Area Theaters May 6th
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeeley
Starring everyone except for Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Samuel L. Jackson
Note: Stay through the credits for two additional scenes
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) makes some enemies in the third “Captain America” flick, among them Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), who’s retired the armor for Armani. Between them is the government, more or less embodied by William Hurt, who gives a pretty compelling argument that the Avengers need some supervision in the wake of a deadly incident involving telekinetic newbie Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). The opening sequence sets the breakneck pace, and “Civil War” becomes a multi-tiered opus of sacrifice and fractured bonds.
Easily the most emotionally charged movie of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (which is expanding faster than the Big Bang), “Civil War” is not only the best Captain America movie, it’s the best Iron Man movie, the best Avengers movie, and with only 15 minutes on-screen, the best Spider-Man movie (even though I take issue with how hastily the web-slinger is thrown into the melee. More on that shortly).
As I’ve said so many times before, we’ve become desensitized to the kind of graphics that $200 million can buy. Now it’s simply expected. Innovation is really about how it’s used and how the story is told. From a psychological standpoint, “Civil War” packs a heavier wallop than Thor’s hammer. Visually, its extremely complex high-speed pursuits and creative fight sequences draw our attention to the choreography and editing rather than the CGI.
In “Civil War”, the team is held accountable for the collateral damage in “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”. The mass-casualties invoke something called the Sokovia Accords, a multi-nation agreement that would strip the Avengers of their autonomy. Quick to be on board is Stark, who agrees that the A-Team need to be kept in check after the mother of a deceased child (Alfre Woodard) brings about an unpleasant catharsis for the billionaire. By that logic, one could blame virtually every civilian death in “Ultron” on Stark, who created the artificial intelligence that would end up consuming an entire city. (If he’d just stuck to Jarvis, everyone could’ve kicked back and waited for Thanos). Still, Rogers sees the motion as a bureaucratic impediment that would only hinder their ability to do good where others cannot.
As the “Infinity Stone” ultra-mash-up “Avengers/Guardians of the Galaxy” saga draws near and the fate of the universe hangs in the balance, “Civil War” focuses on more Earthly, human issues. There’s neither Hulk nor Asgardian to be found here. The final battle occurs not in the epic, explosive fashion of a typical superhero movie, but in the confines of a room in which a violent throw down approaches a heartbreaking Pyrrhic victory. This is not simply good vs. evil, but two individuals who believe that what they’re doing is right.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo left us with a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, a storyline that fans the flames in “Civil War”. Returning writers Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeeley dredge deeper into character backstory than anyone has done before, allowing an unassuming villain (Daniel Brühl) to provoke a psychological ripple-effect, just one of several characters driven by revenge.
Yet “Civil War” risks being too much of a good thing. The script calls for a new Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to make an appearance, along with Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who enter the fold for the film’s goofiest sequence. It’s clear they’re intended to lighten the mood (and yep, kick off another Spidey reboot), but they also threaten to compromise the film’s gravitas.
As if there weren’t already enough characters to spare: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and a yet-to-be coherently explained product of some computer wizardry and an Infinity Stone called Vision (Paul Bettany) all have some skin in the game. Notably Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), an African prince who believes that Rogers’ old brainwashed super-soldier frenemy Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), is responsible for the death of his father.
I prefer things without the Hulk-busting and demigods (the Russo’s are set to direct the two Avengers “Infinity War” installments), and for the first time I really felt like something tangible was at stake. This is the film in which all of the (terrestrial) consequences of MCU’s previous installments are compounded. “Civil War” is an awesome comic book/action flick, but it’s also a morally complex, psychologically jarring experience in which our heroes aren’t always super. It’s tough to take sides, and cheers to the Russo brothers for keeping it real-ish.
— M. Parsons