Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Time: 147 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
  • Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Daniel Brühl, Paul Rudd

Storyline:

After another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps, one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

4 reviews

  • Arguably the best superhero film of all time, Captain America: Civil War is definitely the best entry thus far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everything a blockbuster should be, the film is the successful result of years and years of storytelling work and a prime example of everything Marvel does right and the recent Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did wrong.

    It’s difficult not to compare the two films given how relatively fresh Batman v Superman is in the memory and especially since both films essentially tread the same narrative waters. Where Batman v Superman felt hollow and bloated, Civil War is streamlined yet immensely intricate. The central conflict makes sense as does the integration of new and existing characters. Every decision made by screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo serves both the story and the characters, not just in the overarching narrative but in the individual arcs. Factor in the bravura action sequences, including the superhero showdown that is the centerpiece of the film, and the end result is a truly satisfying extravaganza.

    Loosely based on the 2006-2007 Marvel Comics event series and functioning as a sequel to both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the film finds the Avengers being taken to task for the damaging consequences of their heroic actions. After major battles in New York, Washington D.C., Sokovia, and a recent mission in which protective measures taken by Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) claims the lives of several innocent people, the group are warned by the U.S. Secretary of State (William Hurt) that the United Nations will soon ratify the Sokovia Accord, an agreement that would place the Avengers under the supervision of a U.N. panel. The panel would decide when and where the team would go into battle. Anyone refusing to sign the accord would face criminal charges for using their superpowers.

    Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), already affected by the admonishments of a mother (Alfre Woodard) whose son was one of the many killed during the battle in Sokovia (“You think you fight for us, you fight for yourself.”), is open to the governmental oversight. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) disagrees, pointing out that they would be puppets of various political agendas. The already existing ideological divide between Stark and Cap is exacerbated, forcing the other members to choose sides. Stark is supported by best friend Lt. James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), the otherworldly Vision (Paul Bettany), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and new recruits T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland). On Team Cap: Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch, Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

    With so many of the plot points leading back to him, Bucky may be the film’s most pivotal character. For one, the world believes him to be behind the bombing that left many dead, including T’Challa’s father. For another, Bucky has always been Cap’s Achilles heel. Even when Bucky was in Winter Soldier mode and out to kill him, Cap always believed that his best friend was still within the monster that Bucky was programmed into being. That unwavering belief turns Cap into a fugitive as he aims to protect his friend from being caught by his fellow crimefighters. The hunt for Bucky leads to the spectacular clash between Team Cap and Team Iron Man, an all-out brawl that alone is worth the price of admission. Marvel has always been a master at blending action and comedy and this seventeen-minute sequence raises an already high bar even higher. Everyone gets a moment with everybody, and it’s a kick to see how established figures react to the newbies in their midst as they’re both impressed with and exasperated by the powers they possess. Spidey and Black Panther are exceptionally brought into the fold; it’s a credit not only to the filmmakers but to the perfectly cast actors that they stand out in such a stellar ensemble.

    The dazzling and inventive action sequences are anchored by complex character dynamics, which increases the emotional stakes for all involved. The delight is in the details and those details, so finely honed with each film, lead us to surprising pairings such as the one between Bucky and Falcon, whose complicated relationship serves as one of the strongest sources of comedy. Their scene in the car as they observe Cap kiss Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp) smoothly turns from blatant hostility to allied bros and back again is a little gem. Contrast that with the moment between Cap, Stark and Bucky – a moment in which one realises there is now a point of no return that has been crossed and from which ensues the terribly heartbreaking and intensely brutal confrontation between Cap and Stark.

    Impressive on every level, Captain America: Civil War exceeds expectations and, pending the upcoming two-part Infinity War, may reign as the brightest jewel in Marvel’s crown.

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  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5)

    THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF: More of the same, but there is some skill and care by the filmmakers to in develop characters between all the standard action stuff.
     
    GRADE: B

    SYNOPSIS: The superheroes are called to task about the repercussions of their questionable actions which leads to a splintering of the league.

