By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began in 2008 with Iron Man has reached its thirteenth film with Captain America: Civil War. All numerical superstitions aside, thirteen happens to be much more than a charm for the MCU. Granted, this is mostly thanks to writers Christopher Markus, Stephen Feely, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo who have made what is essentially a third Avengers movie, and one which excels above and beyond every other film that has preceded it in the successful series.
Following the destructive events which took place in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the increasing amount of collateral damage caused by superhero activity, the governments of the world have decided to take action. The United Nations has decided to pass The Sokovia Accords which will require government control over all super-heroic activity. Feeling responsible for Ultron’s destructive behavior, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) supports the Accords and believes that heroes need to be held responsible for their actions. Captain America, on the the other hand, has grown distrustful of government oversight, given that HYDRA was secretly in control of S.H.I.E.L.D. for many years, and he also sees government intervention as an obstacle to what needs to get done. When the Captain decides to help his old buddy Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier, who is one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives, he too becomes a fugitive of the law and the Avengers divide into two opposing factions.
The Russos and their writers have taken the solid groundwork established in the previous films and have made a superhero magnum opus. Very loosely inspired by the Marvel comic book series Civil War, the filmmakers take a different approach to the story’s themes and make a movie more fitting for the cinematic series. Even though it is on a smaller scale than the Civil War comics, the film is still a tremendously epic installment for the MCU. It accomplishes so much and does it well, while remaining fun, exciting, and entertaining. The film does have its share of powerful and dramatic moments, but the writers and directors have managed to make the humor work wonderfully, even within the context of the heavier themes.
Because the film brings together some of the MCU’s previously introduced and beloved characters and also introduces some new ones (Black Panther, Spider-Man), Captain America: Civil War is an absolute dream for comic geeks. The giddy laughter and applause that occurred often during the screening was due to all the fun Easter eggs, references, and jokes that Marvel fans understand well. Make no mistake, though; this movie will not only appeal to this demographic, it will appeal to audiences of all kinds. The wonderful mix of action, drama, and comedy should keeps audiences of all types well entertained.
As usual these exceptionally written and developed characters fly so well because of the actors who embody them. Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. continue to shine with their respective characters. If these actors have grown weary of portraying Captain and Stark, they hide it so incredibly well. Evans continues to portray Captain Steve Rogers with earnest integrity and kind-hearted boyish charm, but still exudes the strength and courage that Captain America is supposed to have. Robert Downey, Jr. still manages to bring a witty and snarky attitude to Stark, but also shows an even more mature, vulnerable, and pained side to his character in this film. Stark is no longer speaking with his foot in his mouth. Due to the tense and sensitive nature of the issues addressed in the movie, Stark is choosing his words very carefully. The film has no weak link at all in the cast. The other returning cast members Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Scarlett Johannson, Sebastian Stan, Don Cheadle and Paul Bettany deliver superb work.
As I stated above, the film introduces new heroes to the universe and the actors portraying do not disappoint whatsoever. Chadwick Boseman who really impressed me with his performances in 42 and Get On Up, delivers another awesome performance as T’Challa/Black Panther, the prince of Wakanda who joins Stark’s team to stop the Winter Soldier. Also joining Stark’s team is an all-too-familiar superhero who finally gets to make his MCU appearance here. Peter Parker/Spider-Man had been a character whose movie rights had belonged to Sony and Sony alone. After one reasonably successful movie trilogy, and two not-so-successful ones, Marvel Studios and Sony made an awesome deal which allows Spidey to appear in MCU movies and a new reboot of his own. Tom Holland stars as Parker in the film and brings a delightful and sweet charm to the character. His teenage character is clearly out of his element in the film, as he is overwhelmed by the situation, but at the same time is starstruck and giddy as he gets to interact with these amazing heroes he clearly idolizes. I am rather impressed with Holland’s acting and definitely look forward to seeing him in his own movie.
Even though this film is about heroes battling each other, it would not be a superhero movie without villains. Frank Grillo, who made his Marvel Studios debut in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, reprises his role as Brock Rumlow aka Crossbones, and delivers some badass villainy and action to his scenes. Civil War introduces a new villain in Helmut Zemo. Acclaimed actor Daniel Brühl stars as this mysterious villain and brings an icy-cold and steely determination to his character. He makes a damn fine addition to Marvel’s rogues gallery. With such a grand assortment of characters, one would normally expect all of these elements to be too much for one film; however, the filmmakers manage to pull it off beautifully.
The Russos, their writers, cast and crew have made an exceptionally entertaining summer blockbuster that delivers action, adventure, comedy, and drama all in one beautiful package that will certainly raise the bar for all other comic book-based movies that will follow. The Russos will continue making films for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Avengers Infinity War movies due in 2018 and 2019 which promise to be the most epic achievements for the MCU and comic book movies period. Now that they have achieved success with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and have made the best MCU film so far with Civil War, I feel that Marvel Studios’ most ambitious projects are in great hands.