Spoiler Warning: This is a SPOILER FILLED review for Captain America: Civil War. If you have not yet seen the movie, go see it and then come back to check out this review.
In 2008, Marvel Studios kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe and since that point they have delivered a number of great films, including some of my favorite movies of all time. Going into Captain America: Civil War I expected greatness, but I was not sure if it could surpass The Avengers, which I considered to be Marvel’s best film yet. The combination of Iron Man and Captain America going head to head, the debuts of Black Panther and Spider-Man, and the Russo’s attachment gave me reason to hope that it could do just that. Luckily for me, and for us all, it not only lived up to my hopes, but also managed to exceed them. It is easy for me to say that Captain America: Civil War is not only Marvel’s best film, but the new standard for superhero movies.
Let’s start off by talking about the overall plot of the movie. The world is calling for the Avengers to be put in check following a devastating explosion in their latest battle that helps bring the Sokovia Accords into action. Iron Man is called in to help Thunderbolt Ross break the news to the Avengers, and him and Cap instantly do not see eye to eye. As they trade verbal exchanges, the rest of the team form their own opinions and in doing so, when the time comes to put their name on the accords, some do not. During this, Bucky is framed for the bombing at the United Nations meeting, which brings both him and Black Panther into the story. Things get interesting as Baron Zemo enters the picture, releasing Bucky from the captivity of the Avengers and making Cap and Falcon fugitives as they go to save him. As sides are definitively drawn, they collide in an epic fashion that I’ll touch on later, before Cap and Bucky go to stop Zemo’s scheme. Tony eventually joins the party, but when he learns the truth of his parents’ death, the final showdown is sparked.
First and foremost, this is clearly Captain America’s movie. Although Iron Man and Bucky both play major roles, they aren’t the stars and Chris Evans absolutely owns this role. He is the perfect embodiment of Steve Rogers and helps sell the audience on the turmoil that he is going through. Less than a year after Tony has left the team, the Avengers have fallen under immense scrutiny with him as their leader, his longtime love, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), has perished, and he is dealing with locating and restoring his old best friend. Cap has a ton of emotion running throughout the film thanks to all of the above, but it is his core sense of values that leads him down the direction he goes with the accords. He is not refusing to sign the accords simply because he does not want to, but because he has seen corrupt governments far too often throughout his life and he does not want to give up his freedom to another system that could then make him do whatever they please. Between his encounters with Red Skull or Alexander Pierce, Steve is weary to trust anyone, even the advice of Tony.
Speaking of Tony, his motivations for supporting the Sokovia Accords were a tad different than I expected, but it is ultimately greater for the character. When we first meet him in Civil War, he is dealing with Pepper Potts leaving him and he equates him supporting the bill as a way to show Pepper he is being more responsible so that she will hopefully take him back. This is not what I would have thought of but ultimately Tony’s journey throughout the MCU has been closely tied to Pepper and doing what he must in order to protect her and keep her around. He chooses this path out of love, and it’s hard to root against that. Even with his reasoning, Tony delivers an argument that makes a lot of sense. They need to be held responsible for what has happened and could happen. However, the best personal moment for Tony comes at the end of the movie when Zemo shows him that Bucky is the one that killed his parents all those years ago. Robert Downey Jr. shines here showing the heartbreak, disbelief, and distrust in Cap all within a matter of moments. This gives him actual, personal reasons for fighting Cap, when not long before he learned that he had been wrong about Bucky and Cap. The battle is ruthless and Stark does not pull his punches. It leaves him in a very interesting place moving forward as he looks to have assumed the role of leader of Avengers.
Now before we get into the amazing airport fight, ending, etc., I want to keep talking about the rest of the characters in the film. Ultimately, this movie is jam packed with 12 superheroes plus Sharon Carter, Thunderbolt Ross, Everett Ross, Crossbones, and Zemo. Somehow, someway each and every character in the film had a purpose where I never felt that any of them did not deserve to be included in the movie. Bucky obviously plays a major role in the story and is even the very first main character we see in the film. When he is framed for the UN bombing, everyone believes it is true, leaving just Cap (and by default, Falcon) to try and help him. I could have done without him getting brain washed again but it did lead to some pretty great fight sequences and ultimately helped divide sides even more. Cap’s other best friend, Falcon, sticks right by him throughout it all. He is not concerned with how it affects his life, as he is more interested in doing whatever he can to help Cap. Also, there is a surprisingly funny relationship that is formed between both Falcon and Bucky that allows Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan moments to play off each other. It is especially fun to see Bucky have those moments as it actually gives him depth as a character and makes him view-able as a person and not a robot.
The rest of Team Cap all has nice moments as well, such as Hawkeye continuing to be a mentor to Scarlet Witch. Paul Rudd is also given plenty of moments to shine in comedic fashion and his transformation to Giant-Man filled me with pure joy. However, it was Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch that really stole a lot of scenes for me. As a full-fledged Avenger, she is still dealing with the destruction of Sokovia and the death of her brother. She is given a very important role early on when she cannot contain a bomb’s blast from Crossbones that ends up killing civilians and launches the Sokovia Accords. She feels a tremendous amount of guilt for not being able to protect them and when she is put under house arrest by Tony, Hawkeye shows up to bring her to Team Cap. This gives her a chance to display just how powerful she really is, pulverizing Vision and sending him miles into the Earth’s core. It is moments like this altercation that quickly reminds everyone just how powerful she can be. She is still learning, and when she gets full control it will be nice to have her on your side.
