Not gonna lie. It’s been about two hours since I got out of seeing Captain America: Civil War and my natural instinct upon thinking about it is to stand up and applaud. As the 13th film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe it does something borderline miraculous – it keeps things interesting. After twelve films of origin stories, team-ups, and intergalactic villains, the writers and directors of this latest adventure found a way to break the mold and keep things fresh in what is essentially the best Avengers film even though its officially a “Captain America” film.
I could probably writes pages and pages about why this flick stands out as Marvel’s best film yet but I want to get you into theater seats as fast as possible so let’s run through the baseline reasons faster than the dearly departed Quicksilver:
Variations on the Comic Book Movie Plot –
Nine times out of ten, a comic book movie’s plot is about as complex as the hero fighting against a new villain to save either the world or himself from certain destruction. This trope has slowly fallen out of favor in recent years and Civil War goes a long way to shattering it further by delivering a well-crafted plot that believably pits close friends against each other. This politically-charged change in storyline is loaded with thought-provoking parallels to our real world and now it just seems hard to imagine a good, old-fashioned “stop the villain” plot being as entertaining anymore.
Focus on the Story at Hand – One of my complaints about recent comic book movies is the trend toward spending an inordinate amount of screentime building up and teasing plotlines of future movies. And while there is certainly a little bit of that going on in Civil War, the main story never takes a backseat to it and as a result those little teases are shockingly welcome instead of being a distracting time filler!
A Worthwhile Villain –
There’s no denying the fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has featured a bevy of relatively lackluster and forgettable villains (Loki excluded) but this is one instance where the villain shines through. As the mysterious Colonel Zemo, Daniel Brühl weaves an intricate web that turns our favorite heroes against each other without exotic makeup or flashy powers. Proves once again that there’s nothing wrong with a little intelligent simplicity every now and then.
A Well-Balanced Screenplay –
There are a lot of components and characters at play in Civil War and it would have been easy for all of it to spin wildly out of control, but major props must be given to screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for keeping it all tight. They keenly juggle the complex mix of characters with a blend of seriousness, humor, and suspense without the film ever feeling like a mess. The effort is borderline award worthy.
Solid Acting – Comic book movies rarely receive acclaim for the performances of their actors but dammit there’s some really solid work here from everyone involved. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. in particular give their best efforts yet as these characters and when these two pals violently come to blows you genuinely feel every punch.
Fast-Paced Direction –
Major kudos also need to be thrown in the direction of Joe and Anthony Russo who after showing surprisingly deft skills with The Winter Soldier prove they were born to direct comic book movies. Despite being jam-packed with characters and subplots these crafty brothers keep things moving at lightning speed without ever losing focus or clarity. I honestly can’t wait to see what they do with The Avengers: Infinity War.
A movie about good friends and allies being turned against one another and actually coming to blows would seemingly be a depressing and humorless affair, but holy hell – this movie is funny. Sure, there are painful moments but a good laugh is always around the corner to relieve the tension and keep things light. And while I don’t believe that every comic book movie needs to have this much comic relief they really hit the nail on the head with it here and deliver a perfectly well-rounded film.
I mention humor above and hands down one of the big sources of that is from none other than everyone’s favorite webslinger. With the most recent attempt at a Spider-Man film franchise running into the ground, Sony Pictures has wisely thrown a Hail Mary and teamed up with Marvel Studios to deliver what appears to be the definitive onscreen version of the character. Tom Holland absolutely nails the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man with a percussive wit and loads of charm. Those out there who groaned at the prospect of yet another reboot of the character will find themselves panting with anticipation for Spider-Man: Homecoming to be released next year.
Black Panther –
Civil War boasts not one, but two character introductions that are about to blow audiences away. With significantly more screentime than Spider-Man we have Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, a royal prince from the African nation of Wakanda who is thrown into the mix of the story on the hunt for revenge but ends up choosing sides in the war amongst the Avengers. Seeing Black Panther in action is an absolute thrill and I can’t wait to see even more.
The Airport Fight –
Let’s get one thing very clear. If you’ve ever giggled with glee at a superhero action sequence on screen, there is a scene in Civil War that will put you over the edge into a void pure joy. I will simply refer to this as the airport fight (trust me, you’ll know it when you see) and it is BONKERS. It is where things truly come to a head with the entire cast of the movie and everyone gets at least one completely geektastic moment. And if you never thought much of Ant-Man before, I promise you he’s going to leave a BIG impression.
So what are you waiting for? Get your ass to the theater!