Did the other hero on hero battle royal live up to the hype? This is a SPOILER FREE review so feel safe to read on.
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFreely
Stars: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlet Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Don Cheadle, William Hurt, Chadwick Boseman, Emily VanCamp, Paul Rudd, Paul Bettany, Daniel Brühl, Tom Holland, Martin Freeman
Finally the movie I have been waiting for! Since it was announced back in October 2014 that the next Captain America movie was going to be based on Civil War, I became excited for it to hit theaters. A big part of me was hoping the hero vs hero storyline was something they were building towards in the MCU. The seeds have certainly been since the first Avengers film. Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers have rarely seen eye to eye, but they were able to put much of it aside and become friends while fighting the big bads.
What happens when they don’t agree and they can’t put it aside? What if they both think their actions are for the benefit of the greater good? Is it better to allow a group of people with devastating abilities to fight for our safety and go unchecked? Or should those people work for a governing body? It is a question most of us have been asking since 2012.
While attempting to stop a biological weapons heist lead by Crossbones (Frank Grillo), Wanda Maximoff (Olsen) inadvertently blows up half of a building and killing a dozen people. It is a small straw, but it is still enough to break the camel’s back. Even though the Avengers have saved the world a few times, they have also caused a mass amount of death and destruction in their wake. Many nations’ leaders have decided the superhero team needs oversight. With the signing of the Sokovia Accords, the team must submit to the rules set by the UN or retire.
Tony Stark (Downey), who was accosted by a grieving mother whose son was killed in Sokovia, believes the Accords will help win back the trust of the public and show the Avengers are willing to be held accountable for their actions. Steve Rodgers (Evans), who still remembers the Hydra takeover of SHIELD and the ways he was used to further their plans, suspects the group will be used as political tools by the UN. In the beginning the two friends were willing to talk things out reasonably, but the second Bucky Barnes (Stan) and a bombing of a UN building is thrown into the mix, reason on both sides go out the window.
Even though almost all of the Avengers (plus a few extra heroes) are featured in the movie, this is still very much a Captain America film. The relationship between Steve and Bucky are the heart of everything. The chemistry between Evans and Stan is on point in Civil War, even more so than in the past two Captain America movies. The two men feel as if they have grown up as best friends and are way out of their own time. When Sam Wilson (Mackie) and his snarky sense of humor are added into the friendship, it adds another wonderful level to the bromance.
One thing that had me worried was how the Russo brothers were going to balance all of the characters and still tell a complicated and comprehensive story. This film not only contains Rodgers, Stark, Barnes, Maximoff, Wilson, Natasha Romanoff(Johansson), James Rhodes (Cheadle), Clint Barnes (Renner), Scott Lang (Rudd), Vision (Bettany), and Sharon Carter (VanCamp), but we also get the introductions of Peter Parker (Holland) and T’Challa (Boseman). That is 13 main characters and yet the film doesn’t feel overcrowded. Each person has at least one moment to shine, to be funny, and to show the emotional toll this battle has taken on them.
Boseman was spot on casting for the role of the ruler of Wakanda. He commanded the screen as a man who is playing a king should and added a healthy amount of emotional gravitas as a man consumed with grief and vengeance after the death of his father. I didn’t have any doubts about whether or not Boseman would be able to carry a film on his own, but those who might have should be appeased by his performance. On the other side of the coin, Holland was completely adorkable. The newest incarnation of the geeky hero was everything I was hoping he would be. Funny with the perfect amount of snark and teenage excitability. Parker already had his abilities for a few months so he had command, but not complete control. The interaction between Downey and Holland made me even more excited for the mentor role Stark will play to Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
There are two sides of the hero faction and the film allows the time for us as the audience to see both aspects of the argument. Our heroes don’t hit the ground fighting. They do everything they can to avoid confrontation that could hurt their friendships. These are a group of people who have a bond that is being tested. Nothing feels rushed when we make our way to the climatic end. The end fight is earned because everything that has come before was building to that moment.
It is very difficult not to compare this movie the other super on super battle, Batman vs Superman, which was released less than two months ago. The two comic book based films ask the same questions about the destruction left in the wake of the epic battles heroes wage against the villains. The big difference is Civil War takes the time for our heroes to ponder these problems and debate the consequences. I would get more into what else they have in common, but that would require going into spoilery territory. I will be back on Monday with a much more in depth look at Civil War and I will tackle the comparisons then.
My only real grievance about the film is the writers and directors had the opportunity to end the first entry to Phase Three on a much more MCU shattering note, but chose not to take it. I don’t want full on DCEU dark, but some heavy wouldn’t hurt. The brothers also don’t deviate from the superhero movie checklist either, but that has been such a winning formula for their films. If it ain’t broke…
If Civil War is a movie you have been excited for, you will love it. Even if you just have a passing interest in the latest pop culture phenomenon, you will enjoy the summer hit. The hype has been earned. Is it perfect? No, and I’m sure I will start to see the flaws when I go and see the film again. But it is a well-made superhero flick and highly entertaining which is all any of us could ask for.
4 ½ out of 5 Stars