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.
12. Thor: The Dark World
My biggest issue with this movie is a lack of clear direction. The tones of this movie are all over the place as there will be a very serious moment and then a sudden burst of comedy that mostly falls flat. Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman are certainly phoning in their performances. The villain is forgettable. The only saving grace is the relationship between Thor and Loki.
11. Iron Man 2
The sequel to the unexpected hit that was Iron Man but instead of hitting the ground running with this one, it hits the ground stumbling. The movie was rushed into production as returning director Jon Favreau wanted more time and one can tell. The film has to serve too many masters and it is the films undoing. On one hand it has to be a sequel to Iron Man which it fails with but also has to set up the concept of the Avengers which it also fails at. Tony Stark is also very unlikable in the film as he has gotten worse from his first appearance and there is little character development.
10. Iron Man 3
There is definitely nothing wrong with this film. It is certainly an improvement over Iron Man 2. However that is faint praise. It is the first film to happen post Avengers and supposedly throughout the film Tony Stark is suffering from some sort of PTSD. However, besides a few panic attacks, it is treated mostly as an afterthought and it is seemingly cured from a few words from a child. Once again the villain is lackluster as there are twists to the villain that think it’s more clever than it actually is. What is probably a bigger problem is that the film could have been wrapped up within the first 40 minutes.
This film is good but not great. It is a solid film. The film is basically a retread of the first Iron Man film which is a detriment. The main thing that elevates it though is its main character played by Paul Rudd. Rudd’s excitement of being in the movie carries over which helps cover its basic plot and once again another lackluster villain. There are interesting action scenes which come with the fact that the main character has the ability to shrink. The best thing about the movie is the potential for more as you can see where they can go with a sequel.
The first Thor film had the biggest challenge of a Marvel Cinematic Universe film at that point. It had to introduce the Asgardians who are some sort of alien gods and link them to the rest of the MCU. It is backed by a likable lead of Chris Hemsworth who plays Thor as a somewhat spoiled and ego driven prince who has to learn humility. He is backed by the Tom Hiddleston as his conniving brother Loki who has very understandable but twisted reasons for his actions. The rest of the supporting cast is all likable and there is a sense of wonder that comes with Asgard and exploring other worlds.
7. The Incredible Hulk
The redheaded stepchild of the MCU. Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk in this film which was the second MCU film. It has a unique tone as it is very much a ‘Fugitive’ type of film. Banner is on the run as he thinks of himself as a monster and with good reason but he is being pursued by people who are bigger monsters than he will ever be. This film would certainly rank higher as it does leave something to be desired. There are many deleted scenes which if weren’t cut would have fleshed out the movie more. It is unfortunate Norton did not continue to play the character but the show must go on.
6. Iron Man
The first film in the MCU that set the tone for the films to come. Robert Downey Jr. shines as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The director Jon Favreau does an impressive job with a character that was obscure and launched the character and the universes into the stratosphere. The supporting cast is also excellent. The biggest issue with the film is the sudden shift in the third act where the villain goes from subtle to complete insane with no clear plan and an underwhelming final action scene. However, the strong first two acts more than make up for the faults.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
Arguably the biggest risk of the MCU. This film took a property that was even unfamiliar to most comic book fans. That is probably where the film prospers the most as it works from a blank slate, more or less. A common reoccurring issue is the villain are lackluster and Ronan the Accuser is no exception. However the stellar cast and chemistry help smooth over some of the rougher edges in the movie. It is also very subtly a very important factor in setting up the MCU mythology.
4. Captain America: The First Avenger
The film that introduces Captain America to the MCU takes a step back into the past of World War 2. The main thing with this film is introducing the future leader of the Avengers and explaining as to why he will be. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers shines as he goes from a sickly underdeveloped man to the peak of human perfection but that is not what makes him special. How small beginnings helped shape a hero and though he may come from a “simpler”time, there is nothing simple about him. Special mention goes to Hugh Weaving as The Red Skull who is probably one of the only standout villains that is not named Loki.
3. Avengers: Age of Ultron
The sequel to the first Avengers film is a solid film. The biggest thing that keeps it from being up to par with the first film is that it is more of the same. The action is better than the first but there are certain things that hamper the film. The humor in the film is very off as so many characters are filled with quips as no character really has a distinct voice. The main villain Ultron is filled with potential but comes off as all over the place and never really scary or intimidating. One of the highlights is The Vision played by Paul Bettany. There is an interesting conversation between the character and Ultron towards the end of the film that is very poignant and unexpected in a summer blockbuster.
2. The Avengers
The conclusion to the unprecedented buildup in the MCU. After five solo films; Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow come together under Nick Fury to form The Avengers. It also features the return of Loki who is the main villain but there is a bigger bad in the background with huge implications for the films following this one. What makes this film work is putting all of the characters who have never met one another and seeing how they mix and don’t mix together. The plot is thin but one thing that keeps the film going is how fun it is. Nothing will ever top the feeling of seeing all of these heroes together for the first time.
