The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

| April 18, 2019

For better or worse, a generation is now growing up with the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and whatever that says about the direction of Western Civilization will be left to history depending largely on who writes it.  Avengers: Endgame brings the hammer down on this series on April 27th, so for the next few weeks I am going to take a look back at the films that have built a massive phenomenon.  Are they any good?  Let’s take a look . . .

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They say that in show business timing is everything.  And, if proof is needed then look no further than Captain America: Civil War which, either by design, coincidence or divine intervention managed to arrive in theaters exactly 42 days after Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Both films feature battles between superheroes who were at odds with one another, but where the other movie was a clunky, misguided, unhappy mess, the 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 on the criticisms that the DCU was having.  Captain America: Civil War is a movie very much about collateral damage, about the mistakes that superheroes are heir to when fighting nefarious beings wrought from another dimension/planet/Stark Industries.  The conflicts that The Avengers have dealt with during their 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.

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.

What works here is the construction of the screenplay.  The movie has at least two dozen characters but doesn’t waste any of them.  There’s a lot of control here both in the characters and in the story.  There is a lot of weight here based on what we know and base don the ideologies at stake.  The Civil War that takes place comes about because of ideology, history and personality, not because the movie requires them to be in conflict with one another.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.