This is a incredibly spoiler-filled review of Captain America: Civil War. Do not scroll past the trailer unless you have already seen the film. It may ruin the entire experience for you. Seriously. Don’t do it.
There will be a spoiler-free review of this movie as well. This isn’t it.
Also, nearly all of Cinematic Considerations is written in third person form. This column is different. I’m going first person and speaking directly to you, the reader. Thank you for being here. It means a hell of a lot to me.
Don’t go past the trailer if you haven’t seen this movie. You’ve been warned. Twice now.
Okay, let’s begin.
What an incredible film.
If we’re ranking all 13 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and not counting any of the Netflix series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter), doesn’t Captain America: Civil War go straight to the top of the list? It has to, right?
We’re looking at the cream of the crop here – your Marvel’s The Avengers, your Guardians of the Galaxy, your Captain America: The Winter Soldier – and Civil War improbably outdoes them all.
I walked into the theater cold after having not re-watched any of the 12 prior MCU films. I’m all caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but it’s pretty obvious that Civil War isn’t going down the Inhumans/Kree storyline.
Every single trailer seemed to foreshadow the death of a major character, but unless you consider Crossbones (a.k.a. the military guy that committed suicide trying to kill Captain America at the beginning of the film) a major character, then thankfully nobody important died.
Yes, it looked that way several times over. At some point during the film, I counted at least four different major character that I believed could reasonably bite the bullet during Civil War (obviously War Machine, Captain America, Winter Soldier and even Iron Man late in the movie).
None of those things happened and I think Marvel, and better yet we the audience, are better off for it. Until a full slate of new stars are established in the MCU led by Peter Parker (we’ll get to him shortly), Marvel needs Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. in the roles. Not a recast Iron Man or Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes taking on the Captain America mantle. Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. Period.
What sets Captain America: Civil War apart from DC Comics’ rushed attempt to play catchup with superhero movies (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) is well-established lead heroes with talented recognizable actors in the roles.
There’s a reason three Iron Man films, two Captain America films and two Avengers movies were made before the classic Civil War storyline from the comics was developed into the MCU. Audiences had to develop a love for these characters with specific actors playing the same role all the way through (Sorry Mark Ruffalo.)
Viewers were treated to the third installment of Steve Rogers’ to-the-death friendship with Bucky Barnes, finally putting Captain America and Winter Soldier on the same side for once, even though they weren’t exactly fighting bad guys the whole time. It’s an important arc moving forward if Marvel decides to make the move to put Stan in a more prominent role in the MCU once Evans steps aside. Captain America is developing our love for the Winter Soldier by proxy. The same thing was started in Civil War in a mentor-mentee relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker (and I promise we’re almost there.)
As much as this felt less like Captain America 3 and more like Avengers 2.5, Civil War did deliver a lot of Tony Stark and Co. over on #TeamIronMan.
RDJ was as good as he’s been since 2008’s original Iron Man. Even though we still don’t know what the deal is with superheroes being unable to keep a girlfriend – I’m looking at you Natalie Portman – I can still hold out hope for Tony Stark to work things out with Pepper Potts in the long run.
After carrying the bulk of the character work in both Avengers films, Tony takes a relative backseat to the Bucky-Steve relationship in Civil War, but Downey Jr. still knocks the character out of the park. It’s a testament to how perfectly cast RDJ was nearly a decade ago and to his commitment in keeping the character alive for hopefully another 10 years.
Civil War also laid some important groundwork for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War films by foreshadowing some interspecies (I guess) romance between android Vision and super-powered human Scarlet Witch. Elizabeth Olsen’s terrific performance and great chemistry with Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) make her a shoo-in to be a long term member of the MCU, while I think this could be a set-up to give Scarlet Witch some added emotional stakes if/when Vision bites the dust during Infinity Wars.
No cameos or extended appearances for Avenger regulars Chris Hemsworth (Thor) or Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), which is okay as that decision opened up some screen time for others and helped build the anticipation for both of their returns in next year’s Thor: Ragnarok.
Several newcomers joined the core of the Avengers section of the MCU and none disappointed.
I believe everyone has to be incredibly pleased with Tom Holland’s version of Spiderman, which is already better in the 30 minutes of screen time in Civil War than Andrew Garfield was in two Amazing Spiderman films. Just sayin’.
