There’s a comfort in sitting down for a Marvel movie in that you pretty much know what you are in store for. Even when the films underwhelm, they are tonally consistent. With this kind of audience understanding and production, you can kind of take for granted what it actually takes to make films that connect and wonder if the streak will end. It seems the creative team behind Captain America: Civil War knew that they’d be under a lot of pressure to deliver. Rather than over-promise or try and do too much, they’ve crafted an amazing film that manages to be both tonally consistent while revealing new information about the MCU, pushing the boundaries of action and character to their limits.
Before this review continues, it should be noted that I am not being paid off by Marvel, as many on the internet love to scream when a writer gives a positive review to a Marvel film. But I will take some time to point out where Captain America: Civil War dusts the previous VS film we got. Marvel as a brand has proved itself almost untouchable and the reasons are on display in Civil War. After exiting the screening I remarked to my roommate that Civil War proves that when you are working with a team that understands the balance a movie needs, great results tend to follow.
Captain America: Civil War is at its core a story about characters and how they react to things. On one side you have Captain America (played by the ever reliable Chris Evans) and on the other Iron Man (this might be Robert Downey Jr. finest hour as the hero), diametrically opposed to how to deal with the Sokovia Accords, a plan agreed to by the UN to give the Avengers world governmental oversight. Complicating matters is the fact that Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is accused of attacking the UN, bringing not just the Avengers into instant conflict but a new hero T’Challa aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). Everyone takes sides, things are blown up, and that’s all right? Nope. Even while those things are happening Captain America: Civil War uses every opportunity to explore new character beats and team ups, which is a challenge given how many characters there are (I’ve made it this far and haven;t even mentioned Spider-Man (Tom Holland) who has the best intro of the group). Seeing T’Challa and his father speaking in Wakandan was just as amazing as seeing Steve and Bucky reconnect before a bruising action set piece involving a staircase. What makes this movie more than just a sequence of character beats is that screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely took the time to craft a dense plot that allowed for organic moments and facilitated strong action. No one in this film was short changed or their perspective rendered obsolete. Even if you go into this film as #TeamCap (the correct side) or #TeamIronMan, this movie manages to make you shift your allegiances and toe the line as the character dig into theirs.
An allegiance that won’t shift is my trust in the Russo Brothers, who delivered in spade with Winter Soldier, coming back to take the Marvel superheroes to another level. How they were able to balance this many characters, plot lines, and action set pieces, I’ll never know, but I am grateful for their stewardship. Theirs is a keen eye for moments within a scene, scenes that flow, and a cohesive filmmaking style. It’s so easy to applaud them for their action work, as this film contains some jaw-dropping set pieces (the airport scene and Black Panther’s chase of Bucky are standouts). They derive their spectacle from character (see Cap’s use of his shield) and don’t skimp on the visual storytelling within regular dramatic scenes.
It’s no secret that the Captain America films are among the best Marvel has to offer, and Civil War is perfect for the canon. Summer movies with spectacle are a dime a dozen, but Captain America: Civil War should rule them all because of its dedication to character based storytelling.
Bonus: How amazing is this Black Panther costume!