Building a universe takes time. Iron Man laid down the foundations just eight years ago with Nick Fury saying these words:
“I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative”
Do I even need to explain this?
The rest is history!
Captain America: Civil War is the long-awaited payoff to eight years worth of build-up.
The plot is loosely based on the Mark Millar-penned Civil War story arc. The collateral damage since the Battle of New York, the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Sokovia incident has come back to haunt Earth’s mightiest heroes. In a way, it felt like the chickens have come home to roost. The UN feels that Cap & co. have had too much carte blanche in ensuring Earth’s protection. Which led to them, as well as Thunderbolt Ross (reprised by WIlliam Hurt from the MCU Hulk solo film) to step in with the Sokovia Accords, a government act where it dictates when the Avengers should act when a crisis rears it’s head. Iron Man is on board with the Accords, whereas Cap is not. Unlike another recent superhero face-off. The Iron Man/Captain America feud feels earned. Dating all the way back to the first Avengers with this exchange:
Tony: Everything special about you came out of a bottle!
Steve: Put on the suit, let’s go a few rounds.
Robert Downey Jr. is at the peak of his powers, so is Chris Evans. Both characters, with eight films between them (3 solo films apiece and 2 crossovers) have come a long way. Tony Stark, with all his swaggering bravado, who thumbed his nose at authority now feels responsible after the damage that Ultron caused. Steve Rogers, a man of ideals, had his trust in authority shaken since S.H.I.E.L.D. became compromised. Ironically, each character took a complete 180 since the Avengers and in the framework of Civil War, it works brilliantly. It’ll cause you to see both sides of the coin.
Now, onto the good stuff!
The film is sructured as an Avengers sequel and a Captain America sequel. The serialized structure of the MCU feels like a great TV series where you have to wait months before the next episode. Most of the cast from AOU and Winter Soldier returns here. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Steve’s BFF Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Ant-Man also joins the fun in a hilarious turn from Paul Rudd.
The character work is on point. Joe and Anthony Russo have a firm grip on Black Widow. I loved their depiction of Natasha here. You don’t really know what her motives are and it’s a testament to the excellent writing as each character has their reasons to joining either Team Iron Man or Team Cap and there’s a lot of fan service moments that callback to past films.
The action is phenomenal. Seeing all the ways Cap can hurl his shield is awesome. It felt Bourne-like, I also need to talk about the much-talked about airport set-piece. If you’ve thought the Battle of New York was amazing. This dwarfs it. I was in complete awe during that scene. It featured a lot of dream match-ups and seeing it unfold onscreen had me giving it a slow clap and that’s not even the end of the movie!
In what has been the worst kept secret in the best way. Civil War features the reintroduction of the Mickey Mouse of Marvel, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man! Sure, he’s had his run of films but this is by far the best depiction of the character. Seeing Spider-Man share the screen with Iron Man and the gang was incredible. He’s in it for about half an hour of screen-time. 10 mins as Peter and 20 mins as Spider-Man (the eyes!). Tom Holland crushed it as he gave Spidey a youthfulness that the past iterations lacked somewhat. His screen-time, albeit brief, was really maximized and he stole the show and it reclaimed the glory of Marvel’s flagship character. I care about Spider-Man again!
The fun doesn’t stop here as it also introduces T’Challa, king of Wakanda also known as the Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman knocked it out of the park. His motivations are personal as he’s lost someone in the crossfire. He brings a regality to the crew. You think Tony’s a baller? T’Challa is a king where his country is the birthplace for vibranium. I can’t wait to dig into the character more in his solo film.
Last but not least, the villain, Zemo is terrific. He operates in the shadows and he’s pulling the strings to get the gang to tear each other apart.
Captain America: Civil War is a a brilliant case study of how to build towards an epic confrontation. While it tackles the same themes as Batman v Superman. The confrontation here felt earned and it was handled with such care, as opposed to just throwing it in there for the sake of being thrown in. The storylines all intersect and it came together perfectly. You will laugh, you will cheer with guttural joy and you could very well get teary-eyed when it’s over.
It’s easily the best Marvel film to date!