CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo; Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Sebastian Stan and Paul Bettany; Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem; Running time 147 minutes; In wide release May 6.
2016 will be remembered as the year of superhero throwdowns. First we had man vs. god in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”, and now we get one of the biggest divides in the Marvel universe -- “Captain America: Civil War.” While there will be much debate between the two fandoms about which one did it better, there is no doubt that “Civil War” is one of the most anticipated movies of the year and one that millions across the globe have been waiting for years. So was it worth it?
This movie is much too big for just one person to take a crack at, so a few of us here at BSR have joined forces to share our thoughts and also let you know who you should side with.
Oh, and don’t worry, none of us are Team Hydra, so you won’t find any spoilers here.
Andy: This was everything I wanted in a movie and more. Believe the hype. If this isn’t the best of the Marvel movies so far, it’s pretty close. It’s amazing how balanced the film is. It has to carry a huge emotional heft (and it does). But it manages to do so while being incredibly funny and amidst jaw-dropping stunts and ‘splosions. And for a giant ensemble cast, each principal member of The Avengers team gets their own story arc, development, and personal stakes in the fight. Even so, this is a Captain America story, placing him struggling with the morality and realpolitik of a military-style chain of command for his Avengers team versus the consequences of friendly fire and collateral damage.
Adam: I went in with such high hopes for this, that I felt I would have to be let down in some way. Not that I didn’t have faith in the Russo brothers -- they have given us the best MCU movie so far in “Winter Soldier” -- but that the source material was so near and dear to me that they couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations. I shouldn’t have worried. “Civil War” delivers on every single level that it completely blew me away. Everything in it is nearly perfect. Everyone gets their chance to shine, the action scenes are some of the best we’ve gotten in a superhero movie, and this was everything “Ultron” should have been. And even though this could almost be viewed as “Avengers 2.5” it still manages to hold Cap strong and central throughout the storyline and lets his journey carry the brunt of the storytelling.
Bryan: This is a film that did the unimaginable, largely because it’s in uncharted territory for a film in the history of cinema. It took 8 years of movies for this one to be possible, and “Civil War” manages to be the perfect culmination of ALL of that cinema. It’s a perfect and logical continuation of “The Avengers” films in all of the characters involved, making up for the possibly forgettable “Age of Ultron.” But more than that it’s a logical sequel to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” following that storyline as well, but it also gives us the next step in Tony Stark’s evolution, so it could have just as easily been an “Iron Man 4.” But it also serves as a stepping stone for new films in the next phase as well, brilliantly introducing Black Panther and Spider-Man. There’s an elegance to the blending of characters and stories that makes the Russo brothers shine like filmmakers. There are no ham-fisted scenes of characters introduced via video email attachment, everything has a reason.
Andy: Yeah, and when new characters are introduced, they immediately have depth, motivation, and their interactions with other characters have logic and purpose. This is the final punchline of a really long and expertly-told joke. It’s the final round between two champion boxers. It’s the climax of the epic poem.
Adam: You two hit it right on the head. “Civil War” managed to neatly and efficiently tie off almost all the storylines from both phase one and two of the MCU so that the new stories can start off on a fresh foundation. Yes, there is a ton of fallout that needs to be addressed, but Iron Man, the Avengers and even Captain America all had a denouement that I didn’t think they could so majestically pull off.
Andy: Despite this being Captain America’s movie, I felt that the two new characters basically tried to steal the film and walk off with it. Black Panther and Spider-Man are amazing, perfectly cast, perfectly executed. They finally nailed Spidey’s manic fight-banter and helped ground him as a kid in this movie, and he makes everything fun. T’Challa, on the other hand, makes everything thoughtful and serious. A showdown with him chasing Bucky through the streets that we’ve only seen bits of will blow you away.
Bryan: I think we need to talk about the elephant in the room, too. In a year where we DID get two “versus” superhero movies, we do need to address which one worked better. And even if, somehow, you liked “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” there is no doubt whatsoever that “Civil War” had better action sequences, more fun, more entertainment, and more cohesive, logical storytelling than anything Zack Snyder has ever done. This even explored similar themes as far as parental legacy and origin, and it did it better with far less screen time.
Andy: Beyond a doubt, “Civil War” is the better film. I was fine with Batman v Superman. There’s portions of it I liked rather a lot. But it’s like comparing a meal at your local Applebees to a personalized prix fixe menu and wine pairings at a four star restaurant. Zack Snyder had a hard time holding onto, balancing, and developing two characters (and giving short shrift to his breakout star, Wonder Woman). Meanwhile, the Russo Brothers manage to develop each of their ten (yes, TEN) stars, give each of them a story arc and individual motivation, and introduce not one, but two, beloved characters into an already full story. And at the end? We wanted more. “Civil War” not only left me wanting to see that Spider-Man and Black Panther movie now, it left me wondering about the fate and balance of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Adam: Exactly. While both Andy and I did enjoy BvS more than you, Bryan, we are all in perfect agreement that “Civil War” completely showed it up and proved that you can have an epic and at times, heartbreaking, story and do so with a sense of humor and life. Some may decry Marvel for that levity, but it’s necessary when so much horrible stuff is happening. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried during this movie. The final moments of the airport fight when these people who really do truly love each other and have been to hell and back are literally tearing each other apart killed me.
Bryan: That either of you liked anything about “Batman v Superman” is still kind of mind-blowing to me. It’s just a poorly made film, which is why you should like it even less in contrast to this well-made one.
Andy: *blows a kiss to Bryan* Sure, Batman v Superman telegraphed its punches, fumbled the introduction to the supporting members of the Justice League, but mostly there just never seemed to be any real stakes to the fight, which mostly seemed arbitrary and only included in the film because it was called Batman v Superman. We always knew Bats and Supes would join forces to fight Doomsday (It was in the trailer!) and would go from strangers to enemies to allies. But “Civil War” takes friends, inserts a real disagreement with real consequences where both sides are partially right, and tears a team we love (and have loved for 9 movies!) apart in the most brutal way possible.
Adam: STOP! I’m getting teary-eyed again!
Andy: *hands Adam a tissue* Yeah, I’m still torn up over the moral weight of “Civil War.” It’s like watching Mom and Dad fight. I haven’t given a second thought to the arbitrary, putative “argument” between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent (as the disagreement was really just an immaterial macguffin to make our heroes fight). Their fight had as much moral weight as Godzilla vs. Mothra. I’ve immediately forgotten what they were even fighting over. Meanwhile the fight between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark asked questions argued over since Plato’s Republic, and then it got intensely personal.
While the personal helped heal the rift between Batman v Superman in a beautiful piece of symmetry and syllogism, it tore Tony and Steve apart in a way that is all too relatable. Even though I’m pretty firmly #TeamCap, I found myself relating to Tony and his struggles. Tony feels betrayed-- he’s just trying to keep the family together-- and things go even deeper and get more personal and more familial beyond that. No matter how Team Cap you are, you feel for Tony and see his side.
Adam: I was always very firmly Team Cap ever since the comic and also through all the trailers. That said, I could fully understand why Tony was making the decisions he did and why others joined on his side. In the end, though, it is fully realized why Cap was right and made the correct decision even if it means everyone was against him. His “no, YOU move” speech was both used perfectly in the movie as well as proven to be the right way to go at the very end.
Bryan: I was Team Cap through the comic books but, watching the movie, I was put firmly into Team Iron Man territory. There would be a lot of collateral damage and lost lives saved if Cap would have just listened to Tony when he needed to. They could have compromised between each other and come up with a third option. It didn’t need to be either/or.
Andy: I’m in love with this film. I can’t explain how this delivers without going into spoiler territory, but this is a movie that demands to be discussed with friends over social beverages. I could philosophize on this thing for hours, but instead I’ll just say I give this a 10 out of 10. Bring some tissues, which you’ll mostly need for tears of joy. But dat ending, tho.
Adam: There's nothing I would change about this film or anything I could think of that would make it better. At first I was a little miffed that Zemo was such a nearly nonexistent villain, but as I thought more about it, I realized that was all “Civil War” needed in a bad guy -- an impetus to get the fighting started. This movie had to live or die on the conflicts between the characters we love, and it knocked it out of the park. I'm absolutely in love with this movie and can't wait to go see it again and again and again … And cry my eyes out each time. 10 out of 10
Bryan: For effectively doing the impossible and telling a good story in a competent, even elegant, way, I’m giving this film a 9 out of 10. We do not have to settle for “turn your brain off” fare when it comes to superhero films, nor should we. “Civil War” proves that you can have an intelligent, well written film featuring heroes in tights and armor. Do not accept anything less than brilliance from the filmed entertainment you consume. And as far as superhero entertainment, this certainly raises the bar.