In some ways, oddly enough, Captain America: Civil War is a toned down Marvel movie. There are no threats of world domination, no super-powered villain destroying entire city blocks, no alien invasion leveling skyscrapers.
Yet, in other ways, Civil War is the quintessential Marvel turned up to its loudest point—for good and ill. On the good side, you have the interesting heroes with real, relatable motivations. Characters are fun and likable. The quips and lightness are there in spades. Chemistry is evident.
But in a universe with only one worthwhile (cinematic) villain, Civil War may have the weakest and least interesting bad guy. He is not helped by the overly convoluted plot, which finds him going to extraordinary lengths to elicit a confrontation that could have been achieved much more easily.
Still, Civil War is fun blockbuster that does attempt to wrestle with deeper questions like the previous films following Steve Rogers. Captain America: The First Avenger dealt with the true definition of strength. Winter Soldier focused on the conflict between safety and security. The latest adventure for Cap carries those themes over, but is driven by an investigation of vengeance.
Bouncing around the globe and through time, Civil War delves deeper into the Marvel heroes we’ve seen before and introduces some fresh faces to the team.
While Avengers: Age of Ultron stumbled under the weight of the massive number of characters, Civil War deftly walks the fine line of developing each character enough to serve the movie without feeling bloated. We also are introduced to the inspired, but insecure teenage Spider-Man and the regal and grave Black Panther.
After yet another tragedy involving the Avengers, the United Nations wants to step in and take the reigns of the team. Tony Stark, confronted by his own recklessness, sides with regulation. Steve Rogers, reminded of the dangers of bureaucratic control, refuses to go along. The competing visions draw various established members of the team to opposing sides and incorporates new members as well.
Unfortunately, due to Marvel’s concern about the international market (particularly China), Captain America is devoid of much of his American ideals. Instead of supporting individual liberty and opposing government tyranny, Cap is reduced to merely wanting to help “when things go south.” That does weaken his character, but not beyond repair.
But Marvel fans hoping to see the storyline from the comics on the big screen will be disappointed. This is not about liberty versus security. Captain America and Iron Man disagree about whom to trust—themselves or an outside agency. Their policy disagreements combine with their personality differences to grow into their intensely personal fight.
If you go just for the fight scene between the two heroic sides, you won’t be disappointed. Can battles be fun? Because that one was an absolute blast. The quips and comments flew as fast as the punches. Characters played off of each other and with each other in intriguing combinations and conflicts. Viewers who have enjoyed prior Marvel movies will find that scene alone worth the inevitably crowded theater.
In this way, the smaller scale helps the action. There are some amazing fight scenes throughout the movie. Obviously, the two fights between Captain America and Iron Man (one with their “teams” and one without) shown in the trailer are tremendous, but some of my favorite action scenes involve Black Widow taking down two terrorists in a crowded market and a chase involving Captain, Winter Soldier, Falcon and Black Panther.
The lack of world-ending drama helped the lightness of the movie as well. It is a genuinely funny movie with hilarious quips, barbs and visual gags. This is where Marvel is so far beyond DC. Even if you may not always love everything about the movie, you at least had fun watching it.
In the end, Iron Man and Captain America’s reformed, rocky alliance is once again put to the test with a personal revelation about Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes. While Black Panther eventually chooses to put vengeance behind him, Tony Stark is betrayed by his own passions leading to a current (but hopefully) temporary rift within the Avengers.
By far the weakest part of Civil War is the villain and his overly-complicated plan to enact revenge on the Avengers for the losses he suffered in one of their previous battles. Baron Zemo is underdeveloped and overmatched.
Thankfully, he’s not the reason anyone is going to see the movie. While he may serve as the spark for explosion between heroes, he is cast to the background to allow the heroes to shine and shine they do. Civil War shows just how weak Batman v. Superman was. You can do a versus movie where both heroes are likeable and have a reason to fight others and each other.
Marvel has perfected these characters on the screen. Each of the unique skills and personalities of Captain America, Iron Man, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Black Widow, Vision, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Ant Man, Hawkeye, Spider-Man and Black Panther play off of each other in so many fun ways.
While Civil War is my least favorite Captain America film, I thought the first two were two of the best Marvel movies. This is a summer blockbuster that gives the audience a fun ride. It might not withstand plot scrutiny, but it doesn’t have to.
Captain America: Civil War shows just how fun Marvel can be turned to 11, but it also illustrates their need in the future to have the ability to turn it down and develop plot and villains. Cap and Tony put up a great fight. I just want them to have a reason to fight and a villain worth their efforts.