Captain America: Civil War is the first superhero film to skillfully depict the consequences of collateral damage. We got a hackneyed attempt to address this issue in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Where that utterly failed, Civil War succeeds in a dark and thoughtful way. It tears the Avengers apart, turning the most stalwart allies into bitter enemies. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have crafted a mind-blowing action film with a deep, personal connection. It is not flawless, suffering from the bloat of cramming in multiple storylines. It seems each of these films has to set-up a dozen others down the road. I wish they had scaled back a bit here, because they could have had a comic masterpiece. This review is spoiler free except for one declaration, which will have fan boys beaming from ear to ear. Spider-Man has NEVER been this good on film. Tom Holland, you’re about to be a mega-star.
Captain America: Civil War opens with the Avengers tracking an old enemy in Lagos, Nigeria. They apprehend him, but at a tremendous cost of innocent lives. The world has had enough of their heroics. Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt), now Secretary of State, presents the team an ultimatum – The Sokovia Accords. Named after the tiny country that was destroyed in their battle against Ultron. It would give the United Nations control over the Avengers. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is totally against it. He knows that politicians should never have the reins of such a powerful group. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) not only disagrees, he has helped to orchestrate the agreement. Recent events, and reflection on his losses, have uncharacteristically made the rebel a conformist.
While the Avengers debate the issues, a sinister deed from the past has resurfaced. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) has become the pawn of a mysterious enemy – Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl). Like a puppet master, he is pulling the strings towards a secret agenda. Steve believes that the Soldier, his dearest ‘Bucky’; is being manipulated. Stark does not, as well as several other members of the team. The situation gets even more complicated with the emergence of a new hero, the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). He’s sworn vengeance against the Soldier. As the Avengers splinter into factions, new allies are chosen, but all are completely oblivious to the real endgame.
The character development in this film is superb. We’ve reached a point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where all of the Avengers are well known. Their personalities, failures, and strengths have been thoroughly explored. We understand what makes them tick. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers have been on a head to head collision from day one. They both have an incredible aptitude for good, but are unshakeable in their faith once choices are made. This is the true clash of titans. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans are excellent here. They own these characters. It is both exhilarating and heartbreaking to see them as adversaries.
The supporting characters in Civil War steal a whole lot of thunder. The climactic battle against each other is worth every freaking penny. I daresay this is the most entertaining fight scene in any Marvel film so far. The newest Avengers bring their A-game to take on the big dogs of the team. Two in particular are so awesome and unexpected; they lift the showdown into the stratosphere. The Russo Brothers did a helluva job staging these scenes. I fully expect them to blow our minds even further with the Avengers sequels.
The bone that I have to pick is the bane of the genre. There’s way too much going on here. Captain America is the star, but by a hair. Civil War could easily have been the third Avengers film. While I loved all of the characters, it’s a pile on. The overarching story is so interesting and provocative; it’s a shame to get lost in the buffet. Yes, these are made for profit, not to satisfy the nerds. But there has to be a point of saturation in a film. It kills me because Civil War hangs on the cusp of greatness. The good obliterates the bad, but it doesn’t erase it entirely. Note to Disney and Marvel, you have us already enthralled, it’s okay to pull back.
My final thought is all about Spidey. Tom Holland is a joyous discovery. I didn’t have a clue who this actor was, but the Marvel team has struck gold. They have finally cast the perfect Spiderman. I’ll be setting up my tent now to be the first in line to see his standalone film.