Critics love Captain America: Civil War, and a Forbes reporter even estimated that the movie will break records when it comes out on May 6, and win $2 billion, which would be a new record for the superhero genre. Bring it on — this film deserves it.
Action, drama, humor, mystery, and a final gripping emotional battle that will leave audiences breathless, are all rooted in the steady character development of a whopping eight movies, and a fantastic villain who is both intelligent and subtle.
Captain America: Civil War has the intrigue of Winter Soldier and the hilarious banter of The Avengers, not to mention a final battle which puts most of the previous action (in a wonderfully action-packed cinematic universe) to shame. Oh, and it has Spiderman — a funnier, more relatable Spiderman not dropping with teenage angst and drama.
Don’t let the title fool you: this is an Avengers film, featuring nearly the entire cast — and then some. You have the ultimate struggle between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), but it reverberates and brings in each of the supporting characters from their previous films.
Less is more, when compared to Avengers: Age of Ultron (2014). The second Avengers film gave some air to each of the heroes’ backstories, but it bit off more than it could chew, and you came away with the sense that there are too many heroes and too much going on with each one.
Civil War keeps the focus on Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, with the side entrances of new heroes Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spiderman (Tom Holland). Black Panther is an impressive addition, and while his character’s arc may be predictable, Boseman nails the vengeful spirit of a bereaved son. Each other hero brings out their character in subtle ways, maintaining the backstory from previous films but not getting bogged down in new information.
This helps Civil War avoid the major pitfall of Ultron, and even while the movie adds yet more heroes, it deftly dodges the sense of hero fatigue. This is a fundamental achievement, considering that there have been no less than twelve films before this one, and we have at least ten more to go.
That said, each of the heroes makes an appearance, and it is quite a potent mix: Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). No less than twelve heroes go head-to-head, and there are some fantastic surprises.
Jet pack suits of armor, tiny drones, a shrinking man, lighting-fast webs, a lightning gem, and the good old-fashioned bow and arrow each make an appearance, to wonderful effect.
Even better, there is a constant trail of banter, much of it from the new Spiderman. “You have a metal arm? Dude, that’s awesome!” gets the quick rejoinder, “I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a fight before, but there’s usually not this much talking.” The film even mocks a few central elements of the Marvel cinematic universe. Spidey says of Captain America’s shield, “That thing does not obey the laws of physics at all!”
Indeed, some of the action is just over-the-top enough to elicit laughter, but not to be wholly unbelievable. Captain America even uses his strength to keep a helicopter from taking off.
Next Page: Fantastic intrigue, the meaning behind the two sides, and the trailer.
Nevertheless, the action takes a strong second to the intrigue. The subtle villain Zemo (Daniel Brühl) has a powerfully intricate plot that proves masterful in execution. The central theme behind all the action — how values and ideas drive the two main characters — has a major part in Zemo’s scheme, and this villain will keep you guessing until the very end. Each of his moves are shrouded in mystery, but they are as brilliant in retrospect as they seem pointless and out-of-place at the time.
One fantastic big reveal, planted at the very beginning of the movie but nearly impossible to predict, drives the film’s eventual outcome, even while keeping everything in character for our central heroes.
Finally, Civil War presents two very compelling notions of what it means to be a hero in an increasingly violent world. Every superhero film features violence — audiences like to watch big battles between heroes and villains, very rarely considering the tragic human cost which would be involved in these cinematic action sequences. Civil War considers the fallout of previous films, not just in terms of the unnamed (and one very much named) dead, but also in terms of the likely escalation to follow.
It becomes a very important question whether or not the presence of heroes incites villains and therefore the violence, and whether or not heroes should be reined in by a global rule-making body like the United Nations. Even at the end of the film, both sides have their arguments, and it is no easy thing to say which of them is finally right.
Captain America and Iron Man represent two very western ideas of man. Tony Stark is the fallen man who realizes his own sin, aims to repent of it, and defend the world against the evils of his own humanity. Steve Rogers, by contrast, is the American romantic hero, who will bear any burden to set the world to rights. The skeptic and the optimist are often at loggerheads, but it is their very disagreement which strengthens both sides.
A civil war is that tragic occurrence which follows a rupture in that balance between hope and despair, and the fallout can truly be devastating. This movie captures the nobility and the tragedy in one, and manages to make the whole thing not just entertaining, but hilarious.