Surprise! I actually went to the movies. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the movie theater, especially by my standards; the last film that I reviewed was Deadpool back in February, which is kind of crazy as movie reviews tend to be my bread and butter. I don’t even have a broken ankle to blame for this prolonged absence; instead I’m going to blame the crappy quality of movies that studios generally dump during the late winter and early spring. There were a few movies that I did mean to get out and see, but for the most part, the selection has been wanting. I’m not getting off my couch for trash like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
A new Marvel movie, however, is a horse of a different color. I’m always game to go see them, especially when it is a Captain America-focused entry. I’ve enjoyed the Captain America films more than an of the other Avenger stand-alone films, as I think that the powers that be have the firmest grasp on his personality and outlook. They have also played with different genres in the Captain America movies, which makes them a little more interesting and complex. So I would have been excited for Captain America: Civil War even if it didn’t bring the promise of hero vs hero. My only real reservation was that I am solidly #teamThor, since I want to be wherever Chris Hemsworth is, but Thor (and The Hulk) are missing in action in Civil War. A minor quibble, but I was still a little bummed out that I wouldn’t get to see his beautiful face on the big screen.
Captain America: Civil War explores the idea of the Avengers being held responsible for some of the mayhem and destruction that is often the side effect of them trying to save the day. After a mission goes sideways and civilians are killed, the countries of the world unite to request that the Avengers have some sort of oversight. Up until this point, the Avengers have been a private organization, but a new resolution would put them under the auspices of the UN. Failure to comply with these accords would make a superhero a criminal. Riddled by guilt from unleashing Ultron on the world, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr) supports the idea of this new world order. Wary of the dispatch of the Avengers being tainted by political decision makers (this guy knew Hitler after all), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is opposed – a position that he only digs in deeper on once Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is once again put in play. This creates a schism as the remaining Avengers line-up behind either Iron Man or Captain America, though the film doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining their various motivations. Since we are down two key players, Captain America: Civil War brings in some new faces – some are new to appearing in the Avengers franchise, while others are new in that we’ve never seen them depicted on the big screen before. These additions help breathe some new energy into the movie and mix things up a bit so that it isn’t just business as usual.
Captain America: Civil War is probably the most mature movie in the MCU-universe since at its focus is a philosophical debate that forces the heroes to think about the ramifications of their actions. Up until this point, there has been little consideration of the aftermath of the destruction that is often left in the wake of the Avengers getting involved. They show up, defeat the bad guy and leave, but in the process they also level a city and put countless lives in danger. Do the ends justify the means? Should there be some more systematic approach to unleashing their power? The Avengers obviously want to do good, but is that much power being exerted unilaterally and unchecked the right way to do things? On the other hand, should people with political agendas get to decide when and where the Avengers are deployed? Civil War does a good job of giving both sides of the argument and given the events of the last Avengers movie, it is clear why Iron Man, who would normally thumb his nose at authority, is more susceptible to the idea of their activates being more closely supervised. The film primarily focuses on Captain America and Iron Man as they are given the most screen time and emotional notes to play, but does allow time to give almost every character some sort of moment. With a cast this large, not everyone can be the star, but Civil War manages to mostly juggle all the balls that are put in play and gives the new characters a more than adequate introduction (both have standalone movies pending, which I am now looking forward to). The action sequences in the film are thrilling and the idea that it is hero vs hero does add a much needed change of pace to the usual “smashy-smashy-blow things up” formula of superhero movies in general. Seeing Iron Man pummel Captain America has different stakes because we like both these characters and it isn’t necessarily evident who is going to prevail. I like that ambiguity – all the characters are fighting for what they believe in and there isn’t a clear cut right or wrong side to be on.
Captain America: Civil War was an enjoyable film that accomplishes what it set out to do, which is lay the groundwork for Phase 3 of the MCU. That being said, there were definitely some moments that dragged and the film time could probably have been paired down a little (after previews and after the credits scenes, I was in the theater for 3 hours). And while Civil War is not as serious as Age of Ultron, the use of humor is uneven at best. I think we’ve left behind the fun glory days of the original Avengers film and while I appreciate the moments of levity in Civil War, they sometimes feel a little shoehorned in or forced. The comedy worked the best when coming from the more fringe or silly characters (Ant-Man or Spider-Man) but I could have used a few more chuckles. I hope that the Avengers movies don’t completely lose the fun that made the first movie so great.
Some random thoughts:
- The guy sitting behind me brought either his mother or girlfriend (it was hard to tell) to see Civil War and she proceeded to ask (loudly) not only what was going on throughout the entire film but also who the various characters were. Like, she didn’t even recognize Spider-Man! If you haven’t seen any of the other Avengers-connected movies, you probably shouldn’t jump in with Civil War. You don’t have to be a Marvel devotee, but there is a lot in this movie that only makes sense if you have seen the other films. I have no idea what that lady got out of Civil War, if anything, other than just annoying everyone else in our section.
- There are a ton of Easter Eggs in Civil War. Here’s a roundup of what you might have missed – including an Arrested Development reference.
- There are two post-credit scenes – I didn’t think either were particularly mind-blowing, but they do tease future movies.
- I don’t think I love anything more than the decision to lean into the “Dad Hawkeye” (Jeremy Renner) angle. I have always been a Renner apologist, but this new wrinkle to his character constantly makes me smile.
- As usual, I didn’t spring for IMAX or 3-D.
I really liked Captain America: Civil War as it managed to explore some more complex ideas in a way that didn’t bog down the story. The film has a lot to accomplish and is able to do so in an entertaining and fun manner. There’s a lot of moving parts and characters to service in Civil War and while Captain America, Iron Man and Bucky are the primary focus, the secondary characters are mostly incorporated well into the story. Not only has Civil War made me look forward to MCU phase 3, but also the standalone movies for the new characters. Captain America: Civil War isn’t my favorite of the franchise, but it was still a very enjoyable film. A lot is asked of Civil War and the movie more than delivers.
Captain America: Civil War is currently in wide release.