Captain America: Civil War Review
Steve Rogers/Captain America: We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.
Beware: spoilers may follow.
Back in 2016, DC and Marvel released similar movies. They both involved two iconic superheroes whose ideologies go into conflict with one another. They end up going to war with these ideologies, all the while undergoing manipulation by a powerful criminal mastermind. The difference between them is that one turned out successful and the other one did not. And today we’re going to look at the successful one with Captain America: Civil War. This movie had a great deal in its favor including a legitimate and complex dilemma, two sides where neither is fully in the wrong nor in the right, and some amazing action sequences.
Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are on a mission in Lagos to stop the evil Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo) from stealing a powerful weapon. Rumlow causes an explosion and Wanda tries to divert it inadvertently killing several Wakandan people. This event is only one of many grievances civilians have had with the Avengers as they are angry over the several past battles they had that resulted in them leaving death and destruction in their wake. Thus, Secretary of State Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) presents the Avengers with a document signed by 117 countries called the Sokovia Accords. According to the document the Avengers will be brought under the control of a United Nations panel. They will only be called upon to fight if and when the panel sees fit. If they refuse to comply with the Accords they go into retirement. While Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) supports government control over their actions, Steve does not.
Things only worsen when a bombing occurs during a United Nations meeting in Vienna regarding the signing of the Accords. Steve’s longtime friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is blamed for it. Wanting to keep his friends safe and independent, Steve goes rogue and Ross tasks Tony with bringing him and his friends in. Thus the Avengers are split apart. Captain America and Iron Man go to war with one another recruiting allies both old and new to their respective causes along the way. Backing up team Captain America are Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Sam Wilson/Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. Backing up team Iron Man are James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Vision (Paul Bettany).
The story is essentially a clash of egos and perspectives. The conflict is a very intriguing and complex one. What makes the movie so powerful however is that it’s not only the story that drives the conflict, but also the characters who do so as well. The emotion the characters give regarding their stances on the conflict, helps you identify with them and connect with the story.
The writing in this movie is strong. Even when our heroes are fighting against each other, you still feel and understand the bonds of friendship they share which makes their fight all the more intense. Marvel continues their tradition of having our heroes say quips and one-liners while they're fighting and here, they're at the top of their game. There is not a single quip or one-liner that isn't memorable or comes across as unfunny. More to the point, the movie helps in making the viewer root not only for the characters but also their perspectives regarding the issue. You see and hear the reasoning behind their stances. It takes time to let the characters interact including our two leads not only with others but also with each other. And these interactions help build towards some very high-drama and fully engaging action sequences.
The pacing in this movie is also well done. It succeeds in seamlessly introducing new heroes that are to have their own spin-offs but not giving them their own conflicts to divert from the main one. If anything their conflicts integrate with the Civil War. The action scenes don't drag on and work to the story's advantage. Zemo's plans while at first seemed like another story eventually integrates with the main story. It also succeeds in bringing back old heroes and giving quick but legitimate reasonings for the sides they've chosen.
The action in this movie is outstanding. The airport battle and the final battle between Tony and Steve are some of the greatest action scenes Marvel has put out yet. In regards to the airport battle we see everybody Stark and Rogers have recruited to their cause including Stark and Rogers themselves come face to face. They’ve all established themselves and the reasoning for the sides they’ve chosen to certain extents. And the experience is enjoyable to the end; from the humorous dialogue, to the various battles between all our heroes. In the words of Bucky Barnes “Everyone has a gimmick now” and seeing all the various ways our heroes both old and new fight and interact with one another is fun every step of the way. In regards to the final battle between Rogers and Stark the drama surrounding it, the performances of our characters, and the fight itself are intense. As I said before we’ve seen Stark and Rogers interact in this movie and past Marvel movies. And they have had their fair share of arguments but not to this extent.
