“Captain America: Civil War” is the third film of the “Captain America” franchise and beginning of Marvel’s phase 3 initiative. The film stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle, William Hurt, Tom Holland and Daniel Bruhl. Taking place shortly after the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the film serves as Ultron 2.0 and final installment of the “Captain America” trilogy of films. Because of the damage that the Avengers have caused, the U.S. government decides to put them in check by making the heroes sign the Anti-Hero Registration Act, which basically forces our characters to be controlled and sanctioned by the government. This political squabble divides the Avengers, and with the resurgance of Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, Captain America and Iron Man become enemies on opposite sides who start a war, and tear the Avengers apart from within.
“Captain America: Civil War” was a film that I was really looking forward to. The graphic novel of the same name is one of Marvel’s best stories that they have ever told, so going into this film I was beyond excited. I am also a big Captain America fan and absolutely loved the two standalone films that Marvel made. So walking out of “Civil War,” I have to be honest, I was very underwhelmed by what I saw. Sure I enjoyed the movie and found it extremely entertaining popcorn flare, but the movie lacked the emotion and the excitement of the source material. In all fairness, the Marvel films are very different from the comics, which I am totally ok with, but this film to me felt like the same film that I have seen over and over and over again. Nothing in this movie felt really fresh and exciting and nothing kept me on the edge of my seat. The film was extremely predictable and I appreciated a twist in the narrative near the end, but it didn’t really pay off for me.
So I’ll start with what I really liked here. First, the action is top notch. The action sequences were on such an enormous scale, it felt like another “Avengers” movie rather than a “Captain America” film. There is a sequence involving an airport which was really exciting and the final showdown at the end of the film between Cap and Tony was really well done. I thought the way each Avenger was handled was done extremely well, each having their own minute to shine in the spotlight. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man was great comic relief and the incorporation of the new character Black Panther was extremely well done. I actually am very curious and excited for the Black Panther stand alone movie. But the best thing by far was the amazing, no pun intended introduction of Spider Man. I am extremely sick of Spiderman from all of the missteps in the movies to the horrible treatment and overexposure of the character, but I will say that Tom Holland’s take on Spiderman is the best I’ve seen and he really made this movie stand out. I loved his interactions with Tony Stark and I am more excited than ever to see how Marvel treats their long forgotten hero now that he’s a part of the Avengers.
(Some minor spoilers)
So what didn’t work? Well, I thought a lot of the story fell flat to me. I liked how Bucky Barnes was the catalyst for the Civil War between the Avengers but a lot of the material felt a little bland and uninteresting. Shaky cam action is a pet peeve of mine and this movie is littered with shaky cam action which makes it hard to see what’s goin on, on-screen. This is the new era of action for films and I can’t stand the way that most action films are shot today. The editing is so quick and fast and it feels so distracting, at least for me. Baron Zemo, the film’s main villain seemed pointless to me, one dimensional and cookie cutter, like most Marvel villains and I found myself not caring about him in the slightest. Marvel has some of the lamest villains and they choose to make them one dimensional which shows that they don’t have confidence in their material. The best superhero or even regular films have compelling two dimensional villains and Marvel just doesn’t have that minus Loki and Red Skull. It keeps butchering its villains and to me a Marvel villain has now just become a random plot device that usually never pays up. But the biggest issue that I had with the movie are the stakes. There aren’t any. Sure the title says Civil WAR but ultimately it means nothing. In the comics, heroes die all the time and some of the better superhero films like Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy is so well respected because Nolan isn’t afraid to kill characters. It’s a superhero movie for god sakes. Just because someone is a superhero it doesn’t mean that they can’t die. I know Marvel cannot kill any of its character because of the whole shared universe thing and they need to make more money and hero films, I get it. But at the same time I have grown tired of the same shtick over and over again. There is a reason why “Game of Thrones” is the best thing on TV today, because it isn’t afraid to kill off characters. The stakes are extremely high and it keeps audience members on their toes at all times. I know most people either hated or disliked “Batman v Superman” but you have to admit, they had a lot of balls killing off a main character in movie 2! We all know Superman’s coming back but I applaud the filmmakers for going for high stakes. Captain America doesn’t have any, or at least none that we care about and for me it’s really frustrating to see. I love the comics but I’m a moviegoer first and I feel like with each Marvel film I’m being played for a fool. Raise the stakes Marvel! Because of this, the movie, at least for me was incredibly predictable and I felt every story point had no point because I knew that Marvel wouldn’t sacrifice any of it’s leading characters. I get it, they have a lot more stories to tell, but by the time Infinity War comes and if no one dies then I’m out! Marvel will have lost me and I don’t want that to happen. Don’t worry about the fans and the pressure and the money, worry about the story and how the characters will serve the story.
“Captain America: Civil War” is full of amazing action set pieces but it ultimately fails the Marvel test of giving us compelling reasons to care about these characters. The lack of stakes and weak villains are starting to prove cumbersome as an audience member who pays for these things and the recycled clichéd elements don’t make “Civil War” meaningful. The new Spiderman character and Black Panther made for great additions to this movie and felt more exciting than any of the other characters combined. One thing Marvel is doing well is its diverse cast and I applaud them for that. But in the end, “Civil War” sacrifices its juicy source material and instead settles for a typical “Avengers” crossover film with bombastic special effects, action spectacle and really low stakes.