Past the Popcorn: Captain America: Civil War Is the One You’ve Been Waiting For
by Jeff Walls
Earlier this summer, movie audiences were treated to a long-awaited superhero matchup with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie which felt a lot like a desperate attempt by Warner Bros. to quickly catch the DC Comics movie universe up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The result was a movie that was almost universally panned by critics and—despite decent box office—audiences. As if that weren’t enough, here comes Marvel’s new movie, also featuring a matchup between two of its main heroes: Iron Man and Captain America. With the two movies having a surprising amount of plot elements in common, Captain America: Civil War feels as if it is Marvel slapping DC right across the face, because everything DC got wrong, Marvel gets oh-so-right.
After a brief prologue giving audiences some more backstory for Steve Rogers’ friend-turned-enemy The Winter Soldier, the story takes us to Africa where Captain America is leading his new Avengers team on a mission to capture the villain Crossbones. Something goes horribly wrong, though, and innocent people are killed. This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the large portion of the population who believe that masked heroes are unchecked vigilantes who need to be reeled in. General Ross, last seen trying to contain Bruce Banner’s alter ego in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, arrives with a proposal to have superheroes registered with and under the authority of the United Nations.
The Avengers are immediately divided. One faction, led by a recently shaken Tony Stark, decide that signing up for the program is the only option. Those who refuse the agreement, led by Captain America, must either retire or find themselves with a warrant out for their arrest. The rift between the two sides is made wider by the series’ new villain, Zemo, who is busy manipulating the strings from behind the curtain. As the title of the movie suggests, this leads to a civil war between the two sides, forcing former friends to do battle against one another.
Without delving into deep spoiler territory, one of the ways this movie excels when directly compared to Batman v Superman is that directors Anthony and Joe Russo knew that the battle between its two main heroes would need to be what the movie was most about. Whereas Batman v Superman had another large, loud, and special-effects dominated action sequence follow its one-on-one fight between the title characters, the fight between Iron Man and Captain America is the climax of Captain America: Civil War. There is little but maybe five minutes of epilogue after its two leads go head-to-head. And the fight here is so much more meaningful because we have already spent years and multiple movies getting to know these characters and see their often conflicting personalities interact with each other. Because of this, we feel as if there is so much more on the line in this battle than we do in the DC movie.
This movie is not without its big, special-effects driven action sequence, but in this film it comes before the climactic one-on-one match. Featuring just about every major character that Marvel has introduced us to so far in their cinematic universe as well as two new key characters, this battle is arguably the greatest action sequence Marvel has pulled off to date. And here is the key: it is fun! The high-stakes action is blended perfectly with humor making it the kind of action scene that you watch with both wide eyes and a bright smile. What Zach Snyder and his team at DC Comics don’t seem to understand but Kevin Feige and his Marvel group certainly get is that the more fun and entertaining the characters are, the more powerful are the dramatic moments that follow.
The two new major characters who are introduced in this film are Black Panther and Spider-Man. Although there may have been a slight concern going in that fans would not be ready for yet another Spider-Man so soon after the Andrew Garfield reboots, those worries are immediately put to bed as soon as Tom Holland’s new Spider-Man turns up on screen. He is terrific and provides a large portion of the fun in that previously referenced action sequence. The movie also seamlessly introduces him and hints at his backstory without getting weighed down with exposition. It helps that Holland and Robert Downey, Jr. have instant chemistry in Peter Parker’s first scene.
Black Panther’s introduction is also seamless and the character instantly feels at home in the cinematic universe. The audience is given bits and pieces of the character’s backstory as the movie goes on, but again, the movie never weighs itself down to spoon-feed the audience. The character is also terrifically played by Chadwick Boseman with the regality of a character who must be both masked superhero and king of a nation.
There is hardly a misstep in Captain America: Civil War. The movie is highly entertaining and engrossing from start to finish. It is full of surprises and all of the action sequences are clever and creative. Action movies do not get much better than this and it proves that, if there was any doubt, Marvel Studios is still the undisputed king of the superhero movie genre.
Captain America: Civil War opens today at the Century Federal Way, AMC Kent Station 14, and AMC Southcenter 16. Won’t it be nice when Des Moines has its own theater again? Until then, eat local before you go!