The reviews are plenty and pretty much positive, and if box office is any indication (which it oftentimes is not), Captain America: Civil War is a winner. And I’m here to tell you that yes indeed, Captain America: Civil War pretty much kicks ass. It not only kicks ass, it stomps it, cruelly sometimes, with reckless abandon and takes a huge steaming dump on its corpse. That probably doesn’t sound as good on the page as it did in my brain. Let’s just say CACW is probably my favorite film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. This film, even more so than either Avengers films, finally pays off all the world-building put in so far in the MCU. It’s dense… and not the stupid kind of dense… but rather jam packed with story, character development, emotion and giant-nutted-action, all playing off the key story-lines and character beats we’ve all witnessed in previous films, while still incorporating all new material. If you’re coming into CACW blind, having not seen pretty much all the previous Marvel films, do yourself a favor, buy a ticket to Keanu, or Green Room, or The Jungle Book, or any other film currently playing that is not Batman v Superman. It won’t make a goddamn bit of sense if you haven’t laid that groundwork.
The plot is pretty much what you would expect from the trailers except for the low-key villain lurking in the shadows that has been held back from the promo materials. The great thing about this particular antagonist is that he is, essentially, nobody. He’s just a dude with an axe to grind and the wherewithal and intelligence to impose his will with machiavellian precision. The biggest problem with the Marvel films so far is the scope of each film. How can there be any standalone films when each one is about saving the world? Why in the world would Captain America and Thor sit to the side with their thumbs up their butts while Tony Stark is saving the planet in Iron Man 3? It’s a tough spot to be in and the MCU has chugged along through several films simply ignoring this fact. The bad guys get bigger and bigger, stronger and stronger. But in CACW, they finally reel it in a bit. And that’s a good thing. It is a subtle reminder of why the Marvel series on Netflix work so well. They counterbalance the epic nature of the films with small scale conflict – localized, personal and character-based.
The best thing about CACW are the action scenes. If you’ve read any reviews at all then you’ve probably heard about the showdown at the airport set piece. It’s a goddamn doozy and works on every level. The fight choreography, the camera work, the editing, the superheroes use of their powers in relevant and interesting ways combine with the humor and dramatic beats so well I would recommend seeing it on the big screen for that scene alone. With that in mind, I encourage everyone to see it in 2D. We saw it in 3D, mostly due to showtimes, and regretted it. The 3D is excellent, no murky dark bullshit you might see in substandard post 3D conversion dreck like The Last Airbender. But, there is too much movement on screen creating irritating motion blur. Sometimes it can be hard to see what’s going on. There was also something called 4DX at the theater we went to. I had to look it up. Basically for $30 shitting dollars a ticket, you can have your seat vibrate, shake, rattle and twist with the action on screen. No thanks. I can’t stand it when an audience member behind me kicks the back of my seat. I can’t imagine how I’d feel sitting in a seat having a perpetual seizure for the entire 2.5 hours I would be sitting in it. I would imagine this would probably happen.
Action isn’t the only reason to catch CACW on the big screen, there’s plenty or humor and emotion, all organic to the story. There are 3 new additions to the proxy-Avengers lineup, 2 of which have yet to grace the MCU. If you’ve seen Ant-Man, then you already know what a welcome addition Paul Rudd is to the Marvel world. Rudd (or as I like to call him, Ruddy P.) is like pizza, Raiders of the Lost Ark and some dipshit named Raymond (creeping Jesus)… everybody loves him. His character’s wide-eyed awe and humble appreciation for just being included are all spot on in the brief time he’s on screen. His role is pretty pivotal in the airport scene and he nails it. Looking forward to Ant-Man & The Wasp. The other 2 new characters, Spider-man and The Black Panther are also welcome additions. This iteration of Spider-man finally feels like the definitive film version of the web-slinger. Spider-man 2 was a hell of a good time despite Toby McGuire’s squeaking and Andrew Garfield did what he could with the material at hand, but Tom Holland is absolutely perfect. His role in CACW is a bit bigger than marketing led us to believe, allowing us a brief glimpse into his life in Queens and meeting his “strangely attractive” Aunt May. Side note: it’s kind of hard not to hate Iron Man a little bit for enlisting a child to help fight his battle. Kind of a dick move there, Tony.
It’s about time Sony got smart and went in halfsies with Marvel. Hard to argue with Disney’s track record so far. Now if only dumb-shit Fox would stop crapping all over The Fantastic Four and strike a similar deal. Speaking of The Fantastic Four reboot… actually never mind, we shall never speak of it again. [shudder]
The Black Panther plays a much larger role than Spider-man, helping propel the plot to its conclusion and setting up his own stand-alone film. I have yet to see a movie starring Chadwick Boseman, but I fully understand that Hollywood has been trying to make him an A-list star for awhile now. While CACW probably won’t do it, his stand alone version of The Black Panther probably will. He’s great both in and out of costume in CACW. He’s also ferocious, intelligent and interesting. TBP is a warrior and, by the end of the film, a King. It’ll be nice to get away from the Iron Man, Captain America, Thor trio of stand-alones.
Of course, Captain America: Civil War is far from perfect. There are plot gaps (not exactly holes) that get glossed over. The villain’s path to vengeance is cloudy and under-explained. It feels like there’s an easy 20 minutes of expository material missing from the film. Which is strange given its 2.5 hours running time. Some character motivations start to crumble under extended scrutiny. The story isn’t nearly as tight and zig-zagging as The Winter Soldier (but then again, how could it be with this many characters weaved in). And honestly, it can get fatiguing watching god-like creatures punch each other. But goddammit, who cares? There’s so much spectacle, humor and more than a little pathos going on here, I’ll forgive it’s shortcomings. The fact that this film works at all is a minor miracle. Take note, Warner Brothers/DC. This is how you make a superhero team-up film. You ass-hats.
CACW ends on an unusual and somewhat darker note, making one wonder how in the hell they go from here? I, for one, have renewed interest in finding out.
p.s. Every time I write, CACW, in my mind I hear Dignan calling for his gang when he’s getting beat up at the bar (at 2:05 in the linked video) in Bottle Rocket.