In the beginning I initially found the patriotic hero to be a bit two-dimensional. Sure he was strong and he had a pretty neat shield, but that was about it. When the Marvel movies were being made I was all about Thor, and happily for me that movie did not disappoint. However, I was not prepared for what was to come.
Director Joe Johnston did not disappoint in the slightest when it came to Captain America: The First Avenger. He was able to give the audience a superhero, but with a certain cinematic 1940’s vibe to it that enchanted me. However it was Chris Evans who converted me. He made the 90-pound weakling Steve Rogers a hero because of his heart. It wasn’t his muscular strength he receives that made him a hero in my eyes. It was the goodness of his soul. From that moment on, Captain America became my favorite of the Marvel Cinematic heroes.
Then we had Phase II. While some of the sequels may not have lived up to their predecessors, Captain America: The Winter Soldier brought a new level to the superhero genre of films. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo gave the cinematic universe a political thriller, and I ended up watching a movie that exceeded what The First Avenger achieved. So now the Russo brothers are back, and the world is excitedly talking about Captain America: Civil War. I’ve seen this level of pre-release excitement for a movie, and I have sadly been disappointed. As much as I love Marvel movies, I could not believe for a second that the Russos would deliver a film that could at least equal The Winter Soldier. I’m happy to say that I am terribly wrong. With Civil War they have far surpassed themselves.
This film is all about accountability. Due to a tragic accident many major governments in the world are seeking to make the Avengers accountable and to be watched over. The issue is clearly polarizing, and as every one knows by now, the Avengers are basically split into two separate camps over something known as the Sokovian Accords. This is presented to be a sort of “middle of the road” solution to two very different points of view. Of course things go awry, and when a certain Bucky Barnes makes an appearance we see the dividing line become even bigger. What makes it work is how the screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely address these points. There are no easy answers here, and each team of Avengers clearly believes that they are doing right by their point of view. Even when the Civil War becomes personal, it is followed through with genuine conviction, and it is that very belief that allows me to forgive seeing heroes I love on the screen come to blows. I’m no fan of seeing “good guys” fight each other. I have never liked it as a kid when reading comic books, and I don’t very much like it in my movies. Nonetheless, the characterization of each of our heroes is developed with an honesty and believability so that when I saw them fight all I could was just sit back and enjoy the ride.
This movie is filled with some wonderful surprises, one of which was a wonderful treat that was teased back in the 2015 film Ant-Man, and it was something that was gleefully welcomed by the audience in the theater. Other surprises involve some scary revelations from previous Marvel movies, as well as the presence of the Black Panther. His presence for the film was announced last year, but in true Marvel fashion, his debut did more than live up to the hype. Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa aka Black Panther carried himself with a beautiful nobility to his character, and as his superhero alter ego he came off as one of the toughest heroes I’ve ever seen. He will make for a wonderful addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s pantheon of heroes. However, the greatest surprise of all came in a slightly “younger” package, and that is of Tom Holland as Peter Parker, better known to the world as, Spider-Man.
Tom brought a humor that has long been missing with the character. Instead of the somewhat overly emotional character we saw in the Sam Raimi films, or the re-booted, brooding web slinger that director Marc Webb gave us, we saw the high school kid from Queens, and Holland gave him a wonderful youthful exuberance that had the audience laughing at all the right moments he was on the screen, whether he was Peter Parker or he was Spider-Man. For someone who had relatively little screen time compared to the rest of the cast, when the lights came up I found myself asking, “Tobey who??? Who is this Andrew Garfield guy you talk about???” If this appearance of his is any indication, I cannot wait to see him in his own solo outing.
At the end of the day, however, this is a movie about Captain America. Here is America’s hero, our First Avenger. He is the ultimate Boy Scout, and all of his moves and choices are done with the purest altruism. Whether or not his choices are actually correct is something that fans will unquestionably argue for quite some time, but there is no question that what he does is born out of his sense of selflessness. Even when he tries to save Bucky Barnes, it’s not because he wants his childhood friend back, but because he knows that Bucky cannot be held accountable for events that have been laid at his feet. Even when he knows that protecting Bucky could ruin his own reputation and role as a needed hero, he does it anyway because he intrinsically believes it to be right, and this is where Chris Evans, as Steve Rogers, truly shines. It could be very easy to paint Steve Rogers as a boring, two-dimensional character. Playing a character with as many virtues as Rogers can become quite boring to the audience, but Evans continually finds a way to dig deep within himself to bring Steve Rogers to life and make him more than just a walking, talking representation of a popular comic book character on a big screen. Again, we see something genuine in Rogers, and that quality cannot be present without a top-notch actor. Chris Evans may be regarded as an action hero for now, but he gives such an incredibly nuanced performance here that when he stands philosophically toe to toe with Tony Stark (also played with what has to be Robert Downey Jr.’s best turn yet in the Marvel movies) you stop thinking that you’re watching two characters on a screen, but rather you’re intruding on a deeply personal argument between two friends.
While the action scenes in the beginning of the film are a bit too “herky-jerky” for my taste, the camerawork did settle down making it easier for the audience to follow the action, and the story telling is very well paced. We see the true Civil War brew very early in the film, and while many in the audience is anxious to see the fight really break out, the increasing tension in which it is developed prior to the confrontation reaches an almost unbearable level. Unlike Batman v Superman where we had two heroes who really didn’t know each other thereby making the build-up towards their battle somewhat tedious, this film has characters that not only know each other, but have had each other’s collective backs more than once. They are friends. They are family for each other, and that is what needs to slowly erode for this Civil War to work. It needs to take time to get us there, but at the same time not lose us, and in that respect the movie scores a big win.
Not only did Captain America: Civil War succeed in virtually every aspect, it quickly became one of my favorite films in all of the Marvel movie franchise, and I very much look forward to seeing it again!
On a scale from A (excellent) to F (fail), this movie earns an A++!!!
Have you seen Captain America: Civil War? What were your thoughts about it? If you didn’t like it, what would you like to see changed? Did the cast perform better here than in Age of Ultron?
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