Movie Review | Captain America: Civil War
Movie summary: Political involvement in the Avengers' affairs causes a rift between Captain America and Iron Man. (IMDb)
Captain America: Civil War rated for quite a while as one of my favourite movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, even though it may have since been surpassed by more colourful successors, it's still up there as one of the better movies Marvel Studios have produced.It's also one of the more serious entries in the MCU, which may explain why it isn't quite as popular as it should be.
The movie had a pretty huge opening weekend when it was released, but quickly fell away - although still comfortably passing $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office. I think that seriousness is partly to blame, but also because audiences didn't want to see their favourite characters arguing, never mind beating the hell out of each other.
There was also plenty of critics still clinging on to the already outdated and misguided belief that the status quo never really changed in the MCU, claiming they couldn't take the schism between Cap and Iron Man seriously and that the Avengers disassembling wouldn't last. I do have to admit to feeling no small amount of pleasure at those people being proven so incredibly wrong.
Post-Endgame, it's clear to see that Civil War is the event that truly shaped the MCU and what followed it: the beginnings of the Scarlet Witch and Vision romance; the debuts of Black Panther and Spider-Man; Ant-Man becoming Giant Man; the fracturing of the Avengers; and of course, the villain of the piece coming out on top even if it came with a personal cost.
There are also some who say that this isn't really a Captain America movie and is still constantly referred to as 'Avengers 2.5', but that description doesn't really hold up. Civil War is 100% a sequel to The Winter Soldier, it just happens to have a lot of other superheroes in supporting roles rather than having to introduce new characters to fill those places.
Honestly, if you took out all the Avengers, it might lose a lot of the personal connection the audience feels relating to what they're seeing, but the fundamental plot wouldn't really change - you'd only need a new antagonist wanting to get to Bucky in place of Iron Man. Take the Cap/Bucky/Falcon characters out of this movie? You're going to need to make an entirely different film.
As for that triumphant villain, the man who beat Thanos to the punch in destroying the Avengers? Helmut Zemo continues to get overlooked as far as supervillains go, but that actually fits the nature of his character, blending in to the background and manipulating events in their favour to achieve their goals, rather than taking on the heroes face to face.
Hell, Zemo even flat out states that more powerful entities than him have taken on the Avengers physically and been beaten, so he had to be clever. And his plan is actually a simple one, rather than anything super-complicated as many believe: he has one end goal, but is forced to keep adjusting his route in getting there because of outside factors, rather than trying to be overly-smart.
This does lead to an interesting story where Cap and the heroes on his side are effectively in a normal superhero movie - they (mistakenly) believe Zemo wants to cause chaos around the world and are out to stop him. The only problem is that Iron Man's team are sticking to the rule of law and trying to stop them from doing so.
I have to admit that I was, and still am, on Team Cap because of exactly what happens in this movie: Team Iron Man want to bring in Bucky first and foremost (on charges he is innocent of), along with those protecting him, while completely ignoring the much larger threat of Zemo because... that's what they've been told to do. Team Iron Man are little more than obedient attack dogs for the governments of the world.
This leads to the 'Airport scene', where the heroes face off in the most spectacular section of the movie. There are some interesting match-ups and enjoyably inventive use of powers, but who is on each side never feels false - and they aren't exactly going for the kill either, aside from Black Panther. He wants Bucky dead and is allied with Iron Man for that reason alone.
Speaking of T'Challa, this was an incredible way for him to make his debut and could almost be considered a main character thanks to how much involvement he has across the movie. It certainly made me more eager to see a Black Panther movie, especially with how T'Challa moved and fought differently to any Marvel character seen at that point.
As mentioned above, Civil War also saw the debut of Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, instantly becoming the best version of either persona despite only featuring for around twenty minutes in the middle of the movie. He was sorely needed too, with only Spidey and Ant-Man being able to provide any real humour - including at their own expense - thanks to lacking any deep involvement in the plot.
In fact, the weight of the plot carried over into how the movie looked, with the usual bright colours of the heroes' outfits being particularly muted and the lighting mirroring this as if to make it as plain as possible that this wasn't just a normal fun adventure for wise-cracking super-people who would walk away unscathed at the end of the story.
What is interesting about the visuals is how the Russo brothers slowly changed the look of the movie over the course of the story, going from frantic, 'shaky-cam' shots in the opening sequence, mirroring The Winter Soldier, to wider lenses and longer shots up to and including the airport fight to show off the grand scale of having so many superheroes on-screen at the same time, setting the stage for Infinity War and Endgame.
Unfortunately, the score doesn't live up to this visual transition, with Henry Jackman's work neither as urgent as his own score for Winter Soldier, nor coming anywhere close to Alan Silvestri's music in the two most recent Avengers movies. It's just there in the background, providing ample, deserved ammunition for those critical of the scores in MCU movies
I feel that Civil War has maybe got a bit of a tarnished image for some reason - one that I think is wholly undeserved. It might not be as 'fun' as other MCU movies, but that absolutely does not make it bad, or even mediocre, in any way shape or form. I love the lasting impact it had too, with Steve and Tony not making up for seven years(!) in-universe as a result of what happened - but nothing ever changes in these movies, right?
Captain America: Civil War is a great movie that has only got better with almost every other MCU movie released after it showing just how much impact it had on where things headed. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr are the centrepieces here, with the latter doing his best work until Endgame hit. It has a large cast who all get their due, but these two rise above and really make you want them to just stop fighting each other when everything goes to hell.