Film Review: Captain America: Civil War

One of my issues with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was it was so damn grim. Captain America: Civil War deals with a similar idea - superheroes finding themselves on opposing sides. I think Civil War handled it better - partly because these were characters we've come to know and partly because Civil War was able to mix some light-hearted moments in among all the gloom.

I'm not planning on any massive spoilers but I will be discussing the plot in general terms, so be warned if you plan on seeing it totally unspoiled. At its core, Civil War deals with the Avengers finding themselves on opposing sides. World governments have become concerned about the Avengers, what with cities getting devastated when they come to town. Tony Stark/Iron Man leads those Avengers who feel being regulated by the UN is a good thing while Steve Rogers/Captain America does not. It's an interesting to see the sides the two are on. Tony has always seemed to be more the rebel while Rogers has always been more the team player. However, this is a Tony Stark who is feeling guilty for many of the decisions he's made - on a friend's Facebook wall I saw someone make the point that Tony Stark's motivations could best be summarized as "stop me before I invent again!" I think that's a fair, albeit tongue-in-cheek, way of looking at it. And I don't think that's a bad thing - Tony Stark seems a character who is suffering from PTSD after his near-death experience in The Avengers and is dealing with his own guilt in the creation of Ultron. He is a man who is not doing well. 

Steve Rogers, on the other hand, while a team player, is also one who has always shown himself willing to stand up for what he believes to be right, no matter what the odds or the consequences. When all the world is going after his friend Bucky, it is Rogers who will stand up for him. Given it is a Captain America film, it is likely that the audiences sympathies will be with him, but Tony Stark is not portrayed as a misguided maniac. Both their motivations are entirely understandable. And that gives far better drama when the Avengers are forced to pick sides. The film could fairly have been made an Avengers film, but its focus on Captain America makes its title appropriate. 

In addition to Captain America and Iron Man, the film brings back a number of characters from previous films. With such a large cast it is impressive how much personality is brought into all of the characters, a credit to all involved. Additionally, Black Panther and Spider-Man are added to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this film. T'Challa/Black Panther finds himself with Tony Stark's side, blaming Bucky for the death of his father. For a while it seems he is destined to be "crazy guy obsessed with revenge" but he moves well beyond that, coming to analyze his own motivations. Spider-Man is an absolute delight to watch. Both Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield did great jobs as Spider-Man but I think Tom Holland, greatly assisted by the writing, truly nailed it. This is a Spider-Man who just can't shut up, even in the middle of a fight. They really nailed the Spider-Man of the early comics perfectly - this is Peter Parker the high school student and the casting of so young an actor as Tom Holland works wonderfully well. It's great to see Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at long last.

I don't think I've seen a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie that wasn't great fun, so it's hard for me to give a quantitative evaluation. That said, I'd definitely put this as one of the top tier superhero movies, deftly managing a vast cast, balancing between fun and grimness, and delivering on some thrilling action.

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