Want to know more about Captain America: Civil War without the spoilers? Check out our spoiler-free review here! This review, below, contains major spoilers.
What are the truly great superhero movie trilogies? One could argue that while the first two chapters in the Superman (1978), Batman (1989), Blade (1998), X-Men (2000), and Batman Begins (2005) franchises were pretty darn good, but it ultimately depends on your opinions on their third installments. Well, guess what? Superhero fanatics finally have a complete trilogy that contains no weak links. Suffice to say that Joe and Anthony Russo’s Captain America: Civil War is not just an all-you-can-eat buffet of adorable superhero insanity — it also caps off a wildly entertaining trilogy that will delight movie buffs and comic book nuts for a long time to come.
Civil War has at least a half-dozen different story threads and lots of character interplay/evolution, but if you want the plot boiled down into one neat sentence, here you go: “Captain America is intent on defending the life of his old friend Bucky, a loyal soldier who was long ago transformed into a brainwashed super-assassin — and while Cap does have some allies on his side, he has also made a few enemies out of his old crime-fighting cohorts.” Hence the title Civil War.
And while we’ve seen several superhero team-up movies in the past (The Avengers, Watchmen, X-Men, etc.) we certainly haven’t see one in which hero battles hero like this. Black Widow’s fight sequences are the strongest they’ve ever been; Black Panther’s evolution after becoming crowned the new king of Wakanda is deftly handled; and the friendship triangle at the center bandies about the ideological issues in a way that directly relates to the plight at the heart of the film. By that we mean: should superheroes be controlled by the United Nations? Is that enough to protect the right people at the right time? Should superheroes be able to make their own decisions about who to save? Or is the greater good better serviced by a government intervention?
The ripples of the Sokovia incident from Age of Ultron are felt strongly in the onset, even going so far as to be an impetus for Iron Man’s belief in the United Nations deal. It’s like a very special episode of a long-running soap opera in which all of the characters have crazy super powers, crazy cool costumes, and appreciably distinct personalities and fight styles. Plus there’s an epic battle in a deserted airport that features some wonderful brawling between Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
Speaking of Spider-Man and Black Panther: yes, they are amazing—arguably stealing the movie from the rest of their compatriots. Chadwick Boseman possesses a strength and agility we’ve yet to see in the MCU, his character development being, perhaps, some of the strongest we’ve seen in a Marvel film. And oh, that Tom Holland: this is the Spider-Man we’ve been waiting for: young, spunky, and eager-to-please Mr. Stark. The movie does not go into detail about his origin story, but does introduce him in a way that lets you know we’re jumping in web first, so try to keep up.
Now yes: that’s a dozen superheroes, six on each side, fighting each other for what they believe is right. Precisely why they’re feuding goes well beyond the crimes committed by the (almost perpetually brainwashed) Bucky Barnes and ultimately turns into a philosophical battle for autonomy. And when Civil War isn’t knee-deep in chases, battles, and massive amounts of mayhem, it does offer some fascinating food for thought regarding the legal/political ramifications of superheroic behavior. There’s some great spectacle to be found in Captain America: Civil War, but there’s also a welcome foundation of wit, character, and intelligence that keeps things interesting even during the talkier sections of the movie.
Evans continues to provide us with the classiest cinematic superhero since the late, great Christopher Reeve; Downey is still a lot of fun as the stressed out, sardonic Stark; and (somehow) the screenwriters found a way to give all the other superheroes something to do. It must be remarkably difficult to juggle a dozen colorful heroes through action sequences—doubly tough to do on a narrative/character development front, but that’s the sort of stuff at which Marvel is really good. If the flick plays more like an Avengers Part 3 than a logical follow-up to Winter Soldier, that’s a very small gripe in the face of well-made, big-budget, blockbuster entertainment like this.
So to answer the earlier question: not only does Civil War close out the finest superhero trilogy to date; it’s also one of the best trilogies perhaps… ever.
4.5 highly conflicted out of 5
BUT WE’RE NOT DONE YET…!
So clearly I had a ball with Captain America: Civil War. (As did my Nerdist colleague Kyle Anderson.) But now we want your thoughts. Post your own review in the comments section below, or if you want something easier, feel free to simply opine on the following discussion points. Please do not insult, belittle, or bully anyone in our comments section. Everyone has the right to an opinion, even if you don’t like it. Thanks!
1. Were you OK with the explanation as to why Hulk and Thor weren’t around? Felt a little rushed to me, but I guess there’s no reason to waste exposition on characters who aren’t even in the movie. Also: where the heck were Nick Fury and Maria Hill? Do you miss having Pepper Potts around? And what happened to Happy Hogan anyway??
2. Which newcomer is cooler? Black Panther or Spider-Man? I’d probably vote for the former, slightly, if only because he’s brand-new to movies, whereas Spider-Man is most definitely not. Great performances by Boseman and Holland, too. It’s additions like these that keep the fans coming back. They’re not just cool comic book heroes; they’re three-dimensional characters full of personality, and that’s what fans appreciate.
3. Were you slightly underwhelmed by the Head Baddie? Sure, he had an elaborate plan to get all the superheroes fighting, but he doesn’t leave all that much of an impact as a menacing villain. On the other hand, that may have been the point. He was just a pissed-off bureaucrat.
4. Is the airport battle one of the best action sequences you’ve ever seen? It has to be one of the most amusing, certainly. Everyone gets a chance to shine, but Ant-Man was probably the standout for me. (Get it?)
5. Having seen the film, which team would you join? The screenwriters did a fine job of showing both sides of the “Sokovia Accords” argument — at least until Act III, anyway — but do you side with Team Iron Man (the Avengers should sign the paperwork and allow for UN oversight) or Team Captain America (the Avengers are the good guys and should be allowed to police themselves)? Frankly I see both sides of the issue, and that’s one of the reasons I liked this movie so much.
6. Did your eyeballs get just a little bit misty during the funeral scene? (Mine did.)
7. What Easter Eggs did you notice? (I rarely catch any of those the first time around.)
8. Were you bummed out when Brock Rumlow (a.k.a. Crossbones, aka Frank Grillo) got melted because he’s such a badass villain? (I was!)
9. Didn’t you want to see Black Panther’s sister kick some ass? I surely did.
10. With all due respect to Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, how freaking perfect is Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man? He’s a wise-assed motor-mouth who actually looks like a kid. That’s the Peter Parker I remember from the comic books.[brightcove video_id=”4866038361001″ brightcove_account_id=”3653334524001″ brightcove_player_id=”2bfa565b-5412-4cfd-9211-6269880b8a5e”]