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Captain America: Civil War - Film Review

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by Adrian Kmita (subscribe)
Writer and Osteopath. A Sydneysider traveling the world solving life's puzzles. instagram.com/AdrianKmita
Published April 26th 2016
In Depth NON-SPOILER Review of Captain America: Civil War
MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

The American summer and Australian winter movie seasons welcome the return of the gallant First Avenger from MARVEL Comics, Captain America Steve Rogers, as his epic story continues in what can only be described as a psychological thriller of high stakes and biblical proportions. Marvel's latest film Captain America: Civil War represents part three of the Captain America movie saga, without including his adventures in The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. In reality though, this compelling tale is actually the thirteenth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe storyline courtesy of Disney's highly successful Marvel Studios. Make no mistake, Marvel Studios' latest effort with Civil War is incredibly watchable without any prior knowledge. However, any previous experience with the character in his cinematic form will only enrich the audience's viewing pleasure. The story is emotionally enthralling and visually stimulating.

Spider-man in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Spider-man in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War also marks the return of undeniably Marvel's most famous superhero, who in this film will be making his long awaited first appearance as an official member of Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe. As you may have guessed, that hero is none other than Spider-man. The amazingly popular hero has previously had his movie rights caught in the web of Sony Pictures, who acquired the rights following Marvel's bankruptcy in 1996, prior to the creation of Marvel Studios with the release of Iron Man in 2008. While Sony Pictures still maintains the rights to produce Spider-man films, the new deal allows Marvel Studios to include Spider-man and his associated characters in future Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. This also includes members of Spider-man's stellar rogues gallery.

Iron Man in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Iron Man in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

The new deal will also see Sony's future Spider-man movies included as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Marvel Studios maintaining creative control of story, casting and the future direction of the character. This is an incredibly prudent deal especially considering the critical failure of Sony's attempt at The Amazing Spider-man 2. It seems as though wiser heads have prevailed, with Sony following in the footsteps of Disney, taking a hands off approach and allowing Marvel Studios to be in full control of creative direction, story and production. In this case it would seem that Sony is purely in the place to bankroll future ventures. This is an amazing coup for Marvel Studios, allowing Spider-man to finally interact with Chris Evan's Captain America and Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man. Spider-man's introduction in Captain America: Civil War is a complete triumph, with no doubt that he is the best Spider-man to have ever appeared on the big screen.

Steve Rogers in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Steve Rogers in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

The plot to Captain America: Civil War is loosely based on the comic book series of the same name first published in 2006, known as MARVEL Civil War. The storyline follows the ideological disagreement between the Avengers' two key members, Iron Man Tony Stark and Captain America Steve Rogers. The basis of their argument is the government's introduction of the Superhero Registration Act following a tragic incident involving a superhuman. Under the Act individuals with superhuman abilities have to register as "human weapons of mass destruction" forcing them to reveal their secret identities and to relinquish their civil rights, acting as agents for the government.

Tony Stark in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Tony Stark in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Secret identities have never really been an issue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, courtesy of Robert Downey Jr.'s rendition of Tony Stark and his overzealous impulse to reveal his heroic nature. Most of the Marvel heroes to follow his lead have always had their identities known or followed a similar trajectory to Iron Man himself. Interestingly the cinematic plot of Civil War takes a much more fascinating approach to issues involving heroism. The main issue to be explored is whether or not a hero should act as a hero without the permission of a governing body, who are in charge of choices related to the public's welfare? Inevitable parallels will be made with the United States and their perceived need to police the world. In this film the United Nations are the arbitrators of the policy with a document titled the Sokovia Accords. In this case Sokovia is in reference to the city in which the final battle took place in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where a large section of the city was destroyed in the successful attempt by the Avengers to save the world. In the U.N.'s eyes this is the final straw, with the proposed agreement forcing the Avengers to act or not to act at the governments bidding or face prosecution and even detainment.

MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Captain America's ideas are clear on the matter after blindly trusting the government and the organisation SHIELD in his previous adventures, before eventually finding the organisation to be corrupt from within via the villainous collective known as HYDRA. Iron Man on the other hand has a different perspective. This is influenced by his incredible guilt over his creation of the maniacal artificial intelligence known as Ultron, as well as his compulsive obsession to protect the world from evil extraterrestrial threats from other worlds as evidenced in The Avengers.

MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

We pick up the story of Steve Rogers not that long after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. The new team of Avengers featuring Captain America, Falcon Sam Wilson, Black Widow Natasha Romanoff, War Machine James Rhodes, The Vision and Scarlet Witch Wanda Maximoff find themselves on a rogue mission abroad. In an action sequence that can only be described as an extended scene inspired by the Bourne trilogy, we see the new team working in unison to marvellous effect. It appears as though the retirements of Iron Man and Hawkeye, as well as Thor's return to Asgard and the mysterious disappearance of the Hulk have had little effect. However, all hell breaks loose with the return of the HYDRA double agent Brock Rumlow, played by Frank Grillo, who now goes by the alias Crossbones. Rumlow is determined to seek retribution for the battle scars he received during his last battle with Captain America, with collateral damage being of no concern to him. Meanwhile the abilities of Wanda Maximoff have grown exponentially since we saw her last, as she attempts to protect Steve Rogers and take matters into her own hands. The result leads to catastrophe, with the Scarlet Witch's mistake causing immense damage to an office building filled with Wakandan nationals.