    JIM’S REVIEW: Today, many moviegoers above the age of forty, like myself, can easily develop a condition known as PTSHD (Post Traumatic Super Hero Disorder), a malady that weakens many seriously-minded cinephiles who are continually force-fed the barrage of comic book blockbusters playing at our local movie theaters. Side effects include: vertigo (caused by multiple hyper-kinetic CGI battles), nausea (due to shaky hand-held camerawork), a lack of stamina and general listless yearning for sophisticated dialog (instead of snarky puns and comic one-liners) and a feeling of isolation and abandonment (as one feels adrift from today’s younger generation of moviegoers).

    If I am at all honest in my review, after seeing so many superhero blockbusters of late, in this era of pop entertainment instant gratification, I must admit that I have indeed reached my saturation point. The formula for success is repeated with successful variations on a theme: A rowdy band of misfits is assembled to become their own weapon of mass destruction, destroying cities in one fell swoop. Endless repartee is bantered between our crusaders. Actors fit into their tight-fitted spandex to fight the forces of evil with the straightest of faces and sexual identities to match. Granted, I am not the target audience that the filmmakers have in mind. But here I am, ready to plunk down my well-earned dollars to see another epic sampling of comic book justice.

    This time around, the group resembles one big unhappy family dealing with sibling rivalry issues and minor dysfunction. Captain America: Civil War is entertaining, if somewhat over-indulgent in its messy strained relationship between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark a.k.a. Ironman (Robert Downey, Jr.). Their animosity causes a ripple effect with the other superheroes taking sides…and gee-whiz, is there an over abundance of muscle, power, and ego! Fanboys, behold the testosterone level on display: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Vision (Paul Bettany). Women and diversity are well represented in this Marvel universe: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and War Machine (Don Cheadle), Newcomers to this action figure franchise include: Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) for the millennial set. Batteries not included.

    The plot borrows a similar scenario from the DC comic book universe’s recent movie entry, Batman v Superman, the premise being the high collateral damage inflicted upon the town-folks by their so-called protectors. Many lives have been destroyed as they battle evil forces. So there is now a public outcry and revenge against the Avengers. It’s governmental and political control over our vigilante crime fighters, some of which accept the terms of a UN mandate while others want to secede from that union. Their decision to either conform with this global request or go rogue causes the friction and tension that finally dissolves their alliance.

    Credit screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for spending considerable time to build the interrelationships and inner angst, even if there are far too many Avengers to do full justice to their individual backstories. Most characters seem to be fighting for equal screen time than actually fighting a cause. At times, the film feels a bit desperate and overstuffed. It is always on maximum overload, which has both positive and negative results. One just wishes less superheroes were called to duty so the film could be more focused.

    The fight sequences themselves are uneven. The opening battle is poorly edited and filmed in harsh close-ups that obliterates the action. But the film improves greatly from there. In fact, the main combat between the divided team of superheroes, which takes place at a deserted airport, is a brilliantly staged and extensively well choreographed scene that is worth the wait (even if it takes over an hour to get there). There is also a strong climactic smackdown between a few of the Avengers that delivers, even if the build and final twist misses some fine opportunities to unite the splintered crew for one final memorable free-for-all.

    Both Evans and Downey as the opposing leaders bring their A-game to the A-Team. They have a nice chemistry that makes their rift involving. The rest of the cast play their parts well. However, Daniel Bruhl is miscast as the villain, Helmut Zemo, who never establishes any real presence or menace. He remains an enigma right to the end.

    Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, with enough whiz-bang expertise to make the film diverting and satisfying, Captain America: Civil War proves to be a film that would rather debate the deeper issue of friendship and family than settle for being just another simple slam-bang blockbuster. That factor helps elevate this action fantasy and takes it a rise above the standard genre. The playing field may be overcrowded as everyone dukes it out, but it is still enough of a crowd-pleaser, even for this older and slightly worn-out reviewer.

