It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the latest Marvel film. And in the hype, it’s also easy to start throwing out a lot of superlatives, saying things like, “Age of Ultron is the best MCU movie yet,” when that’s definitely not true.
However, Captain America: Civil War really is the best MCU film, and this review will tell you why.
Not only is Civil War one of the most anticipated superhero films so far, it also has the heavy burden of ushering in the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In addition to this, while general interest in Marvel films remain high, there are those who find the formulaic nature of the movies tiresome and overdone. Therefore, the film needs to tell a great story, present us with real character development for the heroes that we’ve come to know and love, and be not just a fun, action-filled summer flick, but an actual good film. Thankfully, it succeeds in all of these endeavours.
The plot of Civil War is surprisingly similar to the plot of Batman v Superman: Following a battle against villains that claims the lives of thousands of innocent victims, politicians the world over finally take steps to ensure that The Avengers can’t act outside of authority any longer, and seek to make the superhero group less of a vigilante faction and more of a government sanctioned task force, called in only when needed. And, where BvS failed in many aspects, Civil War succeeds in telling this story.
It really shows how each individual character feels about these new sanctions (referred to as the Sakovia Accords, named after the catastrophic events of Age of Ultron) and presents each argument, both for and against the Accords, in a thought provoking manner. Tony Stark/Iron Man, feeling guilty for the innocent lives lost in Avenger battles, agrees with the Accords, saying that the Avengers need to be monitored. Steve Rogers/Captain America, being the dutiful patriot that he is, sees this as a restriction of freedom and liberty, and only sees it playing out negatively. I went into the film expecting to clearly agree with one side or the other, but, even now, I still think that both sides present valid arguments.
As arguments over the Accords and other important events and characters (including Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier, whose motives and allegiance are still in question) reach a tipping point, both Iron Man and Cap assemble a team to settle the argument the only way a testosterone-driven group of superheroes can — a good, old fashioned fight.
Every punch that Cap throws at Iron Man, every arrow that Hawkeye fires at his friends, and every act of betrayal furthers the gap between the supporters of the Sakovia Accords, and the defenders of The Avengers’ liberties.
There are plenty of other subplots and nuances in the film that I won’t go into for fear of spoiling the film, but I was very impressed with the story that Civil War tells. It’s mature in a sense that it deals with serious topics, it’s dark in places, funny when it has to be (but never spoiling the moment), and it even has a pretty decent twist leading into the film’s finale.
Perhaps even more important than the movie’s story is its ability to portray events in a way that matters. Finally, after years and years of near-invincible heroes taking down wimpy villains with little to no consequence, Civil War shows that the choices that The Avengers have made are finally catching up to them. It takes itself seriously, but in a good way. It seems to be saying, “The fun is over, and now it’s time to dial down the jokes and the flashy set pieces to make way for serious character growth and storytelling”.
This is what I, and many other fans growing tired of the same old Marvel routine, have been waiting for. A movie where the protagonists screw up, and it matters. A movie where not all is forgiven once the credits start to roll. A movie that takes the serious nature of many comic book stories to heart. This is what Civil War does best.
Civil War also features, finally, a great villain. Marvel’s villains have been notoriously wimpy, rarely ever putting up a good fight. While Baron Zemo, the driving force behind the war between The Avengers, would probably be considered the “main bad guy”, it’s important to note that this isn’t a good versus evil film — it’s a fear versus revenge versus greed film. By turning heroes into villains, Marvel as, at long last, overcome one of its greatest weaknesses and given moviegoers real conflict.
The big showdown between Cap and Iron Man’s teams features a massive group of twelve superheroes, and somehow the movie manages to show just the perfect amount of each of them. There’s just enough Spider-Man to guarantee that we go see the new Spidey movie, there’s enough Falcon for him to stop being lame and start being a decent Avenger, and plenty of Ant-Man for all the lighthearted comic relief.
Speaking of Spider-Man, though, it’s worth singling out Tom Holland’s performance as the Webhead. I feel like this version of Peter Parker/Spidey is the truest comic book adaptation of the character so far. Finally, we have a version of Parker that is just a kid! Tobey MaGuire looked like he could have had teenagers of his own when he wore the blue and red suit, and Andrew Garfield, while charming, just wasn’t Peter Parker. Tom Holland, though, is still just a teenager. He looks young and acts young because he is. I can’t wait to see how his future performances play out.
Similarly great is Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther. He’s smooth and mysterious, and this new character was one of the best additions to the film. It’s fantastic how enigmatic and arcane the character is, and Civil War is better because of him.
Because of the great plot, perfect character portrayals, and brilliant screenwriting, Marvel Studios have finally managed to release a film that goes beyond being a flashy, action-filled popcorn flick. Instead of solely existing as a fun, summertime romp, Captain America: Civil War goes into brand new territory for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It will go down as not just an awesome superhero film, but simply, a great movie.