Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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Someone who doesn’t enjoy superhero movies must have a difficult time with the constant bombardment of superhero movies every year. I know I was certainly one of them – other than the odd Batman film, I was never for superheroes. Then the Marvel Cinematic Universe showed up, and while I was initially hesitant to them, I found them to be far more than the action-heavy, brainless displays of men in tights that I expected. Arguably, Captain America: Civil War is one of the better (if not the best) Marvel Cinematic Universe films to date, and it is a perfect example of how to make a superhero film. 2016 is proving to be an interesting year for superhero films, with the delightful Deadpool topping the list of the best overall, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice being a very entertaining failure (not to imply that the film is entertaining – the fact that it is a failure is what is entertaining). But the Marvel Cinematic Universe has always gone further than any other, so it isn’t any surprise that they were able to pull off something wonderful in Captain America: Civil War. 

If you aren’t caught up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or if you’ve never seen any of the films, I suggest you go and get that done now. They may be quite long and quite a chore to get through thirteen films (I honestly can’t believe we are this deep into the universe – I still remember seeing the first Iron Man film in 2008), because the MCU has created such a tightly controlled but endlessly entertaining universe, filled with great performances and captivating storytelling, and it has frequently transcended the utterly dull stereotype of superhero films by actually making a conscious effort to be great, and it has paid off – these films make serious money, and not for unfounded reasons – if there are films that deserve the amount of money they make, it is certainly these films, because the craft and talent behind them are unfounded.

To digress from the praise, I won’t divulge any plot points or major spoilers (even though I am completely sure everyone else in the world has already seen this film). However, this film is less about Captain America and more a pseudo-sequel to The Avengers: Age of Ultron, as it features many of the characters from previous iterations of the MCU films, along with some new and exciting characters introduced. Some of the performances were just as reliable as we’d expect, with others being weaker than I hoped for. Overall, it was certainly something special, and the effort put behind this film to push the MCU to its new frontier in Phase Three was done wonderfully here – it is both a reminder of why the MCU is so great, along with introducing these characters to a new stage of superhero storytelling – and when you consider superhero films tend to make money anyway (especially when big names are involved), it has to be commended that an actual attempt was made to construct a good film, rather than relying on time-honored tactics of audience-pleasing, lazy filmmaking.

I need to be perfectly honest here – as far as superheroes go, Captain America is certainly not one of my favorites. I like my superheroes to be wise-cracking anti-heroes, not the very definition of American World War II patriotism (nothing against it, I just find it rather boring, especially with a character as dull as Captain America), and while being a very capable actor, Chris Evan just doesn’t elicit the excitement for the character that one would hope for. However, it isn’t to say Evans does a bad job, its just he does such a great job, but I am just not fully on-board with the character. Contrasting him is Robert Downey Jr., who has built his current superstar status on the fact that he plays the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man so well, he has become iconic for it. Honestly, it was not difficult to support Iron Man in this film, both because he is a far more interesting character, and Downey actually gets a lot more mileage out of the character. Evans is effective, just the character is dull, and when the possibility of his character being killed off came about (based on the comic books), I wasn’t exactly “happy”, but I just thought it would be a perfect way to usher in the MCU’s Phase Three. The ending wasn’t exactly what I desired, but it got the job done.

I don’t need to comment (nor do I really want to) on the performances of Evans and Downey other than what I have, because we got exactly what we expected out of them (with Downey portraying Stark as a much more serious character that I’m used to – but the dramatic work Downey gets is a welcome change). I want to concentrate on the new castmembers, or rather more recent castmembers. Elizabeth Olsen (who debuted in The Avengers: Age of Ultron) does her best as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, but with not very much to do, she is limited. Paul Bettany, who previously voiced artificially intelligent butler-surrogate J.A.R.V.I.S. in previous Marvel films returns as Vision, also having debuted in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and does great work as the character, and the chemistry he has with Olsen is palpable.

Chadwick Boseman is arguably the breakout star of the film, because his debut as Black Panther was a great introduction of the character, both into the MCU and into the cinematic world as a whole (it is utterly shocking a character like Black Panther has had to wait half a century before ever being portrayed on film). It is a film packed with an extraordinarily big and talented cast, and while many don’t have much time to develop, this film does a great job of introducing future characters to the MCU – particularly Tom Holland as Spiderman, who looks to be Marvel’s attempt at asking for penance for the Andrew Garfield fiasco and whatever the hell Tobey Maguire was doing. If Captain America: Civil War proved anything, it is that the MCU is willing to use an entire film (and their longest one to date – be prepared, it is incredibly long, yet it never stops being captivating) to introduce characters that will help build on their cinematic universe. If that doesn’t prove the brilliance of the MCU, then I don’t know what does.

Captain America: Civil War is a film I don’t need to recommend – people will go and see this movie (and judging by its billion-dollar gross, I assume they have), and it is a film that both fans and general movie-goers will love. It is entertaining, made with precision and the filmmaking is just exquisite. There is very little to fault here, and while it isn’t as enjoyable as Deadpool, it is certainly a thrilling film, and if this is how MCU’s Phase Three is going to progress, then I look forward to it (and apparently, there are plans extending up the 2028 – so we’ve still got over a decade with this universe) – hopefully every other MCU film will live up to this standard.

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