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Captain America: Civil War (2016) Movie Review

I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.


"Captain America" Experience

On its opening weekend back in 2016, I joined the mass of viewers who flocked to the theaters to see Captain America: Civil War. Not only had I been looking forward to seeing this film for over a year leading up to its release, but I also wanted to see it before it was ruined by clicking on a spoiler-filled link or overhearing someone’s verbal review in the mall parking lot. Below is my spoiler-free review of Captain America: Civil War.

Civil War Poster

Plot Summary (Contains Spoilers)

When a mission in Nigeria turns deadly, the Avengers are brought in to answer for all of their past mistakes. Secretary of State Ross recalls previous Avengers missions that resulted in catastrophic damage and loss of life.

Ross then presents the team with the Sokovia Accords, a document ratified by 117 countries that calls for all superheroes to answer to a higher authority and be held accountable for their actions. No longer will they be free to carry out missions on their own but will instead be supervised to ensure that things don’t get out of hand.

This ultimatum divides the Avengers in half. Tony Stark leads the heroes who willingly sign the accords. Steve Rogers and the other half of the Avengers refuse to sign, citing that the purpose of the Avengers is to have a team that can go anywhere at the drop of a hat when necessary without waiting for orders.

Rogers demands trust and the continuation of this freedom while Stark is looking for order amid the chaos. Like most difficult issues, it’s tough to decide who is right.

This verbal struggle turns violent when an attack in Vienna causes the death of King T’Chaka of Wakanda. His son, T’Challa, sets out to avenge his father's death only to find that the attacker is none other than Bucky Barnes, Cap’s best friend and outlaw assassin, also known as The Winter Soldier.

Rogers and fellow Avenger Sam Wilson (Falcon), go after Barnes before T’Challa, taking on his father's mantle of the Black Panther, can reach him first. Tensions grow more and more heated as the Avengers choose their side, each for a different reason, culminating in an epic fight at a German airport, causing only more pain and compromised allegiances. The final battle boils down to Cap and The Winter Soldier versus Iron Man in the most explosive and heartbreaking climactic fight which ends well for no one.

Captain America: Civil War Trailer 1

My Review

This film, while it has its share of laughs, takes a darker tone from the films leading up to it. Not only do we learn that the battle of Sokovia was not without its casualties, despite the Avengers' best efforts, but we are forced to realize that when you see an explosion or a crumbling piece of architecture, it has a lasting effect on the people who live and work there.

Different perspectives are at play. While the team was divided, they still resisted that division, trying to respect each other’s viewpoints while still maintaining their own. It’s not until a third act twist makes the fighting personal that the Avengers' future feels dangerously threatened.

The Road to Infinity War

This story is about wrapping up the loose ends of the Barnes and Rogers relationship. At the same time, it tears apart the much bigger group in order to provide the opportunity to patch them back together when a greater threat arrives.

We all know that they will have to get back together in order to have future movies. So, this movie doesn’t take things as far as they could have. While the trailers showed the two sides running full steam at each other, the battle at the airport feels more like a sparring match between most of the warriors. Luckily, this lack of trying is saved by some of the biggest laughs and surprises in the movie, especially by the newer cast members, and it's still the highlight of the film and surpasses fans' expectations.

New Hero Introductions

That being said, many have been gushing about the introduction of Black Panther and Spider-Man as well as the return of Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch, and Vision, and these characters live up to the hype. There is no denying that the new guys steal the show.

Black Panther, whether in costume or not, is the kind of character that you would feel the need to kneel before with his wise, controlled presence and underlying rage. He's a brand new personality type that adds a new, welcome layer to the budding team.

Spidey is just a kid who’s just happy to be picked for a team, any team. It was refreshing to dive right into the character without having to hear about his origin story for the millionth time. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker says everything that needs to be said to catch us up to what kind of Spider-Man he is without reiterating what we already know. Also, for the first time, we have a true wise-cracking youth as Spider-Man with his inability to keep quiet or control his excitement during a fight.

Ant-Man delivers some of the biggest laughs and surprises in his small (no pun intended) but crucial role.

Scarlet Witch is the perfect wild card and a true example of the kind of power that inspired the accords in the first place.

Vision, too, is coming into his own as a more fleshed-out character with a lot to learn about humanity.

New Sides to Old Characters

The original team members don’t come with their old bag of tricks either. Tony Stark is at his most intense and serious from the get-go. You have never seen him so driven and emotional.

Steve Rogers, for a trained soldier, is at his most resistant, intent on not only keeping things as they are but righting the past wrongs of his friend, Barnes.

Sam Wilson and James Rhodes are their loyal friends with really nothing to gain but everything to lose from this fight.

Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Vision are torn by the necessity of their beliefs but hate how it’s destroying the team.

With all of these characters, side plots, and even a minor but effective villain thrown in, it barely registers as a Captain America story. His reluctance and later resistance to signing the accords set the story in motion and bring to light a lot of the internal issues that the team has always carried with them. From there, the movie is a perfectly executed balancing act that keeps all of the plates spinning while they circle around Cap and his own personal mission.

The Avengers have always been a bit shaky as a team, but they always fight for the same goal. When politics come into play, it morphs into a personal struggle that doesn’t go quite far enough. Knowing ahead of time what movies are to follow can sometimes spoil the surprise and can limit the writers as to how far they can take things.

I was a little disappointed that they didn’t take more risks and ensure that this damage lasts. However, the great thing about this franchise is that every movie leaves you wanting more and gets you excited for what’s to follow. Between the new characters, the differing viewpoints, and past events brought to light, there is a lot to build on and repair.

Civil War Trailer 2

A Blockbuster That Delivers

Civil War did not hit the ball out of the park for me, but it did make it to the bleachers, and that’s all I could ask for as the summer movie season takes off. While I hate watching friends fight, I was glad that they did for my amusement and for the amusement of the other fans who come to the theater to be thrilled, engaged, and enlightened by decades-old characters who have jumped out of their hand-drawn illustrations and onto the silver screen and seamlessly transitioned from one art form to another, bringing them closer to reality and mirroring our own current political strife.


Buy a copy of Captain America: Civil War here!

© 2016 Laura Smith


Linda Robinson on May 12, 2016:

Hello Laura happy to be following you, nice meeting you. Absolutely loved your hub about Captain America. Very detailed tons of awesome information and covered so much of the movie without giving it away or spoiling it for anyone. But so well done, excellent and interesting. Talk to you again. Linda