Marvel is only competing with itself at this point. A favorite at the box office and in fans’ hearts – the comic titan sits alone atop the superhero landscape, and it’s not even close. I personally don’t care for each installment (Thor 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron were rather lackluster), but overall Marvel boasts the most compelling, cool superheroes – both on the small screen (Daredevil, co-starring Punisher and Elektra) and big screen alike. Captain America: Civil War assembles an assortment of our favorite superheroes in a unique way, and for once the plot was not bogged down with confusing, unnecessary details.
The film opens with the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan, The Martian), Captain America’s (Chris Evans, Avengers: Age of Ultron) familiar bestie/nemesis from his last solo film. The Winter Soldier’s brainwashing was neutralized when we last saw him, but he is easily triggered, or ‘activated’ into becoming a killing machine once again after hearing a sequence of certain code words. The movie flashes back to 1991, where we see him executing a mission involving the theft of what appears to be a chemical agent. We also see a brief scene involving a young Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr., Avengers: Age of Ultron) and his parents before their untimely demise, also in 1991.
In the present day, half of the Avengers thwart a plot to steal biological weaponry in Nigeria, resulting in significant but inevitable collateral damage. This has become a disturbing recurring theme with the Avengers and other superheroes, and the U.S. government and other global nations are fed up. The Secretary of State (William Hurt, Race) proposes to Stark that the Avengers and other individuals with special abilities submit to the control and discretion of a United Nations panel which would govern when and where they could execute any life-saving missions, surrendering their autonomy in an effort to avoid unnecessary casualties. Stark particularly feels guilty about his role in the inadvertent killing of a promising young student in Sokovia, so he’s primed to be on board with the Secretary’s demands. Captain America, however, doesn’t want to be hampered in his efforts to execute his patriotic duty and save whomever he can, whenever he can.
The stage is set for a civil war, as Iron Man, Black Widow, War Machine, Spider-Man, and Black Panther agree that the UN should hold sway over them and other superheroes. Diametrically opposed are Captain America, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Ant-Man. I mentioned Black Panther, who makes his debut here. When the African nation of Wakanda is threatened by an act of war in response to their efforts to curtail the Avengers’ deadly global overreaching, a new superhero is thrown in the mix. Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up) emerges as T’Challa, also known as Black Panther. He swears vengeance on whoever is responsible, aligning himself with Iron Man in pursuit of the Winter Soldier.
The common themes running through Civil War were vengeance, loyalty, and guilt. It was guilt that drove Iron Man to vehemently advocate for what Captain America believed to be a dangerous chilling effect on their collective autonomy and his own very raison d’etre. It was vengeance that fueled Black Panther and Iron Man, in an explosive final act. Finally, it was loyalty that was either doggedly adhered to (Captain America and War Machine) or painfully questioned as new allegiances were formed. We don’t often see this plethora of ‘supes’ in one film, and of course there is just an initial WOW factor as this bomb ass hodgepodge occupies the same space. The humor injected into the dialogue was well timed and not forced. The introduction of new characters like Black Panther and Spider-Man (I’m referring to new actor Tom Holloway as our friendly neighborhood arachnid) was seamless. The storytelling was simple, yet strong. In short, Captain America: Civil War lived up to the hype – and what more could we ask for? Grade: A.