*Warning: Potential Spoilers*
None of the Marvel films have been perfect, of course they can’t be. They’re based off of comics, loosely in some ways just because of the scope of them. The closest Marvel has come to a perfect movie (in my opinion, of course) is The Avengers (2012), because it had both scope and build-up. The reason that Age of Ultron (2015) met with such shaky reactions is because it was almost all scope- so many characters, such a large plot, it’s hard to fit it all into a two hour movie, no matter how much you cut. Captain America: Civil War is based on a much larger premise, with many more characters originally taking part, but it feels like the first Avengers– personal and the start of something new.
Civil War opens in Nigeria, where Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans) is leading the Avengers B team in an attempt to prevent a terrorist attack, and in the process several innocent bystanders (including a few natives of the country of Wakanda) are injured. This prompts the United Nations to put forth the Sokovia Accords- an agreement that the Avengers would be under the direction of the UN rather than themselves, on record and only accepting the missions granted to them. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), still reeling with guilt over the creation of Ultron, agrees to sign to help keep the Avengers accountable. Rogers, worried about what might happen if a higher government with an agenda is in control of their actions, does not. Almost immediately a plot unfolds that includes Bucky Barnes (Sebastion Stan), The Winter Soldier, for which Steve cannot stand by and Tony cannot let him act. The other Avengers (including some new faces) also take sides, leading to an all-out brawl.
This is the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we really see a political agenda develop- of course, you may argue that The Winter Soldier was pretty political, but let’s face it, we pretty much all agree that the evil Nazi organization shoot-off is bad and we don’t want them in control. The difference between that and Civil War is that you can look at both sides of the conflict- those for accountability and those for freedom- and understand both. Neither Captain America or Iron Man are completely right, and neither are completely wrong. Civil War has begun something in Phase Three that Marvel has barely touched on before, and that is provide its audience a choice. In all movies up till now, the goal has been clear- superhero protects the world, saves the damsel, foils the scheme, happy ending. With Civil War, none of that is clear, because neither side is completely the enemy. Where The Avengers brought a team together, Civil War aptly breaks them apart, and fills its audience once more with a sense that something has changed.
As always, the cast plays off each other with both furious intensity and enjoyable quips- though advertised as a team movie, Captain America is still a Captain America installment, only this time equal prominence is given to Iron Man, The Winter Soldier, and newcomer T’Challa, aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), the prince of Wakanda who I cannot wait to see in his own feature film. Backstory, new adventure, I don’t care, he is one of the best new faces the Avengers have seen so far. Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) also returns to the screen, and we finally get to see our friendly, Marvel-Universe Peter Parker, aka Spiderman (Tom Holland) swing into action (though he’s really there to be cute more than anything else). Just remember that this is a Cap movie, so most of them are there for jokes and jokes alone- personally I would like to see Sam Wilson, aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie) developed more, because he is always a pleasure to watch and he is basically reduced to ‘hero’s best friend’ every time he is onscreen. Bucky’s transitions from Steve’s childhood friend to The Winter Soldier to something in between are a little confusing, as the filmmakers never quite explain how or why he can break free of Hyrda’s conditioning, but once he is free, you can’t get enough of the guy.
Not every new addition is a great one- though Daniel Brühl is fascinating to watch in his role of Zemo, the character itself is the same one-sided villain you’ve come to expect from Marvel lately, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that he is in fact a part of this movie you’re watching. I’ve actually mentioned Zemo to friends I went to the theater with, and they didn’t know who he was. That’s a problem in any context. The addition of Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) amounts to little more than the ability of Marvel to say “here, another girl!” You know her as Peggy’s niece because that is the only interesting thing about her- other than that, she is a less interesting Natasha Romanoff. I also believe at this point, Marvel should give up on romantic pairings altogether- though the budding relationship between Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) is cute and interesting to watch, the other romance in the film falls the same way as Bruce Banner and Romanoff’s- flat on it’s face. It’s saved by Wilson and Barnes, but just barely, and honestly at this point if the pairing is not Pepper and Tony or Steve and Peggy, it’s not worth the effort to shoot because it makes everyone involved embarrassing.
Though you will be interested in the politics of the first half and the overall plot to get Bucky Barnes killed, let’s face it- everyone is going to see this movie for the scene in which the two warring Avengers factions face off. Though on a far smaller scale than the original comic books, I don’t believe that said battle disappoints- quips fly like War Machine’s bullets, every cast member is given a chance to show off their acting and superhero abilities, and the conclusion is something that I will confess to not seeing coming. Though not quite as dark as I think we all were expecting this film to get, the Cinematic universe is evolving- phase 3 promises to be something new, and I eagerly await the rest of the films to shake the doldrums of the heroes we know.
My only technical criticism? What the hell is with the giant locations flashing on our screens? Who on Earth thought that was a good idea? Especially when they only tell the audience what town the action takes place in- sure most everyone knows Berlin is in Germany, but how many people are going to know about a town in Romania?