Clocking in as the thirteenth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War fights its way to the top of the list.
On the heels of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Marvel heroes are left frowned upon by much of the world. After all, it was Tony Stark's fault that Ultron was created in the first place. Now, back in the United States, Captain America finds himself being governed into not being a hero at will. His biggest objection to this comes from the need to help his best friend, Bucky Barnes, after he is accused of a horrible crime. Stark, on the other hand, feels the weight of his actions in Sokovia on very intimate levels and sides with the government.
At no point during Captain America: Civil War does one character seem "more right" than the other, and it's a remarkable achievement. Everything the filmmakers and cast members said about audiences being truly divided turns out to be true. Captain America is not only fighting for something he believes in but what he believes in is credible and organic to the film's story. The same can be said for Iron Man.
When the fights begin, the action is second to none. Despite being thirteen movies in, Marvel's team found ways to innovate the action packed scenes by capitalizing on each character's abilities and chemistry with one another for impressively creative sequences. The team has worked together for a while now (both in an on-screen and behind-the-scenes capacity) and it is clearly conveyed on the big screen.
Speaking of the team, having (almost) the entire ensemble cast of heroes together (minus Hulk and Thor) is something to be admired. The Russo Brothers had previously directed the acclaimed Winter Soldier edition of the Captain America trilogy, but that effort was much less dense. This time around, they were burdened with bringing in over a dozen already established characters while also introducing two new major heroes. Each character, though, is given their own arc; none are forgotten or overlooked. While some are larger than others, it is equally delightful to see Scarlet Witch and Vision's relationship explored as it is to see Captain America break the rules in an internal struggle.
Even though Civil War packs a lot of characters into its runtime, it is still very much a Captain America film, another filmmaker promise made good. It takes the points of The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier that were left open-ended and builds upon them. That said, the film also does a great job telling Iron Man's story. The last time we saw Iron Man outside of an Avengers movie, he blew up his suits for his girlfriend, Pepper. The consequences of not following through on that promise, going back and continuing to make new ones, are thoroughly displayed here.
The characters many fans are both most curious and most excited about going into Civil War are the newcomers: Black Panther and Spider-Man. Chadwick Boseman steps into the T'Challa role and Tom Holland jumps gleefully in as Peter Parker. The two couldn't possibly be more welcome additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther's arc is the most complete and noteworthy of the film. Spider-Man in action is the best it's ever been. The two characters were handled masterfully and fit right into the mix of characters without standing in anyone's shadow. In fact, there are times when they may put our existing Avengers into shadows of their own.
The character who was unfortunately given the short end of the stick in Civil War was Daniel Bruhl's Baron Zemo. While Bruhl clearly poured himself into the role, the villain was the least interesting part of the film. As the momentum built between the heroes, audiences are taken to completely different locations to see what the manipulative menace is up to, only to wish they were still seeing what's going on between Cap and the tin man.
As far as Marvel villains go, Zemo is arguably the darkest. Shades of Batman v. Superman's Lex Luthor can certainly be seen here The villain is cruel. His methods are more brutal than typically seen in the traditional Marvel Studios film, raising the stakes.
As a whole, Captain America: Civil War is the darkest Marvel movie to date. That doesn't mean it gets serious and gritty throughout - the one liners and boat loads of fun are still there - but it tackles issues and emotional moments like no film before it. Everything that worked in The Winter Soldier is emphasized and exploited. The emotional beats never missed. There are moments that will have audiences audibly gasping. There are themes of friendship, love, heartbreak, and fear, which are blended seamlessly.
For the comic fans, Civil War will certainly satisfy. While it's far from an exact adaptation of the original Marvel comics, it's not too far to see its roots. There are beats from the pages splashed right across the silver screen, and anyone thinking the movie needed more heroes to do the story justice was wrong. The airport battle scene teased in the trailers could be watched on a loop for three hours and still be worth the price of admission. It's quite possibly the pinnacle representation of where movies and technology stand today.
By its end, Captain America: Civil War alters the Marvel Cinematic Universe more than any film before. The Avengers are truly left shattered heading into Infinity War and the audience is left begging for more. While it's hard to compare to the most unique film (which is Guardians of the Galaxy), Captain America: Civil War fights its way to be the best Marvel movie so far, as the studio continues to find ways to outdo themselves in emotion, action, and character.
Bottom Line: Captain America: Civil War is a truly epic and gigantic super hero film with on point emotional moments and the best action sequences to date. It hits theaters May 6, 2016. 9.8/10
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