Captain America: Civil War (aka Captain America 3) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
It’s the movie to put the old schoolyard debate to bed: who would win in a fight? Iron Man or Captain America? But let’s cover all the bases. What if Iron Man, War Machine, Black Panther, Black Widow, Vision and Spider Man battled Captain America, Falcon, The Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and Ant-Man? This movie aims to answer that question with a showy set piece in addition to being an intriguing political drama.
At first, I was unsure about another ensemble hero picture. After experiencing the overstuffing of both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I wasn’t much looking forward to returning to such a superhero picture formula that tries to throw everything it can at the screen. Just looking at the cast list made me wonder how any of this would be balanced even with a 2½ hour running time. The key lies in the directors Joe and Anthony Russo who proved how flawlessly they can stage characters and fight scenes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. They’ve done what Joss Whedon and Zack Snyder have failed to do with their uneven hero movies and orchestrate a complex balancing act of new and returning characters amid a plot that takes real chances. I feel much better knowing the future of the Avengers movies are in their hands.
The current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe finds Steve Rogers/Captain America still on the hunt for his best pal Bucky Barnes who has been brainwashed and robotized to fight for likes of Hydra. It’s a rather difficult task when you’re also pulling Avengers duties to stop the bad guys from stealing dangerous weapons. As if that weren’t enough to hamper his quest for Buck, the Avengers have now come under fire by the United Nations. Tired of the Avengers causing so much destruction with their vigilantism, the UN creates an accord to keep the Avengers under their thumb. For Tony Stark/Iron Man, the signing of the accord is the easiest of decisions with his PSTD and tremendous guilt complex. Some of the Avengers agree as they believe they have too much power not to be kept in check. Other Avengers do not as they believe this will hinder their ability to protect the world from the likes of secret armies and invading aliens. The ones that disagree with the accord align with Captain America’s rogue force determined to deprogram Bucky before the Avengers/governments can have their way with him.
The directing Russo brothers manage to add a grand dose of excitement and surprise to the superhero genre once again. The action scenes are far more than just a series of explosions as our heroes spend more time fighting hand-to-hand than with guns and energy blasts from a distance. For a movie that boasts flying robots, shrinking men and otherworldly beings firing lasers out of their foreheads, most of these practical stunts are rather impressive. One particular fight/chase scene with Captain America, Bucky Barnes and Black Panther becomes a fantastic sequence of punches, falls, jumps and kicks that extend all the way into traffic. Whereas most of the action in these Marvel movies seems to have become standard, Civil War reminds us all about how cool it is to watch stunts that carry weight.
The arc of Captain America’s distrust versus Iron Man’s paranoia would be enough for the script, but I was astonished at how well the B-plot arcs held up. Scarlet Witch struggles to come to terms with her own powers while Vision attempts the monumental task of living among humans with both of their concerns colliding into each other. Newcomer Black Panther has one of the most speedy, but fully realized arcs in the picture as he is consumed by revenge to become a costumed vigilante. Even Spider Man, for the brief amount of time he has on screen, is developed enough where he could easily slide into his own solo picture without the need for yet another origin story. The only character we don’t seem to have much time for in the movie is Zemo, an ex-HYDRA agent who seeks to bring down the Avengers by making them destroy each other. Though relegated as a behind-the-scenes mastermind of evil, it was refreshing to see such a secretive villain pull off such an ingenious plan without the need for costumes, robots, armies or blue lasers.
Finally, Civil War achieves the most impressive feat of all with the juggling of multiple tones. This is certainly one of the more darker Marvel Cinematic Universe movies (if not the darkest), but also one of the most fun. When Captain America and Iron Man trade words and fists, they’re fighting with personal regrets and rage. Their battle isn’t so much orchestrated by a villain as it is the true feelings that have been brewing over the course of several movies. But just in case things get too murky, there’s a fantastic airport battle of heroes that a sensational mix of special effects and banter that has achieved that rare feeling of the comic books.
Captain America: Civil War crams so much in and makes it all work so well at a brisk pace that it took me a while to gather my thoughts for this review. It’s hard to rank on the current scale of whether or not it topples the Russo brothers’ stellar Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If not better, it’s at least as good and is certainly one of the best Avengers movies for not being titled as one.