Captain America: Civil Warby Alex Stroup, staff writer
In Captain America: Civil War, two of the Avengers (the one who flies and the one who's strong and good at punching people) end up going head-to-head in a knock-down drag-out for no clear reason and then get over it when they learn they both had dogs named Skip as children.
No, wait. That's a level of stupid reserved for this year's other battlin' heroes blockbuster.
With Captain America: Civil War, Marvel thumbs its nose derisively in the general direction of DC Comics and says, "We're going to make a movie that's merely OK and it is still going to be orders of magnitude better than yours."
Not that it's a competition.
Marvel's Captain America: Civil War - Trailer 2. © Marvel Entertainment.
The civil war in Civil War is a two-part affair. The first part is everything coming home to roost for the Avengers. Despite the fact that they're always saving the world, they keep allowing (or causing) a lot of people to die along the way. New York City in the first Avengers movie. Washington, D.C., in The Winter Soldier. Poor Sokovia in the second Avengers movie. Then this time around things start off with a mission in Lagos, Nigeria, to prevent some bad guys from getting their hands on MacGuffin-bola or some other horrible disease. They succeed but accidentally explode an occupied office building along the way.
Elsewhere (so far this has been the Avengers B-squad established at the end of Age of Ultron), Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is confronted by a mother (Alfre Woodard) who blames him for her son's death in Sokovia, and he realized that oversight is needed. The rest of the world feels the same way and demands that the Avengers each sign on to a set of multi-national accords that will place them under the control of the United Nations.
No longer will they get to decide on their own which national borders to ignore and who it is OK to kill, and what level of collateral damage is acceptable. Tony Stark and about half the Marvel universe agrees to this. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) takes the other half and agrees to retire rather than submit to this.
So with that, Captain America: Civil Disagreement is all set up and ready to go. An actual reasonable point of conflict where both sides have valid points of view, explain them to each other, and still disagree. Unlike a certain other movie where they just decide to hate each other because the title demands it (not that it's a competition). Of course, this is a summer blockbuster, not My Dinner with Andre in a Unitard; civil disagreement just won't do. So in comes Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), who appears to be responsible for yet another terrorist attack on world government.
The accord-signing Avengers are tasked with bringing him in: dead or, if one really must, alive. Rogers is sure Barnes didn't do it (apparently based mostly on the fact that they grew up on the same block) and so immediately violates the Accords, and soon, Civil Disagreement moves on to Civil War.
As a story, the initial conflict is reasonable. Violence is triggered for understandable reasons, and things spiral out of control in reasonable ways. Tension builds and resolution is achieved within the confines of the movie rather than deus ex machina.
One thing that's brilliant is that the Russo Brothers (directing), screenwriters Christopehr Markus and Stephen McFeely, along with their overlords and Marvel/Disney had the confidence in this to leave it at that. No need to overlay an existential galactic crisis on top of it. At no point is the United States, Earth, or the Milky Way in any particular risk. Somehow the trick is managed to scale back the stakes seen in previous movies while ramping up the level to which you care about, and are unsure of, the outcome.
The big weakness of the movie, beyond excessive shaky cam during hand-to-hand fights, is that it is 40 minutes of story wrapped around 110 minutes of action scenes; more than is normal the final epic battle sequence is both entertaining and weighty. But there are three major fights in the middle of the movie and it would have been just as good without two of them.
The penultimate sequence is a big all-hands fracas that requires Iron Man and Captain America to convince others to their side, resulting in a series of recruitment scenes more suited to a Bad News Bears remake. A lot of people need to be at that fight, and explaining their presence kills a lot of momentum...
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) trying to be the group mom. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) disappointing his kids. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) getting to be, wonderfully, an awe-struck kid. Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) playing the appropriate sidekicks. Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) as Black Panther, an entirely new introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and lacking in back story. Vision (Paul Bettany) being around because Age of Ultron requires it but mysteriously absent since he is way overpowered for a fair fight. Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen) learning to exert herself but not in a way that uses her powers too overwhelmingly. Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) showing up to once again be annoyingly inconsistent about how the physics of the Pimm Particle work.
That's a lot of people. Even if you only spend five minutes on each to explain their role, you've killed most of an afternoon. It isn't handled all that well, and several of them jump in and jump right back out with little impact on the movie. Cut this one fight and you cut the cast in half, save tens of millions of dollars, and have a movie that is equally as good.
While it would have been nice if the movie had come in closer to two hours instead of two and a half, it is still good summer entertainment, and die-hard Marvel fans are almost certain to love every minute.
Just ignore that the movie relies on the "omniscient villain" (Daniel Brühl playing Helmut Zemo) and the entire conflict would have been avoided if Bucky Barnes had, instead of running away, just said "I've done horrible things due to mind control so I'll just turn myself in to my friend Captain America and let him try to help me." Also, ignore that if the Marvel universe were the real world that Tony Stark/Iron Man would have the better argument; but if he wanted to be right, he should have saved it for a movie with his name in the title.
Yeah, just ignore those and have a good time.
Captain America: Civil War is a Marvel/Walt Disney Pictures release:
- Wide release on Friday, May 6, 2016.
- Directed by Anthyony Russo and Joe Russo.
- Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
- Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner.
- Rated PG-13
- Running time 146 minutes.
- Alex's rating: 7 out of 10.