Against all inconceivable odds, the almighty Marvel Studios has successfully kept up with their shared cinematic universe for eight years now. It’s uncanny to conceive that with 13 films and roughly 16 main characters (that’s not counting villains, secondary characters, or supporting characters) that Marvel has managed to keep their universe free of major cracks and holes. After all, Fox Studio’s X-Men franchise bears a couple lackluster films and is littered with glaring inconsistencies (not to mention the failure of three Fantastic Four films). Even Sony’s Spider-Man franchise contains a few rotten eggs and has been rebooted twice now. With Marvel’s nearly unblemished record, it seems that they have the Midas golden touch. In Captain America: Civil War, two major storylines come to a head in what is both a conclusion to the Captain America trilogy and an aftermath to the most recent Avengers film.
Summary: (No spoilers)
For four years the Avengers have basked in the glory of unprecedented victory in the face of domineering adversity. But when their seemingly-heroic actions are placed in a completely alternate light, their perceptions of war and glory and victory are quickly put into perspective. Their defeat of Ultron in Sokovia may have been triumphant, but their actions caused unprecedented loss of life in the process. It’s for this very reason that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.—–Sherlock Holmes, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) backs a multi-national treaty to place the Avengers under the responsibility of the United Nations.
Staunchly opposed to the notion is Captain Steve Rogers (Chris Evans——Fantastic Four) who claims that bureaucratic oversight will restrain the team from carrying out their duties as earth’s mightiest heroes. With the debate from every team member readily growing by the day, the Avengers quickly find themselves divided against each other as all-out war imminently looms ahead.
Also starring: Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Rudd, Daniel Brühl, Tom Holland, Martin Freeman, and William Hurt
Debate is a major facet of life. Whether discussing politics or the feasibility of film plots, conjecture and opinion is something we all engage in on a regular basis. And the higher the risk involved, the more heated the debate will be. Saving the world isn’t entirely a black and white issue. Marvel’s past films may have presented it in that way, but Civil War takes our perceptions of our favorite superheroes and places them in an entirely different light. Is Captain America truly the pillar of virtue we so admire? We know Tony Stark is a class-A narcissist, and dire mistakes aren’t out of his realm of possibility, but is he really the heroic billionaire playboy philanthropist we’ve been lead to believe?
Ever since we were introduced to the scrawny kid from Brooklyn who never shied from a fight, Captain America has always been our moral compass and rock of integrity we’ve anchored ourselves to. His patriotism coupled with his incessant hatred for injustice is what makes him not only a fan favorite, but the perfect leader for the Avengers to follow.
In The Winter Soldier, however, we learned that duty to country can make you blind to the hidden agendas that lurk just under radar, and that saving his old friend-turned-foe required him to deny all past sense of obligation and disobey higher command. These seeming “flaws” of Captain America carried over into Age of Ultron where his ardent passion for taking down the bad guy caused him to drag his team into an affair that ultimately cost the lives of countless innocents. Their death may not have been at his expense, but they died anyway.
Ever since we were introduced to the weapons-manufacturing billionaire playboy who used his technology to stop those who sought to pervert his work, Iron Man has been the unofficial soul of the Avengers. His technology has provided incomparable aid to the team, and he’s the one who assembled the team to begin with. When he sees people in need, he doesn’t hesitate to intervene.
What I found most refreshing about Civil War is that it doesn’t strive to take sides. Its marketing urged us to do so, but the film doesn’t. Instead, it presents both Cap’s and Stark’s viewpoints in a balanced way. Cap claims that the world will always need to be saved, while Stark claims that the Avengers need to be in check. Cap claims that being in check will inhibit and ultimately dismantle the team, while it’s pointed out that Stark has only incited global destruction since getting into the Iron Man suit. Tack onto that the continuing storyline from The Winter Soldier concerning Bucky—–Rogers’ life-long friend. Though his friend has been involved in decades of stealth assassinations, he and Stark clash over whether he can be trusted.
These moral dilemmas make for the most indecisive Marvel film yet. Not because the film itself is indecisive in what it wants to convey, but because the characters themselves face perhaps their greatest challenge yet. DC made their interpretation of super-dispute a mere month ago with Batman v Superman; but where their film ultimately lacked, Marvel’s film once again showed how it’s done. Both films are similar in premise: two titans of power collide head-to-head. Another similarity is that, in both situations, the two sides are being coerced by a figure lurking in the shadows pulling the strings. That particular subplot doesn’t especially play out to the film’s advantage in Batman v Superman; and while it isn’t the strongest aspect of Civil War, it isn’t nearly as clear of a weakness.
But the largest difference between these two powerhouses of film is that we’ve had four films familiarizing ourselves with Rogers, two of which contained both Cap and Stark. These are characters we’re intimately familiar with and invested in. Batman and Superman, not as much. So when the punching and the fighting commences, we feel it on an emotional level. They’re not only fighting because they’re being tricked—–they’re fighting because they no longer see eye-to-eye. To witness that after years of camaraderie and friendship (though, granted, at first reluctantly) is difficult to observe.
The film stuffs numerous characters, super and non-, into the story. While most films would have crumbled under the weight of so many characters, directors Joe and Anthony Russo create a truly perfect balance within the narrative. With 12 superheroes plunging head-on into the fray, it seems like Avengers 2.5 from the outside; but at its core it’s still a Captain America film. Each actor brings their all. But perhaps one of the standout aspects of the film is the new Peter Parker/Spider-Man. We’ve had Tobey Maguire, then Andrew Garfield, and now Tom Holland. Though I’ll wait for his upcoming stand-alone film before determining whether he’s the best incarnation of the character we’ve seen yet, I will say that this new Spider-Man definitely shows incredible promise.
In a nutshell:
While I can’t say for sure if it’s the greatest film from Marvel yet, I’d undoubtedly place it in the top three. Captain America: Civil War more than delivers on the promise of the trailers by delivering a film with breathtaking action choreography, impressive production design, heart-felt drama, and a fresh plot. If there’s any doubt about the Marvel formula growing stale in the near future, then this film eradicates all doubt. Captain America: Civil War does practically everything to perfection. But what truly sets this film apart from most others in the genre is Steve Rogers’ and Tony Stark’s final confrontation in the third act. If anything that precedes it feels even remotely comic-y, the truly heart-breaking end of the film will change your mind. Team Cap or Team Iron Man? The true victor is Team Marvel.