Captain America: Civil War bears almost no resemblance to the comic book by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven from about 10 years ago, and when I heard about a cinematic attempt to do even a light adaptation of the book, I was dubious. On one hand, the Russos did tremendous work with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and that movie had almost nothing to do with any of those arcs either, but then I heard the increasing cast count for this one, and got more than just a little wary. The sign that a superhero movie like this is going to hit the skids is when the cast begins to overwhelm the archplot – but when you are ostensibly making even a light adaptation of a character-dense, universe-changing plot like Civil War, you can’t avoid a giant cast.
The good news here is that the screenplay is something of a Marvel in and of itself. I felt that the script gave just enough screentime to the satellite characters while still being generous with Captain America and Iron Man. It felt perfectly weighted to me, and that’s no faint praise considering the magnitude of the cast.
In terms of story, the movie does a reasonable job with questioning the ethics and morals involved in collateral damage without being heavy handed about it, and the fact that it addresses the widescreen destruction that’s typical in big budget movies these days makes a good counterpoint to Batman V Superman, where it seemed the only person who was *really* concerned about the chaos in Man of Steel was Batman.
Where the story goes off the rails (for me, significantly) is in the reveal elements. I thought the Zemo storyline was way underplotted, to the point that his involvement actually doesn’t really make a ton of sense, in that his entire scheme was only geared to one specific outcome, but the outcome was largely determined by many other different factors outside of his control. And although the story ends somewhat organically, a significant tweak to Zemo’s scheme could have ended the movie with a larger, more satisfying scene (though it would have been thematically more like the end of BvS.
But while I have major issues with the story and plot choices, the movie cannot be faulted for its ambition, action, and fan-friendly setpieces. Addressing the action, I thought this was expertly done – a lot in keeping with Winter Soldier than the mostly by the numbers and, frankly, ineptitude of Avengers: Age of Ultron. The fights are bone crunching and reminded me favourably of the best elements of Daredevil on Netflix. I’m a sucker for well done hand-to-hand combat in movies, provided they don’t become ludicrously over-reliant on obvious wire-fu.
But the best things for me, the moments where I actually uttered aloud in the cinema: Spider Man, and a great development with Ant Man. I was wary of Tom Holland’s Spider Man, but really, he is terrific. I though this depiction of Spider Man took the best elements of the last 14 years, namely Garfield’s Spider Man, and Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker. It bodes well for the future of this franchise if the next movie can continue this depiction. And I’m totally onboard with Marisa Tomei as the new Aunt May. The casting brings a whole new dynamic into a – by now – familiar story.
And then the other WOW moment for me was Ant Man – to say any more is a huge spoiler, but suffice it to say I absolutely loved it. It actually helps solidify the tentpole fight scene by allowing it to unspool into a central conflict from the isolated one-on-ones the scene starts out with.
The only element that truly disappointed me was the ending. I thought it could have been bigger and better, but like Winter Soldier, the entire movie is treated like a serious action movie by the Russos, not just a “superhero action movie”, as most of them are. The action means something in a much larger context, and there’s a strong effort to make it seem like they care about the consequences.
Final mention of Black Panther – I don’t feel there was a lot going on with this character, until the end of his own transformation arc that works quite well. I’m looking to see this character in his own movie, but I think they need to get it right off the bat, and not resort to Marvel’s first movie in any series where the good guy just fights a bigger version of himself.
Very good movie, highly recommended. 4.5/5.0
© 2016, Andrew Hope
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