Movie Review: Captain America - Civil War

From the powerhouse directing duo of one of the best films out of Marvel Studios, 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the twice-as-explosive and ten times more gripping Captain America: Civil War shot into theaters at just the right time, ultimately delivering a stellar display of true hero vs. hero. With a politically-fueled plot surrounding its plethora of colorful comic-book characters, Civil War elegantly spun out a fluid story that evoked both the major elements of the acclaimed comic-book event, and riveting new themes that fit superbly into the thoroughly-established Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

One year after their groundbreaking defeat of the sinister sentient foe, Ultron, which left the heavily-populated country of Sokovia in ruins, the Avengers -- under the leadership of Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) -- have since embarked on their own methods of keeping the world safe from harm. Restricted by no law or order other than their own, Rogers and his team (including Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Falcon) do whatever it takes to maintain the security of the world -- no matter the consequences. Following a string of international incidents, Rogers and the Avengers soon come under heavy fire from not only the United States government, but also a multitude of new enemies as Rogers' murderous best pal Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) emerges from the shadows. Quickly igniting into a massive political feud between Rogers and fellow Avenger Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the fate of the superhero team is tested to its greatest extent as the consequences of Rogers' unruly actions bring more and more collateral damage.

Concluding a thrilling and action-packed trilogy focusing on one of Marvel's most patriotic characters, Captain America: Civil War jumped right back into the politically-centered theme established by its predecessor, The Winter Soldier, delivering a plot full of thought-provoking intrigue and thoroughly-enjoyable characters. With Winter Soldier directors Anthony and Joe Russo teaming up once more to bring both a political and psychological tone to their now-established character of Captain America, the toiled super-solider dives into his most gripping adventure yet. Also offering up a fantastic audition for the Russos before they take on the third (and fourth) Avengers films in 2018 and 2019, the superb directing duo packs in just the right amount of comic-book characters not to leave their star Captain America taking the backseat. Ultimately culminating into a story of the super-soldier's struggle to maintain peace amongst chaos, Civil War was an effective kick-starter to the massive Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Before I delve into the somewhat-overwhelming cast of the film, I first have to mention the film's incredible storyline of political dangers and hero vs. hero mentality. Continuing one year after the events of the second Avengers film, the Avengers have since disbanded to some degree, leaving only Steve Rogers and a handful of others to protect the world from harm. Quickly diving into the plot of the comic-book event, which saw an international incident involving superpowered beings causing a rift in both the alliances of the team and the United States government's own view on the heroes, Captain America: Civil War translates the comic storyline gracefully to the screen. Even if it may not be exactly the same -- and missing a plethora of famous characters -- the film mixes together a gracious amount of intertwining storylines, all leading up to one decisive battle against our divided heroes. Thought-provoking throughout, this great political division between allies never once felt overwhelming or unneeded as far as storytelling went, the film elegantly shaping the Civil War plot to fit the Marvel Cinematic Universe's well-established timeline.

While the plot surely had some minor mishaps, especially surrounding the inclusion of Daniel Brühl's version of the Avengers foe Baron Zemo -- which felt both essential and also a bit forced in some areas -- much of the praise of the film goes to its brilliant cast. Managing to bring a cast of Avengers magnitude into a film centered on the singular character of Captain America, Civil War flawlessly encompasses a great number of characters and their respective storylines in its two-and-a-half hour runtime. From Steve Rogers' struggle to save his best pal Bucky from himself to Tony Stark's sudden and passionate loyalty to maintain order through governmental interference, the film saw a number of famous comic-book characters at their greatest breaking point. With stellar performances from both leading men, especially Robert Downey Jr.'s ever-sarcastic Stark, the two lead the show as war ignites between the biggest money-makers of the franchise.

Also making room for more than a dozen other unique and investing characters, the film also expanded on the toils of Paul Bettany's sincere yet scarred android Vision and Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch, two characters who question their purpose in the world and struggle to control their dangerous abilities. Other highlights from the cast included the newest members of Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther and Tom Holland's Spider-Man (more on him later), as well as Paul Rudd's hilarious Ant-Man. Mixing tales of both vengeance and heroic fulfillment into the plot in order to establish these fresh characters, these phenomenal newbies to the MCU eventually became the biggest standouts in the film. From Boseman's intellectual yet eerie take on the renowned Wakandan hero to the return of Paul Rudd's satirical and boastful Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, while the old favorites of Cap and Iron Man may lead the show, the new faces sure did steal it.

Another major standout for me, to no surprise, had to be the newest Spider-Man to grace our presence on the big screen. To shield any of you who haven't seen the film yet and wish to not know a single detail about the wall-crawler's role in the film, feel free to skip this section right about now. For those of you who saw the film and loved nearly every bit of it, you and I have to agree that this fresh take on Spidey was one of the biggest highlights of the film. Offering up possibly one of the snarkiest and most offbeat Peter Parkers we've ever gotten on the big screen, Marvel Studios' coveted inclusion of the web-head in the film made for a groundbreaking moment in comic-book fan history. While that all may sound pretty exaggerated, for me the moment the very-much-teenage Parker entered the film, I had a smile from ear to ear smeared on my face. Played superbly by newcomer Tom Holland, the London-born actor embodied one of the most entertaining Spider-Men we've ever seen on the live-action platform. Nervous and nerdy as Parker, and boastfully irritating as the wall-crawler, Holland's Spider-Man managed to leave a lasting imprint on me as a major fan of the comic-book hero. No matter how generic the title of the 2017 solo film may be, I'll still be heavily anticipating the return of Holland as Spidey for the next year or so.

Overall, in the midst of both Black Panther and Spider-Man's exciting debuts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War never once lost its tone of political divisions and aligning decisions surrounding its titular character. Packed with a plethora of dynamic characters, each with their own unique opinion as to how to combat the film's central issue of world security and regulation, Civil War delivered one of the most mature and practical projects in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even as the franchise seeks to dive into more and more mystical and magical elements with films like November's Doctor Strange and next year's Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, there remains a thoroughly-established groundwork of realism and humanity found in films like this one. With Chris Evans' phenomenal Captain America still working towards his own agenda of peacekeeping, Civil War only gets me more and more excited to see how the character will shape the future of the MCU.

I gave this film an 8 out of 10, because even if it may stumble in some areas concerning certain storylines and characters, most of that is outnumbered by the sheer intensity and awe of the film's powerful direction, writing, and star-power -- as well as the signature comedic elements of Marvel here and there.  Bringing the Marvel Cinematic Universe closer and closer to one of the biggest battles it's ever seen -- once 2018's Infinity War rolls around -- the table-turning Civil War delivered just the right amount of heart-shattering emotion and explosive superhero action to ignite the 2016 summer movie season.                     

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