While we were not entirely fond of the previous installments in this series, Captain America: Civil War is a vast improvement in terms of dramatic storytelling. This third entry is much more sophisticated, and capable of handling multiple characters as opposed to the sluggish blur that was Avengers: Age of Ultron. The most memorable part of this (you can thank the Civil War comic series) is that there is motivation – true, legitimate impetus and consequences – for each character taking a stance. It’s easy to see why each character is so resolute, but don’t feel bad if you can’t easily take a side. Really, neither one is wrong.
It’s amazing how comic films have matured and developed over the last decade. A lot of what killed Spider-Man 3 was that there were “too many cooks in the kitchen” when it came to villains. What a story like this tells us, even going back to the first Avengers film, is that you can capably have an ensemble/team picture, and not have to focus on one hero (or enemy) for the duration of the story. Filmmakers these days, and the Russo brothers are a perfect example, have really embraced this. Of course it helps to have the backing of a supportive studio (and their pockets) because an ensemble story requires real vision to plan for and execute so many moving parts.
A combination of old and new characters satisfyingly trading blows in the touted showdown is exceedingly impressive. You kind of take for granted what one character’s powers offer as far as spectacle, and tactics to beat the baddie. But when you turn them on other heroes, the inventiveness in Spider-Man battling Captain America, or Ant-Man fighting Iron Man just shows how well planned and choreograped these interactions were to make this so magnificent to watch.
Beyond that, perhaps the more interesting thing to note, much of what you see isn’t actually there…and not jist a giant Ant-Man either. What seems like pretty simple sets – the airport backdrop, apartment stairwell, etc. – is mostly digital wizardry. But, as explained in the special features, the fights have such tangible impact, you feel what every stuntman went through to make this so convincing. Old school practical effects still kick the crap out of a CG many times.
A huge surprise this time out (new to this series, and MCU as a whole) is Chadwick Boseman. He recalls the likes of Johnny Depp and Daniel Day-Lewis as he completely disappeared into Black Panther; something he’s done in every other role to date. This is nearly the perfect way to do a big, bold story, and encapsulate so many characters in a universe like this. In fact, every single character had a personal, emotional reason for making the choice they made. This is what Suicide Squad did not do correctly. Everyone in Captain America: Civil War makes for great cosplay and there is weight behind their characters. Suicide Squad was just a bunch of hollow stand-ins.
These days, audiences kind of get bored with all the infighting and disagreements that characters and team members have. But it’s not off-putting here. Still, it’s the graphic novel source material that make this narrative so captivating. Even though this is a Captain America-led picture, it’s interesting to see how Captain America and Iron Man are so evenly matched and yet differ so much in opinion.
But then again, we’d seen their differing views brought up numerous times in many previous films. It just comes to a head here. The Marvel films, and this one in particular, to quote Louis D’Esposito, co-president of Marvel Studios “are led by character, and then spectacle would follow.”. That’s what keeps the studio one step (at least) from all the other blockbuster entertainment out there.
It’s actually quite a dramatic picture, and where things go from here are quite a mystery even though everyone does need to come together for the upcoming Infinity War (the stakes there kind if make this film unnecessary). Thanos is a pretty big villain to square off against. But while that had nothing to do with this plot, it’s still something on the horizon. The Russo Brothers learned a lot from their last film, which, on second viewing, doesn’t really hold up or have the impact like the first time around, this story is made a little more emotional because it’s not villain vs. hero – it’s friends and it’s family, and the arc of everyone is trackable and very satisfying.