The Russo Brothers, alongside screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus, deliver a carefully crafted story that has been building over the last 8 years across 12 movies, Captain America: Civil War being the 13th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe reinforces the importance of cohesion and long term story telling. Civil War delivers as both a standalone Captain America sequel and a part of something greater than itself.
The film carries itself with great poise and works as a well oiled machine that lands every beat between scenes. It is a movie built around the duality of conflict, and differing Ideals layered in between ambitious, but well crafted action sequences. It is a movie with heart and emotion that spans across the spectrum with some of the most exciting interactions between iconic beloved characters and some truly heartbreaking imagery that will have you questioning your original allegiances. It is a superhero movie that doesn’t limit itself by its serious thematic but rather allows itself to flow organically while it subtly plants key points meant to solidify the ultimate payoff.
The movie starts off with the newly assembled Avengers team from the end of Age of Ultron as they attempt to stop Crossbones, Frank Grillo’s now disfigured character from The Winter Soldier. The scene takes place at a center for infectious diseases where the villain plans to steal a dangerous virus. This scene’s fast paced action sequence gives each avenger enough screen time to showcase everyone’s talents and how they play with each other’s abilities, however despite their best efforts to minimize casualties during their mission a team member’s actions cause an explosion to blow off part of a building that results in the death of several people. In the eyes of the world, The Avengers operating as a private organization is what caused the destruction of places like New York, Washington DC, and Sokovia, which leads to the UN passing the Sokovia Accords, a series of regulations put in place to limit the freedom with which The Avengers operate with by turning them into a task force mandated by the United Nations. Not everyone agrees to this, and a divide amongst team members begins to form, while a man named Zemo hunts down Hydra agents in search for a mission report from 1991 pertaining to a hit carried out by The Winter Soldier.
Each character gets enough screen time to justify their actions and properly represent their growth within the Marvel Universe. Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark is a much more serious grown up take on the role as the guilt from previous acts have caught up to him. Tony’s actions are not snarky and cynical as we’re used to but rather raw and filled with grief. At first I was scared that the inclusion of every character would be solely to fill up the screen with familiar faces but that wasn’t the case, the introduction to the MCU of Black Panther was carefully woven into the plot. Chadwick Boseman delivers a seriously fierce performance as T’Challa that puts him as close to the conflict as Tony, Bucky and Steve. The only negative thing I can say about the Black Panther is how long its actually going to take for us to see him on the big screen again. We are given the opportunity to explore Wanda Maximoff’s character more in depth than we did in Age of Ultron as she struggles with the consequences of her actions and the way the world fears her abilities. Wanda’s interaction with The Vision who is still trying to adjust to his newfound emotions and subsequent reactions, is an interesting subplot that doesn’t distract from the main theme but rather compliments the ramifications of the conflict.
We are introduced to Tom Holland in the role of Peter Parker in a way that doesn’t beat us over the head with his origin story but rather a subtle – Hey, I’m here and this is what I can do. It is a warm exchange between Peter and Tony in which he delivers the soul of the “with great power” message without having to say those words. Tom Holland’s innocent approach to the character is a much younger one that still manages to emanate the maturity that comes with a heavy loss. Once all the characters are introduced and the film makes its way onto the airport scene we are gifted with one of the most spectacular fight scenes ever to be displayed on screen. Spider-Man’s portrayal in Civil War could arguably be the best representation of the character to date. Ant-Man and Spider-Man not only steal the show with their performances but also provide the appropriate balance to the otherwise somber clash between friends. It is halfway through the battle when you realize that they are pulling their punches as one side attempts to quell conflict by abiding to the law and the others loyally stand besides Steve.
Captain America’s loyalty for Bucky takes him to a place beyond reason as he lets emotion and instinct drive his actions in an attempt to clear his friend’s name. There comes a point in the movie where it becomes difficult to watch these characters fight. Captain America: Civil War, manages to make you rethink who you side with when you realize the reason why its so painful to watch Steve and Tony come to blows is because in a way you agree with both of them. The last fight takes an unexpected emotional turn that makes everything hurt that much more, a brutal expose of how far these characters have come and it leaves you with the realization that there’s never really a winning side in war.
Captain America: Civil War proves to be the defining entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one that book ends everything we’ve seen until this point and lays the ground for what lies beyond. Not only is it a great follow up to The Winter Soldier, but it is also the best Avengers film to date.