He SAID: War of Marvels

Scott F. Evans

Marvel Studios continues its winning streak with Captain America: Civil War.  If nothing else, Marvel/Disney knows how to pick its talent.  After triumphing with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Russo Brothers return to helm what may very well be the best superhero movie ever made.  They’re assisted by returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.  This cinematic dream team seems to have taken the Marvel formula and redefined it, to make two of the best entries of the genre.  Forget Nolan.  Forget Whedon.  Forget Singer.  This squad has the superhero thing down to a science.

Civil War somehow manages to pull triple duty. It functions as the third in the Captain America franchise, addressing situations created in The First Avenger and continuing through The Winter Soldier.  It can be seen as the third Avengers film, following through on scenarios created in both of those earlier editions.  Civil War also works as a fourth Iron Man movie, with Tony Stark evolving beyond just Cap’s foe.  It also introduces two new major characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Black Panther and the studio’s version of Spider-Man.  These two heroes will headline their own solo films in the next couple of years.

Even as it juggles a massive supporting cast (every character gets at least one shining moment) Civil War is Cap’s story.  Markus and McFeely boldly present the character with a situation so personal, that he behaves in an uncharacteristic but completely believable way.  The film tackles some weighty issues: responsibility, duty, friendship, loyalty… and has a fair amount of pathos.  But it never becomes ponderous. Even with a run time of two and a half hours, it never drags.  Civil War is a serious film that knows it’s still a comic book.  The Russo Brothers keep the pacing breezy, and pepper in enough action to more than satisfy fans of the genre.

civil war cover

The cast is key. Most of the players from practically every Marvel movie make an appearance.  Chris Evans turns in another excellent performance as Captain America.  He nails this character each and every time.  Robert Downey Jr is (as always) so good as Iron Man, that you almost forget that he had a decades long career before landing this iconic role.  Maybe it’s the script, but he feels even more dialed in than before.

Anthony Mackie and Scarlett Johansson once again lend their expert support as The Falcon and Black Widow.  This is the fourth time both have played these characters so it’s no surprise that they handle the roles with aplomb.  Johansson has shined as Black Widow since her debut in Iron Man 2, with her best performance coming out of Winter Soldier.  She’s just as good in this one but isn’t afforded as much screen time.  Mackie absolutely resonates as Falcon. He was good in Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man.  But in Civil War, the filmmakers give Falcon much more to do, and Mackie relishes every moment of it.  Returning as Bucky Barnes, Sebastian Stan finally gets to show off his acting chops.  He’s been good in all of the Cap movies, but this time he gets to show that he’s more than just an action figure.

Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland nearly steal the show, bowing as Black Panther and Spider-Man respectively.  Boseman brings a fierce nobility to the role.  And even with his limited screen time, Holland already shows signs of being a better Spider-Man than previous iterations.

I could continue to gush about Captain America: Civil War, but I think you get the point.  On its own, it’s a great film.  As part of a specific genre. it’s easily in the top five.  As the last of a trilogy, it makes the Captain America series arguably one of the best, most consistent franchises in recent cinema history.

RATING: Theater


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