Captain America: Civil War review: The best of Marvel if not Marvel’s best
Sometimes, reviewing movies sucks. Sure, you get to see movies early, but you have to watch them with a critical eye. You can’t just give in to your inner fanboy. That’s generally not an issue, but every once in a while it kind of bites me in the ass. This is one of those times.
Captain America: Civil War is the type of film that is designed for people to geek out over. It exists because Marvel Studios has spent over a decade preparing for this. Twelve films laid the groundwork for Civil War, and the MCU has reached a point where it can just do these sort of things. It doesn’t need to work in an origin story or go through lengthy introductions if it doesn’t want to. The characters are there, it’s just a matter of finding the right stage for them to play on.
No other franchise has ever been in a position like this. It is the king of fan service. It doesn’t really lend itself to critical analysis as well as other films. It is the ultimate review-proof movie because Marvel has earned the benefit of the doubt.
But still, I’ll give it a go. That’s why they pay me
the big bucks the average money the bus fare the half-eaten sandwich.
There has been a lot of talk about how this movie is “Avengers 2.5,” but that isn’t really the case. Sure, there are more characters in it than any other standalone film, but the core of Civil War is the third part of a Captain America trilogy focusing on Cap (Chris Evans) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), aka the Winter Soldier. Everything else revolves around that.
To really appreciate Civil War, you need to have seen the majority of the MCU films. You can skip a few, but to fully follow the plot you need to have seen the first two Captain America films and Avengers: Age of Ultron, at least.
The story picks up with Cap leading his new Avengers, traveling around the world to combat threats local authorities can’t…
You know what, it doesn’t matter.
If you have made it this far without having the plot spelled out for you, then you are lucky. The trailers have revealed a lot of the story, and anything that you haven’t already seen is best left for theaters. All you really need to know is that there is a decision that makes the known Marvel heroes pick sides, with Cap leading one faction and Iron Man leading the other. In the middle of it all is the fate of the Winter Soldier, which acts as the thread connecting the previous Captain America films.
The plot makes sense within the MCU’s logic, and more importantly, there are consequences from the events of Civil War. It even makes Avengers: Age of Ultron retroactively better. It always bugged me that the last Avengers movie destroyed a city as a direct result of the team’s actions, and yet there were no consequences. Those actions are addressed in Civil War.
A huge amount of credit needs to go to directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who proved that their work on The Winter Soldier was no fluke. There is a lot going on in this movie, and it jumps from scene to scene at speed without any real pacing issues. The fight scenes aren’t completely gratuitous, they add to the action without becoming visual climax of the film. Civil War is a complicated project from a technical standpoint, with numerous players, including the introduction of two new, major characters: Spider-Man and Black Panther.
This film essentially bypasses the need for origin stories, and both heroes steal every scene they are in. This film is the best ad imaginable for the upcoming solo Black Panther film, while Marvel’s take on Spidey should please a lot of fans that weren’t into Sony’s two previous takes on the character. Above all, he is funny. In fact, he and Ant-Man offer some laugh out loud moments.
The only real issue with the film is unavoidable, and relatively minor. There are so many interesting characters, including several that you have already invested time in, that it is a little unavoidable to not feel a tiny bit of disappointment that everyone can’t have more screen time. Characters like Hawkeye and War Machine are completely secondary to the plot, while others like Black Widow are there partly just to deliver some important exposition. It’s not their movie though, and they have all been established, so they can do a lot with very little.
Each character does have a few good moments, and for the most part they all feel like they belong in the film. It’s just tough seeing characters like Ant-Man come and go, and the more Spidey the better.
Civil War is one part action movie, one part spy thriller, one part spectacle. The effects are as good as you would hope, and despite some fairly weighty themes, it is ultimately a fairly funny movie. It doesn’t paint the world as a bleak, vicious playground like certain other superhero team-up films, instead it plays off of the living-breathing world the MCU keeps expertly building.
Civil War is the ultimate Marvel movie thus far. It does what only the MCU could do, leveraging a dozen previous movies. It is a dense film, layered with years of setup. You won’t just want to see it once, you’ll need to see it multiple times and you’ll appreciate it more each time.
So you want a review? Here you go: Do you like the other Marvel movies in general? Yes? Then you’ll like Civil War. You’ll like it a lot. There may be other Marvel movies that are more complete, and therefore maybe even better films, but this is Marvel at its finest.
Captain America: Civil War review conclusion
There will come a day when superhero films reach a saturation point and fans stop caring. That day is still a long way off though. Civil War may be using some of the increasingly familiar Marvel tropes, but it is also unlike anything we have seen before. The movie features more than a dozen characters, five of which have or will star in their own movies.
Civil War is the payoff for fans that have stuck with Marvel from the start. It is drenched in fan service, and offers a story that touches on eight years worth of buildup. If you buy into the universe Marvel has carefully created, Civil War will be the answer to the question you didn’t know was being asked. It will incite you to want more, and set the bar so incredibly high for superhero films that it may force others into stunts and gimmicks. So the better Marvel gets, the shorter the genre’s lifespan may be.
But that’s a problem for another day. For now, enjoy the fruits of one of the most ambitious projects in Hollywood history, then go see it again. And again.
Captain America: Civil War is rated PG-13 with a running time of 2 hours 26 minutes.