written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
This is it… the grudge match for the ages… holding the fate of the MCU and the Avengers as a team in the balance. It’s been four years since the Avengers formed, and in those four years the world faced events of cataclysmic proportions. From the battle of New York (Avengers), the literal collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. over Washington D.C. (Captain America: Winter Soldier), to the Sokovia incident (Avengers: Age of Ultron); the governments of the UN come to the unanimous decision that leaving the Avengers unchecked is the cause of all the death and destruction left in the wake of super-hero-ing. Of course, there is nary a mention of Loki, Hydra, or Tony and Bruce’s sarcastic Murderbot in these reports; this pushes an already weary Tony Stark to draw the proverbial lines in the sand.
This is where Captain America: Civil War starts. It’s a little funny calling it Captain America: Civil War… I get that this is supposed to be a Cap flick, but it felt less like a follow-up to Captain America: Winter Soldier and more like the Avengers sequel Age of Ultron should have been. I had to check my fan-boy-ism at the door before watching Civil War. As a fan of the comic of the same name… I knew that much of what made me love the Civil War comic might not be present in the film. So I took my own advice and tempered my expectations, of course I wanted to enjoy this movie and would have enjoyed it even if they called it Tony v Steve: Dawn of Don’t Trust Us.
On the merit of the film itself, the Russo Brothers hit gold. I’m adamant about my love for Captain America: Winter Soldier. As far as I’m concerned, I feel like Winter Soldier was the best solo outing for an MCU hero since the first Iron Man flick. Seems the brothers earned their spot as the MCU’s golden duo, handing Civil War as well as the forthcoming Infinity War part I and II.
Stylishly shot and brilliantly cast; aside from the core MCU staples making their return, two new faces join the fight with Chadwick Boseman portraying the first ever live action adaptation of T’Challa/Black Panther and getting yet another reboot (third time’s the charm maybe) Spidey is once again re-cast with Tom Holland taking on the role of the ever popular wallcrawler. These two stole the show, while I am glad that T’Challa finally gets his time in the sun… the inclusion of Spidey is something I never thought would happen, what with Sony holding the exclusive film rights to Spidey and his band of rogues.
Interestingly enough, none of the heroes felt like they were wasted. While screen time varied from character to character, I never got the feeling that one of them was under utilized. While Spidey and T’Challa stole the show, most likely thanks to that new superhero smell, MCU new comer Scott Lang/Ant-Man (fresh off his solo outing) fits so well into the MCU machine. I won’t spoil it for you but I have got to give Scott Lang the MVP award during the climactic brawl.
Notably missing from the cast were Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. If you remember the events of Age of Ultron, Thor receives a vision of the events he’ll be facing in Ragnarok and after Hulk’s massive rampage during his rage session courtesy of Wanda Maximoff, both Avengers have reasons to be absent. It does work though, the boots-on-the-ground nature of the film’s core conflict would have been greatly altered if each side had a nuke. Also absent were those from S.H.I.E.L.D., namely Nick Fury and Maria Hill. This further solidifies how separate the new S.H.I.E.L.D. organization will be from the current MCU.
In a surprising return, William Hurt reprises his role as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross from what feels like the red-headed-step-child of the MCU… The Incredible Hulk. Now as the U.S. Secretary of State, the former General works closely with the Sokovia Accords, dealing with a world getting increasingly dangerous as more super powered beings make themselves known.
Believe it or not, Captain America: Civil War does indeed have a villain... and I'm not talking about the depressingly wasted use of Crossbones (Frank Grillo) in the film's opening. Daniel Brühl stars as Col Helmut Zemo. A bit different from his comic book origin, rather than being a former Nazi scientists, the MCU version of Zemo is a former Sokovian Colonel with a serious grudge against the Avengers. I can't get too into detail without spoiling it, but while the main attracting of Civil War are the hero v hero fisticuffs... the underlying story revolving Zemo and his grudge make for one of the MCU's greatest plot twists ever.
Unlike another hero v hero superflick released this year, Civil War exhibited a great deal of heart when it came to telling a story. From the genuinely funny moments to the heart wrenching battles where you’re forced to see people who all belong on the same side trading blows. I don’t believe I’m jumping to conclusions when I say that this movie is a Marvel Masterpiece, this will sit as a cornerstone of the MCU… right up there with the first Iron Man and Avengers films.
One point that I feel I need to elaborate on was the source material, while some elements were kept from the iconic comic, I would not call this a Civil War… more like a Civil Dispute? Civil Tizzy? Civil Disagreement? The grandiose nature of the comic’s battles made calling it a war between heroes warranted… this played out more like a battle of ideals between smaller groups.
Don’t get me wrong though, the Civil War title does fit despite this smaller cast of characters. The American Civil war pit brother against brother in a war of ideals, the comic did the same when heroes who used to work together were forced to pick sides. While the obvious conflict between Tony and Steve play out as the main event on the card, seeing Black Widow and Hawkeye stand on opposite sides as well as Scarlet Witch and VIsion drive the civil war theme home.
As the superhero film genre evolves, so do the standards we hold them up to. The days of lazily adapting a comic book flick are things of the past. Comics are the mythology of our times and they deserve to be treated and adapted with respect. The fans turned on films like Fantastic Four and X-Men Origins: Wolverine because of how shoddy of an example they were of what a comic book film should be. Even without the colorful suits and recognizable heroes, this film would have still been a well crafted piece of cinema. It’s one that belongs among the greatest of its contemporaries. A masterpiece of comic book cinema and one every Marvel fan should absolutely see.