Tony Stark in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Tony Stark in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

The media holds the Avengers accountable and the U.S. government acts quickly to put the rogue group in check. At the head of negotiations is the new Secretary of State, former General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, played by the returning William Hurt. The last time he was seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was during his obsessive quest to capture the Incredible Hulk. This is all in spite of his daughter Betty's affections for her former love interest Bruce Banner. Recruited to assist with brokering the agreement so negotiations run smoothly is none other than Tony Stark. Tony is experiencing personal issues of his own, however he is determined to rectify the mistakes of the past by presenting the Sokovia Accords to the Avengers.

MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Meanwhile Steve Rogers is incredibly reluctant, not trusting the government's judgement on when and when not to act. Not to mention his distain for the idea of acting as the U.N.'s private army. The rest of the Avengers are split down the middle, with each individual's ideology affecting their ultimate decision making process.

Black Widow and Prince T'Challa in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Black Widow and Prince T'Challa in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

At the forefront of the U.N. movement is King T'Chaka of Wakanda, played brilliantly by John Kani. He is attempting to repair the wounds suffered by his nation at the hands of the Avengers due to the Scarlet Witch incident. Not to mention the damage caused on his home soil during the battle between the possessed Hulk and Iron Man's Hulkbuster. This is all while simultaneously mentoring his son Prince T'Challa, who seems vaguely interested in international matters while at the same time holding a vengeful streak.

Captain America and Black Panther battle in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Captain America and Black Panther battle in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Matters become even more complicated when Steve Roger's former childhood friend Bucky Barnes, going by the alias of the Winter Soldier, happens to resurface at the scene of a crime affecting the U.N. The Wakandan guardian known as the Black Panther is hot on the Winter Soldier's trail, with Captain America forcing himself to intercede believing that Bucky's integrity is still redeemable.

MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

The conflicts established throughout previous movies also resurface once again, especially between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, adding even more tension to the global situation. Marvel has obviously been planning this concept for some time, and it has to be said that it is executed brilliantly, all the way up to the final confrontations. The second to last confrontation is the absolute highlight of the film, using character driven action to feature each individual superheroes strengths. The sequence will leave viewers loving every superhero even more, and it will make the audience believe that each hero could carry their own franchise. It is a remarkable achievement. Every character in the fight has a fantastic moment, and no hero is made to look bad or less than any other. The execution of this scene is very deliberate and effective, as well as fulfilling the role of protecting each characters integrity and ultimately their brand.

Steve Rogers in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Steve Rogers in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Chris Evans' portrayal of Captain America will continue to amaze audiences. The moral fibre and empathy conveyed in Evans' performance is a testament to his ability. It is incredible how relatable and likeable the Captain America character is, especially considering he is essentially a man out of time with a moral code that is extremely under appreciated in society today. Yet Chris Evans manages the incredible complexities with ease. With the help of the Russo's, Evans seems to completely understand the character and why he is so valuable. His incredibly vibrant performance is guaranteed to keep Captain America as a fan favourite for future generations.

Iron Man in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Iron Man in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Robert Downey Jr.'s return to the Marvel universe is also most welcome. This time around he exceeds expectations with a level of complexity that has never been explored before with Tony Stark. Downey Jr. also provides the essential contrast to Chris Evans performance which only makes the perception of Captain America much more enriching. While both characters are at odds, their performances will tap into each audience members empathy making it difficult to side with one over the other. Downey Jr.'s role is also essential in the introduction of Peter Parker and ultimately Spider-man. His performance does a fantastic job at building the persona of Peter Parker, and it is no wonder that he has just been cast in the new Spider-man solo movie to continue to facilitate the process. In short Downey Jr. is marvellous.

Spider-man's debut in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Spider-man's debut in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

The introduction of Spider-man in this film is a revelation. Marvel clearly understands this character to the core, and while his screen time is brief it is more than satisfying. Tom Holland's performance as Peter Parker and Spider-man is spectacular. His quips with Tony Stark and the other Marvel heroes are incredibly refreshing, as well as being very true to his origins. He is highly humourous and audiences will enjoy his portrayal immensely. Hopefully he can continue the momentum with the new solo Spider-man movie titled Spider-man: Homecoming which is due for release in mid 2017.

Black Panther in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Black Panther in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

The Black Panther's introduction is another significant moment in the film. Chadwick Boseman's portrayal is simply captivating, bringing an intelligence to the character that is extremely essential. While he is perhaps not as relatable as some of the other heroes due to his royal ties, he does conjure the aura of an African Bruce Wayne which audiences are sure to embrace. It also has to be said that his Wakandan accent is simply stellar.

