Captain America Civil War is the best Captain America and Avengers movie yet. Ant-Man and Spider-Man add a new, much needed, dimension while – conspicuous in their absence – Quicksilver, Thor, the Hulk and Pepper Potts are intentionally M.I.A.
The key to the success of this film is the Marvel formula. What sounds like it would be cluttered, twelve heroes, six on each side bashing each other’s brains out, is a smart new perspective on what is now a well-oiled machine. Where Iron Man 2 had robot vs robot, Captain America III has fist pounding fist (and face,) which, of course, is better than a plethora of bullets flying – the quick fix for most action movies these days.
Yes, there are bullets, but not at the frequency that we’ve seen them of late and, as nice as the decrease in ammo may be, there’s the bonus added extra of Ben Affleck not being in this movie.
With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice released on March 25, DC had a full six weeks to advance its mega battle prior to Captain America’s May 6th date, but as of this writing on May 4th Civil War has brought in over 234 million overseas prior to its American blitz (which is, perhaps, why the embargo on this review in advance has been lifted, reviews are coming in from foreign countries, of course, allowing us to publish this essay prior to May 6 opening.) And while we are on the subject, with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman fighting highly questionable villains – Mark Zuckerberg (or the actor who played him) as Lex Luthor. Really? – and a dark ooze creeping over the stale film like Mr. Smith from the Matrix sticking his hand into the mix and just draining it of all energy – the reverse happens in Captain America: Civil War. The red, white and blue tones of Captain Steve Rogers are bright, as are the sunlit battles, friend vs a friend as the villain stays behind the scenes manipulating the war from within.
It’s got all the elements of Mission Impossible, double agents, and a flagrant nod to both The Manchurian Candidate and Star Wars. In fact, it is so blatant that Tony Stark, synonymous forever now with Robert Downey Jr., just comes out and calls Bucky – the Winter Soldier – “Manchurian candidate,” saying what the viewer is thinking. It’s like the old Golden Girls TV show, you saw the joke coming at you at 5 miles per hour and then Bea Arthur or Rue or Estelle or Betty would repeat the joke you are thinking in your brain – it was the delivery that made it so special and kept it from falling flat. That same intangible works here and that is why Marvel has it all over D.C. in the film game. Oh, and did I tell you the good news? Ben Affleck is not in this movie.
There are spectacular filming and great acting here, and the film succeeds because it doesn’t travel into any of the minefields that Batman v Superman jumped into with no sense of logic, good taste, or care for what the audience wants (Exhibit A: Christian Bale as the Batman.) Precision acting from Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Paul Bettany as Vision, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., William Hurt, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, all provide the storytelling needed to keep your attention for two and a half hours. Even newbie Tom Holland, the actor a mere 19 and looking all of twelve years of age, has Spiderman and Peter Parker down pat. He looks like Tobey Maguire’s kid brother, and the emphasis on saving the Spiderman franchise (which Sony controls) gets its new lease on life in this Disney/Marvel platform.
And Marvel knows from experience to keep the genre exciting, each film is like another monthly episode of the comic, with summer heightening the excitement. May 9 is the screening of the new X-Men Apocalypse, so the hits just keep on coming, though X –Men is a 20th Century Fox – not a Disney/Marvel feature, the franchise is too important for it to go the way of the Fantastic Four. The scenery in Civil War is breathtaking, be it the “Perfect Storm” waters where the United States government keeps its superhero prison or the winter snows of Siberia. William Hurt as “Thunderbolt” Ross (played by Sam Elliott in 2003’s Hulk, Hurt taking over in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk) goes beyond his usual no-nonsense, let’s control this situation. Here he goes further than merely engaging his obsession with Bruce Banner (who is not in this film,) here Ross fixates on having complete power over every superhero, and Tony Stark caves in, the complicated Stark played so eloquently by the involved Robert Downey Jr.
It is all the contrasts that delight here, Marvel’s red white and blue Captain America beating the all-powerful red white and blue of DC’s Superman. Again. And, along with being a terrific dawn of summer film, there’s the added extra bonus that Ben Affleck does not appear in it.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.