Man Seeking Movies: ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is wildly entertaining

Marvel’s latest proves that sequelized storytelling can produce great individual movies.

By Jack Cronin | June 12, 2016

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For casual movie fans, keeping up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe can feel like a chore. With May’s release of “Captain America: Civil War,” Marvel Studios has released 13 superhero films since 2008. Often, the sheer quantity of characters and overlapping plotlines diminishes the quality of the movie.

Take, for example, last summer’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” While it was a fun, enjoyable movie, it often felt like a piece to a bigger puzzle of Marvel movies rather than its own unique film.

Yet their 13th installment, “Captain America: Civil War,” proves otherwise. In it, co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo, known for “Arrested Development” and “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” have created a superhero movie that is both wildly entertaining and evocative.

Past Marvel films have depicted the devastation of New York, Washington, D.C., and Sokovia, a fictional European country. “Civil War” quickly adds to this laundry list of tragedies when an Avengers mission in Lagos, Nigeria, goes awry. In response to yet another instance of collateral damage, the world’s leaders seek to hold this supernatural team accountable. Their proposed legislation requires each hero to register with and operate under the supervision and regulation of the United Nations. This legislation creates the initial schism between Iron Man and Captain America.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a.k.a. Iron Man, is fully supportive of the legislation, after witnessing the damage that he personally caused in Sokovia. However, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a.k.a. Captain America, believes that political oversight would render them ineffective and compromise their morals. Each of the other Avengers sides with either Iron Man or Cap, rooted firmly in logic or emotions.

When Cap’s old friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan), a.k.a. the Winter Soldier, allegedly perpetrates an act of terrorism, the group’s minor disagreement over political policy escalates into a full-blown dispute of personal allegiances. Cap, of course, wants to keep Bucky alive whereas Iron Man wants Cap and the Avengers team to stay out of the picture. This eventually culminates in a few Avengers-on-Avengers battles.

One of these battle scenes, in particular, is one of the most entertaining, smile-inducing scenes in years. The Russo brothers have created a perfect showcase of everything that makes Marvel successful in this one scene. This perfectly executed action sequence exhibits each hero’s powers in new, visually enthralling ways. The dialogue is sharp, demonstrating each character’s unique personality, with each actor at the top of his or her game.

Everyone is great, but Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) are the surprising standouts. In fact, the cast of heroes are so good that it’s almost frustrating that you don’t get to see more of them.

For as fun as some of “Civil War” is, it is also a moderately evocative movie. During the brutal final showdown between Cap and Iron Man, you truly want them to stop fighting. You yearn for it because it is that intense.

Although “Civil War” is truly great at times, a few missteps hold it back. For one, the rising action feels like it’s trying too hard. As it slowly builds up to its titular civil war, the predictability of the plot makes some of the dialogue ineffective. Some plot details, like Spider-Man and Ant-Man’s involvement, feel non-essential but ultimately work. Its biggest failure, though, is the lack of character development around Bucky, who is at the center of the conflict.

However, “Civil War” still works tremendously well in spite of these flaws. It is both unrelentingly entertaining and emotionally affective. Not only is “Civil War” a great individual movie, but it is even better as the latest installment in Marvel’s longform narrative.

MOVE gives “Captain America: Civil War” 4 out of 5 stars.

Edited by Katie Rosso | krosso@themaneater.com

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