Black Widow in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Black Widow in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Scarlett Johansson also makes a welcome return to the role of Black Widow Natasha Romanoff. While her screen time is less than her previous outings, her role is as essential as ever, providing the thread that links Captain America, Iron Man and Black Panther. Johansson also displays her conflict to audience extremely well, as she is constantly torn between her friendship with Rogers and her loyalty to Stark.

Steve Rogers in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Steve Rogers in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Anthony Mackie as the Falcon Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes play the most amazing counterparts to each other in their quest to display loyalty to Steve Rogers. They also arguably have some of the most entertaining scene stealing moments in the film. Not only do they add humour when on screen together, but also convey a passion and understanding of their characters that is essential to the overall narrative. Mackie is charismatic and fantastic as usual, and Stan embodies all the pain and anguish that emanates from his character's experience.

MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Scarlet Witch Wanda Maximoff played by Elisabeth Olsen and The Vision played by Paul Bettany also seem to share an intricate relationship that is essential to their character development. Bettany is genius in the role, displaying an incredible sense of logic and wonder simultaneously. The unique fusion is fascinating and entertaining to watch. Olsen also displays the conflicted emotions of her character extremely well, as both heroes reflect to each other their sense of isolation along with their limitless potential.

War Machine in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
War Machine in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Don Cheadle as War Machine James Rhodes and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye Clint Barton also reprise their roles adding to the already stellar cast. They both have their scene stealing moments and play their roles very well, which enriches the overall narrative. By the end of the film their lives are also profoundly changed, which should allow for an interesting direction for the future of their characters.

Iron Man and the Winter Soldier battle in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Iron Man and the Winter Soldier battle in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Paul Rudd as the Ant-man Scott Lang also features in a standout performance which provides incredible humour and excitement. His duel with Spider-man is also one to remember, featuring one of the best Star Wars references to have ever appeared on the big screen. The combination of Ant-man's incredibly unique abilities along with Paul Rudd's nonchalant performance provide very effective contrast to the narrative.

MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Emily VanCamp also returns reprising her role as Agent 13 Sharon Carter, following her initial introduction in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Her performance is fantastic, developing a brand of chemistry with Steve Rogers that audiences haven't seen since Captain America: The First Avenger. Her involvement in the film provides a pivotal role in the story, allowing her to define the integrity of her character as well as establish a unique relationship with Steve Rogers. This relationship is true to the comics and one that fans have been looking forward to for some time.

MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Inevitable comparisons will be made between Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice due to the film's common theme of conflict between heroes. However this comparison is completely unjustified, with Batman v Superman undeserving of being compared to Civil War. There is a depth to character and story in Civil War that is emotionally stirring with a layer of complexity that is remarkable to witness. It is absolutely amazing how well Civil War develops over thirteen main characters' motivations in addition to providing each hero with a fulfilling story arc. This is all while facilitating an enthralling storyline, where audiences will feel for and understand every characters perspective. This makes it extremely difficult for viewers to support one hero's ideology over another, which is classic story writing at the highest level. Credit has to go to writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for being able to balance so many complex aspects while servicing each hero effectively.

Iron Man in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
Iron Man in MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

Credit must also be given to directors Joe and Anthony Russo for being able to develop such fantastic characters, all while conjuring an epic paced narrative drive that will keep audiences on the edge of their seat. The Russo brothers' previous experience in television has obviously served them well, allowing them to juggle multiple characters very effectively without making others feel neglected. This is all the more amazing considering Batman v Superman had trouble with servicing only three main heroes. The musical score by Henry Jackman is also absolutely brilliant, carrying the theme across from his previous work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The subtle nuances in the soundtrack make the emotional moments all the more impactful, with call backs to previous films reemphasizing the multidimensional aspects of each character. Patriarch of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige is on an absolute roll, as he shows with each cinematic accomplishment why Marvel characters are so fascinating as well as his masterful understanding of storytelling.

MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War
MARVEL's Captain America: Civil War

In summary, Captain America: Civil War is an absolute triumph. The film is undeniably a Captain America story which has been enriched by the inclusion of some of the best characters in Marvel comic history. The unique combination works so well and provides the depth of narrative and character conflict that can only be produced by a Marvel story. The film is a most worthy successor to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It shares many of the emotional highs and lows of its predecessor, but is slightly more entertaining. The cinematography is also fast paced and has undeniably been influenced by the Bourne Identity and the Bourne Ultimatum. It has to be said that Captain America: Civil War is probably the best comic book movie since The Avengers. The movie is a must watch on the big screen. Get your tickets immediately.

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Why? The best comic book movie since The Avengers. It's a absolute triumph.
When: In cinemas everywhere from April 28th.
Where: At a movie cinema near you.
Cost: The price of a standard movie ticket.
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