The Avengers assemble once more for the Russo Bros.’ “Captain America: Civil War,” a film that brings to life one of the most popular storylines in the Marvel Comics Universe. This storyline offers up something a little different than what we’re used to seeing from the multiple Marvel films that got us to this point, and yet it still fits into the same typical package that viewers are used to getting, so don’t be surprised if it feels somewhat familiar at the same time. However, if we do focus on what sets it apart, you don’t really need to look any further than the title. Whereas in the previous films, there’s usual a standard villain that one or all of the avengers need to face (Loki, Ultron, Red Skull, etc.), here the Avengers become their own worst enemy as they’re faced with a rather difficult decision, all while once again trying to help humanity as best they can.
And just what is it that would force them to turn on each other? Well, as we see at the start of the film, a mission in Nigeria meant to keep a biological weapon out of enemy hands ends in disaster as an explosion kills several innocent people, echoing previous tragedies in New York and Sokovia. A mother of one of the victim’s in Sokovia further brings the point to light when she confronts Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) about the death of her son, causing him to side with the authorities that want to place the Avengers under the supervision of a UN panel. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), on the other hand, feels the complete opposite, worrying that such a panel might stop them from getting involved when they need to. As if this wasn’t enough to worry about, on the day the accords are to be signed, disaster strikes, with the primary suspect being Rogers’ old friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Rogers obviously feels obligated to track him down, but this only makes tensions worse, causing the Avengers to eventually come face-to-face on the battlefield while the real threat lies in waiting.
“Captain America: Civil War” could have easily, and perhaps would have more appropriately, been called “Avengers: Civil War,” because while it does seem to focus a lot on the relationship between Rogers and Barnes, it really involves everyone (minus Thor and Hulk) and their choice of which side to be on. In that sense, it reminds me a lot of Joss Whedon’s films in that none of the characters feel like they’re left behind, with each given their due, which is all the more important as we’re trying to understand where they’re coming from when they choose their side. As stated earlier, this conflict gives the film a little something different for the fans to look forward to. Instead of just a “villain of the week,” it’s friend fighting friend, turning it into a somewhat awkward, though thrilling battle that has you wondering just how far each hero is willing to go.
It also provides an interesting conundrum in that you really do understand why each side feels the way they do, making you wonder just how you would react in a similar situation. One side understands the need for oversight in order to prevent the senseless loss of more life, while the other doesn’t want potentially disastrous situations to become worse due to having to deal with red tape. Then again, you also have to wonder what would happen if all of the Avengers said no to the accords. Who would stop them? (A similar situation to trying to keep Superman’s powers in check in “Batman v Superman.”) It just so happens that about half feel one way, while half feel the other, leading to a rather conveniently-constructed showdown.
Speaking of which, aside from the intriguing commentary the film offers, like its fellow Marvel adaptations, there’s plenty of fantastic action sequences to go around. Most notably there’s an epic chase in Bucharest that has both Rogers and Black Panther trying to catch Barnes, with the police in pursuit as well. In terms of getting your heart racing, this one certainly does the trick, but the one that most people will probably be on the edge of their seat for is the confrontation between Captain America, Iron Man, and their comrades (including Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Vision, and more). This lengthy sequence occurs on an airport runway that’s luckily away from the public, and, just like getting to see Batman fight Superman in the DC Comics Universe, is probably a dream come true for many fans who always wondered who would beat who in such a fight. This sequence also provides plenty of entertainment, and while the previously-mentioned chase outdoes it in my opinion, it certainly does justice to the film’s title.
That being said, the film is not without its faults, sharing a very common pair of them that we’ve seen a multitude of times throughout the MCU films. These are, of course, that the film does eventually beat you over the head with a little too much action to the point where it has a somewhat numbing effect, and the fact that the film is far too long at nearly two and a half hours. To be clear, the inundation of action isn’t really to the point where it’s “boring” (as it became in “Batman v Superman”), but it does eventually have you wondering when the next advancement in the plot will arrive, and similarly, when the conclusion will finally occur. These are not to say that it’s a bad film, for it’s certainly not, just one that could have been trimmed down a little so as not to feel like it goes on for longer than it actually does.
Chances are, as usual, that these issues won’t bother your typical comic book movie fan, you know, that person who just wants to see a lot of people get punched and lots of things get blown up real good without being bothered with a complicated plot. I’ve enjoyed almost all of these movies (with the great “Guardians of the Galaxy” remaining at the top of the heap), and while I can’t say that many of them have been memorable, I appreciated “Civil War” for not only some great action scenes, but also for delving into more internal issues with our heroes, allowing us to see them from an alternate angle than what we’re used to. Because of this, it has a hint of freshness, one that will hopefully carry over as we head into the next exciting phase of this ever-expanding universe. 3/4 stars.
Starts tonight in theaters everywhere.
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