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Captain America: Civil War




Captain America: Civil War (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

05/12/16
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Captain America: Civil War (PG-13)

Beloved comic book heroes battle in Captain America: Civil War, a movie that manages to be action-packed and light but also thoughtful and emotionally rich.
Hey, people making DC Comics movies, please watch this before making another Superman/Batman/Justice League-characters movie. Watch it a few times. Take notes.
For those keeping score, this movie comes post-Avengers: Age of Ultron and post-Ant-Man (the credits scene from Ant-Man featuring Cap, Bucky Barnes and Falcon shows up in this movie). For those not keeping score, don’t sweat it because the movie slides in enough exposition about who everybody is (which is helpful for characters you may have forgotten about) that I’d imagine it’s not that hard to step into this universe even now, 12 movies into this saga.
After some Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) backstory, the movie begins with the new formulation of the Avengers assembling to catch a bad guy in Lagos, Nigeria. We have Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), whose powers are super strength and agility and general nice-guy awesomeness; Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who has a winged suit that allows him to fly and a multi-utility drone; Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who is, as they explained in Ultron, weird and can do all sorts of moving and stopping of stuff with her mind, and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), whose powers are basically just some mad fighting skills and a solid fashion sense. They stop a baddie from stealing a biological weapon but kill people in the process, setting off — as it does these days in superhero movies — a bunch of “who’s watching the watchers” talk about the extraordinary powers of the Avengers and other enhanced individuals who all do their thing without oversight but with lots of collateral damage.
Still traumatized about his creation Ultron and the destruction it wrought, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) welcomes oversight and attempts to push other Avengers in signing the Sokovia Accords (named after the Eastern Europeany place where the Avengers fought Ultron at the end of that movie). Doing so means they agree to act only if the United Nations asks them. Tony signs, as does a skeptical Natasha, a more gung-ho James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and the (to mix my movie franchise universes) Vulcan-like Vision (Paul Bettany). Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) retires. Wanda, who feels bad about causing some of the deaths in Lagos, tends toward signing but Cap and Falcon are not up for giving a political body the power to make them act (or not). 
The regular joe political leaders are all set to enact these accords in Vienna when an explosion kills several at the UN, including King T’Chaka (John Kani) of Wakanda, a country that lost more than a dozen people during the fight in Lagos. The king’s son, T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), vows revenge on whoever caused the bombing, and when footage suggests that person is the Winter Soldier, he sets his sights on Bucky.
So too do German police officers with an order to shoot on sight, so Captain America and Falcon show up to bring Bucky in peaceably. Cap still think there’s some of his old Brooklyn buddy left in Bucky, especially after a mysterious man (Daniel Bruhl), posing as a psychiatrist, shows up to question Bucky and seems to set off a violent reaction. Cap’s desire to protect his friend and Tony’s desire to protect the Accords come to a head in a battle where Iron Man, War Hammer, Black Widow, Vision and Black Panther — with an assist from a kid named Peter Parker (Tom Holland) whose red and blue, web-slinging suit Tony helps to upgrade — face off with Cap, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and their secret ringer, Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). 
Since that battle is probably 50 percent of this movie’s draw, let’s start discussing this movie’s overall success by talking about it. First, there are stakes — this battle’s outcome will genuinely affect the characters and their relationships with each other in a way that is more resonant than all the “to save the world” stakes that have made so many action movie fights feel lifeless. The movie does a pretty good job of laying out the stakes for us and making us care about what happens. And by this point we genuinely care about the characters. Though the movie is tilted toward Captain America (it is, after all, a Captain America movie, though it could just as easily have been called Avengers: Civil War) I’d argue that all of the characters are degrees of sympathetic. There is a little bit of you that wants all of them to win. They can also see each other’s side and still care about each other. It’s messy and complicated and they are genuinely fighting but also not so on opposite sides that they are truly trying to kill each other. (When one character faces serious harm, heroes from both sides of the battle swoop to his aid.)
In addition to stakes, the other area many a battle like this can fail is the ho-hum-ness of having unkillable CGI thing punch unkillable CGI thing for 15 minutes. I’d argue this movie has fun with that idea. Here we have characters who know that they are more or less evenly matched. They go for oddball tactics and moments of advantage rather than trying to pound their opponents into submission.
Put all of this together and you have a fight scene that is energized and surprisingly light in tone while still feeling significant to the movie and the characters. In addition to making this matchup entertaining, the tone of this battle helps to highlight the greater ferociousness and genuine “to the death” rage of a battle later in the movie. 
I’m also going to argue that all of these battle scenes are shot and edited pretty well. I had a pretty good idea of who was doing what to whom, which is not always the case in your action movie battle scenes, and enough of a sense of what was happening at all times to really get engrossed by the movie, not just wait for the fight to be over.
Other things this movie does well:
• Introduce us to our new, Marvelverse-integrated Spider-Man. I found the character really cute — in a good way! There is something very sweet and, again, tone-lightening about having Spider-man be a high school kid who is star-struck at meeting Captain America and Iron Man. I am now not dreading his stand-alone movie, due in 2017 according to the Internet, which is really saying something.
• Keep all of these umpteen characters straight and give them just enough story to make us more or less care about them.
• Use its nearly two-and-a-half-hour run time pretty well. Sure, there’s some padding — a Captain America love interest I really don’t care about, for example — but I didn’t look at the clock every five minutes nor did the story seem to run out before the movie did. 
• And, as mentioned in discussion of the battle scene, balance tone and emotion so we can both feel the seriousness of the Accords and the potential for chaos that comes from Avengers acting with no check and little follow-up but still enjoy the fact that this is a fun summer superhero movie and not, like, a documentary about famine.
Again, a-hem, DC.
Not every Marvel movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as the, with this entry, 13 movies from 2008’s Iron Man on are called) has been a glowing success, but I overall like what they’ve done with this story, like how they’ve handled its moving parts. Captain America: Civil War was fun, honest to Odin fun, and a pretty solid way to kick off Hollywood’s summer season. B+
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem. Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, Captain America: Civil War is two hours and 26 minutes long and distributed by Marvel. 





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