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  • ‘Superhero fatigue’ is a phrase commonly batted around amongst critics and forum lurkers whenever a new caped crusader is unleashed into cinemas. Cries of Hollywood running out of ideas are often heard too. Despite all of this, the likes of Spider-Man, Batman and the Avengers crew have Hulk-smashed the box office for years. Most impressively, Marvel’s ever-increasing ‘Cinematic Universe’ has been building now for 8 years and 13 films, films that occasionally claw in over a billion at the box-office. This is not down to audiences simply flocking to the promise of CGI explosions and wise-cracks, but Marvel’s insistence on keeping the formula fresh.

    After a few years churning out average to above-average (and one excellent in 2008’s Iron Man) origin stories for the individuals that would, in 2012, reluctantly team up to become The Avengers, producer Kevin Fiege was obviously wary of wavering interests. Marvel’s work since 2014, since the mediocre Thor: The Dark World in 2013, has been exceptional, placing their heroes and villains in a variety of cinematic genres. Captain America: The Winter Soldier played out like a 70’s spy thriller, casting Robert Redford to reinforce the tone, Guardians of the Galaxy often felt like bizarre B-movie with a bigger budget and a more talented cast, and Ant-Man, a movie many predicted to be a disaster, was a full-on comedy, bolstered by the presence of an effortlessly charming Paul Rudd.

    The latest – and by far the best – is the third and possibly final entry into the stand-alone Captain America series. Retaining The Winter Soldier’s directors Anthony and Joe Russo and also much of the same tone, Civil War pits its second most popular superhero against its first, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. Also along for the ride is almost every other hero on the roster, along with a couple of new ones. But what makes Civil War very much a Captain America film and not The Avengers 3 is the Russo’s remarkable grasp of their characters. With Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) back on the scene as a very wanted man, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) finds himself torn between his loyalty to an old friend and being held accountable for his superhero actions. It is the friendship between the two that remains at the heart of the film.

    When Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) accidentally causes mass destruction in Lagos on a mission led by Captain America, the Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) informs the Avengers that the United Nations are passing a bill known as the Sokovia Accords, which will see them under the control of a UN panel. Full of guilt over his balls-up with creating Ultron, Tony Stark backs the bill, as do War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Vision (Paul Bettany). With little confidence in the government, Steve opposes the bill, and is followed by Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-Man. Tensions are raised higher when The Winter Soldier is accused of bombing the UN conference in Vienna and becomes a wanted man all over the world.

    What makes Civil War such a gripping film is its refusal to offer any easy answers. Depending on your own political and personal views, Captain America could be the antagonist of his own movie, causing a war between friends over his blind loyalty to a friend he knows is a mass-murderer, albeit a brain-washed super soldier experiment. On the flip-side, the character Downey Jr. has now immortalised and the hero to always receive top billing could become a knee-bending traitor seeking accountability for his own irresponsible actions during the events of Age of Ultron. More likely, and more interestingly, you will come to realise that there is simply no right answer.

    So it all comes down to who wins the fight. And what a fight it is. One of biggest flaws of Batman v Superman was its failure to come up with a believable scenario that would cause the good guys to beat on each other only to come to realise they are on the same side. Not only does the brawl feel organic, taking place at Leipzig airport with each character allowed more than one moment to shine, but it also refuses to offer any easy solution or a big bad for the team to unite against. The motivation and plan of the film’s villain, Helmut Zemo, played with a remarkable subtlety by Daniel Bruhl, is kept a mystery until near towards the end. And just when you think you finally know where it’s all heading, it side-steps you and goes in a completely different direction.

    The film’s biggest flaw is the introduction of Spider-Man, who is finally back in the hands of Marvel after Sony’s failure to re-boot the franchise with Andrew Garfield. Played by Tom Holland, who is the best Peter Parker yet, his entry into the fold feels shoe-horned and slightly awkward. But when he is let loose during the airport fight, he damn near steals it until Ant-Man shows his new friends just what he can do. The other newbie, Black Panther aka the Wakandan T’Challa (a gravelly Chadwick Boseman), plays a bigger role than you might expect, still learning and developing into the king he will become. Above all else, Civil War is simply a blast. With such care taken with its army of characters, each getting their own arc, its easy to become emotionally invested. So when Cap and Iron Man really get down to business, it becomes unbearable to think that one of them may not walk away. Bravo, Marvel and the Russo’s.

