Action Adventure

'Captain America: Civil War' Film Review: Spectacular, in more ways than one

May 3, 2016Ben MK

For moviegoers, 2016 may forever be remembered as the year our favorite superheroes squared off with one another. First there was the brooding, mano a mano showdown that was Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman, DC Comics' next big step in synergizing its big screen properties. Now, it's Captain America and Iron Man's turn to rumble — only this time, they're each bringing a few friends to the party.

Set in the aftermath of the collateral damage caused in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War finds the earthbound heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe split into two opposing factions. In one corner, we have Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), backed by Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Vision (Paul Bettany). And in the other corner, we have Team Cap, made up of Captain America (Chris Evans), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

Drawing from the 2006-2007 Marvel Comics crossover event of the same name, Civil War's storyline sees former General, now Secretary of State, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt, reprising his role from The Incredible Hulk) spearheading a controversial initiative to impose strict government regulations on The Avengers and their crime-fighting activities. It's a move that's wholeheartedly endorsed by Iron Man, much to the surprise and chagrin of Captain America. And, as a result of the rift between the two former allies' viewpoints, a full-on conflict forms.

Of course, that's not to say that Civil War doesn't feature any real villains. On the contrary, it has a couple, namely Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo), The Winter Soldier baddie also known as Crossbones, and Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl, taking up the mantle of the classic Avengers supervillain). The downside is that neither of them can top the scenery-chewing megalomania of James Spader's Ultron. However, that's not a bad thing, considering the grittier overall tone of the movie, the second Marvel offering from The Winter Soldier directors Anthony and Joe Russo.

Notably absent are Mark Ruffalo's Hulk and Chris Hemsworth's Thor. However, in their place, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely introduce two new heroes: Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who makes his MCU debut ahead of his own standalone film, and everybody's favorite web-slinger, Spider-Man (Tom Holland), appearing for the first time outside of a Sony-produced Spider-Man movie. Alongside Rudd's Ant-Man, the two help keep Civil War feeling fresh. After all, even the Earth's Mightiest Heroes aren't immune from superhero fatigue.

Thankfully, Civil War doesn't collapse under its own weight, which is doubly impressive considering the amount of narrative ground the film has to cover. Not only does it do a bang-up job of handling the motivations and machinations behind Captain America and Iron Man's falling out, and tying them to previous MCU story arcs, it also deals with the Winter Soldier's transition from antagonist to protagonist, and expands on both his and Iron Man's backstories in the process, while simultaneously setting up Black Panther and Spider-Man for their future movies.

As for its action, the movie is far from a non-stop slugfest, with most of the first half devoted to story and exposition; and, coincidentally, it's also this initial portion of the film that feels most tonally similar to Captain America's previous solo outing. Once we get into Civil War's second half, however, that's when the filmmakers really begin to pull out all the stops, culminating in an epic confrontation between our heroes that feels ripped right out of the pages of the comics. The bottom line: Civil War definitely lives up to its title, even if it takes a while to get there.

Otherwise, Captain America: Civil War contains all of the hallmarks that audiences have come to expect from each new Marvel Studios production, which is to say that, despite its serious themes, the film manages to work in a good deal of humor, a Stan Lee cameo, and even a third-act revelation that arrives just in time to take the predictable superhero movie ending and throw it right out the window. Most importantly, however, Civil War feels like a legitimate turning point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And with "Civil War II" due to hit comic shops this summer, one can only hope that we eventually get to see the sequel played out on the big screen as well.

Captain America: Civil War releases May 6th, 2016 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 27 Mins.

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