- Movie Rating -

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

| May 13, 2016

Times being what they are, it was impossible for me to sit through Captain America: Civil War without comparing it to that other comic book conflict movie that bowed six weeks ago.  Where that movie was a clunky, misguided, unhappy mess, the latest Captain America movie has its head on straight, it tells a good story and offers a conflict that is actually built on ideologies.

It’s also a commentary.  Here is a movie very much about collateral damage, about the mistakes that superheros are heir to when fighting nefarious beings wrought from another dimension/planet/Stark Industries.  The conflicts that The Avengers have dealt with during their eight year journey are not without complications, and certainly not without an unavoidable body count.  This was a wound opened by Man of Steel that Batman v Superman tried and failed to patch up.  Why?  Because those movies treated their characters (and by extension their audience) like fixtures.  The Marvel movies have done a good job of building motivations and relationships and assembling their characters like a family.  Here, we find that there is a lot of weight to the Mano-a-Mano.  When Batman and Superman are staring each other down, it’s based on motivations that are hacked together.  When Iron Man and Captain America are staring each other down, they feel like brothers who are at odds with each other.

This movie even overcomes the problem of population.  Captain America: Civil War is not really a Captain America movie.  I mean, yeah, he has the central role here, but the movie has more Avengers than The Avengers.  It’s Captain America 3, but it’s also Avengers 3 and Iron Man 4.  Let’s put it this way: do you like Iron Man?  Scarlett Witch?  Black Widow?  Falcon?  Ant-Man?  Hawkeye?  Vision?  Black Panther?  War Machine?  Spider-Man?  Well, don’t worry because they’re all part of this big ol’ Marvel Mulligan Stew but there is never a sense of overcrowding.  It solves the biggest ill that I have with the X-Men movies in that no one associated with that series has worked out the problem of population control.  Here that’s not an issue because these characters have been defined just enough that they feel like people and not just a superpower stamped with a nickname.

The story here is built on what has come before – unlike BvS which built its story on the six movies the studio is planning to make.  The United States government is calling The Avengers onto the carpet because of all the damage and loss of life that occurred in New York and Washington D.C. and in the fictional Sokovia.  With all those superpowers and super suits tearing down buildings, it has amassed a tremendous body count.  So the government is pushing for an Anti-Hero Registration Act which will limit their involvement in global affairs.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) agrees, but Cap (Chris Evans) disagrees, deeming their actions as unnecessary interference, that saving the world doesn’t need intervention.  The government’s proposed restriction is over-seen by Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt) which nobody bothers to point out leveled half of Harlem by siccing Abomination on Hulk.

The ideals are rational on both sides.  Cap’s best buddy Bucky Barns is suddenly wanted for a political assassination.  Meanwhile Stark wants the restrictions to curb the collateral damage – and privately to save the world from his own impulses.  That leads to a giant (and kinda fun) battle royale with Iron Man, Black Widow, War Machine, Vision and Black Panther on one side and Captain America, Falcon, Scarlett Witch, Winter Soldier and Hawkeye on the other (it’s worth noting that the biggest destructive forces, Thor and Hulk, are absent this time).  What this big battle has that the BvS fight lacked is a sense of purpose.  We know what is happening at every single moment.  We know what the motivations are, and who the characters are.  Best of all, it doesn’t feel like we’re being set up for a further Marvel movie.

What makes the film special are the little moments – the producers of these Marvel confections are good at that.  There’s a tickling little moment when Vision prepares paprikash for Scarlett Witch while listening to Chet Baker.  And there’s a fun moment when Ant-Man figures out that his power is retro-active.  Plus there are character touches like the pained look in Stark’s eyes when someone mentions Pepper Potts or the mournful look on Cap’s face when he learns the fate of a dear friend.  Chris Evans is really building on this character.  Where Robert Downey Jr. plays Stark as an arrogant, yet vulnerable jerk whose inventive impulse is making him a war criminal, Evans plays Captain America with a heavy dose of intelligence and fair mindedness.  You can always see him thinking and that makes his presence in these films feel like more than just muscle and metal.  The conflict is what makes the ultimate battle work here.  The characters in these movies feel like family, and just like a family they take joy in putting each other down, quipping with one another and trading verbal barbs.  I have warmed up to these characters in a way that I haven’t with the casts of the DC or X-Men pictures.  Whatever the folks at Disney are doing, so far they’re doing it right.

NOTE: If I have one small quibble with the film it is in the hand-to-hand combat.  Many fight scenes in this movie are shot in close-up and shot in high-def through the use of shaky-cam.  That makes the action extremely hard to follow.  I don’t  understand this decision, and I don’t remember it being a problem in the previous pictures.  Why orchestrate a fight scene that gives the viewer a headache?

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2016) View IMDB Filed in: Action