If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that in a superhero movie things are going to get wrecked. Vehicles, buildings, bodies- all often suffer a huge amount of damage. And rarely are the heroes called to task for the destruction that they have wrought. But things seem to be changing, at least on the big screen this year. First in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where Superman is called to task over the damage caused to Metropolis as he battled General Zod. Now, the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are called upon to deal with the consequences of their actions. The cost of their exploits, even though they were in the service of saving humanity, has been deemed to be too high.
Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) flashes through the images on a screen- New York, Sokovia, and their latest act that ended in tragedy while chasing terrorists in Lagos. The government feels now that the heroes cannot act without restraint or on their own accord. They need to be reined in, and have the decision to act taken out of their hands. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr>) agrees, especially after meeting with a woman (Alfre Woodard, in a brief but important cameo) who lost her son when Iron Man inadvertently caused his death. But Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) disagrees, saying they need to be able to act when needed. And thus, the lines are drawn.
Captain America: Civil War, the third movie with Cap’s name in the title and the second one from directors Anthony and Joe Russo, is as much Tony’s movie as it is Cap’s. While they both want to work towards the same end, that of keeping the Earth safe, how they should do it becomes a bone of contention. Based on the comic book by Mark Millar, the schism widens and divides the heroes into two teams, and you know things are going to lead to fisticuffs sooner or later.
The movie changes things up from the book, making the catalyst that sparks the conflict The Winter Soldier, aka Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Events place him at an explosion the rocks a UN council meeting, leading Wakandan prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) to launch a hunt for Bucky. Of course, Cap’s loyalty to his friend runs deep, even at the expense of his other friends and teammates in the Avengers. The chase for Bucky leads to an airport confrontation with the two sides squaring off in the film’s biggest set piece, as well as one of the best superhero fights put on the silver screen. Backing Tony is Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Vision (Paul Bettany), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Panther (Boseman), and newcomer Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Cap is backed by Bucky, Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). The battle between all of these heroes is a sight to behold, with plenty of great action and some of the movie’s funniest lines occurring throughout. Oddly enough, the big set piece doesn’t come at the end of the film, instead occurring around the 90 minute mark or so of the film’s 146 minute running time.
That’s not to say there aren’t any other spectacular action scenes in the movie. The chase that leads to tragedy in Lagos as our heroes try to stop terrorist Crossbones (Frank Grillo) would be at home in any of the Bourne movies, and there’s a great scene featuring Cap and a helicopter as Bucky tries to escape authorities. But for much of the movie the action tales a back seat to the more personal drama as the heroes come to grips with the idea of being under government oversight. The film has a darker tone overall than most of the Marvel movies to date, though it doesn’t skimp entirely on the humor. As usual, Robert Downey Jr provides much of the quips, and this time around he’s aided ably by Holland’s Spider-Man. Any concerns as to whether Holland can handle portraying the web-slinger are immediately put to rest here as he perfectly captures the awkward nerdiness of Peter Parker as well as the fast talking Spider-Man. The scenes as he more or less geeks out while fighting the other heroes are a joy to watch, and he capably pulls off the action moves necessary for the character.
The film’s other newcomer Chadwick Boseman fares equally well. He brings a regal bearing to T’Challa, and pulls off some excellent fight moves as Black Panther. He brings the Wakandan prince turned king to the screen with intelligence and intensity, especially when consumed by the need for vengeance against the Winter Soldier. Fans should be well pleased with his portrayal, and both he and Holland have me looking forward to their respective solo movies.
The rest of the cast fares fine, as per usual, as all are by now comfortable in their roles. Grillo’s brief sequence at the beginning of the movie comes across well, with Crossbones being a suitable threat. The film’s villain, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), comes across a bit better than most of the Marvel movie bad guys. He has an understandable motivation for his actions, and though he himself isn’t exactly a great threat, he does set off the chain of events that split the Avengers in two. Only Martin Freeman, who plays a psychiatrist named Everett Ross, feels underused, and the movie really could have proceeded without him and not been any the worse for wear. And of course we do get the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, though this time it waits until the final scenes of the movie to bring him in. As usual, he delivers a very funny line that delivers a big laugh. The laugh was a nice respite after the more emotionally draining battle that preceded it.
In all, Captain America: Civil War delivers the big thoughtful spectacle of heroes facing the consequences for their actions. The action scenes flow naturally amongst the drama, and the humor helps lighten the darker tone. The cast is solid as always, and the newcomers Boseman and Holland shine in their roles. It was a wise decision to make Black Panther and Spider-Man are more integral part of the movie rather than just reduce the characters to glorified cameos. The movie has one of the franchise’s best action scenes with the brawl at the airport, and that scene will definitely go down as one of the top superhero fights of all time. The heroes may be divided, but the audience certainly didn’t seem to be as Marvel continues to roll on.
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