Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War trounces DC’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in just about every category imaginable. Everything Batman v Superman got wrong, Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War gets right, from color palette to staging intense fight scenes to sprinkling plenty of moments of pure fun and joy throughout the two and a half hour running time. Captain America: Civil War isn’t lighthearted fare but it takes on serious issues (including private citizens relinquishing control to the government) in such an entertaining way that unlike Batman v Superman, the lengthy running time fairly flies by.
The third film in the Captain America franchise is the first to truly allow the titular character the opportunity to show real depth, with Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) revealing his moral struggles while displaying the qualities that make him a natural leader. He’s flawed but loyal, and even if he didn’t have his superhuman strength you’d want him as your team captain. It’s also the first of the Marvel films to actual give Captain America an interesting personality that allows those unfamiliar with the comics to understand why he’s such a popular character. Prior films have made him come across two-dimensional, and in Captain America: Civil War he’s fleshed out, fallible, and above all a really likable guy.
Captain America: Civil War takes place months after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, kicking off with Captain America, Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Lagos on a mission to stop terrorists. Unfortunately, Scarlet Witch accidentally causes damage to a building and civilians inside are killed. The U.S. government, as well as the heads of over 100+ nations, determines the Avengers must be brought in check and placed under the jurisdiction of the United Nations due to the collateral damage. They will not be allowed to act on their own anymore; all of their actions must be approved by the UN before any of the Avengers can participate in a mission.
The strongest proponent of the UN proposition is Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) who encourages his fellow Avengers to agree to turning over control and accountability to the government. Captain America strongly disagrees and is unwilling to have politicians determine when the Avengers will be used and who they’ll be fighting for or against. Sides are chosen, with Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) standing firm with #TeamCap. Iron Man has James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow, T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (the scene-stealing Tom Holland) on his side. With a line drawn in the sand, there’s no option but to fight it out after Captain America goes against the U.N. and rescues Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) after he’s falsely accused of terrorist acts that left dozens dead.
What’s really wonderful about Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s script is that just as TeamCap and TeamIronMan members dislike the idea of fighting their fellow Avengers, the audience also has a difficult time rooting against anyone, even with the knowledge that #TeamCap is on the right side of this particular issue. The script is strong and balanced, with action and quieter character-driven moments given equal attention. The film also features one of the most entertaining fight sequences ever put together in a superhero movie. When the much-anticipated battle between #TeamCap and #TeamIronMan actually unfolds, it is everything you’d want from a match-up between members of the Avengers. The CG is first-rate and directors Joe and Anthony Russo make sure each member is given time in the spotlight as the lengthy battle plays out.
Captain America: Civil War also takes the right approach to introducing new Marvel characters to the big screen. While DC’s Batman v Superman used a ‘found footage’ approach to revealing first looks at Justice League members Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg, Marvel’s new Spider-Man and Black Panther had much more auspicious debuts. Tom Holland is introduced to Spider-Man fans in a near perfect scene with Robert Downey Jr. He then joins #TeamIronMan and spends the battle acting like a kid in a candy store surrounded by a never-ending flow of yummy goodness. Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther is a more subdued, intellectual yet fierce character whose personality slowly emerges over the course of Civil War.
Captain America: Civil War is one of the best Marvel films to date and easily the best of the three Captain America movies. It’s wildly entertaining, emotionally moving at times, humorous, intense, and just plain fun. Amid the spectacular action scenes and witty one-liners is a story about friendship and loyalty that will resonate with audiences of all ages.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem
Release Date: May 6, 2016
Running Time: 146 minutes