Captain America: Civil War is the retry of Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is a much more organic team up effort than the last team up and is an appropriate retooling. Although it is largely a Cap story, the addition of Iron Man makes it so much more compelling. Even though it is jam packed with lots of Marvel favorites and some new ones, nothing is hollow. The Winter Soldier may have been an endurance test of how much depression one could take, but here we have a pill that is a tad easier to swallow. How can you get the balance right between fantasy action and compelling story?
Most people highlight the tarmac fight as the best scene in the movie, but my favorite scene is the Cap/Tony accords discussion. It highlights both RDJ’s ability as an actor, and it shows the mental frustration and anguish that has been building up inside him. This movie really zooms in on the insecurities and ghosts of the past that haunt Tony day to day. The interaction between Tony and Steve are the best parts of the film. All of Tony’s growth as a character has resulted in tragedy in one way or another, and his growth is so strong and compelling. Tony is right, just to set the record straight. Steve does make a good point, and the point of people with agendas are in charge, and agendas change, is the wisest piece of advice that anyone can receive, but heroes with nobody to answer to are just vigilantes, and with that, there is no accountability. Tony has failed time and time again, where Steve has never had a true defeat. This is the emotional core, and, to me, the true strength of the film.
In addition to Tony and Steve, I love the supporting cast. Stand out characters/performances are T’Challa, Black Widow and Helmut Zemo. There is a lot of fun stuff with Ant-Man, Hawkeye and the introduction of Spider-Man, but that is just more fan service. I do love me some Winter Soldier, but here he is mostly used as a plot device meant to divide the heroes. It’s a good idea, but the ice man remains on the back burner, unless he is punching some guy in the face. Natasha always says the right thing, and, given her backstory, it is with an appropriate coolness but shy vulnerability. Even though the cramming of characters into this film is just for the purposes of exciting action, the most necessary addition is Black Panther. He impacts the plot, and he has a complete character arc. Character is the most important factor for me, especially in big action movies, and this film really doesn’t have a shortage of that. A lot of the characters either have incomplete or no arcs at all, but the most satisfying is Zemo. He masterminds the entire conflict of the film, and, in a Marvel first, wins. He is a strong candidate for greatest Marvel on-screen villain. He has a subtle plan, it isn’t a world ending catastrophic (and visually nauseating) event, and he achieves his goal, and he does so without dying in the third act.
It is no Winter Soldier, but good luck film industry for being better than Winter Soldier. Tonally, it is much less bleak and carries a lot of the humor that other Marvel films have been known to embrace. TWS has some humor, but Civil War has a lot of cute moments. I especially like the relationship between Wanda and The Vision. It’s a great union of 2 misfits who understand each other, yet are unknown to the rest of the world. We also have the introduction of Spider-Man, and with that comes the pairing of Spidey with Tony. Nobody in the MCU has more daddy issues than Tony, and we get our first allusion towards Tony’s new surrogate son. Tony is constantly trying to rectify all mistakes, even the ones that he didn’t create, and with that he becomes the new father figure for Pete.
All this being said, the film is mostly a slugfest, and the plot is an excuse, mostly to get to the action, rather than the other way around. The best parts of the film are the scenes with Tony, and all the emotion comes from him. The supporting cast are all great, and everyone has a chance to shine, even the villain. I would call it an emotional roller coaster considering it’s jumps from heavy drama, to silly one liners, to romance in the darkest of times. It’s a film that embraces diversity, and I don’t mean race and gender, but ideologically. As far as action films go, it is unparalleled, but the plot is pretty thin, and it’s a middling entry despite all of its grandeur. It is fan service, but if you are a fan, it is more than serviceable.