Captain America: Civil War (2016)

10 Dec

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was one of the best entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since its release, we’ve had another origin story with “Ant-Man” and the next “Avengers” sequel (and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but none of those characters make an appearance until “Vol. 2”). We still have a while to wait for the ultimate two-part “Avengers” story involving something called “the Infinity Stones”—you know, the things that were only hinted upon in previous MCU films since “Thor: The Dark World” but every comic-book reader seems to know everything about? So, while we’re waiting for that, we have “Avengers 2.5: Civil War.” Er…no, I’m sorry, it’s “Captain America: Civil War,” featuring many of the Avengers in action (excluding Hulk and Thor). But we have something close enough, plus new Avengers. The result is the most exciting superhero movie I’ve seen this year.

The events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” aren’t ignored. In fact, that film’s climax set up the issues in “Captain America: Civil War.” If you recall (and if you don’t, don’t worry—you’ll catch on), there were many casualties in the devastation of Sokovia at the hands of the Avengers. Because of this, the United Nations wants to oversee and control the Avengers. Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) doesn’t trust the government over his own judgment, but Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) feels immense guilt over his part in the incident and agrees to oversight. On Stark’s side are Black Widow (Scarlett Johansen), War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Vision (Paul Bettany), and on Cap’s side are Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). Things get even more complicated when Cap’s childhood-friend-turned-enemy-weapon Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) aka The Winter Soldier returns from obscurity and is reprogrammed by the bad guys to kill. Cap breaks many rules in protecting him in order to find more answers in order to help him. His allies on the UN issue follow him, leading to battle lines being drawn between them and Stark’s followers.

There’s a lot that happens in this film, including the introduction of two new recruits: Black Panther and Spider-Man. T’Challa aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is the prince of the African nation of Wakanda whose father has fallen victim to an attack brought on by The Winter Soldier. Out for vengeance, he joins Stark’s side, as Stark is after Cap to get to Bucky. Then, there’s Spider-Man, who also joins Stark and is the hero about whom I was both excited and nervous. I’m a Spider-Man fan, and seeing what Sony continued to do with the character after good starts and bad finishes made me cross my fingers that Disney/Marvel would finally serve him well. And what did I get? The best version of Spider-Man I’ve ever seen on film. Played brilliantly by Tom Holland, Peter Parker aka Spider-Man is charismatic and energetic as well as quippy and resourceful. I watch this kid, and I’m not thinking of Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield—this is Spider-Man! I can’t wait to see him in this summer’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

The villain isn’t very memorable, but his motivations, which are revealed later, are. That brings me to one of the movie’s biggest strengths: nothing is black and white. Sure, there are other ways of doing things than what some of the characters do here, but that adds to the moral complexities that are scattered all over the movie. The advertising makes a big thing out of “Team Captain America” and “Team Iron Man” and “whose side are you on” and so forth, but the thing about this movie is that the decision of who to side with is not an easy one. This can cause audiences to discuss many of the moral/ethical obligations sure to be brought up.

While I’m on the subject of seeing where Iron Man comes from, I have to commend this movie for making me care about Tony Stark/Iron Man again. Lately, I’ve been on the fence about this guy, after he’s made dumb decision after dumb decision—telling a terrorist where he lives, building a machine that could do good or bad even after he’s had a vision telling him he’s responsible for destruction, and so on. These things made me want to smack him in the face after he said another witty remark, because this guy wasn’t claiming responsibility for anything that was his fault. But thankfully, he does claim responsibility here. He feels a lot of responsibility over what happened in “Age of Ultron” and you can tell he wants to make up for it. This is the side of Tony Stark I’ve been waiting to see for a long time.

Blah, blah, blah. What about the action? Well, it’s there and it’s done well. But it’s nothing too special…until it gets to an extended action sequence midway through, in which the Avengers are fighting each other. This is an amazing sequence and the one people have come to see. To see the heroes we’re all familiar with suddenly facing each other is a fascinating concept by itself, but to see them use their skills on each other is even more entertaining to watch. While a part of you wants them to listen to reason and talk about why they’re fighting, another part of you can’t help but enjoy the battle. The effects are well-done, the pacing is fast as lightning, and there is room for surprises, particularly with a new development in Ant-Man’s technology.

“Captain America: Civil War” is an enormously entertaining MCU entry, though a part of me is admittedly afraid that the MCU can only go down from here. But then again, another part of me is excited to see what is to come anyway. Especially “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” We have a few months until we get to see that one—I’m crossing my fingers (and my toes as well) that it gives us what we want/need from the web-slinging superhero.

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