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Review: Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War
9 10

As a lifelong reader of Captain America comics (nearly three decades at this point), the character has become more than a simple cog in the Marvel machine for me, but the very fabric it's built upon. Certainly it could be argued as to which character most represents the Marvel Universe as a whole, but for me it's always been Cap. He's idealistic, practical, unwavering, and committed to doing what is right, no matter how many people tell him he's wrong and he's remained steadfast in that way for a century. This is one of the biggest considerations when adapting a character like him for the big screen and to ignore it would be sacrilege. Fortunately, Marvel has wisely embraced Steve Rogers (and Captain America is every bit as much Steve Rogers and vice versa) and how his character fits into the larger scale of it all. The importance of this is at the front and center of his struggle in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, which draws more from the character of Cap himself than the original Civil War storyline of the comics (near impossible to perfectly adapt even if simply because of character rights).

CIVIL WAR begins with a mystery and it's one that carries throughout the film, carrying a weight that will likely forever alter the lives of both Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), while also creating a strength in both characters that defines their every action going forward. Most would call this simply good character development, but I believe it's also a credit to the long legacy that these characters have on the comics page and how that is now fully formed on the movie screen. It's a credit (and a big one) to the masterminds behind CIVIL WAR (notably writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Joe and Anthony Russo), who have created not only a film that encapsulates the feeling of comic book legacy, but of characters that inch forward in their big screen journey rather than spin their wheels in one tired retread after another. CIVIL WAR is the pinnacle of the comic book movie genre; it proves, once and for all, that what's on the page can absolutely work on the screen.

The film borrows lightly from Mark Millar's original mini-series of the same title, which split the Avengers down the middle after their actions are called into question when the innocent death toll can no longer be ignored, causing a worldwide call to have superheroes regulated by a governing body and only by a governing body. Tony shows his belly easily to the situation, whereas Steve can't accept total control by anyone. And it's certainly not as simple as the Civil War meme would suggest; it's a complex issue and one that is explored on both sides with equal measure. Things get more complicated when Cap's best friend and most-wanted former assassin, The Winter Soldier, is blamed for a terrorist action that puts him in the cross hairs of not only the government, but of the Black Panther, played brilliantly here by Chadwick Boseman. While Cap tries to help save his childhood friend, the line is further divided between him and Stark, causing both men to go on a recruiting spree that leads to their eventual confrontation.

Naturally, this leads Stark to Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, who is introduced to us as the youthful Peter Parker most of us started out with on the comics page (although I'd say he's more Ultimate version than anything here). Holland is absolutely terrific as both Parker and Spider-Man. That's not hyperbole, either. By the time we see him in full costume after Stark calls for "Underoos!" you're already warmed up to him, but once his scenes play out I'd be shocked if you didn't absolutely love him. The banter, character traits, and goofiness is all there. It's the Spider-Man we've been waiting to see, even if his predecessors did just fine in their iterations; this is, without a doubt, the MCU Spider-Man and it's a glorious thing.

The action in Civil War is outstanding. The speed, intensity, and grounded-yet-awesome hand-to-hand battles feel like a real-world fight with superhero powers in every way. If you loved The Russo Bros style in THE WINTER SOLDIER, then you can take that and multiply it by ten here. It's fast, it's brutal, it's intense, and it's executed in a way that never once takes you out of the moment or makes you feel like it was an obvious CGI stunt; on the contrary it makes you say "How the hell did they do that?" and that's when a film like this is really doing its work in the special effects and fight choreography department. The battle at the airport is, hands down, the biggest and best superhero battle we've seen on film to date, surpassing both Avengers films in that department easily. It's graceful, exciting, and at times humorous, which fits the tone and style perfectly. It doesn't matter what you've seen in the trailers or clips; you haven't seen anything yet.

I would say that CIVIL WAR is the perfect superhero film, but it's not completely flawless, as the one thing that continues to haunt the MCU is fully intact here; the dreaded "villain problem". Daniel Brühl's Helmut Zero (aka Baron Zemo in the comics) plays an integral part to the plot, but in the end he amounts to very little in the overall scheme of things and his overall plot against the heroes falls way short of the big reveal we are led to believe is coming. It's actually exceptionally underwhelming and it's the one thorn in the side of an otherwise wonderfully crafted superhero film. The fix to this is for Marvel to invest as much love and passion into their villains as they do their heroes. To do that would truly raise their already impressive pedigree.

While I was concerned this film would be overstuffed with side characters, the truth is that it works almost exactly the way it works in the comics, where various characters pop in from book-to-book regularly with no break in the development of your key characters. Cap is given the spotlight and has all the character moments he needs and deserves (loss, redemption, romance, and of course, moral struggle), while new characters Black Panther and Spider-Man dip in without distraction, simply enhancing the film without distracting you from it. Boseman nails the Wakandan accent and presence of T'Challa, giving you all the incentive you need for a solo film, while Holland's Spider-Man would have you sitting in your seat if his solo film began after CIVIL WAR's credits ended.

CIVIL WAR is a true achievement in the superhero genre. It's everything we wanted AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON to be (minus that villain problem) and proves that a seemingly "overstuffed" superhero flick can absolutely work when the focus is firmly planted, both in character and story. This is Cap's story and Cap's struggle, which isn't resolved simply, but rather consistently with who we've come to know him as, both onscreen and on the page. CIVIL WAR is exactly why we love superhero films; it's visceral, emotional, exciting, and provoking. Sometimes it's really damn funny. This is Marvel truly embracing Marvel, showing it knows its characters and respects not only their long-standing legacy on the page, but the commitment and passion of the fans who have embraced these characters for decades.

Extra Tidbit: While I'm sure many will try to play the compare/contrast game between this and DC's BATMAN V SUPERMAN, I would argue that they are very different animals and while I liked CIVIL WAR more than BVS, I'm glad that they aren't similar in tone or style. Plenty of room for both in the marketplace and absolutely no need for both to follow the same patterns.
Source: JoBlo.com

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