Saturday, May 7, 2016

Captain America: Civil War Review

"There will be consequences."

Eight years. For eight years now the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building to something uniquely special, demonstrating brilliance on both a business and storytelling front by playing the long game with precision and patience and confidence. We met the cinematic incarnation of Tony Stark back in 2008 and while the first Iron Man is a terrific film and was a massive financial success, no one could have possibly seen this coming. Eight years of solo films and team up spectacles and post credit teases, terrific performances and dazzling special effects and wonderfully fleshed out characters and relationships. Eight years of cinema that has at times been disappointing yet at other times been a reminder of why sitting in a movie theater is such a glorious experience. 

Captain America: Civil War is one of those spectacular, incredibly assembled reminders, a big screen bonanza that balances both the awe inspiring action set pieces that are associated with superhero pictures and a strong desire to stay grounded through character and really terrific dialogue. I recall prior to the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier that I was openly decrying the choice of the Russo brothers to do the film because of their run of the mill comedic background, as I was hopeful that such a story would be taken more seriously. I was thrilled to be proven so wrong when that film featured a tremendous tonal balance and kicked my ass with its hard hitting action, and the exact same can be said of their return to the MCU here. Civil War showcases just the right amount of action and when it hits, goodness does it bash us against the wall with ferocity (and some of the concepts of Cap's shield and what it is capable of are ingenious). What the Russo brothers deliver overall though is the full range of entertainment, an experience that makes you laugh, thrills you and also is jam packed with emotion that resonates because everything that happens has eight years worth of consequences built into it.

The movie isn't perfect, but nothing is, and even at its absolute best (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Winter Soldier and Civil War) the MCU is flawed. The villains of the film are a bit disappointing for different reasons, as Crossbones is all kinds of awesome but used extremely briefly and then Baron Zemo gives you that feeling of a character that could have been truly special but is held back due to being underwritten. His place in the film and the universe as a whole is enormous as he is the catalyst to the conflict in Civil War, and it's game changing stuff, but his motivations aren't fleshed out quite enough to resonate. They are there and are explained, and while his actions aren't justified his reasons for the anger and pain he lives with are, but it just felt like he was a couple of missing scenes short of being a truly top notch antagonist.

The new additions to this cinematic landscape are not only handled well but have me absolutely psyched for their own standalone films and places in the bigger picture in the future. Black Panther is beautifully portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, delivering an emotionally complex performance that gave me a little extra investment in any sequence he was involved in. Safe to say I cannot wait for a deeper look into his character when fantastic filmmaker Ryan Coogler brings it to the big screen in 2018. After an entire trilogy of Spider-Man films featuring Tobey Maguire and then a quick turnaround into reboots with Andrew Garfield, I wondered if I would really be that interested in another actor taking on the role so soon after but those concerns were dismissed pretty much instantly when Tom Holland made it clear that he plans on owning that damn character going forward. His smart-ass teenage attitude and look just felt right, and by next summer we will already be witnessing his standalone as well (although rumor has it other familiar MCU faces could appear). I'm in.

In regards to other standouts, the way Ant-Man is incorporated into the film is wonderful and while he doesn't have a ton of screen time, every second he is around Paul Rudd and the outstanding screenplay from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely make them count. The other usual suspects all bring their typically rock solid performances to the table, and I am really finding myself developing a fictional world movie character crush on Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch played by the beautiful and remarkably talented Elizabeth Olsen. We were only given a relatively small taste of her capabilities in Age of Ultron, but here she really shows off just how powerful the character is capable of being and seeing some of it during the superb airport battle scene filmed with the brand new IMAX/Arri cameras was a stunning, jaw dropping experience. That entire piece of the film as a whole is so epic in scale and blends everything you could ask for from blockbuster cinema, it's worth the price of admission alone.

It feels like eventually these movies will feature "too much" in terms of character and story, and the goal of making it all fluidly gel together will be impossible but today is not that day. It's so impressive how each character in Captain America: Civil War not only matters but is given a chance to stand out, even if it's briefly. Eight years in the making, what started as Tony Stark building his first suit to escape death has become an all encompassing world of different faces from iconic comic book lore that even after all this time has me excited for what's to come. Some are feeling superhero fatigue I'm sure, and to each their own, but as long as the releases are as great as Civil War, I never will.



  1. I thought Zemo was one of the better villains after Loki and Winter Soldier/Hydra. The only other good villain I can think of is.....sorry, I can't. His motivations were totally believable and had more to them than CONQUER/DESTROY!! Great stuff that I am anxiously waiting for more.

    1. After rewatching this on Sunday (and actually enjoying it even more, which is hard to believe since I already loved it), I liked Zemo even more the second time around. I never disliked him as a villain, I just thought he was a little bit generic angry voice villain guy and then they quickly gave you his motivations. Almost a too little too late to completely sell him as a great villain...

      BUT, after rewatching, even though his role being only slightly underwritten still bothers me a tiny bit, one thing I realized that I love about him is that he at least had realistic motivations, like you said, and the fact that he actually technically accomplished his goal. It's so predictable for the bad guy to just lose at the end and heroes win the day, but I love the concept of a villain who knows they are physically strong enough to win but perhaps they can destroy their opposition mentally, and even if Civil War ends with a bit of an optimistic feeling, the damage is still done. Zemo was, technically, successful, and I love that.