Captain America: Civil War – Whose Side Are You On?

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You’re welcome, Marvel.

As of the time this post went live, Captain America: Civil War had garnered the 5th best domestic opening ever, surpassed $200 million at the domestic box office, and posted over $700 million in worldwide ticket sales. Having seen the film twice on opening weekend, I feel confident in taking partial credit for the overwhelming success the film has already experienced, not to mention the millions the film is sure to reap as a result of my review. Just make the resulting thank you card and accompanying reward out to ‘Cash,’ Marvel.

So far, the first star-studded blockbuster of the summer is on the receiving end of more backslapping than the Avengers are fists to the face – which is saying something. And, as someone who whole-heartedly agrees with much of the effusive praise coming in, I’ll do my best to preserve the experience by limiting plot reveals and potential spoilers when sharing my thoughts.

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The backdrop of the film is actually pretty straightforward (and all in the trailers, so this isn’t much of a spoiler): over the course of their existence (and several films), the Avengers have left a wake of collateral damage as they try to save the world from increasingly formidable threats. Following the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, world governments are pushing for the ratification of the Sokovia Accords – an international law that would limit the unilateral actions of the Avengers.

There some on the Avengers, led by Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who are ready to accept the limitations, both to possibly lessen guilt for past actions and to stave off a worse alternative. As I’m sure you’ve guessed there are others, led by Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), who see the accords as political interference that is potentially damaging to the effectiveness and morality of the Avengers.

This division is just the beginning of the rift.

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Captain America has always been the straight-as-an-arrow superhero, sticking to his metaphorical guns and remaining fiercely loyal to his friends. Unfortunately, that includes Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). The victim of Hydra brainwashing and a perceived enemy assassin, Bucky becomes a sticking point that only drives a wedge further between Cap and Tony.

As the conflict, driven by a mysterious new player, comes to a head, the rest of the Avengers are forced to side with either the man in the suit or the man with the shield.

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At this point I’ll ask: can’t we all just get along?

In short, no – but for good reason. What sets Captain America: Civil War apart in the superhero genre is its willingness to get its hands dirty on a more human level. The film really digs into painful character memories and creates all new friction, testing the bonds of friendship, romantic relationships, and so much more.

The reason this is technically a Captain America film and not another Avengers? I’d say mostly because Cap is central to the biggest tests. Cap and Tony. Cap and Bucky. Cap and Carter. You get the idea.

With so many characters and an endless supply of action packed into two and half hours, the film (and attempting to review it) can seem daunting. But to their credit, the Russo brothers were up to task.

Having previously directed the widely regarded second Captain America film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Anthony and Joe Russo only reinforced their reputation as some of the best in the genre, artfully blending fisticuffs with feelings. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely also returned (having worked on both of the first two Captain America films), lending the continuity, storytelling style, and occasional levity that fans have come to identify with the Captain America franchise.

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Somehow I’ve grown long-winded with nary a mention of the slew of new characters. The biggest introduction of the bunch is the cinematic launch of T’Challa aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). A skilled warrior from the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda, T’Challa is forced to take sides following an encounter with the Winter Soldier (even though he’s not an Avenger). We’re also reintroduced to Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland), with Marvel opting to use a younger version of the character to great success. Much more a kid, complete with a kid’s sense of wonder and view of the world, Holland’s Peter Parker offers some well-timed levity. Not to be forgotten is Daniel Brühl’s Helmut Zemo, but I’ll let you meet him yourself.

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As for the rest of the cast, extensive though it is, everyone has their own special story arc to avoid being lost in the fray. Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) continues to be the most pragmatic and cool character on screen, which is no doubt part of the reason Marvel has finally committed to giving her a standalone film. Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie) remains the steadfast Cap supporter, ready to blindly trust his friend. Similarly, on the other side, Rhodey aka War Machine (Don Cheadle) is ready to make the sacrifices necessary to stand by Iron Man and the government. Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is ever the wildcard, and Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is ever the understated comic relief.

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*Potentially very mild spoiler – feel free to skip this paragraph until viewing*

I mentioned earlier the Cap and Carter relationship test, which pitches Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) into an interesting position, but one of the most intriguing relationships is that of Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). When we last left Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron, there were still more questions than answers. Mainly, he’s not human, but what does this really mean? He’s some type of being, and he’s undoubtedly powerful and hyper-logical, but does he experience things the same way as a human? Does he have emotions? This issue is explored in regard to Wanda, whom he feels a connection with – even protective over – as someone unsure of their own powers. Because although Wanda proves herself quite powerful, she too is still figuring out what her power means. ***

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A quality film overall and among the best in the genre, Captain America: Civil War is a must-see for fans. Just keep in mind: whose side are you on?

 

4.5/5 reels

PG-13

147 min

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd

US Release: May 6, 2016, Marvel Entertainment

 

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