Following up a somewhat disappointing Avengers: Age of Ultron that tried to cram too much set-up to the point where it interfered with the actual Ultron story they were trying to tell, Captain America: Civil War kind of goes in with the same mindset. It tries tearing down the status quo, and setting up things for Phase III of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while still trying to tell a Captain America stand-alone story. Taking place about a year after Age of Ultron, we get to see this new team of Avengers in action under Captain America right off the bat, and while this does deal with fallout from what’s been going on in the MCU with the Avengers, this is very much a Captain America film with an extensive cast, much like Captain America: Winter Soldier.
The Avengers have been under fire for their actions lately as they pretty much come and go when and where they want, without any oversight. This comes to a head when the operation at the beginning of the film ends up having a pretty big hitch in it, and a group of important civilians are caught in an explosion that’s the direct result of the team’s actions. Stark agrees wholeheartedly that the team needs oversight, but Steve feels that such oversight will not only hamper the team, but make them a tool for politicians, which was part of the problem with what happened to bring the team together in the first place. They’re presented with the Sokovia Accords, basically placing any and all actions the Avengers would undertake within a special administrator’s care, and under the watchful eye of the UN. Half the team is for it, the other half against. Either way, it goes through and gets ratified by the UN, but not before disaster strikes in the form of a bomb. Bucky is implicated in the explosion and the deaths, which instantly puts Steve into action against the Accords.
Steve is out to save his friend who claims he didn’t do it, and Steve agrees, which instantly puts the two halves of the Avengers against one another. It’s an interesting way to adapt the original Civil War comic book storyline, and both Stark and Steve have very valid reasons for the stances they take, and for every action they take with the information each of them has at the time. All of this is being orchestrated by one of Cap’s long running villains in the comic, who’s not only portrayed quite brilliantly, but is probably one of the more fleshed out villains the MCU has put forward, besides Loki. Is he exactly the Baron Zemo of the comics? No, but I think his motivations and actions are far more interesting in this film given the events of the MCU to this point. Ross works as an intermediate foil, and I can see them using him later on to keep Tony in check.
While Civil War manages to juggle this jam packed film pretty well, at least better than Age of Ultron, it still feels like there’s way too much going on in the film overall. You definitely don’t notice it as much until its all over, and it flows much better with everything going on. The new character introductions to the MCU don’t hamper it at all, and left me actually looking forward to two solo movies I’d been ho-hum about. The problem is that as far as a trilogy of films goes, Captain America isn’t served as well by this film as the ending of a trilogy. It’s a good ending for Cap and Bucky’s storyline, but it doesn’t feel like a trilogy ending like Iron Man 3 did. Like Age of Ultron, it has to set-up what’s going to be happening throughout Phase III. If we get another Captain America solo film I’ll have a little less to complain about, but even with everything that happened in Winter Soldier, it felt like a complete story, while this one just feels like it’s springboarding everything after it.
Ok, so I harped on this being not as “standalone” as it could be, and I have one more thing to really harp on before I go any further. Peggy and Sharon Carter, despite their importance to Steve and the actual plot here, feel almost wasted. Sharon has some great moments, but there’s no reason she shouldn’t have been far more involved than she was after a certain point in the film. And Peggy and Steve deserved a more poignant parting than they got.
So what’s good about Captain America: Civil War? Pretty much everything else. We get development for Wanda, Vision, Tony, Steve, and pretty much every character that hasn’t gotten a solo film yet (although Widow and Hawkeye are kinda pushed back from the spotlight a bit because of it). The new characters introduced here, Spider-Man and Black Panther, really shine. We don’t need a real origin for Parker, and this is the best Spider-Man has been on the big screen since Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. Black Panther is impressive too, and they managed to give him some real development from beginning to end, and left me wanting more of him.
Civil War does have a big tonal shift around the mid-way point. It is pretty serious through the first half of the film with everything going on, but once the playful banter picks up, it keeps going through most of the film, right up until the last 20 minutes or so, before it comes crashing back to being serious again. This is kind of a departure for the MCU films a little bit, as they tend to keep up the playful end of things even when it gets pretty serious in most of the previous films. It’s not a bad thing, just a curiousity I noticed. It didn’t really affect the film for me on that end of things, but something I thought I should mention.
The action sequences are pretty good also. They’re a little too in love with shaky cam, and I was hoping we’d get away from that a bit with how well Mad Max turned out without it. The script flows well, though, and the situations and dialogue move things smoothly from one problem to the next. Civil War kept me engrossed from start to finish, and while not the best MCU film to date, it comes damned close. While I groaned a bit with Age of Ultron, and even Ant-Man to some extent, Captain America: Civil War delivered everything I wanted in heroes kicking the crap out of each other. Here’s hoping that the rest of the MCU can get back to fighting bad guys that get as much development as Loki has gotten through the other films, and Zemo gets here.
Poster Credit: Punmagneto