Back in 2011, When Captain America: The First Avenger was released, I did my due diligence as a Marvel fan and saw it in preparation for the Avengers. At the time I thought the film was alright, but nothing particularly special. It was an action-packed summer blockbuster, but its story was generic and despite their best intentions Captain America still wasn’t cool in my eyes. Three years later, Winter Soldier raised the bar for the Marvel cinematic universe. Through its amazing action scenes, intelligent writing, and wonderful performances by the main cast, the second Captain America movie showed that a stand-alone Marvel film could be more than just another blockbuster. It even made me think that Steve Rogers wasn’t so bad after all. Jump forward another two years and we are now presented with presumably the last Captain America film we’ll see for a while. Captain America: Civil War has some pretty big shoes to fill for multiple reasons. Its based on one of the most famous arcs in comic history, it has a cast to rival an Avengers film, and it’s the first film in the third phase of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Going into Civil War with all that in mind, I thought that surely Marvel wouldn’t be able to pull it off. With that said, Captain America: Civil War is an incredibly fun and exciting entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe despite some noticeable flaws.
Perhaps the biggest draw for most hardcore Marvel fans is seeing the good guys duke it out amongst themselves. The premise follows Captain America and the rest of the Avengers as they are faced with new laws that require them to be held accountable for their actions when it comes to collateral damage. These ‘accords’ require that the heroes register and answer to the governments of the world rather than act on their own. Captain America and a few of the other Avengers are against the act, but Iron Man and several other heroes register believing it to be the right choice. To complicate matters further, Bucky Barnes, the Captain’s old friend turned deadly cyborg assassin is implicated in a crime he claims he didn’t commit. What follows is 2 and a half hours of arguments about justice broken by obligatory ass-kicking between beings of immense power. If you’re familiar with the comic book crossover which the film is based on, then you’re either going to be relieved or disappointed about how little the story is based on the original Civil War event. Personally, I’m relieved as the comic book crossover got pretty dark at some parts. In the end story serves merely as a vehicle to justify everyone trying to beat the shit out of each other rather than move the universe as a whole.
In fact, part of the reason why I enjoyed Civil War as much as I did was the carefree attitude and atmosphere the film exudes. Without going too much into spoilers, there’s an exchange between Black Widow and Hawkeye during one of the larger fight scenes that I think captures the essence of the film.
“We’re still friends right?” Black Widow asks as she blocks an attack,
“depends on how hard you hit me” he responds with a smirk.
To me this simple joke sums up the film entirely. Despite all the talk of differences and constant punches to the face that everyone seems to take, it’s clear that at the end of the day everyone is going to be fine no matter where they end up. This might be undermining Marvel’s attempts at making serious points on freedom and doing the right thing, but you can’t do that in a movie where the fight scenes are riddled with jokes.
Helping bring the laughs and the action is a stellar cast. For a movie called Captain America: Civil War, it really should have been the third Avengers film with this big a cast. Everyone is a perfect fit for their role, especially new Marvel cinematic universe heroes Black Panther and Spiderman played by Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland respectively. Bringing these characters in now before their own films is a smart way to get the audience acclimatized to (or fall in love with) them.
Of course, you can’t pull off a movie like this without an incredible crew and the Russo brothers have done it again. While the film is not as great as their last Marvel film: Winter Solider, the technical execution of Civil War certainly makes it one of the better Marvel movies. An area where the film excelled in particular was the fight choreography. Seriously, whoever they got to do this should do all of Marvel’s fight scenes from now on.
But, even incredible fighting between heroes can drag on. The biggest problem that Civil War faces is with pacing and momentum. By the time that the final big twist in the story is revealed, the audience is left wondering why the characters are still going and why they don’t just go home. I said earlier that the carefree attitude potentially undermines the serious notes of the film, it’s moments like this that the film looks like it’s shot itself in the foot. Its scrambling for justification for the last two hours we’ve sat through.
Despite the pacing and ending issues, Captain America Civil War is certainly one of the best Marvel films in the cinematic universe. It’s not Guardians or the first Avengers, but its definitely got Phase 3 off to the right start. It also shows that Marvel can handle all of its heroes on screen and not seem like over kill. Here’s hoping that by the time the actual third Avengers film roll around they’ll be able to keep the momentum going and not fall apart.