search slide
search slide
pages bottom

Captain America: Civil War is peak Marvel Cinematic Universe

Last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron had some problems with pacing and plot. After Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy had exposed us to two new flavors of Marvel movies, Joss Whedon’s Avengers sequel was too “generic Marvel” to completely succeed. Captain America: Civil War, the kick-off film to Marvel’s third cinematic phase, feels like a high point in the 13-film Marvel Cinematic Universe, largely because it is a low point for some of our favorite characters. Not only is the movie a lot of fun, but it’s a rare Marvel movie that doesn’t feel like it’s wasting any time setting up anything else.

Bottom line for those who don’t want details: Civil War is a good summer superhero movie. It’s a bit longer than it needs to be (147 minutes with at least one credits scene), but knows how to deftly move between jokes and serious beats. If you’ve been watching the trailers for this movie, you know what everything is building to already (there’s no hidden climax here). The only thing that remains is to wait until Captain America: Civil War comes out on May 6. You don’t need to know anything more about the plot than what you already do, and there aren’t any comics you need to read to get to know any characters. If you can avoid reading too much criticism between now and your viewing, the only things that can be spoiled for you are specific details and scene descriptions.

If you’ve continued reading, you’re interested in some more detail about Captain America: Civil War, so here we go.

The picture the trailers paint is pretty accurate as far as the plot goes. The movie opens and the Avengers Team from the end of Age of Ultron has been operating for about six months. Captain America (Chris Evans), The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), The Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) make up the Avengers and Tony Stark is running the thing, but stays out of the armor when he can. A mission goes south in Lagos and The Avengers add more casualties to a growing list that includes battling the Chitauri in New York (Avengers), crashing Helicarriers in Washington DC (The Winter Soldier), and blowing up the impoverished city of Sokovia (Age of Ultron). Secretary of State Ross (a promoted William Hurt returning from The Incredible Hulk) tells Stark and the Avengers that the United Nations is going to impose the Sokovia Accords on the team, so a special UN council would be in charge of when and if the team is deployed.

Steve Rogers is against the Accords from the beginning. In The Winter Solider, he exposed that Hydra had been using SHIELD and in The Avengers a shadow government (The World Security Council) launched a nuke at New York, so Cap doesn’t trust governing bodies. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) has an encounter with the mother of a man who died in the Sokovia explosion, and in his first movie (2008) he turned his father’s weapons company into a futurist one, so he sees another dangerous situation that needs oversight.

Maybe Steve and Tony could have talked it out before things boiled over, but a terrorist attack happens that takes place before the Accords can be fully ratified, and brings T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Bucky (Sebastian Stan), and Zemo (Daniel Bruel) into the fold, all three expanding the rift between the team members in different ways.

Captain America: Civil War manages to avoid a lot of the crutches the Marvel Cinematic Universe has relied on in the past. Unlike the phase two movies, this one doesn’t feature a mid-movie pause for world-building purposes. It also skips the now-tired climax where our heroes face off against a dozen or more computer-generated enemies in battle royale. Civil War just focuses on the characters that are involved, even if those characters are introduced as the plot tumbles forward.

Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow (see: punching Bucky’s head above), Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, and Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man are all fantastic examples of economy of character use. This is still a Captain America movie first, so none of them have big arcs, but they do have a handful of standout sequences. When the movie ends, you’ll be focused on the fates of Bucky, Cap, and Iron Man, but the moments that will stick in your mind will be moments with the aforementioned fantastic four. Nothing about these team members feels excessive, even when Tony Stark takes a time out to visit a young boy in Queens.

Civil War is the first of the MCU movies to make total use of the audience’s knowledge that there were 12 films building to this and there will be about seven films spinning out of it. Instead of slamming references to the comics together as a way of making promises about future installments, Civil War ends with just a single promise: This isn’t over.

At the risk of over-hyping a certain fandom by blowing a dog whistle, this is the Empire Strikes Back of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. Up until now, setting up the stakes of the MCU has always included Hydra, a madman, and/or a magic stone (surely all that is going to pay off later on in the two parts of Avengers: Infinity War, right?). This movie doesn’t need those things, because it has heroes acting like heroes and recognizes that can mean something different to each character. The team that took nine years to assemble takes one film to organically disassemble in a way where it’s near impossible to pick a side as an audience member. It will kill civilians and make you feel sad about it even though you knew it was necessary. This film’s consequences have been broadcasted since the very beginning: Divided, we fall.

The Good: There’s a lot, but MVP award is split between Black Panther, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, and Black Widow.

The Bad: The movie’s kind of long. And in a tongue in cheek way: Just when you thought you were beyond caring that there were seven more Marvel movies on the way, this one re-invigorates an interest in the Earth-bound characters.

The Ugly: Crossbones’ face under that mask, or that feeling in your chest when young Robert Downey Jr appears on screen.

Leave a Reply

Captcha image