There’s something so vintage about having an actual teenager play web-slinger Peter Parker and delivering on all of the promise adding Spidey to the MCU could have possibly brought. The quips previous film versions of Peter either tried and failed to connect with or left out completely worked like magic in Civil War. Spiderman referencing The Empire Strikes Back when trying to coordinate battle strategy was so perfect and out of left field, but yet on point at the same time. Ridiculously amazing.
Teaming him with Iron Man and having him upgrade the Spiderman suit was a brilliant way to show a realistic growth in the character in limited screen time and set things up for what hopes to be a spectacular solo film with Spiderman: Homecoming.
Having Marisa Tomei play Aunt May helps skew Peter’s character younger and helps establish Spidey as a key figure in what a post-Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans MCU might look like.
Also, if you left the theater after the first post-credits scene (more on that later), then you missed another small, but interesting tease for Spiderman: Homecoming at the end of the credits. It’s not as good as the iconic shawarma scene at the end of The Avengers, but it’s worth staying until the end for.
As much as I love having Spidey in the MCU, without a doubt my favorite secondary character in Captain America: Civil War has to be Scott Lang’s Ant-Man.
In concept, I wasn’t originally as high on bringing Ant-Man into the MCU at all, but the wonderful Peyton Reed film of the same name was beyond my wildest expectations for the on-screen prospects of the incredible shrinking man. Key to the success of the character was the inspired casting of comic actor Paul Rudd as Lang.
Rudd brings a new dynamic energy to the screen every time he appears and his second turn as the former thief turned miniature superhero was no exception. Rudd’s performance in the hilarious scene where Lang turns fan-boy about meeting Captain America and Scarlet Witch was the single funniest scene in any MCU film – though Michael Pena’s storytelling in Ant-Man is pretty damn close. Pairing Ant-Man and Spiderman and bringing them into Civil War at about the same time was an inspired way of keeping the two teams as close to balanced as possible. Still, #TeamCap.
While Captain America: Civil War was visually spectacular from start to finish, nothing topped the reveal of Ant-Man’s colossus “Giant Man” appearance at the tail end of the airport battle. Like the miniature CGI from the first appearance of Lang in last year’s “Ant-Man,” the effortlessness of Marvel’s ability to grow Ant-Man to massive size without reducing the quality of the action or the cinematography was fantastic. You couldn’t pull that off five years ago. Wow. Simply breathtaking.
I feel bad for Chadwick Boseman, who deserves a more complete introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe than the one we ended up getting for King T’Challa and his iconic alter-ego, Black Panther. As integral to the storyline as he was, viewers still don’t know much of anything about the super-human with a suit of vibranium.
Honestly, Boseman in Civil War reminds me a lot of Renner’s Hawkeye in Marvel’s The Avengers, which paid off with a much larger role in Avengers: Age of Ultron. There’s enough promise with the talented Boseman that this cursory introduction could boost expectations for 2018’s Black Panther solo movie. We know enough to get a little excited, but not too much that could turn viewers off if they don’t like the direction Marvel and Boseman are taking the character.
Joe and Anthony Russo have proven themselves to be capable caretakers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe legacy left by outgoing Avengers director Joss Whedon. After helming the terrific Captain America: The Winter Soldier and outdoing themselves with an early contender for blockbuster of the decade (Sorry Star Wars) in Civil War, I feel much more confident in a successful two-part film series with Avengers: Infinity War coming out in 2018 and 2019.
While there’s still a lot we don’t know about the direction Marvel is headed moving forward into Phase 3 of the MCU, Captain America: Civil War does make up for the flaws in Avengers: Age of Ultron and help bridge the gap until the next time we see most of these characters. Aside from Spiderman and Iron Man in next year’s Spiderman: Homecoming, audiences probably won’t see Black Widow, Hawkeye, Captain America, Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch, Vision and many more on screen for over two years.
And that’s okay.
I forgot to miss Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in Civil War, which is something I never thought I’d say about the MCU.
If The Avengers was the film that solidified Marvel Studios for years to come, Captain America: Civil War proves that studio head Kevin Feige and his crew can do whatever genre, pull whatever obscure comic book hero out of a hat, cast, or recast (Apologies to Edward Norton and Terrance Howard) however they want to. They’ve proven they can pretty much do no wrong.
I’m on board.