Despite Marvel Studios’ rocky history with directors, it seems they’ve pulled a rabbit out of their hat with the discovery of the Russo
Their debut feature (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) stands as one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s finest films.
Based on the success of Winter Soldier, the pair was offered not just a Captain America sequel, but two Avengers films. How’s that for
And so far, the decision is paying off.
Captain America: Civil War is even better than Winter Soldier, and probably the best film in the series since the wonderful original Avengers
The Russos, in tandem with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, do an exceptional job juggling a huge cast, giving nearly the
entire Avengers cast important, fun roles to play.
Against all odds, they even manage to introduce the next Spider-Man (Played with appropriately nervous energy by Tom Holland) without
turning into an overt advertisement for the upcoming reboot. Well, it’s a little self-indulgent, but the writing and chemistry between Holland
and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony “Iron Man” Stark is so good it doesn’t really matter.
We even get our first look at Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther; another upcoming Marvel feature.
Wait, I thought this was a Captain America movie?
Perhaps the biggest nitpick with Civil War is that it feels far more like Avengers 2.5 than a standalone film for time-displaced super soldier
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). And indeed, there’s a stretch in the film’s second act where it’s easy to forget the film’s namesake.
However, that’s being awfully harsh considering the film succeeds despite everything the screenplay throws at us.
As the title suggests, the film’s main conflict comes from within, when the collateral damage from the Avengers’ previous adventures
comes back to haunt them.
Following a James Bond-esque opening action sequence, the team faces harsh criticism over their supposedly reckless use of powers.
The United States government can no longer endorse them, and the international community demands the United Nations provide
oversight over the organization; only calling upon them when mutually agreed upon by member nations.
Some, such as Stark, see this as a necessary compromise in the evolving world. He argues it may be the only hope for the long-term
survival of The Avengers.
There’s a poignant early scene when Stark is confronted by a mother (Alfre Woodard) whose son was an innocent bystander killed during
the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
In addition to lensing impressive action thrillers, the Russos’ films have contained doses of reality that helped keep them grounded. This
scene mirrors Rogers’ visit to a VA clinic in Winter Soldier during a PTSD meeting as an unexpectedly mature departure from the usual
lighthearted MCU fare.
For the most part, Civil War balances drama and intrigue with a wonderful sense of humor. The only tonal issues come during the titular
Civil War. After all the heroes have chosen sides, they have an all-out rumble outside of an airport hangar.
The film seems unwilling to give this battle the type of dramatic weight it deserves. These are heroes forced to battle former friends, but
the film played it mostly for laughs. It’s fun and contains some well-choreographed action, but it seems a bit superfluous. One could
cynically state that the actual Civil War portion is nothing more than a gimmick to create a flashy trailer.
Fortunately, the philosophical difference between Team Iron Man and Team Cap are handled well enough outside of the physical
The entire cast is very good. All comfortable and confident in what for many will be career-defining roles.
All except Elizabeth Olsen, whose Scarlet Witch has been a dud since day one; perhaps in part due to her constant wrestling with a
caricature Russian accent.
Evans and Downey Jr. do the heavy lifting here, and both are excellent. It’s especially nice to see a more dramatically substantive role for
Stark, as opposed to solely providing comic relief.
The film is exceptionally produced as one would expect, with superlative visual effects, sharp cinematography and slick editing that makes
the films hefty running time and abundance of characters seem only marginally excessive.
A continuing disappointment is composer Henry Jackman’s music for the series. Despite all these larger-than-life characters, Jackman
doesn’t provide a single memorable theme. What a complete waste that he has been relegated to such generic scoring when he could have
created a library of leitmotifs for these characters, or even drawn from the outstanding previous musical identities of Alan Silvestri
(Avengers/Captain America) or even Brian Tyler (Iron Man 3).
Over the years, I have been far more critical of the MCU than many, but Marvel has clearly found something special with this pair of
directors. It now seems a wise decision to hand over the keys to them for them for the time being.
Captain America: Civil War isn’t a great film, but it’s a good one; a solid three-star affair which should delight fans with its excitement, wit
and even intelligence.
* * *
(out of four)
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett
Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cinematography by: Trent Opaloch
Released: May 6, 2016; 147 Minutes