Captain America: Civil War, rated PG-13
The film is directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: The First Avenger). We saw this film in IMAX 3-D in a packed theater with an enthusiastic audience who reacted to each amazing scene they saw (watch for the scene with Captain America and the helicopter, or a great stunt with a motorcycle, for example). In fact, even before the film started, some shouted out “Team Cap!” to be responded with “Iron Man!” And the audience was not disappointed.
The latest Marvel film is a long one at 2 hours and 26 minutes. It is rated PG-13 for the standard super hero violence, some adult language (and unfortunately the abuse of God’s name). We really enjoyed the humor in the film. Some films get distracted with the fighting and violence (think of the recent Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), but this one never lost track of the story.
As the film opens, we see some of the Avengers – Captain America (Chris Evans), the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) – in Lagos, Nigeria trying to stop the theft of biological weapons. Unfortunately, a casualty of their heroic actions is the death of several innocent people. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and now the Avengers are told by Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), that 117 nations will soon be approving the Sokovia Accords, and all the Avengers will need to sign it. The agreement will provide oversight for the superheroes; they will no longer be able to enter into situations worldwide without approval. Many of the Avengers, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) sign the Accords, but a few, notably Captain America, do not.
As King T’Chaka (John Kani) addresses the representatives before the Accords vote, a bomb goes off. Many are injured and some are killed, including King T’Chaka. We see his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) kneeling over his father’s dead body. Soon news reports flash a photo that show the bomber as being Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who was at one time Captain America’s best friend. As the manhunt begins for the Winter Soldier, Captain America seeks to protect him, putting him on the opposite side of his Avenger friends that signed the Accord, notably Iron Man. That sets up the Avengers “Civil War” – betrayal is a key theme in this film along with standing your ground to do the right thing. Team Iron Man consists of Iron Man, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow, War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Spiderman (Tom Holland), while Team Captain America consists of Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), Scarlett Witch, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant Man (Paul Rudd).
Not all of the Avengers are in the film (notably absent were Thor and the Hulk), but many are, in addition to some new characters (Black Panther and Spiderman, for example.) The strong cast also includes Martin Freeman, Marisa Tomei, and Alfre Woodard.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable film with excellent stunts, computer animations, and screenplay. As with all Marvel superhero films, don’t get up when the film ends, but stay through all the credits to see two brief previews for future Avenger films.
May 6, 2016 at 8:52 am
After seeing you two last night, I anxiously awaited your review, and decided today would be the first day I comment on your many fine reviews.
My first comment is the setting, not the film’s setting but the shared experience we had with the audience. It was indeed an enthusiastic crowd, and I regularly go to films like to enjoy the collective interaction with the film. It’s fun to laugh along with others, and to see what others laugh at, that I didn’t get. Often times, this lets me know there was an inside joke I missed which gives me something to figure out later. So the crowd always adds to the film for me, because everyone there wants to be. I don’t always take my cues of enjoying a film from the crowd but it is usually a great barometer for a film.
Transitioning to the film itself, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It was a bit of a surprise for me as the narrative and genre of superhero films is getting a little long in the tooth. Somehow Marvel continues to either strike a tone that is new (Captain America: Winter Soldier for example), or changes the narrative as in this case to always bring something new to the table.
Captain America: Civil War sells itself as a departure from previous films by seemingly changing our views on what and who a protagonist and antagonist are. Even before the movie began, enthusiastic shouts of “Team Cap” or “Team Iron Man” show that even the way Marvel marketed this film leads you to believe it’s Tony (et al) v Cap (and friends). I agree totally with your synopsis that betrayal is a theme that runs throughout the film, and by extension through out the audience. Here are two “heroes” we’ve all gotten behind which now seemingly can’t agree on a fundamental matter of the best way to “protect” humanity. As each hero’s motivations are fleshed out, the black and white of a protagonist/antagonist world blurs away leaving us to cling to either our ideals or our allegiances. This subtly introduces another theme of the film which is one of nuance and gray in a seemingly black and white world.
What I thought the film makers did well was tell a balanced story of WHY each leader had their position, without painting one as right and one as wrong. However, because this was a Captain America film, it did start to skew Tony as the menace, but didn’t let it get too far, and by the third act we see Tony as a flawed human motivated by deep and painful feelings we can all recognize, which instantly moved from the possible villain role right back to a hero we both feel for and with.
Meanwhile, while Marvel distracted us and our heroes with in-squabbles, identity issues and changing allegiances, the real menace (antagonist) shows his true course and purpose which is handled well and is very believable and “relatable”. Next to Loki, he might be my favorite ‘bad guy’ in the Marvel world as his motivations are easy to understand. Unlike his bad-guy predecessors who try for galactic domination (Avengers, Thor:Dark World) or just world domination (Age of Ultron) he just is trying to ‘right’ a wrong in a very warped way.
When reading reviews online I see the word gravitas (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gravitas) used in describing elements of this film, and while I understand the urge to use that word in world where men and women can fly, shrink cling to walls, move things with their mind etc., it’s hard to truly imagine a seriousness. Even with that, adding ‘gravitas’ to this make believe world isn’t what makes it feel special. I believe it is how relatable these larger than life characters are to parts of ourselves. Even with Tony Stark’s massive wealth and intelligence, he’s just a guy dealing with loss. Captain America, who can hold a helicopter down with his bare hand and kick a truck into bad guys is trying to feel at home in the seemingly changed world around him. Scarlett Witch understands that she sees herself one way and the world see her another. Can’t we all relate to those things?
Superhero movies, for a while, were westerns in a new setting. And like the western genre that ran its course, I felt the superhero genre had exhausted ways to be new. If Marvel keeps changing the game, I am in for a few more.
It was great seeing you last night, I hope to see again soon,
May 8, 2016 at 6:23 pm
Was great to see you at the movie Thursday night, J. Wonderful insights on the movie. Thanks!