So good!!! I was lucky enough to go see the movie last night when it opened, and I was not disappointed. I was always hopeful that Civil War would live up to its predecessor Winter Soldier and would do its comic book namesake justice (comic reviewed here). But I also was nervous that, even with the Russo brothers at the helm, this movie could become unmanageable because of the sheer size of the cast or that it would no longer feel like a Captain America movie. I can tell you now, that none of those fears held true. I’m sure some will still criticize the film as “Avengers 2.5,” but it is, first and foremost, a movie about Captain America and his supporting cast (Falcon, Bucky, Sharon Carter) as they navigate the ideological quagmire that is the Sokovia Accords. These accords function as the MCU’s replacement for the Superhero Registration Act in the comics, building on UN-driven, international pressure to regulate and control superhuman activities. As any trailer from the last six months indicated, these accords drove a wedge in the superhero community, leaving Captain America and Iron Man on opposite sides. Each assembled a team of Avengers, new and old, to their causes, leading to some pretty epic battle sequences.
In this review, I will be avoiding spoilers, and focusing on things that were already revealed through trailers, as well as overall execution and tone of the film, rather than discussing specific plot points. I’ll basically break out the strengths and weaknesses of the film below. Don’t worry, there are many, many more strengths than weaknesses!
Strengths: Though not at all surprising from Marvel at this point, one of the strengths of Civil War is in its comedic timing. There are plenty of jokes and quips from all of the characters you would expect (Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Hawkeye) but also some genuinely funny moments with the relatively new character: Vision. The Russo brothers did a great job of highlighting Vision’s explorations of humanity and a budding relationship with Scarlet Witch. The buddy humor between the three main characters (Cap, Falcon, and Bucky) was also a lot of fun. There was a sense of rivalry between Falcon and Bucky to be Cap’s best friend, and it was definitely fun to watch.
Another huge strength was the movie’s handling of scope. The huge cast of characters all fit into the story well and somehow did not seem overcrowded. The team alignment decisions all seemed well thought out (even if not always well-explained), and the power sets ended up pretty balanced. They also managed to find time to feature each Avenger in a way that showed their powers and their characters. Even Hawkeye, who so often gets overlooked, was shown in a much better light, holding his own against Iron Man and Black Panther, both of whom significantly overpower him. The introductions of both Black Panther and Spider-Man were handled extraordinarily well and the two stole most of the scenes they were in. Wonderful acting by both Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland makes me extremely excited for their upcoming solo films! The decision to leave Thor and Hulk out was also a great one: either or both of them would have tipped the balance, and their enormous capacity for destruction would have further complicated things. Leaving them out kept the film as a more human affair, with an emphasis on finesse over raw power.
The huge airport fight scene was awesome — it is an incredible feat that it took place in the middle of the movie and did not result in the sort of massive destructive event that most recent films have. Minimizing property destruction and civilian loss of life was also especially important given that those very things had been the catalysts of the Sokovia Accords to begin with. The battle also blended some key elements of humor (though some of the best lines had been cherry-picked for ads over the past six months) and a sort of reluctance on the part of the heroes to fight one another.
Lest we forget, Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo was also wonderfully cast and his role in the film kept just enough on the fringes to make his motives and his influence a mystery to audiences and heroes alike. The resolution of the film allowed for some vital character development and emotional arcs in many of the central characters. Zemo fit the bill for this sort of nefarious plot quite well, and kept either side of the debate from being wholly wrong.
Weaknesses: Very, very few overall. My primary criticism was that the picking of sides seemed rushed for some characters (namely Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Falcon). I think their motives were largely implied, but the film could have taken a few more minutes to flesh them out. Black Widow chooses to sign partly in an attempt to atone for past wrongs as an operative, Falcon just wants to be with his buddy and trusts Cap entirely, and Hawkeye…. I think he just doesn’t want his kids to be in danger because a government refuses to send heroes? Or something? I just wish they’d spent 4 more minutes on it to clear things up. Fortunately, this little hiccup is only relevant for a few minutes, as the subsequent battles and debates were well-constructed and deftly toed the line of keeping the fighting civil and between friends. It was far less brutal than previous battles with villains had been.
My other biggest complaint is actually based on the marketing materials leading up to the movie’s release. See the above photo of War Machine? Why was that part of the trailers? That ruined any element of surprise that we could have experienced while watching the movie. I guess the Russo brothers aren’t quite JJ Abrams with their big reveals, but I just thought they’d try to keep something this important under wraps. At least they did keep most of Spider-Man’s scenes out of trailers, that was a good call.
Overall, Civil War was a great movie and one of the better entries into the MCU. I don’t think it can quite top Guardians or Iron Man, but it’s pretty close. I absolutely loved it and hope I’ll be able to see it again soon!
Rating: 9 of 10
You’ve already read the safe review, now here are some of my favorite things from Captain America: Civil War that would definitely count as *SPOILERS* — Blorgons, proceed at your own peril! Ant-Man is finally Giant Man! He’s huge and he’s hilarious. Spider-Man’s first suit and how Stark found him! A quick glimpse of Wakanda as well as the cool blend of honor and straight up bad-assery that Black Panther brings. I also applaud Marvel’s willingness to remove some characters from the fight, at least for a while. I expected some deaths to help bring down the numbers, but this will do for now. There is still some risk of over-crowding in the future films, especially with characters still on their way and a Guardians/Avengers team-up imminent, but that problem can be put off for now.
Make Mine Marvel! Excelsior! Not Brand Ech!