I’d like to think that the Marvel universe has found its groove at theaters. Sure, some may question the madness that was The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it paved the way for bigger things to come – like Captain America: Civil War.
The film, from directors Joe and Anthony Russo (who previously directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one of Marvel’s best movies), manages to top all expectations, delivering both a thunderous, slam-bang summer experience like the fans want, as well as something a little bit deeper, thanks to the introduction of some meaningful new characters, and a cementing that means we’re in for some better movies to come. Yes, kids, they may actually get better than what we’ve gotten thus far.
Following a terrorist attack that leaves several innocents dead (due to circumstances that unfold way too quickly), the Secretary of State, Ross (William Hurt, returning for the first time since The Incredible Hulk), decides to call for a rulebook for the Avengers to follow. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is on board with the idea, especially when one previous incident cost way too many innocents; however, Captain America (Chris Evans) isn’t too fond of the idea.
From there, things get moving very quickly, as Cap’s old buddy Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) re-enters the picture, with everyone gunning for him following an explosion during a summit. From there, all hell breaks loose, and teams begin deciding on sides.
Some might feel that the build-up for such a war could take time and, like Batman v Superman, sap life out of the film as a result. But Civil War remains highly engaging throughout, mainly with the re-introduction of several older favorites, like Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Ant-Man (an always humorous Paul Rudd), along with a few new faces.
One standout is clearly T’Challa, also known as Black Panther (Chadwich Boseman). This is a character with a great deal of heart, as well as the skills to match, and he’s easily one of my new favorites in the Marvel universe. And kudos to the Russos for finally giving Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) his due, actually making him a kid and starting his story all the way over again – but without needing to deal with another Uncle Ben scenario. (For good measure, Marisa Tomei may be my favorite Aunt May yet.)
The action scenarios pay off in spades throughout the film, particularly a big airport sequence where things get nuts. You may think you’ve seen everything from the trailers, but I assure you that you haven’t. In fact, between that the insane foot chase between Winter Soldier and Black Panther, the action moves along swimmingly. The multi-camera changes can be a bit much at times, but it’s never to the point of being incoherent – it’s just a fast-paced style that fits a fast-paced film.
For that matter, the film is also backed by strong performances. Downey continues to make a strong commitment to Iron Man after eight years, showing a raw sense of emotion while at the same time cracking wise every chance he gets. (His scene with Parker is definitely one worth noting.) For that matter, Evans is every bit his equal, showing compassion for his friends while still proceeding with his own dangerous path. I also enjoyed Bettany, Johannson, Olsen, Jeremy Renner (returning as Hawkeye out of the blue) and Rudd, and Boseman and Holland are ideal fits into the cast.
That said, there were a couple of performances I did have to question. One is with Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), a mystery man that lives for nothing more than a revenge plot. He’s okay, but I kind of wish we had gotten a little more background on him to give his character more depth. For that matter, Martin Freeman appears in a “blink and you’ll miss it” role, and I wish he had been given more as well.
But I digress. Thanks to a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Civil War manages to fire on all cylinders. It’s a fun movie throughout, definitely in my top five Marvel favorites; its action sequences are enjoyable to watch; and old and new actors alike have something engaging to offer, as relationships build and we begin to coast our way into Phase Three of Marvel’s grand plan. Hey, you gotta start with a foundation somewhere, right? This is the best way to start.