There was plenty to like with Team Cap, but Team Iron Man brings with it so many incredible moments to talk about. I won’t waste any more time and get to the most anticipated and least promoted character. Tom Holland is superb as Spider-Man. He shows off his super strength, agility, and most importantly his wit. When he is introduced about halfway through the film, it is not a distraction but a fresh change of pace from the debating that has been going on. His relationship with Tony is quickly established and the duo have the chemistry that makes the recent decision to put them together again in Spider-Man: Homecoming a no-brainer. But let’s get back to Spider-Man. His presence in the airport fight is one of the many factors that make that 17 minute spectacle so amazing. His quick one liners, his pop culture references, everything he says feels like Spider-Man. Due to how great he is, it sucks when he is sent back to Queens because you just want more and more but at the same time there is no reason for anyone other than Cap, Bucky, Iron Man, and Black Panther to be present in the climax. My point is, Marvel has found the perfect Spider-Man that should be around for a long time.
Speaking of Black Panther, my goodness! I did not know the void in my life that Chadwick Boseman‘s T’Challa would fill but he did. He is calculating, reserved, powerful, and interesting on every level. Boseman’s introduction is really nice and gives him and Black Widow time together that makes her decision be the one to basically switch teams and stop Black Panther from stopping Bucky oh so great. And why does he want to stop Bucky so bad? He believes that Bucky is responsible for the recent death of T’Chaka, his father. He is filled with the need for revenge and will do whatever it takes to get that. This is his only real reason to get involved with the other heroes and keeps him around for the rest of the story.
The rest of Team Iron Man is just as strong. Scarlett Johansson gets a chance to play both sides of the coin and with her vanishing at the end, that Black Widow film could be pretty interesting. Throughout the whole film, she is the one always trying to talk Cap out of the fight and to sign the Sokovia Accords. It’s also nice to see just how deep their friendship is as even though they are in disagreement, she still travels to Peggy’s funeral to comfort Steve. Vision (Paul Bettany) lets his logic dictate many of his choices, but he is also the center of some very funny moments. Even though he trying to blend in by wearing clothes, he can’t help but phase through walls instead of using doors. It is simple but is perfect in the moment. I was not blown away with War Machine’s arc however, that is until the moment shown throughout the trailers. Making Vision be the one to shoot him down as he was distracted by Scarlet Witch to throw off his aim gives him that glimpse of emotion we want to see from him. The shot to the chest is devastating for everyone involved, but crippling War Machine was sad to see as Don Cheadle continues to remain in the background.
I should also briefly talk about the role that Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) plays in the movie. It is very minor, which is disappointing as it is clear by the amount of promo art for her that there was a version of the movie where she played a bigger part and even got to throw down a bit more. Instead, she is an ally to Cap and their bond over Peggy was a great way to respect Atwell’s role in the MCU. The revelation to Cap that she is Peggy’s niece is great only for the fact that it’s no longer a mystery. Probably her best scene, besides her fight against Bucky, is when Cap finally kisses her and after the fact, Cap shares a look with Bucky and Falcon that is priceless.
Now, let’s talk about those pesky villains. Marvel has routinely had problems with not delivering the strongest of villains, and I’ve seen plenty complain that that is the case yet again. I would disagree on two out of the three, as I’m including Thunderbolt Ross as a villain. The biggest disappointment is Crossbones. It’s not that Frank Grillo is not a great Crossbones, but it is extremely sad that he was killed off within the first 10-15 minutes. I was hoping he’d be a low level villain that could pop up in various places, but that is now out of the question. The return of William Hurt was a welcomed addition and although he is not a straight up villain throughout, he is definitely set up to be one in my eyes for future films. The look he gives Tony as he flies away from the Raft is filled with hate. The true villain of the film is Daniel Brühl‘s Baron Zemo. This is not the typical Hydra nut with a purple rag covering his face, but instead is determined to eliminate the Avengers as they destroyed his homeland of Sokovia. His presence in terms of screen time is relatively small, but I appreciated that because I came to the theater to see the heroes fight each other, not to have a third party make them fight. Sure, when Zemo reveals the truth to Stark about his parent’s death, he changes the mindset of him, but he does not force them to fight. This is something that Tony wanted to do out of hate for Bucky, Cap’s interference only further fueled him. Zemo is smart and calculating and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him the future. Thunderbolts anyone?
