Warning: This review contains spoilers.
It’s hard to find a negative thing to say about Captain America: Civil War. It’s also hard to determine the best parts of the movie because everything was so good. Though it easily could have been a train wreck with a mix of so many different characters and competing storylines, directors Joe and Anthony Russo expertly juggled the cast and story and turned it into one of Marvel’s best films to date. Some might complain that the movie felt more like an Avengers film, rather than a Captain America-centric film, and while that’s fair, this movie allowed Captain America and his supporting cast to shine in ways that previous solo and ensemble films did not. It’s difficult to narrow down the best and the worst of this 2 1/2 hour epic because so much happened.
However, I’m going to focus on my five favorite and two least favorite parts of the film, lest this review become just as long as the movie itself.
Though Robert Downey Jr. has been nothing short of brilliant in his portrayal of Tony Stark in previous films, Captain America: Civil War allowed him to shine in a whole new way. Tony was dealing with complex emotions and issues, including being blamed for the deaths of civilians in Avengers: Age of Ultron, losing his longtime love Pepper Potts, and deciding whether or not government interference with superheroes is the right thing. Not to mention, during the climax of the film, he literally witnesses his parents’ death and then comes face to face with the man who killed them. Downey’s acting in those scenes is absolutely heartbreaking, and you really feel for his character in the moment. Though Tony has dealt with his fair share of demons in previous Iron Man movies, Civil War took it to a whole new level, and Downey’s acting was nothing short of spectacular. Admittedly, going into the movie I leaned towards Team Iron Man, but I expected to come out of it feeling like I should be on Captain America’s side. However, Tony’s storyline and Downey’s portrayal put me solidly on Team Iron Man for the foreseeable future.
Black Panther’s debut was one of the most intriguing elements about Civil War going into the movie, and Marvel did not disappoint. In another brilliant casting movie, Chadwick Boseman completely stole the show as T’Challa. Hailing from the fictional nation of Wakanda, home to the world’s supply of vibranium (the metal that Captain America’s shield is made of), he is a fierce warrior and becomes King of Wakanda after his father is killed early in the film. Though Black Panther is shown to be on Tony Stark’s side, he really isn’t on either side, instead focusing on getting revenge for the death of his father, King T’Chaka. Black Panther’s fight scenes were among the best in the movie, and everyone in my theater cheered when he showed off his vibranium claws. The small bit of background information given about the character just served to make everyone more excited about 2018’s Black Panther, as his character was definitely one of the highlights of the film.
Finally, a proper Spider-Man on film! Though Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield did competent jobs playing Peter Parker, Tom Holland’s take was the first that really seemed to capture the essence of the character. He provided a much needed comic relief during the tense fight scenes, yet it never seemed out-of-place or inappropriate. In fact, his wisecracks and sense of humor were welcome and necessary. Perhaps it helped that for once Peter Parker was played by an actual teenager, but this was the most accurate portrayal of the comic book character so far on film. Even those who normally dislike Spider-Man found him amusing and somewhat charming in Civil War. Though another Spider-Man reboot still seems like it might be too soon, Tom Holland’s portrayal gave viewers hope that Spider-Man would be a welcome presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Wanda Maximoff had one of the most interesting storylines in all of Civil War. Essentially her mistake early in the movie serves as the catalyst for the events of the film. The Sokovia Accords are at the heart of the film’s conflict between Captain America and Iron Man, and those are largely introduced due to Wanda’s use of her powers that killed innocent civilians. She is shown throughout the film feeling guilty for what she did, while trying to go on and maintain a normal life. When Tony Stark decides to lock her in the Avengers compound, you can feel her anguish when she realizes that people see her as a danger and as the enemy when she doesn’t see herself that way. This movie slowly unravels just how powerful Scarlet Witch really is, and Civil War sets her up as an intriguing character going forward into future films.
