I’m facing a conundrum. This is one of the few times I can remember that my fandom has butted up against my cineaste tendencies in a significant way. I think Captain America: Civil War is about 30 minutes too long. This isn’t unusual, movies are long these days. And I even think there’s a pretty easy way to get some run time back without affecting the story too much. The problem is, that would involve cutting Spider-Man out of the movie.
Of the things to like about Civil War, and there are many, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is my favorite. This is the first time in probably 10 years I can remember being excited abut a Spider-Man movie. However, the 20 minutes of screen time that Spider-Man tales up are essentially extraneous.
That this movie succeeds so well at selling me on another movie is the strength and continuing problem with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each new film becomes more and more a commercial for the next movie. Yes I am totally on board for Spider-Man Homecoming in 2017. But where does it all stop? Is there a point to these movies other than selling us more movies?
I find myself having this exact conversation more and more often when discussing the Marvel slate of films. Films that I have largely been a fan of to this point, and continue to be when it comes to this one.
Do we want to see our heroes fight? It seems to be the question of the year. First Batman v. Superman in March and now Captain America: Civil War have pitted their respective companies top drawing heroes against each other in a clash of wills and ideologies. The Marvel answer to the questions actually fares pretty well overall with minimal bloat. And the bloat that is there, such as the aforementioned Spider-Man, is mostly entertaining enough that it can almost be forgiven.
I will start with a few negatives. The romantic angles between Steve and Sharon as well as Wanda and Vision feel very under severed and almost tacked on. Though I’ll admit the Steve/Sharon story does lead to one killer reaction shot that had my crowd rolling with peals of laughter.
Daniel Brühl actually does a really nice job with his Baron Zemo of giving us a villain with real weight and motivation, something Marvel movies have roundly struggled with. But his evil plot is rife with overwrought plans and needlessly complex thinking. Essentially in order for his plan to work every single human (and metahuman) involved has to make the worst possible decision at that exact moment in time. It’s an unfortunate way to treat a fan favorite villain and a really strong actor. But again par for the course. Just ask Christopher Eccleston, Tim Roth, Hugo Weaving, and a host of others.
So I guess given a dearth of well written villains, well just make our heroes fight each other.
What did I like about Civil War?
Well, pretty much everything else. I walked into this movie expecting a difficult to follow, partially unwatchable mess. For all that Kevin Feige and the Russos had to cram into this movie they did a masterful job of keeping the bloat to a minimum and laying everything out in the easiest possible to follow path. All while making a damn entertaining superhero flick chock full of great action scenes, witty repartee, and yes some pathos as well.
After Elizabeth Olson’s Scarlet Witch accidentally causes several fatalities during a fight with Crossbones, a returning and criminally underutilized Frank Grillo, and years of unchecked property damage, the government finally decides to step in and attempt to slap some regulation on the current incarnation of The Avengers (Thor and Hulk are off having adventures together in Thor: Ragnarok).
Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. return once again as Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. They both continue to prove my Marvel Studios backed the right players to spearhead their cinematic universe. The way they inhabit these characters really did make give me pause as to who side I might fall on if faced with a similar dilemma.
Where newcomer Tom Holland as Spider-Man feels fun but ultimately unimportant to the proceedings, Chadwick Boseman’s take on Black Panther is both a breath of fresh air and masterfully woven into the narrative, feeling at once brand new and like he’s always been part of the extended universe.
I’ll also give a special shout out to Paul Rudd as Scott Lang. When Ant-Man came out I was very excited to see Rudd interacting with the rest of the Avengers cast and he absolutely did not disappoint. Having a proper high energy comedian show up to bounce off of all these larger than life superheros was a great palette cleanser for all the weighty stuff in the third act.
I could spend 1000 more words on the massive cast but suffice to say that all involved turn in good to great performances and there’s no weak link to be found.
Speaking of the third act, it’s where the proper, titular Civil War takes place. All the advertising has been showing us the huge fight at the airport, which while extremely entertaining, is the opening bout to the real main event.
When Captain America and Iron Man really finally get down the business of trying to hurt each other, it’s jarring and almost uncomfortable. Where BvS failed at making us care why those two guys in capes were fighting, Civil War and the near decade of Marvel Cinematic films have almost done too much to invest us in these characters. The fight is brutal and personal and honestly it almost feels like a bit too much given how we as an audience have been able to grow with and get to know these characters in smaller moments as well as the knock-down, drag-out, city destroying world saving fight scene.
So, is this a Captain America movie. The title says yes. The trailers look more an Avengers movie, Anthony Mackie called it Avengers 2.5 and 3.8 respectively.
To me it weirdly felt like Iron Man 4. There are some large revelations about Tony’s present and especially past. In a way this makes sense, RDJ has been soft on another solo Iron Man sequel up until recently, well after Civil War was locked. And supposedly he wanted a bigger part in this film so let’s squeeze as much as we can in, right? That’s all well and good but I do feel it does a slight disservice to Cap in his own movie.
Captain America: The Winter Solider was a damn near perfect entry and, considering the large amount of returning cast and crew, I would have loved to see a sequel that expanded on that promise.
All said and down though, Civil War is a damn fine film and you could definitely do worse for $15 at your local multiplex.