Review: Captain America: Civil War

Cap' is stuffed with storylines



When the big battle between two feuding factions of the Avengers finally happens, it's a doozy. Set at an airport, away from the general public, it's got all the spectacular action you could possibly ask for, along with quips galore from the more chatty of the Marvel superheroes. It's exciting, fun and inventive, drawing cheers for some characters that don't typically get the spotlight.

Prepare yourself, however, the movie is nearly two and a half hours long and it is stuffed with storylines. It's also stuffed with “enhanced humans,” and you're going to have to pay close attention to keep track of all the heroes and their various dramas. Is it too much? Sure, but that's the way Marvel works. You can complain about the corporation's big, bigger, biggest approach to the superhero genre, or you can roll with it and enjoy the good parts.

There's certainly enough good parts to keep you occupied.

About the title: while Captain America is definitely the key figure in the production, this is an Avengers movie. With the notable exceptions of Thor and the Hulk, everybody is here, including some welcome new faces. As is the norm with superhero team stories, some character's powers aren't quite as impressive as their comrades (I'm thinking especially of archer Hawkeye right now), but the writers usually manage to come up with situations to allow even the least impressively powered characters to shine (okay, maybe not so much with Hawkeye).

Sibling directors Joe and Anthony Russo keep the proceedings hopping, but I was more impressed with how they handle the little moments. For example, when Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) first meets Captain America (Chris Evans), he gushes like a fan. After shaking Cap's hand too long (and stating, “I'm shaking your hand too long.”), he glances down, sees his idol's meaty pecs, then impulsively reaches out and feels them, exclaiming an impressed “Geez!” afterward. It's funny and it's human.

With so much going on, the prospect of writing a plot summary is daunting. A prologue set in 1991 shows Cap's estranged best pal James “Bucky” Buchanan (Sebastian Shaw), who was turning into a killing machine by some baddies, on a mission that ends in murder. Significant.

Cut to today, where Captain America, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) see a battle in Lagos turn tragic. They get called on the carpet by the U.S. secretary of state (William Hurt), who reminds them of all the civilian deaths and mass destruction that have followed the exploits of the Avengers.

A lot of people are sick of enhanced humans running wild. The proposed solution is the Sokovia Accord, which would put the team under the jurisdiction of the United Nations. Cap thinks it's a terrible idea, but wait … Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), fresh from a conversation with the mother of one of the casualties, agrees with the proposal. He is supported by Black Widow, War Machine (Don Cheadle) and the Vision (Paul Bettany).

More characters appear and take sides: in addition to Ant-Man and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), we meet Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who will soon get a movie of his own, and a new, younger than ever version of Spider-Man (Tom Holland, a real scene stealer).

The story, which jumps all over the globe, is stuffed to the gills with heated discussions, near-boiling resentments, fiery accusations, and explosive behavior. Keeping track of the characters, debates and feuds gets tiresome at times, especially early in the film when there's set-ups stacked on set-ups stacked on set-ups, like blocks in a Jenga tower. But the filmmakers are careful to include lots of quips – some forced, but most organic – and plenty of humanizing moments for the various Avengers. 

As for the action, there's as much as anyone could hope for, presented as natural looking (borderline drab in a couple of instances) as is possible. Some shaky-cam is used, but most of the fights are easy to track. Despite its weightiness, Captain America: Civil War is entertaining and fun, a solid kick-off to the summer blockbuster season. I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

NOTE: Don't race to the parking lot at the end. After all of the looong credits there is a bonus scene. 


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