The heart of Captain America: Civil War is the relationships and bonds between all the characters, and thankfully there is no shortage of fantastic moments. The complete breakdown of the friendship between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers is the main conflict, and Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans play that up perfectly. The betrayal they both feel is quite palpable, and it’s often difficult for the audience to choose a side. But beyond that, there were a lot of interesting friendships sprouting up between other characters. Sam and Bucky’s friendship was definitely one of the highlights, and Tony’s mentoring of Peter Parker will be interesting to see going forward. Wanda and Vision have one of the most compelling friendships, and it seems like the writers were setting up a relationship for them similar to what they have in the comics. They’re both very intrigued by each other, and Wanda was largely shown to be the catalyst behind Vision exploring his humanity. Though their friendship was clearly in shambles at the end of Civil War, they definitely have one of the most interesting and complex relationships in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and hopefully one that is explored in-depth going forward. Tony and Rhodey were as close as ever in the movie, and even though Rhodey was paralyzed at the end, Tony remained by his side and did everything he could to help his best friend. Steve and Bucky’s friendship, which has been at the heart of the last two Captain America films, is also front and center in Civil War. Steve’s entire mission in the movie is to save and protect his friend, and though Bucky put himself into hibernation again at the end, it will be interesting to see how their bond continues to develop. There are so many other friendships and bonds that were introduced that could be intriguing for future films – such as Sam and Scott, Clint and Wanda, and Natasha and T’Challa – and only time will tell if and how those might be developed in the future.
I don’t want to say there was no need for secondary villains, but Baron Zemo and Crossbones were woefully underused and underdeveloped. Zemo was built up throughout the film to be some kind of mastermind, but in the end, he was just another man seeking revenge for the death of a loved one. Granted, that was the theme of the film in many ways, with both Iron Man and Black Panther having similar motivations, but so much more could have been done with him. Crossbones, who was set up at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier to be a nemesis for Steve Rogers, was killed quickly at the beginning of the movie, which was frankly a waste. Though the real “enemy” in the movie was the infighting among the Avengers, the others villains left much to be desired. Zemo’s conflict could have continued through other movies, and Crossbones could have continued to allude Captain America. Instead, it seemed like these villains were included as a throwaway when the real conflict was between Iron Man and Captain America and their teams. The other Winter Soldiers were a great plot point too, and though Zemo killed them, hopefully the idea is explored again if Marvel ever decides to do a Winter Soldier movie. The idea was so intriguing that it would really be a shame if Marvel just used that as a throwaway plot point in Civil War. It’s not that having other villains was unnecessary, but there was so much intriguing conflict going on between teammates and former allies that keeping the focus on that might have served the movie better.
Civil War is the third film in the Captain America trilogy, and unfortunately, his character was one of the weaker links in the film. It’s not that Steve Rogers was wrong in trying to protect his best friend Bucky, who it turns out was innocent in the end, but he seemed unwilling to admit that his friend might be guilty of the crimes he was accused of and deserved to face any kind of repercussions. Steve’s alliances and motivations were obviously complicated, but he didn’t come across nearly as sympathetic as he was probably meant to. He seemed overly self-righteous and stubborn, more so than is normal for his character, and based on what we’ve seen of him in previous movies, it seemed odd that he would be so unwilling to consider Tony’s point of view, especially after the scene where Tony watched footage of his parents being murdered. Hopefully this isn’t Chris Evans’ last solo Captain America film because there is so much more to explore about Steve Rogers that wasn’t really possible with the giant cast of characters and competing storylines in Civil War. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed Captain America’s character in the movie, and he still remains one of my favorites in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but a lot more could have been done to make his emotions and motivations as compelling as those of others.
It’s no surprise that Captain America: Civil War made nearly $180 million at the U.S. box office on its opening weekend. The movie is undoubtedly one of Marvel’s best, and the cast of characters alone is enough to intrigue even the most casual superhero movie fans. While this easily could have been a movie with a lot of noise and little substance, it’s one of the meatiest and most interesting Marvel films to date. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, and it definitely lends itself to repeat viewings. For both casual and hardcore fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s more than a must see!
Did you see Civil War this weekend? Are you Team Cap or Team Iron Man? Let us know in the comments!