off as confusing.
Likewise, even though it is nice that “Civil War” doesn’t focus too much on fleshing out the backstory of Black Panther or Spider-Man in order to keep the film’s focus where it should be, this too feels like a calculated way to have people check out the characters’ upcoming standalone films. Even though the idea of an extended universe film series is interesting, it is still important to try and make each film a satisfying standalone experience without confusing your audience.
Despite a few minor flaws, I had no major problems with “Captain America: Civil War.” The marvelous combination of intense suspense, stunning action, powerful writing, relatable characters, and heart-wrenching and heavy emotional drama makes this nearly two and a half hour picture seem like it was only 15 minutes, as the emotions rush through your head and make you feel drained by the end. This is a must-watch for fans of superhero films and is a treat that is sure to be remembered.