Civil War shows dopey, mopey wannabes how it’s done
Film by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Captain America: Civil War
Captain America has become the gold standard for all the franchises contained in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The crusader delivered the best of all 12 MCU movies (The Winter Soldier) and has effortlessly become the moral centre of this colossal enterprise.
Outside of one small but increasingly problematic qualm (more on that later), Captain America: Civil War ranks up there, not quite at the top, but higher than Ultron or Iron Man. Sure, it’s easy to pick on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it’s embarrassing how superior Civil War is using basically the same elements: collateral damage, superhero supervision and a bad guy pulling the strings. It’s not only plot. The action scenes — particularly the centerpiece — had me giddy, while in BvS:DoJ I was just bored (“MARTHA!!!”).
The story: a routine mission for the Avengers gets several Wakandans killed and brings a spotlight down on the growing number of unintended casualties this “saving mankind” business entails. An initiative suggesting the United Nations should supervise the Avengers causes a rift between a guilty Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who agrees with the motion because he’s been a reckless twit in the past, and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who distrusts authorities probably thanks to discovering S.H.I.E.L.D. was run by bad guys in Winter Soldier.
The fracture becomes a full schism as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) re-enters the picture as the main suspect in a terrorist attack. Rogers isn’t willing to give up on his best friend, even though the circumstantial evidence against him is strong.
Sides are taken, teams are formed and old and new superheroes line up behind Iron Man or Cap more out of loyalty than ideological conviction.
More its own beast than based on the original comic series, Civil War does an incredible job balancing 16 main and supporting roles — let alone introducing two major new players. The issue of political supervision, a complete drag in Batman v Superman, feels organic here, as do Captain America’s objections and the circumstances that create the conflict.
In spite of the film’s heavy themes, Civil War is always entertaining, with comedy coming from every corner. The increasingly troubled Tony Stark hands the wisecracking mantle to Ant-Man and Spider-Man, to riotous results (keep an eye out for a brilliant dis at Star Wars fans). My Prairie Dog//Planet S cohorts also raved about the out-of-nowhere chemistry between Falcon and Bucky — they all want a Bucky, Falcon and Cap road-trip movie.
The new Spidey (Tom Holland, The Impossible) is the closest to the spirit of the comics — basically a good, polite high school science prodigy thrown into situations way above his paygrade. Doesn’t hurt that the 17-year-old actor actually looks like a teenager (Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were ancient by comparison).
The stunning, hilarious 20-minute brawl at the heart of Civil War has got to be the finest scene ever produced by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The use of teamwork to amplify the heroes’ powers combined with Stark’s and Rogers’ tactical skills — not to mention the effort everyone puts into not killing each other — results in pure, unabashed fun. This movie gets a lot of mileage out of the Avengers enjoying themselves. Sure, they’re in opposite camps but it’s clear they’re having a blast pummeling each other.
Daniel Brühl as the presumed villain Baron Zemo, on the other hand, is bound to be divisive. Zemo is an agent of chaos, but also bright and human. Audiences will find him the most relatable of all the villains featured in the MCU so far: undeniably evil, but there’s motivation behind his madness. Positively an improvement over Ultron in my books, though some PD//PS friends argue the material and circumstances are rich enough that a villain isn’t really needed.
There’s one element that keeps Captain America: Civil War from soaring: stakes. Delving too much into the details would take us into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that the lack of deadly consequences is recurring problem in the MCU. Why are we going to worry about our characters when we know they’ll be back, safe and sound, in the next movie? Some risks need to be taken if we’re ever going to get from entertaining to memorable.