    Rating: 5/5

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  • Political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability when the actions of the Avengers lead to collateral damage. The new status quo deeply divides members of the team. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) believes superheroes should remain free to defend humanity without government interference. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) sharply disagrees and supports oversight. As the debate escalates into an all-out feud, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must pick a side.

    When it comes to Marvel (at least the MCU films) vs. DC films, Nolan Batman films aside, I’ve always preferred Marvel’s films because I am personally more familiar with the characters and I’ve always liked their tone. The Avengers films specifically had a more fun, sometimes comedic tone while the Captain America films (at least the last one) had a more serious, albeit different tone which I also enjoyed. While I didn’t have as much fun with Age of Ultron, I liked The Winter Soldier’s more serious, thriller-like story. What I liked so much about this one is that we got both of these here.

    While this is the last of two big superhero battle films, this one felt less gimmicky (cough Batman v. Superman cough). The film establishes the cause of for the division (you know what it is) early on as things get out of hand for some of the Avengers creating cause for concern. The differences in opinion were very evident here, dictating the actions of each character, more specifically Captain America (Evans) and Iron Man (Downey Jr.) with the other Avengers taking sides with either of them. While they became divided over their differences in opinion, neither team was really against each other (going against what the trailers and posters show). While this film may just be establishing these new political undertones within the MCU and may elaborate on it later but this film specifically could have gone a lot deeper with this as this felt abandoned later on.

    One may think this film is just about Team Captain America and Team Iron Man, there is a lot more going on here than that. Of course the bulk of the film consists of this divide within the Avengers, there is still a villain here because the film’s “Civil War” was not going to be enough (in my opinion). The villain here was a man named Zemo (Daniel Brühl), more on that later. This was where the divide was the most evident here as this was cause for distraction while the team eventually found their way to him. Each team leader shared different opinions as to the right way of pursuing him.

    Inevitably, this divide led to some battles between both teams, coming to fruition in a scene involving an airport (no spoilers). This and the other lesser battles, were very well done and exciting to watch. This was because of the choreography and the special effects which have always been well done in Marvel films. What really brought these action sequences to life was the excellent cinematography. This along with the editing allowed each shot and each scene to flow nicely.

    What made this feel less gimmicky (when compared to Batman v. Superman) was the story. There was a lot going on here as the film went from location to location early one but it never felt overwhelming. What often happens in films with multiple characters, films often fail to balance all of its characters. This was not the case here as the film found a way to give all of its secondary characters (second to Captain America and Iron Man) ample screen time. This included Spider-Man (Tom Holland) who was reintroduced to the MCU who had some great moments here, often stealing scenes. As a whole, all the characters had great chemistry which made scenes fun to watch.

    If a film is going to have so many characters, it has to have a great story instead of just parading the characters gratuitously. This would probably have worked but they thankfully gave us more here. Overall, the film had more of a serious tone but it still had some comedic moments as well, combining the best parts of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the Avengers films. This balance worked because of the chemistry between the actors and more importantly, the writing and the script. Again, the film also features a subplot involving a villain named Zemo. This part of the film unfortunately did not get as much focus as it should have which made it feel slightly disconnected from the rest of the plot. This lack of focus did not allow Zemo to ever really establish himself within the film, diminishing his overall impact.

    The performances here are as expected for a MCU film which were great across the board. Everyone was as expected here. Downey Jr. and Evans were great as Iron Man and Captain America respectively and it was great to see the evolution of their characters over the series. They just get better and better with every film. Seeing that this is a MCU film, there was some set-up to future films but unlike Age of Ultron, this did not shift focus away from the plot here. Without giving anything away, everyone probably already expects this, but the film does have a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene.

    Overall, this another great addition to the MCU featuring an exciting story with great action, great special effects, and great performances.

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