D: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo. DP: Trent Opaloch. W: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. Starring: Chris Evans/Robert Downey Jr./Anthony Mackie/Scarlett Johansson/Sebastian Stan/Don Cheadle/Paul Bettany/Elizabeth Olsen/Chadwick Boseman/Emily VanCamp/Tom Holland/Daniel Bruhl/William Hurt/Martin Freeman/Marisa Tomei.
I know you probably feel like you just sat down to watch a Marvel movie only a month ago because, well, you did. Deadpool can still be heard laughing at the X-Men who incidentally have another theatrical installment of their tale in theaters this weekend. Yet this month we return to the world of Captain America in Chris Evan’s third stand alone film as the flashiest boy scout there ever was.
2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger laid most of the groundwork of who Steve Rogers was before and after the creation of his war-time costumed hero. Moving the timeline forward 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier sees the return of Steve’s friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) whose ampted assassin status has him become a fugitive from justice. Now in Captain America: Civil War we find Steve and his Avengers friends grappling with consequences of their well meaning interventions in world catastrophes. Given the chance to sign over their duties to the government, Steve’s stance on this becomes more complicated when Bucky resurfaces. Will vigilante behavior ensue?
Is that a lot to follow? Maybe. At this point if you have not seen an Avengers or Captain America film I would not start with this one. However, if you are not into Marvel then you probably will not bother, right? In essence though Civil War is more like Avengers 2.5 and less like a Captain America stand alone film, which actually makes it stronger. Steve’s goody-two-shoe quality is best when balanced with other characters, especially the complexity of Bucky. Addressing the same issues Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice attempted to discuss, as a group Steve and more Avengers cope with the personal and public fallout of violence. Who can make the call to step in and whose agenda does this powerful group adhere to. Rather than be clunky about it the film splits the group keeping the internal threat to friendship and loyalty the focus of the drama and action.
Bucky’s reappearance luckily means more Stan onscreen. His Winter Soldier is greasy and sullen, the thankful opposite of clean-cut Evans. The distaste he has for Falcon (Anthony Mackie) injects humor into their not so bromance friendship triangle. Mackie takes on a larger role as does Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow. Clearly the Marvel heads heard the shouts about her needing her own film as one of the few female Avengers. Here she has some great fight sequences–twisting the necks of most of the men she fights. Other Avengers do appear, but I have left them out to not spoil the make up of the competing parties. Civil War does its diligence in introducing not one, but two additions to the Avengers world. Tom Holland is a rightfully youthful Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. He brings new energy and has a nice dynamic with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). But don’t forget that Columbia Pictures owns the rights to Spider-Man, hence why there will be another set of films so they can retain those rights. Chadwick Boseman also appears for the first time as Black Panther. Boseman’s own Black Panther film will not hit theaters until 2018 and has Creed director Ryan Coogler on board.
Civil War is directed and shot by the same team behind Winter Soldier and it clearly shows. Lightness and humor are not lost amidst a plot that grapples with serious ideas. The Avengers team essentially works as an extended family for its characters whose abilities isolate them from the general population. It is the perfect recipe for melodrama and the familial showdown and closer hand-to-hand fights are woven well into the personal conflicts. There are surely weaknesses like Emily VanCamp’s silly appearance or Elizabeth Olsen’s inconsistent accent as Wanda aka Scarlett Witch. Yet, ultimately the film is a solid addition to the Marvel world for those already indoctrinated.