Monday, May 23, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

After weeks of having to avoid spoilers from critics who saw the movie weeks before the rest of us had a chance to see it, I finally watched Captain America: Civil War! I actually saw this two weeks ago when it was first released, but I've been out of town and was unable to write this review until now. I've been looking forward to this film for a long time, really ever since I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier and heard that the Russo brothers were returning to direct the sequel two years later. As that was probably my favorite Marvel film to date, I had some high expectations for this film, let alone the hype coming from the online community prior to its release. It took a lot of self control to try to manage my expectations so that I wouldn't be disappointed, regardless of how good it was. I'll keep this spoiler-free, as I know a lot of people still haven't had a chance to see this movie, but let me begin with a brief plot introduction.

Captain America/Steve Rogers is using a select group of Avengers to track down a dangerous criminal named Crossbones, who was an uneasy ally to Cap at one point. Now, with the help of mechanized armor, he's threatening to unleash a biological weapon on the populous in the name of Hydra. However, when an explosion inadvertently causes a number of civilian casualties in a nearby office building, Cap and his team are forced to meet with Secretary (formerly General) Ross to discuss signing the Sokovia Accords. This is a document that will place responsibility for the Avengers' actions with the United Nations, and provide some much-needed (according to Tony Stark, anyway) accountability for the team. 

Despite Stark's efforts, however, Steve Rogers has his reservations about relinquishing his freedom to act to a governing body that may not have the people's best interests at heart. So when Steve's childhood friend, The Winter Soldier is accused of bombing the government building where the Accords are being signed, Rogers has to go rogue to rescue his friend before Stark can have him accosted.

That's a fairly detailed plot summary, and it's hardly even breaking down the first 25 minutes of the film. This is a very dense plot, and one that could have easily gotten out of control in another director's hands. Under the direction of the Russo brothers, however, they somehow manage to keep track of every story strand and weaves them into a thrilling adventure with a heck of an emotional payoff at the film's climax. It can be challenging to follow all of the motivations and sub-plots in a film like this, let alone create them, but the Russos are more than up to that challenge. 

As such a big fan of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I went into this movie firmly on Cap's side. Having said that, the brilliance of this movie is its ability to make you see both sides of this issue at certain points in the story. Neither side is all good or all bad, and the nuances of how they choose their allegiances is what leads to the growing rift between the two parties, culminating in one of the most entertaining action scenes I've ever seen. That's not to say that it's the best scene of the movie, as I still reserve that accolade for the final fight, but I don't think I've ever seen anything as bombastic and fun as this massive brawl between the two teams of superheroes. There are a lot of great surprises in this fight, so I'll try to be as vague as possible. Just know that it's the kind of stuff most comic book fans used to dream about as kids. Hopefully it's not being taken for granted.

There isn't much I can say about this movie that hasn't been said a hundred times over. The acting is superb across the board, the plotting is surgically precise, and the action is jaw-dropping in its execution and fulfillment of the multiple character arcs. While I really enjoyed what Joss Whedon did with the first two Avengers films, I think the Russo brothers did a better job of balancing the humor with the drama. This is a very funny movie at times, but it also has the most dramatic and horrifying moment in the entire MCU. I obviously can't explain what it is, but I literally had a hard time breathing when that final reveal takes place.

I love Captain America: Civil War, if for no other reason than it takes the story in places you don't expect it to, even while delivering a universally-satisfying superhero movie. The characters are portrayed with emotional depth, and the action scenes are setting a new precedent. I can't say anything about this film that hasn't been said already, but I think it's up there for my favorite movie of the year so far and easily one of the best Marvel films to date. If I had to rank it, I'd put it as #2 under Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but that ranking may change with subsequent viewings. It's so big and rich with character flourishes and exhilarating fight scenes that will certainly reward repeat watching. The Russos absolutely knocked it out of the park with Captain America: Civil War, and I give it a solid 4 stars.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem