Marvel’s latest blockbuster pits hero against hero.
SPOILERS BELOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
I just got home from seeing Civil War and I could not have been more pleased by this movie. Winter Soldier set a high bar for its successor, but the Russo brothers managed to pull it off. Inevitably this movie will be compared to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the caped crusader and friends just don’t hold a candle to this movie. Marvel got right everything DC got wrong.
First and foremost, the story makes sense as every character’s motive is solid and fully realized. Marvel managed to build cohesively and coherently on their existing stories to justify either of the two opposing sides’ actions in the film. The spirit of the original comic is there without the large cast of the comic or the presence of characters licensed to other film companies. Acting wise, the cast continues to deliver solid performances. Evans’s Captain America is conflicted about his decisions and really conveys that he is just doing what he thinks is best. Downey Jr.’s Iron Man is a tortured man with obvious psychological damage from the previous films who is desperately trying to make sense of the world around him, Johansson keeps Black Widow’s emotions and motives close to the chest as a good spy should, Bettany’s Vision comes across with an inhuman quality despite his snappy dressing, Olsen’s Scarlett Witch conveys her guilt at the events of Age of Ultron and a desire to make amends (even if her accent is inconsistent), Stan’s Winter Soldier is similarly disturbed by the actions of his past and is trying to reconcile being both Bucky and the Winter Soldier, Cheadle’s War Machine is ever the staunch supporter of Iron Man and soldier, and Boseman’s Black Panther is a proud and determined warrior king that is alternating regal and frightening, and the cherry on top is Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, who is the dorky looking snarky teenager that neither Tobey Maguire nor Andrew Garfield could deliver in their respective franchises. The costumes look fantastic in the film. I was wary of the Black Panther suit being too busy versus the simplified versions that exist in the comics, but it worked really well onscreen. Winter Soldier’s arm had all the little articulation animations and sounds it needed, and the Spider-Man suit looked better in the film than it did in the trailers. Action wise this movie easily tops Winter Soldier. Every character has a unique fighting style and gets to showcase that style at least once in the film, and since it’s his movie Cap really shows off his versatility. I can’t really get into the specifics of any of the fight scenes without giving things away, but they are all very satisfactory.
From the outset, this movie strives to make sure that everyone has a good reason to go to war, and that the spirit of the original story remains. The film makers toned down the scale of the destruction from the comics, but kept in the key points of innocent bystanders being killed by an inexperienced hero in over their head. I would have loved to see more Crossbones in the movie, but having him fill the role villainous suicide bomb that Scarlet Witch failed to properly handle worked. That opening scene, coupled with Tony’s scene with the mother of one of the Sokovia victims sets up the underlying conflict of the movie: loss. Steve has just loss Peggy in the opening minutes of the movie and Tony has lost Pepper in between Age of Ultron and Civil War, and Bucky has lost his mind and his sense of self. Once Bucky is framed for the bombing, Steve is fighting for literally the last vestige of his old life. Black Panther was an amazing addition to this movie. Chadwick Boseman’s delivery of lines after his father died and after he finds out that Captain America is going after the Winter Soldier himself sent shivers down my spine. He is not a man to be reckoned with, and his fight scenes reinforce that. The airport fight was one of the better fight scenes from Marvel to date, Spider-Man’s acrobatics, Black Panther’s cat like moves, Black Widow’s gymnastic style and the power enhanced tactics of Scarlett Witch, Vision, and Ant-Man showcased each character and I didn’t feel that any character’s power level or experience was fudged for plot purposes. The Spider-Man Captain America fight is particularly interesting because it’s clear early in the fight that Peter is stronger and faster than Steve, but Steve’s experience and cunning allow him to take Peter out of the fight. The tunnel chase scene show us another glimpse of how cool Black Panther is when it shows him outrunning cars while Cap needs to hijack a car to keep up with the action. But the best scene in my opinion was the reveal that Bucky was responsible for the death of Tony’s parents and that Steve knew about it and covered it up. The team came down on Tony during Age of Ultron for keeping secrets from them and Tony had been brought over to Cap’s side about Bucky and what was really going on up until Steve admitted he knew the truth. This scene is where the idea of loss comes back to the forefront. Tony lost something special that day, his presentation at MIT shows that. He has regrets about how he left things with his parents, but he’ll never let the depth of those regrets show, and now he is face to face with the man responsible for one of the worst days of his life, and the truth of that was kept from him by a man he thought to be a close friend. It’s hard to get more personal than that. That last fight between Winter Soldier, Captain America, and Iron Man really drives home Zemo’s plan to bring down the Avengers. Zemo accomplishes what Loki could not: he gets the team to truly tear itself apart. The final scene of the movie drives the point home; Cap and Black Panther have reconciled and Bucky is willing to go back into cold storage until his mind can be fixed (perhaps an in for Dr. Strange to join up with the other heroes) and Tony is left alone in the Avengers compound helping War Machine recover from his spinal injury. I’m very interested to see how the team will come back together in time to face Thanos in the final Avengers movies.