Captain America: Civil War is both a sequel to 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Solider as well as 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film picks up about a year after the end of the latter movie. The film picks up with the current Avengers and a disastrous mission that puts the team under the microscope. Tony Stark is faced with his conscious after his actions in Age of Ultron are called into question. This eventually leads to the Sokovia Accords which requires all heroes to sign under a UN legislation and if not, be considered criminals. Captain America is against it while Iron Man is for it and a schism is formed. Things are further complicated by the return of Captain America’s old friend, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier and an enigmatic figure, Zemo.
First things first, this is a Captain America movie. It is his actions that drive the plot of the movie. Chris Evans shines once again in his role as Steve Rogers/Captain America. It is easy to see where his characters stands as his previous interactions with government have been less than desirable. He is a character who stands firm in his beliefs and when those beliefs conflict with others, he is still willing to listen and give the benefit of a doubt. This drives his effort in helping Bucky who is a wanted man. There are different sides to Cap shown here as though he is usually shown as the altruistic member of the Avengers, he is no saint. There were times where it was easy to see where people’s frustrations with him came from.
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man takes his iconic role in a different path. As someone who has never been a fan of the quippy Stark that has become so prevalent, it was interesting to see a Stark who was much more morose. He still had his one liners and quips but there was a pain to the character that was there from his first scene. Guilt is what’s driving Stark now but he is still a Stark who acts first without really thinking about the consequences for later. There were times where I surprised myself by agreeing with Stark. The film provides a good balance between the two points as neither is in the right or the wrong.
Many of the other Avengers and other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters have parts to play, some smaller than others. Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch probably gets the most. It is her actions which kick off the events in the movie. It is a definite improvement over her role in Age of Ultron as we learn what makes Wanda tick and where her future will take her. Scarlet Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow takes a somewhat backseat in this movie compared to her roles previously. Widow is conflicted as she sides with Stark, who she is not a fan of, on the state of registration while opposing Cap, who she has come to respect and care for. Anthony Mackie returns as Sam Wilson/The Falcon who and shows why he is an Avenger. His loyalty to Cap is steadfast and it extends to his fellow Avengers. His subtle competition with Bucky as who is Cap’s best friend brings a levity to the movie.
The other Avengers and MCU heroes play less of a role. Jeremy Renner returns as Clint Barton/Hawkeye and probably gets the short end of the stick. He is not in that many scenes but does make the most of them. He shows why he is the most personable and his everyman qualities play an important part later between a conversation between he and Stark. Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine fares a bit better. He gets a few more scenes but the scenes he does have do shine. There is an especially poignant moment between him and Stark that really conveys a friendship and love that never came across in the Iron Man movies. Ant-Man and Spider-Man are the two who gets the least scenes and could be considered glorified cameos at best. Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man returns from his solo movie and is a welcome addition. His character is just happy to be along for the ride while still hinting at his anti-establishment characteristics. He brings about one of the more standout moments in the movie. Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is in the same boat as Ant-Man. He is a teenage superhero who is happy to be along (and brought along under suspicious circumstances). He brings out the youth in Spider-Man such as his nonstop talking during battle but also showing just how dangerous Spider-Man can be. His character was a delight and it is only a bright future for this iteration of the character.
The two wild cards in the movie are The Winter Soldier and Black Panther. Sebastian Stan returns as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier and is now something of a combination of the friendly Bucky from the first Captain America movie and the cold blooded killer from The Winter Soldier. Stan conveys a man who is at best a man wanting to figure out his past but also a man who is at his worst a dangerous killer. His scenes with Evans shine as you are reminded of the friendship between the two and can understand why Cap is going the distance for him. Chadwick Boseman debuts as T’Challa/Black Panther. He is a new character whose origin is touched upon but you know what this man is all about. He is royalty and carries it through his actions. He is nobility and is serious when he needs to be but there is an affability to him when he needs to be. This is someone who is on par with Captain America when it comes to physicality and it shows every time he is on screen. The future is bright for his character.
When it comes to conflict, it stems from two sources. One of them being Thaddeus Ross aka General “Thunderbolt” Ross who was last seen eight years ago in “The Incredible Hulk”. He is now Secretary of State and is the main person pushing for the registration. Though he claims to be on the side of the Avengers, anyone familiar with the character and his last appearance knows that all may not be so simple with him. There is also Daniel Bruhl who plays Helmut Zemo. Zemo is a mysterious character and the less said about him the better. Zemo is not a showy type of role especially for a villain. At first I thought Zemo wasn’t that effective of a villain but on more thought, Zemo was actually a good villain and one with sympathetic reasons for doing what he does. Bruhl was a perfect actor to cast in this type of role.
The movie finds a great balance between plot, character development and action. The film never gets too bogged down in plot and exposition. It also never suffers from too much action either. There were only a few issues that I found with the plot where I found myself losing track of the characters’ motivations. Zemo’s plot is especially shaky when thinking about it too hard. The action scenes are phenomenal especially the confrontation between the two teams at the airport. This comes in the second act and the final action scene wisely takes a step back and makes it more intimate. This intimate final action scene is a good mix of plot and action and really highlights why this movie shines. The movie never loses track of why these characters are doing what they are doing.
Overall, Captain America: Civil War is a triumph. A movie that on paper with its many characters and heady themes could be easily pegged as destined to fail. Though there are a few bumps on the road, the ride was great and one that I will gladly take again. This movie not only a must see for comic book movie fans or superhero movie fans. This movie is a must see for movie fans.