To say that the outstanding Captain America: Civil War is like, the Marvelverse’s first serious offering would be oh-so-terribly unfair: We so know that the company’s OG source material, its comic books, have long dealt with many a pressing issue from real life, albeit in a fun, heightened way (tights!), but in a manner that, nevertheless, has always been a reflection of our society and times.
Ditto the hit tentpoles they’ve inspired.
I will say that, thematically speaking, this Russo brothers-directed threequel – led by Chris Evans as the titular golden-hearted superhero, with an invaluable assist from Robert Downey Jr., back for more and, most pressingly, more tortured than ever as Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man – is the best film Kevin Feige & Co. have delivered so far.
The conflict – in this one embodied by the most grounded, psychological villain we have been introduced to yet, a man named Zemo (Daniel Brühl) and only modeled after his comic-book counterpart – is no longer black and white, good vs. evil. The drama comes from the shades of grey the good guys have to strive to see through to protect the world, from weighing the value of their scale-tipping intervention against the cost of doing nothing.
It’s a tough dilemma the one Cappie and Iron Man and their friends have to mull over because we know that they all are inherently good, knowhatImean? Nothing to say of the red-white-and-blue one or the reformed industrialist who really just wants to keep mankind safe, for the lot of 12 previous blockbusters, we have learned and accepted that Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, the Russian-trained assassin, is on our side. She’s seen the error of her ways, and we have embraced her as someone who wants to wipe her slate clean of the blood she’s led others to shed.
Most recently, we met Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch – an enhanced young woman from the fictional country of Sokovia struggling to control mind-control powers she never wanted, as well as her latent thirst for revenge – and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, a wisecrackin’ former thief who gets to make himself bigger and better in the eyes of his young daughter by quite literally shrinking himself to almost nothing in order to fight bad guys (as the latest guest to join the Marvel party, Ant-Man gets to play a huge role in this one).
On their own and together, these brave men and women have stood up against Hydra-simpatizing Nazis; ruthless industrialists, war lords, and despotic protégés with chips on their shoulders; a peacekeeping program gone completely awry, and even aliens from outer space (this alongside stud of a god from an intergalactic realm and a big angry green Hulk). They have been fighting a war, and their actions have produced a rather lot of collateral damage. Thus, as Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, and their allies – they are lionized and celebrated, but they are also feared. The world thanks them with weariness because politicians cannot be certain the Avengers won’t use their powers against Earth.
Captain America: Civil War is everything Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is likely wishing it had been a couple of months ago. At their core, both agonize over the responsibilities superheroes have in their pursuit to protect us, for, sometimes, they fail to think to keep us safe from their own powers. The problem with the latter was its braintrust foolishly thought it could just come out ready-made and have us buy into friggin’ Batman and Superman bickering for like, two hours, without first establishing an acceptable why.
Captain America: Civil War, though, has the earned advantage of having done the groundwork to get to this moment, be the popcorn movie that truly kicks off the summer season for the year, and a smart film about a big idea that perfectly follows up Captain America: The Winter Soldier and redeems the shadowy character that Sebastian Stan portrays. It’s also an action-packed game changer that divides the gang into two thoughts, two camps; introduces an Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther as an imposing new ally not to be reckoned with, as well as a certain webslinger; and, heck, even finally gives Evans a new love interest of his own (new) time.
There is painful loss (ABC, we better see more of Marvel’s Agent Carter next year!), some irreverence, and lots of necessary in-fighting that leaves everyone involved deeply considering where do we go from here.
The answers, of course, lie in the many productions that are still a-comin’. Thanos is still the threat the Avengers don’t even realize is out there.
Obviously, the family will assemble again, and, needless to say (here I go, anyway), it will now be way more interesting than ever seeing what it all will look like next.
My Rating ***1/2