Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016)
I've written a lot about Marvel products - which isn't hard considering how ubiquitous they have become. For the most part, I have enjoyed most of what Marvel has been putting out, but I feel like they have not been breaking much new ground lately. Case in point: Despite giving last year's Age of Ultron a glowing review, I thought about that very little about it after I saw it. I spent most of the year thinking about more interesting films such as Inside Out, The Force Awakens and even Marvel's own Ant-Man. To be fair, I stand behind a positive review of Age of Ultron, but it also showed cracks in the armor. To be fair, there were reasons to be excited for Civil War. Film-for-film, Captain America has possibly the best track record. The First Avenger was great, and the Winter Soldier was even better. With that in mind, I hate to admit this sort of thing, but I had a feeling I knew what I was gonna say in my review: "It was nothing new, but they still made an enjoyable movie." I've never been so happy to be wrong.
As the title implies, Captain America and Iron Man are at odds after a rescue in an African nation goes awry, resulting in many casualties. The Avengers are given a choice - register and become employees of the government or become outlaws. Being moved by the family of one of the victims, Tony Stark is more willing to play ball and join registration, feeling that regulation will help . Captain America on the other hand, is reluctant to sign off on that because he fears that with government regulation, he will not be able to do his job. The two collide over ideologies and bring in a cavalcade of other superheroes - Ant-man, Black Widow, and Spider-man who are all on different sides of the fence. Meanwhile, there is a puppet master who is manipulating Bucky and creating tension, with some facts about Bucky's shady past finally revealed.
As mentioned early, Captain America: Civil War is a triumph. After constantly upping the ante, Captain America succeeds in a unique way: By actually scaling back. Civil War offers the best of both worlds. The film presents the big crossover with Cap and Iron Man teaming with/battling all these other heroes, but the focus remains where it needs to. Heroes like Ant-man and Spider-man appear in supporting roles (admittedly Spider-man being a supporting player in another character's film is kind of surreal). With Cap and Tony being leads with dozens of supporting characters instead of a huge team of co-leads, the film feels less clustered as characters are not constantly jockeying for position.
Civil War defies the conventions in a few other ways. Humor is still present in this film, but the humor in this film feels less unctuous - As funny as I found the other Avengers movies, I usually felt like I was being nudged in the ribs. The villain is again kind of forgettable, but he works. The real show is Captain America vs. Iron Man and the villain is just despicable to keep the flow of the film going. Also after years of explosive climaxes that are exciting, but overstay their welcome, Civil War has a quiet but exciting mano a mano battle. This felt necessary because the big action set piece actually happens a few scenes earlier, and the Russo Brothers were smart enough to know they didn't need to try to top that.
The scene in question is the big battle royal between all the heroes. This scene may just be the best action scene of any Marvel movie. Captain America, Bucky, Iron Man, Spider-man, Black Widow, Ant-Man and so many others are battling it out - not against some villain, but against each other. There are a lot of characters and each of them have a moment to shine. Ant-man is crawling around inside Iron Man's suit, Hawkeye uses his bow and arrow skills in new ways, and despite this not being Spider-man's first rodeo, seeing him in action against guys like Captain America is a fun change.
Also, the story allows for some much-needed character development. Captain America has remained one of the most interesting Avengers because his limits have been genuinely tested in The Winter Soldier and this film is no exception. However, many of the other characters receive some much needed development. After years of being a consummate screw-up, Tony Stark's mistakes finally catch up with. While he still remains a fast talking smart aleck, we see a darker, more remorseful side to his personality. Civil War also digs a little deeper into his past. The film shows a few more faces to these familiar characters' personalities - Black Widow, for example, shows an icy, callous side when dealing with her former friends refusing to register.
On that note, much of the reason, the premise works is because the film presents both sides of the argument. The film shows the consequences of what happens when these characters operate unchecked, but it also shows what happens these heroes can not do their jobs. The whole Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man thing is not just a marketing ploy, fans can actually argue about who is right. While most of the characters who end up six feet under are the usual red shirts, many of the A-listers begin to show some actual battle scars, injury and -without giving things away - serious things do happen to them.
Captain America Civil War does have a few flaws in the armor, but they're minor. There is a directionless love story between Steve Rogers and Agent Carter's descendant. This is such a minor gripe that I honestly had to pick my brain to cook up a complaint. That's the power of Captain America: Civil War. For recommendations, anyone who has enjoyed everything else Marvel has put out recently will naturally enjoy it. However, those who have felt like they have seen it all and are beginning to feel a little jaded might find enough exciting scenes and surprises that this film may reinvigorate their fondness.