My Rating: 8 out of 10
At first glance, Captain America: Civil War seems very similar to the Batman v Superman film released a couple months ago. In fact, there are some major lot elements that both films share. However, Civil War manages to avoid the pitfalls that caused Batman v Superman to disappoint some moviegoers. The filmmakers took the story to a logical conclusion, balanced the scenes (especially the epic fight in the middle) so that the various heroes wouldn’t be competing for screen time, paired up heroes with similar abilities to fight one another, didn’t pad the story, and made choices that the audience wouldn’t see coming.
So, for those of you wondering, the reason that the “war” in Civil War happens is because after a number of battles around the globe, the Avengers have saved numerous lives, but have also left death and destruction in their wake. Similarly to how the world governments become concerned about Superman’s unchecked power in Batman v Superman, the UN becomes wary of the unchecked power of the Avengers and asks them to sign an accords preventing them from taking action unless on a specific government assignment. After speaking with the mother of a victim from the Sokovia incident in Age of Ultron, Tony Stark decides that it is best to go along with the UN and sign the accords. However, Captain America disagrees that the governments know best, thus causing the rift in the Avengers team. Throw the Winter Soldier into the mix and you have yourself an epic superhero battle on a scale that the big screen has never witnessed.
As I’ve said before, I really like superhero films that add a certain amount of gritty realism into the plot. Movies like Watchmen and The Dark Knight are ones that stand out in particular. Its easy to make a film about a hero running around defeating bad guys and saving innocent people just in time, and those movies can be a lot of fun, but the more interesting films for me are the ones that take a look at the same story through the lens of reality. In real life, battling hoards of aliens in the middle of New York would kill a lot of people, which is something that the original Avengers movie glossed over. I loved this element of Batman v Superman, but thought that Civil War did a much better job of using this realism to bring the heroes to blows.
There were certainly a lot of parallels between the two movies. For example, the bombing on the UN and the bombing at the Capital were both carried out by a human with no special abilities that wanted to see the heroes in each respective film kill each other. However, where Lex Luthor had a very ill defined goal that seemed to change at the end of the film, Zemo (played by Daniel Bruhl) had a specific agenda that he followed through flawlessly. When it was revealed that there were other Winter Soldiers that existed, I began to worry that the film was going to head in the same direction as Batman v Superman and have Iron Man and Captain America team up to defeat them. However, Zemo stayed true to his character and to his plan by killing the other Winter Soldiers in their sleep and providing the final blow to Captain America and Iron Man’s alliance. While not as uplifting, the battle at the end of Civil War and the inability of the heroes to make amends made a lot more sense than the very forced team up at the end of Batman v Superman. It was both surprising and awesome to see the villain come out on top at the end of a Marvel movie.
I also felt that the characters in Civil War had powers and relationships that made it easier for this kind of movie to take place. In Batman v Superman, we had to get through the set up of how the heroes met and their feelings towards each other before the fight actually happens, which made the film feel drawn out and left the final fight a bit less climatic then it could have been. Plus, Superman far outclassed Batman when the kryptonite was taken out of the equation. In comparison, the characters from the Avengers are mostly individuals with super strength or technological abilities. There are only a couple of god-level heroes in the mix, and two of them (Hulk and Thor) were absent for this film. This balance, along with the already established relationships between the heroes, made it a lot easy to get right into the nitty-gritty. The massive fight was awesome and fun. But, most importantly, the heroes weren’t competing for screen time. Everything was well balanced. By keeping the more brutal fight between Captain America and Iron Man for the end, when the two of them were basically alone, the filmmakers allowed for that battle to have a bigger impact as it was more focused.
In terms of the new characters, I really liked both Spiderman (played by Tom Holland) and Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman). After having seen two different Spiderman movie franchises in my lifetime, it was nice to see Marvel play up elements that are normally not focused on and downplay others. For example, we don’t hear about Uncle Ben directly and Aunt May is not a sweet old lady, but a sexy younger woman. Spiderman isn’t a brooding teen, but a geeky and energetic kid that is just trying to do a good thing with his ability. He added some great humor to a number of scenes, which was needed in a film that was far darker than many other Marvel pictures. Black Panther also defied expectations since he was initially introduced as a man bent on revenge then became the first to realize that a lust of vengeance is what caused Zemo and Tony Stark to make the choices they did. Paul Rudd was hilarious as Ant Man just as he was in the Ant Man film, which made me even more excited for an Avengers film down the line with him and the Guardians of the Galaxy in central roles.
Overall, Civil War did a great job of keeping me surprised throughout in ways that made sense to the characters and to the plot of the film. For a movie that was more or less another Avengers sequel, I thought that the pacing and story was far better than Age of Ultron and more thought out than the first Avengers movie even if a little slower in terms of action than that film. Zemo was an excellent villain, though I wish we got to know a little bit more about him before his plans were all revealed. The after credits sequences were also a bit disappointing since they were setting up for the Black Panther and Spiderman films. While I’m sure both of those films will be excellent, I was hoping to see something about Thor or the Hulk or Thanos since those are all characters that didn’t appear in this movie.
In terms of keeping up with the story, I do recommend seeing the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films if you can before seeing Civil War, since there is little exposition. As someone who has seen all the movies, there were a couple characters that I was unfamiliar with, such as Sharon Carter (who I probably just forgot about). My girlfriend has only seen the Thor and Ant Man movies, thus she was a bit confused by the whole Winter Soldier part of the story. However, even if you are unfamiliar with the overall story, you will still be able to enjoy the film as a well-crafted, realistic film about the dark side of being a superhero. I highly recommend going to see Civil War in theatres if you can!