Captain America: Civil War – Does It Live Up to Hype?
Spider-Man gets to hang out with the Avengers in a Marvel movie, you guys! That’s reason enough to see Captain America: Civil War, right? This movie is getting a lot of positive reviews, and mostly for good reasons. But does it live up to the hype?
I went to go see it to find out. Some light spoilers follow, so beware.
Civil War has a lot going for it. Broad strokes: It’s got a lot of characters, but handles them all pretty well. It balances adult themes with cartoonish comic book action. It’s well directed, well acted, and looks beautiful. More specifically:
- The themes. The themes of responsibility for collateral damage and accountability to a higher authority are very adult topics taken from the excellent Civil War comic book by Mark Millar (Wanted, Kick-Ass, Kingsman). The movie didn’t develop them as well as the comic book did, but what it did well was present both sides of the issue and give good reasons as to why each superhero chose the side he/she did. Some reviewers have said that the movie did a good job of presenting both sides of the argument without bias, but I don’t agree. I think the filmmakers made it clear that Captain America and company were in the right. Then again, I’m #TeamCap on the issue so maybe that’s just my bias showing. (He’s against UN oversight.)
- The action. The movie has lots of it, and it’s very exciting and inventive. The airport brawl is probably my new favorite scene of any Marvel movie, and each character is given a chance to shine. None of the fights or chases seemed to be out of place, either. The filmmakers were able to come up with plausible reasons for the action to erupt so the audience was invested.
- The new characters. I mentioned Spider-Man in my introduction. Tom Holland is fantastic, and this is my favorite version of Spider-Man on the big screen, to date. I’m really looking forward to his standalone film. I don’t want to give too much away here, but I’ll mention that he’s in it more than I expected. Spider-Man plays a huge part in the comic, and while he doesn’t have the same role in the movie, his participation is important. Black Panther was another fine addition to the roster. Introducing him as a mysterious figure with questionable goals was a good choice, and it made his reveal that much more poignant.
- The acting. The performances in the Marvel movies are basically always good, and the star-studded cast does not disappoint. Special mention needs to be made of the performances delivered by Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans; they really shine.
Despite all the positives in Civil War, there are problems, and some are major.
- Characterization. Iron Man goes from a hardcore libertarian in Iron Man 2 to a government stooge in this one. He’s also a prick for no reason. Downey was great, but I hated Iron Man in this movie. This was done mainly because those were the lines drawn in the comic, but hear me out: What if Captain America, a soldier and the ideal boy scout, was on the side of registration and Iron Man, Ayn Rand’s wet dream, was totally against UN involvement? It would have made more sense, but I’m sure the comic fanboys would cry about such a massive change from the source material.
- The pacing. This movie isn’t as tight as the last Captain America movie. There are a few scenes that go on too long, a few that should have been cut, and a few that needed to be fleshed out more. Combine it all together and you have a film with pacing issues. Some parts dragged on and were a bit boring, while others ended too quickly and left me wanting more, and not in a good way.
- The villain. Aside from Loki, Marvel still hasn’t given us any great villains. Daniel Brühl does a fine job, so I’m not criticizing his acting. His motivation is clear, but his plan just doesn’t make much sense, and he’d have to be omniscient to make it work. I won’t give it away, but it’s rather dumb and takes away from the more interesting themes presented in the premise of the film.
- The tonal shift. I mentioned how spectacular the airport fight scene is. That scene alone is worth the price of admission. However, it sticks out from the rest of the movie, and the tonal shift is a bit jarring. There are also a few jokes thrown in where it felt like the tone was supposed to be serious.
- The stakes. This is a problem with all the Marvel movies. No one can really die, and it immediately deflates the tension and the stakes. There was a perfect opportunity to raise the stakes and kill one of the lesser superheroes, but I’m sure Marvel stepped in and didn’t allow it.
- The MCU. If you want to know what’s going on in their movies, you have to see them all. Each movie references events and characters from past movies, and you’ll be lost if you’re coming into this film without a good background in the Marvel universe. From a business standpoint, it’s brilliant. From an artistic standpoint, the narrative suffers, and certain scenes seem to be shoehorned in. I mentioned this in my Ant-Man review as well. It’s irritating, but it’s not a dealbreaker for me.
So does it live up to the hype? Yes and no. A lot of critics are calling Captain America: Civil War a better film than The Winter Soldier. Though I liked it, I disagree. The Winter Soldier was more expertly paced and it felt like there was more at stake. Despite the flaws, the Captain America series in the Marvel universe remains the strongest. (And I wasn’t even a fan of the character. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve come around.)
Story: ★★★½ of 5
Action: ★★★★½ of 5
Visuals: ★★★★½ of 5
Overall: ★★★½ of 5
Marvel Cinematic Universe Ranked
My ranking of the Marvel films (so far), from best to worst. This is just my opinion, please share your own list in the comments.
- Iron Man
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Ant Man & The Wasp
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- Marvel’s The Avengers
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Captain America: Civil War
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Doctor Strange
- Black Panther
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Iron Man 3
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- The Incredible Hulk
- Thor: The Dark World
- Iron Man 2
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