- Captain America: The Winter Solider
Arguably the best movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film firmly solidifies Captain America as the focal point within the universe. Showing that a character who many consider to be a “goody two shoes” and “out of time” still has plenty to say and do within the modern era. This film has had the biggest repercussions within the MCU but even though it is an action film, it is still all about the characters. Chris Evans shines and carries the film and finds his footing as Steve Rogers. It is worthy to note that the legendary Robert Redford plays the a major role in the film which only helps to solidify that this is not just some superhero film. This is one of the true triumphs within the superhero genre.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an example of an amazing feat. When it was first announced that Marvel was going to be creating their own independent studio in the mid 2000’s and featuring characters that they still had the film rights to but characters that were not as well known, many were skeptical. Fast forward a few years and now Marvel is a household name and all of the studios films have been successes. However there has been a common criticism since the beginning and that has been the lack of diversity.
There has been a notice of how many movies feature a lead who’s played by a “white guy named Chris”. The lack of people of color has been one of the main criticisms. While the character of James “Rhodey” Rhodes, first played by Terrence Howard and then Don Cheadle in subsequent films, has been there since the first Marvel Studios film, “Iron Man”, many have noted that since the recasting he is simply just there most of the time despite becoming a full fledged hero in “Iron Man 2”. It is noticeable that in “Iron Man 3” that he is rarely in his suit at all in the movie instead other people use it more than him. Also his character was absent during “The Avengers” and not even given a mention as to what his character was up to.
In the “Thor” film series, there are two noticeable people of color and that is Heimdall played by Idris Elba who is a black man and Hogun played by Tadanobu Asano who is Japanese. While the character of Hogun has always been depicted as non-white and clearly influenced by Mongolian culture, many took ire with the casting of Elba as Heimdall. These characters noticeably get not much to do. The character of Heimdall is a guardian who watches over Asgard so he somewhat understandably does not interact much but even when there are situations for him to participate in, he does not appear. Hogun appeared as much as the other members of The Warriors Three in the first film but when it came to the sequel, he was written off at the beginning of the movie and only makes a quick cameo in the end.
Things began to change within “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” with Anthony Mackie playing Sam Wilson/The Falcon. The character has been a noticeable supporting protagonist of Captain America since the 1960’s and he is notable for being the first mainstream African-American superhero. In this film, Wilson is the first character that the audience sees and also gets the last line of the movie. While he is still a supporting protagonist to Captain America, he still has his own thing going on. Captain America depends on him just as much as he does on Captain America. It was noticeable as to how little the character was featured on advertisements before the movie’s release. However once the film was released, Mackie proved to be the ensemble darkhorse as his portrayal was beloved and notable.
By the time “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was released; Cheadle, Mackie and Elba reprised their roles albeit in smaller roles. Elba is nothing more than a cameo. Mackie is given two scenes, one at the beginning and one at the end. One gets the sense that he wasn’t even supposed to be in the film at all but due to his popularity and the criticism of how Cheadle wasn’t in the first film, he was added to the film. Cheadle gets the largest screen time but is still only in a bout three scenes but at least his character gets to partake in the final battle, somewhat. The real life issue of the lack of diversity within The Avengers team is addressed in the film’s final scene.
Now “Captain America: Civil War” was announced, it was always assumed that Mackie would reprise his role in the film considering his status but there was also a notable addition and that was Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/The Black Panther. The Black Panther is notable for being the premiere black superhero as his character is a genius/super athlete/king from a fiction country in Africa that has never been colonized. These two were in the movie and then when the cast was fully announced it was stated how Cheadle would be in the film as well.
During the same press conference where “Civil War” was announced it was also announced that Black Panther would be getting his own movie as well in 2017 and then pushed to 2018. This is important as he is the first black character from Marvel Studios to get his own film since the company’s first film in 2008. That would make it ten years and many have been clamoring for the character to get his own film and Marvel Studios President, Kevin Feige, always dodged and gave a myriad of reasons as to why the character wasn’t getting his own film.
Now with the Black Panther character being introduced in “Civil War” and even earlier references to his fictional country of Wakanda and arch enemy Klaw being in “Age of Ultron”, it seems that Marvel is taking many steps to make sure the character works by the time his solo movie arrives. But “Civil War” is important as it features probably the three biggest black Marvel superheros, barring characters who are part of the X-Men and cannot be used, in one film. The plot of the film will feature heroes taking sides of Captain America and Iron and it’s not hard to guess as to who’s side The Falcon and War Machine will take in the film and Black Panther playing a certain x-factor in the mix. Also worth mentioning is the character of Luke Cage, notable for being the Hero for Hire, getting his own self titled Netflix series following a series such as “Daredevil”.
While it has taken some time and there is still much work to be done, Marvel Studios has been making an effort to diversify its lineup. It has not been perfect and there could be much more work to be done but there is an effort being made. We will see how diverse the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be in another ten years.