Captain America: Civil War Is What A Comic Book Movie Should Look Like
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johannsen, Sebastien Stan, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Martin Freeman, Marissa Tomei, William Hurt and Daniel Bruhl
Running Time: 2 Hrs, 28 Mins
I’ve made no secret of my feelings about the bleak, steaming hot mess that was Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I gave it a reluctant five out of ten because I have a huge soft spot for the source material, but the film demonstrated a gross misunderstanding of the characters (particularly Batman and Lex Luthor), was overlong, had scenes shoehorned into it that were commercials for future movies, had other scenes that were completely pointless altogether, wasted two classic villains (Lex Luthor and Doomsday) and the end had no emotional impact because it will be completely undone as soon as DC/Warner Bros. releases its next super hero film (it kind of has to be).
I began my review of BvS by saying that if DC/Warner Bros. wanted to compete with Marvel/Disney, they had a long way to go. Not only does Captain America: Civil War widen that already considerable gap by a few more miles, it may very well be the best movie in Marvel’s growing roster of films.
The world has grown increasingly wary of its superheroes as the collateral damage from their battles has grown too severe to ignore. Entire cities have been reduced to smoldering ruins and too often untold civilians pay the price with their lives. After another Avengers operation goes sideways, resulting in more civilian death and suffering, the governments of the world come together to demand change. They want the Avengers supervised, their actions sanctioned and approved by the United Nations and the heroes are given a very clear choice; accept the new Sakovia Accords (named after the city that was destroyed in Avengers: Age of Ultron) or retire. If they continue to operate without official sanction they’ll become outlaws and hunted as criminals. Captain America (Chris Evans) opposes the accords while Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) champions them and the other heroes are forced to choose sides. The Avengers are soon split into opposing camps and find themselves staring each other down.
Complicating matters further is Cap’s long time friend turned brainwashed super assassin Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastien Stan). He’s still on the loose and may have been up to his old murderous hijinks, further ratcheting up the political heat on Cap and the other heroes. And to top it all off, a sinister presence is subtly pulling strings in the background, taking advantage of the heroes divide and orchestrating events to serve it’s own agenda. Long buried secrets are revealed, friendships are strained, alliances tested and broken, faith lost and new players are added to the game. And it’s all told amidst a brilliant spectacle.
The Russo Brothers (who also directed 2014’s Captain America: Winter Soldier) have crafted a masterpiece. They keep the accelerator going at all times, affording some down time to tell the story in between boundary pushing, logic defying action sequences. They let their key personalities breathe a little in between punch ups while not shoving the other characters to the side, affording everyone in this considerable ensemble cast more then just a few moments in the spot light. Civil War stars the most ambitious cast of heroes yet, collecting just about every hero we’ve seen in a Marvel movie save Thor and the Hulk. But they couldn’t go without adding a few new faces and we get to see Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) as well as Spider-Man’s long awaited debut in the Marvel cinematic universe (played by Tom Holland).
Enough can’t be said about the action. The Russo’s took the already ridiculous yet not absurd levels of action in Winter Soldier and turned it up a dozen notches. All of the actors deserve special recognition for the training they underwent, stunt doubles or no. Not only did Boseman own the physical demands of his role as Prince T’Challa/Black Panther, but he also learned the African language of Xhosa for some of his dialogue and the role of Panther appears to be in very safe hands moving forward (his solo movie is scheduled for February 2018). Tom Holland meanwhile looks like he could be the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man yet and his appearance has already generated huge demand for next year’s Spider-Man reboot (co-produced by Marvel and current rights holder Sony). When was the last time moviegoers were looking forward to the a Spider-Man movie? Go ahead, I’ll give you a moment to dig up a calendar.
Robert Downey Jr. continues to bring the affable Tony Stark to life better then any other performer could, but here he gets to show off some acting chops as the brilliant yet smug egotist Stark is confronted with the consequences of his actions and wrestles with the steep price of his attempted amends. Evans compliments him perfectly as Captain America, who is forced to oppose and battle friends and former allies while he tries to do what he thinks is right even while he doubts his own actions.
And did I mention the action? Because it all culminates into one incredible super hero battle royal where every one gets to show off their super powers and skills. Laced with plenty of rapid-fire jokes, it is pretty much the best action scene of the year so far (and will probably be impossible to beat). This scene alone proves how brilliant a decision it was by Marvel to hand control of the Avengers franchise over to the Russo Brothers. Imagining what they can do with even more characters on a cosmic scale boggles even the most vivid imagination.
In the end, this is what a comic book movie should look like. High octane, eyeball rupturing action injected with plenty of humour that tells a straight forward yet entertaining story at just the right speed. It has enough emotional gravity to keep it grounded (after all, you have to care about the characters), never takes itself too seriously (after all, it is a comic book movie) while, and this is most important part, being fun to watch. The true secret of this film’s success won’t be it’s enormous box office (Marvel may have yet another billion dollar blockbuster on its hands when everything is said and done) but that it has also electrified appetite for future Marvel movies (including next year’s Spider-Man). What more can a movie do?
DC, Warner Brothers and Zack Snyder should all be paying very close attention.