Captain America. Iron Man. Black Widow. The Winter Soldier. War Machine. Vision. Scarlet Witch. Hawkeye. Black Panther. Spiderman. And that list doesn’t include the villains nor the side characters. Yet somehow, Marvel has pulled off such a crowded movie with flying colors and proves once again just how smart the folks over at Disney and Feige are. Not only is Captain America: Civil War a fantastic superhero film, it’s an enticing drama full of powerful performances, taut pacing and amazing action sequences that will stand the test of time.
“While a great many see you as a hero, there are some who would prefer the word vigilante.” Captain America: Civil War has an agenda but it doesn’t feel forced or unrealistic. It takes place after the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier and the consequences from that film are just as dire as one would expect them to be. The Avengers are being called in, not to suit up but rather told when to. This thrust of supervision does not bode well for Steve Rogers while at the same time Tony Stark is one of the main reasons it’s being kickstarted. This battle of ideologies sets a schism down the group of superheroes and lends itself to some amazing dialogue, banter and reasoning. The events in Captain America: Civil War feel authentic, there is a sense of legitimacy in everything that happens. It feels like something that could happen today, this very moment and mankind would be in the middle of one of the biggest diplomatic discussions of all time. All of this realism is a testament to the skills of directors Joe and Anthony Russo, the cast all-around, and a fantastic script penned by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
The film opens and we are immediately thrust in a grim and dark world. This is Marvel's most mature film yet and it shows within the first few seconds. The Marvel logo doesn't even appear until several minutes after and Henry Jackman's score is triumphant but there's a foreboding undertone warning us of the events to come. What Marvel has always nailed perfectly is balance in tone. Regardless of how CROWDED some of their films are (e.g. Avengers: Age of Ultron and Iron Man 2) they consistently know how to balance the humor with the drama, the action with the down time, the large set pieces with the more intimate locations. Speaking of overcrowding, there is none here. Not only have the Russos masterfully balanced the tone, they have also balanced the ridiculous amount of characters and plot points. Everything that happens, everyone who appears, it's all well-deserved. No character is brushed over, everyone has their time to shine. No scene feels wasted or rushed, EVERYTHING WORKS. The tension between TeamIronMan and TeamCaptainAmerica never feels forced or scripted. Everyone's reasoning for the side they've chosen makes logical scene in terms of character and the events that place them.
When it comes to the superhero genre, it's impossible to not compare films these days. Not only because there's so many within so little time, but also because a lot of them hit similar beats and tell similar stories. While Captain America: Civil War is unique with its approach and style, it'd be selfishly ignorant not to compare it to DC's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Both films put two beloved superheroes against each-other because of a battling sense of ideologies. However, Captain America: Civil War outshines its competitor.
"I'm sorry Tony...but he's my friend."
"So was I..."
There's a reason why that exchange works. There's a reason why we as an audience member feel the baggage of that line. These characters have a history and a story we care about. Obviously one can argue that Marvel has had ten films leading up to this entire situations while all Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice had was one. But even within this singular film the buildup is full of great drama with great character moments and dialogue pieces that etch out their opinions exponentially. These characters FEEL like people. their decisions are backed not only by great writing, but fantastic acting. Unfortunately, for DC, "Martha" will forever be the norm of inexcusable plot elements. The "Martha" moment between Batman and Superman had no substance, no lead-up and no legitimate, dramatic moment other than to propel the story forward. It felt manipulative and almost a cop-out. Batman didn't engage Superman in battle until halfway through the film and the same happens with Civil War. TeamIronMan and TeamCaptainAmerica never go for their "showdown" until about an hour and a half into the film but it feels earned. The anticipation doesn't disappoint and the reason for why who is fighting who makes perfect sense. There are consequences and everyone loses something, before and after the ultimate fight. Whether it be a person, their dignity, their sense of righteousness or morality, everyone suffers. The Russos don't treat these characters as plot pieces, they treat them as people with feelings and goals.
While marketing isn't directly connected with the final product, it does skew our expectations of a film. The marketing team of a film is responsible for advertising what the film is about and when it's releasing. Here, Marvel's marketing team excelled. More than 90% of this film has not been shown in any marketing material. Much of the plot points have been hidden in secrecy and for the better. The twists and turns are completely unexpected and unlike with Wonder Woman in BvS, we don't know how and when T'Challa (Black Panther) and Spiderman will show up until they do and there appearances are mesmerizing. T'Challa's entrance and his entire introductory scene is powerful as Chadwick Boseman loses himself and owns the screen. He nails the Wakanda accent perfectly that it's hard to imagine what his real voice sounds like. His Black Panther is a force to be reckoned with and his character is the most subdued and serious. Holland's Peter Parker introduction is the biggest crowd pleaser and the music that goes with his scene is genius. Holland is exceptionally charismatic and this is the definite incarnation of Spiderman to date.
Composer Henry Jackman, who also did the score for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, retains his position as one of the best decisions Marvel's ever made. What he did for the Winter Soldier's theme was so eerie and effective yet he managed to still capably capture the heroism and triumph of the star-spangled-hero. Here, Jackman has the ultimate task of creating themes for each main character and somehow melding all of these into one giant, coherent piece of music that not only fits the tone of the film, but the tone of Marvel itself. His work keeps the pacing of the film in check and is much of an emotional backbone as a great score can be.
Captain America: Civil War is Marvel's most complex, mature and emotional film yet. The action choreography, both on camera and behind camera, is astounding; but more importantly it has great purpose. There's a scene early on in the film that shows a high-school-aged Tony Stark and it's subtly beautiful. It shows why Stark is the way he is and why Robert Downey Jr.'s the praised thesbian he is. The airport fight scene is one of the most cinematically memorable moments of all time. All that said, does have some drawbacks. The main villain of the film is somewhat underdeveloped. His master plan and execution are all intriguing and well-presented but lack enough substance. There's nothing wrong with Daniel Bruhl's performance at all, and the motivation is certainly there, but the character is very flat and not the most interesting to watch. The ending feels a bit too convenient and "bow-tied" but still, the motivation is there. There's a fight scene early on in the film with Captain America nemesis Crossbones that feels a tad rushed but this film rarely takes a misstep and it's hard to find any glaring flaws. The CGI is top-notch and unlike BvS, it's very difficult to tell what is real and what is not. The blend of VFX with SFX and on-set locations is seamless. Every character is given a special moment (especially Ant-Man) and no one seems useless or present just to move the story forward. Captain America: Civil War has set the bar for Marvel yet again but not to worry, because they seem to have no trouble outdoing themselves every time they step back onto the big screen.