As you can see, I really enjoyed the characters in the film and they are the backbone for what makes the conflict truly work. But when the sides square off, the 17 minute airport fight is easily the highlight of not only the film or Marvel Cinematic Universe, but one of those moments that I think will be remembered forever in film history. There are no words that I can use to adequately describe the sequence, but I can say that I was smiling, laughing, and cheering for the entirety of the fight. This is the first time we see Spider-Man in action and he steals every fight scene he is. From him chasing down Bucky and Falcon (he schooled both of them by the way), to squaring off against fellow New York kid Captain America, and then one of the great joys when he takes down Giant Man while making a Star Wars reference in the process. Bravo, Russos. The reveal of Giant Man is so amazing, especially since Marvel didn’t give it away in trailers. He absolutely towers over everyone, and rightfully so, but it is a great next step for Scott Lang and opens up a lot of fun possibilities for Ant-Man and the Wasp. I won’t go on and describe every single one on one match-up that takes place, but each and every one is a fun showcase of how each hero’s powers can be used against another.
The battle may be fun to watch but the conflict does not appear at random. This is only so good because of the build up of everything that comes before, and it kicks the movie into another gear. If it were not for the the arguments happening throughout the movie, this would be just another big CGI fight. Instead, it has stakes and each character knows why they are there. Most importantly, it has profound impacts on all of the characters, and raises a lot of interesting questions for how they will be used throughout Phase 3.
Before I wrap this up (and I am well aware how long this review is, but thanks for sticking with me!), this fight is a great example of how the Russos did a great job in balancing the tone of the movie. It certainly has its dark moments and has some great dialogue as a result, but it never gets to the point where the events are depressing. Just when things are getting incredibly heavy in terms of subject matter or whatever the case may be, a quick jab, joke, or look helps to break up the tension but it is never distracting or feels out of place. There can be arguments made that it is Marvel’s darkest film, but also may have the best jokes. I really liked that, but can see why some could not.
Lastly, I will talk about the finale and where the movie leaves the MCU. As we continued to learn more about Zemo’s plan, I was worried that this secondary group of Winter Soldier’s would be the team up villain I dreaded. Thankfully, Zemo kills them all off camera and speeds up the process of seeing Tony go up against Steve and Bucky. The airport battle is a lot of fun, but this one is brutal. However, what makes this fight special is not only the physical pain being inflicted on our heroes, but also the emotional toll it is putting on them. There are real stakes at hand and once Bucky loses his metal arm, Steve fights back harder than ever. You understand why all three of them are fighting and even if the conflict is jump started due to Zemo, this is a battle of ideologies between friends. Cap is definitely the winner of the battle in my eyes, but spares the life of Tony at the very end. It is an abrupt ending, but one that sticks with who he is as a character. Cap is not a killer, and neither is Iron Man, and both would never kill a close friend. I was fully expecting someone to die, which would force Marvel to bring yet another person back from the dead later on, and they didn’t do that. Instead, Cap goes underground with Bucky, leaving the shield that does not belong to him behind in the process.
At the conclusion of the movie, the Sokovia Accords are instituted, making all non-registered powered people fugitives. Tony seemingly takes the place once again as the leader of what is left of Avengers. With Rhodey paralyzed and using robotic support as the means to help him walk again, it leaves only a reluctant Iron Man and Vision as full members of the Avengers. They have arrested the rest of Team Cap, until Cap breaks them all out. Cap comes clean to Tony about this in a letter, while also giving him an emergency cell phone to use in case the Avengers need some help. I’m guessing Tony will be using the cell phone come 2018. Given the current state of the Avengers and Cap’s Secret Avengers, the world is far more susceptible to destruction than in previous years. The mid credit scene is also a nice look ahead to Black Panther, as I have a strong feeling that it will deal with people within and outside Wakanda finding out that Bucky is being secretly housed there.
As you can see by the sure length of this review, I freaking loved this movie. This movie was only possible because of the previous 12 films that came before it, and did a great job of showing us how far they’ve come and how far they can still go. Ultimately, it is my favorite Marvel film to date and as I watch it more and more, I think it will be one my favorite films of all time. It is fun, action packed, stuffed with great characters, has an interesting sub-villain, and gives us the greatest hero vs hero fight we’ve ever had. Marvel has kicked off Phase 3 in the best way possible, and has raised the bar as to what not only every Marvel film should strive to be, but every superhero movie. This is a movie based on characters we know and love centered around a plot that is especially interesting due to the history of what comes before. It is not only the greatest superhero film ever made, but also one of the best films I’ve ever seen.
10 Spider-Man jokes out of 10. There are small gripes I had with the movie, but for what it set out to do and what I expected, it deserves a flawless rating.
One of my gripes is the score. It’s not that it is bad, but it is unnoticeable, so much so as I did not even realize there was music until the final fight.
The second post credit scene is fun, simply because who didn’t want to see more from Holland and Marisa Tomei‘s Aunt May?
I hope you caught director Joe Russo‘s cameo as the psychologist killed by Zemo.
With Cap now leading the equivalent of the Secret Avengers, I sure hope he gets his stealth suit from Winter Soldier back.
The Sokovia Accords should have major ramifications for every Marvel property moving forward, which will either further connect or divide the MCU.
This franchise needs to be put in the conversation of great trilogies, especially considering each subsequent movie is, arguably, better than the last. What other franchises can boast such a feat?
If you haven’t already, be sure to also check out the MCU Exchange Show’s spoiler filled review for the film below.