All the actors in this movie give compelling performances. And, the characters, both old and new, make this movie. Even those do not offer that much new into this film, seeing them do what they've do, is still very fun.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man brings a whole new level of acting we have hardly seen before in any of the Marvel movies before this one. He does have his fair share of funny moments and you see him doing his thing of being charismatic, smart, and suave. What set this performance apart however are his feelings about the weight of his actions. You see why he wants to sign the Accords as he learns from a mother about her young son who was killed as a result of the Avengers’ battle in Sokovia. Even though we did not see this hearing Tony talk about it in such a way, in addition to him expressing his past actions, such as when he saw what the destruction his weapons caused in the hands of terrorists and him creating Ultron, really makes you feel for him and the misfortune he sees as him bringing down upon innocents. The rage, pain, and sadness he expresses upon learning the truth about his parents’ death make the final battle all the more intense. His decision to sign the Accords isn’t out of spite for the Avengers but rather out of a need to assure more innocents don’t die because of them. He tries to be the middleman between the Avengers and the government by making sure the Accords is signed but also making sure everyone is willing to comply peacefully knowing full well the Avengers will have to do so by force eventually.
- Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America is also a solid character and gives a good performance. He doesn’t just toss aside the Sokovia Accords when they are presented to the Avengers. When our heroes discuss the matter he is actually reading the documents signifying that even though he doesn’t fully agree with it he at least entertains the idea and sees it as a serious matter. On top of that you root for him to keep his friends safe since Steve as of this movie has lost virtually everything of his old life and didn’t even get to live it to its fullest. He instills confidence in those he cares about and like Tony you understand his reasoning. He sees the Sokovia Accords as the world leaders having an agenda. And he's seen organizations (like SHIELD and HYDRA) with agendas before and has seen said agendas and organizations shift. He sees the Avengers as having a moral responsibility of helping everyone in need and that they can’t give up just because people die. The way he sees it, the government as trying to take that away from them as they could or could not send them where they want or need to go or split the teams altogether.
- Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes is yet another great character and gives a good performance as both the brainwashed super-soldier and Steve’s best friend. This guy is the last link to Steve’s past and despite the horrible things he’s done, the bond these two share really helps you feel for him.
- Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, despite her small part in the big scheme of things (and her shaky accent), gives a great performance. You can definitely tell she's come a long way since she first joined forces with the Avengers and they do give an idea of her fear and sadness of what happens involving her and her friends.
- Scarlet Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow gives a great performance as well. Despite backing up Tony she doesn’t show any hatred towards Steve and tries to avoid having to fight him. And the movie does show and make us feel for her struggle of having her choose between her friendship with Steve and her alliance with Tony. And there are devastating consequences involving her choices.
- William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross gives an underrated performance and a character that has been long overshadowed throughout the MCU. We haven’t seen this character since the Incredible Hulk in 2008 and they give the character a much-needed improvement. He’s not just a guy hell-bent on destroying the Avengers and going all out with the military. He’s smarter and political now and he uses his political power to take on the Avengers and goes about it effectively. Not through power, but through elaborate planning.
- Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, and Paul Bettany as Vision all give great and memorable performances and have many fun scenes (especially during the airport battle). Although they are by no means bad it just feels like they’re doing the things they do best. Granted they’re very good things but they don’t breathe much new life into the movie.
- Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther likewise give top-notch performances and have scenes where they steal the show during the airport battle but for the most part they’re mostly there to set up for their respective future movies. However the movie does give an idea of their characters, who they are, and their reasons for the side they've backed up within a few minutes and they’re not in the movie so much that they deviate from the main focus. At the same time they are in the film just enough to make us look forward to their future solo movies.
No movie is flawless however and this movie does have one flaw:
The one underwhelming element was the villainous mastermind Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl). The actor does give an all right performance and his plan is very interesting albeit flawed. He knows that he cannot destroy the Avengers himself as stronger people have tried to do so and failed. Thus he attempts to make them destroy themselves. And he has a solid motivation for wanting to destroy the Avengers as his family died in the Battle of Sokovia. He has a few memorable lines but he doesn't look or sound that threatening. Nothing about this guy stands out completely. His plan as stated before initially feels disconnected from the main plot. It also relies on all the events of the movie going off without a hitch. Nevertheless he is one of the few Marvel villains to in a sense actually succeed in his plan despite not the way he wanted. Despite there being a ray of hope at the end with the Avengers still around, they are ultimately split among their ideals and each other. They have all lost something important to them as a result of this war. Even though the movie does not kill Zemo off, he doesn't leave me wanting him back.
Despite some of the movie’s miniscule flaws, they in no way detract from the movie’s overall quality. Captain America: Civil War offers a good story, a great conflict, and phenomenal characters to drive the aforementioned elements. It doesn’t matter who won this Civil War, or which side you chose prior to this movie’s release, because at the end of the day we all win.