Why are mommy and daddy fighting?
Goddamn, did that feel great. I mean really, really freaking good. Sometimes, a great action film can get me all jacked up to love the genre all over again after feeling exasperated not one month ago. But then again, when Marvel Studios has been in the game of making action films for the past eight years, chances are some of them get to better than the rest.
For our 13th Marvel outing (Jebas), we’ve got the Avengers, Earth’s premier superhero task force, being put under the microscope after a mission in Nigeria goes awry leading to a dozen innocent deaths. Coupled with the events of The Avengers, Captain America: Civil War, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the world has become more distrustful of the team, believing they really don’t give a damn about collateral damage (given the events of the past few movies, it’s not an unreasonable belief).
While the United Nations wants to manage the Avengers instead, Steve Rogers AKA Captain America (Chris Evans) isn’t keen on the idea believing governments can become corrupt and enforce their own agendas on the Avengers like before. Meanwhile, Tony Stark AKA Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is all for being put on a leash to assuage the guilt he has from creating Ultron and the countless deaths partially attributed to him. Through in the middle of all this debate, the Winter Soldier (Steve Rogers’ best friend, Bucky, played by Sebastian Stan) is accussed of blowing up a political summit, forcing Captain America to become an outlaw to defend his old friend which in turn forces Iron Man to apprehend his former comrade.
So as you can see, there’s a lot of deep shit going on, but Civil War takes its time to establish the confrontation between Captain America and Iron Man by relying on their character development in their respective films and their dialogue in this movie. Even if you haven’t seen another Marvel movie (or just plain forgot what had occurred), the film does a great job of establishing these characters’ personalities and motivations so you can actually get an emotional reaction when these former friends start to fight each other.
That’s the whole point of a great fight sequence really. It’s not about the fight itself, but rather the internal struggle occurring between the combatants. So when the Captain and Iron Man have their inevitable confrontation, you don’t want them to fight even if the fight itself is filmed exquisitely and beautifully. The fight hurts not just because of the hardcore injuries they inflict on each other, but because of the breakup of these two friends you have gotten to know over the course of this film and seven other movies.
The story leading up to this confrontation is confidently well told, not bothering with too much exposition and focusing mostly on establishing the roles of several characters. Which is all the more impressive when you realize the movie juggled at least fourteen major players in this plot with enough time given to each person’s role in the film. It’s solid work because you get why these former friends are all fighting each other and at each other’s throats. But despite the comic book-nature of their combat, you can also tell none of them are out for blood initially through their actions and their words.
You’ll notice I’ve been discussing the plot, story and characters at length and I haven’t even begun to discuss the action sequences. That’s because the mark of a great action movie is not the set pieces, but the motivations behind these sequences. And Civil War kicks ass on giving you relatable, human characters thrown into a complex situation and watching these players navigate these waters. This is how you do compelling storytelling, which is all the more relevant since several plot points are extremely similar to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
And I have to say, Civil War has actually lowered my evaluation of DC’s superhero bout because Marvel took the same ingredients from Batman v. Superman and made a much better and more competent film. Both films deal with costumed super heroes having an epic confrontation each other over collateral damage committed by each of the two sides as well as the general public’s perception of these vigilantes. But the collateral damage is handled more deftly in Civil War as you are dealing with a history of these characters causing the loss of life indirectly while trying to save as many people as they can. Further, Batman and Superman have nearly piss all reason to fight each other throughout the film and the circumstances behind their final skirmish is contrived. The resolution is also phenomenally moronic.
Contrasted with Civil War, the resolution to Captain America and Iron Man’s fight (without wishing to spoil) is not easy. It’s not a happy ending. And scars, both emotional and physical, are left deep in all of the major characters. It was absolutely emotionally draining and satisfying at the same time. So I fucking love it.
Okay, NOW we can talk about the action…it’s freaking gorgeous. Seriously, the fight sequences are shot impeccably well, showing you each character brawling in such a way that feels exciting. None of that shaky-cam nonsense in lesser action films or even the heavy computer-generated bukkake you got in the climax of Batman v. Superman, you get to see wide shots with plenty of super-powered combat that doesn’t feel overwhelming. The action is focused on just a few characters at a time in big open spaces to give you an appreciation for what the high holy hell is going on. It charges me up the same way Mad Max: Fury Road got my cylinders firing last year.
All of this, and I still haven’t even discussed the latest additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Let’s talk Black Panther first; because holy shit, I can’t wait for a Black Panther film. Played by Chadwick Boseman (redeeming himself after the execrable Gods of Egypt), he starts off as Prince T’Challa of Wakanda. His African country has remained isolationist for several years despite possessing hyper-advanced technology years ahead of any Western nation, but Marvel Cinematic events have forced the country out of hiding. After suffering a painful loss early on in the movie, T’Challa takes up the mantle of the Black Panther, a bulletproof warrior with indestructible claws and vicious martial arts experience. T’Challa also experiences a roller coaster of emotions from beginning to end as he is also caught in the middle of Captain America and Iron Man’s feud. Highly looking forward to his solo movie in 2018 since they already dealt with the character’s origin in this film.
Yes, yes, I know comic book nerds, what about the new Spider-Man? And how is the character after his bazillionth reboot? Well he’s freaking fantastic honestly. First off, Marvel has cast Tom Holland, an extremely young actor to portray the teenage version of Spider-Man. It works because this is in keeping with the original source material, and Holland gives us a better Spider-Man for the 20 minutes of a screen time he got than the one Andrew Garfield’s gave us in two Amazing Spider-Man movies. Holland portrays Peter as an absolute dork, giddy with excitement in tangling with Captain America and a dude with a metal arm. The web-slinging and fights are also well done, which gets met excited for yet another freaking Spider-Man movie next year.
As a brief aside, I’m still not 100% on board with casting Marisa Tomei as Aunt May because…well freaking looking at her! She’s a bombshell next to her comic book counterpart of a geriatric old woman. I did mutter “bullshit” in the theater, but it was more of a pet peeve than anything else.
Meanwhile Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. both brought their A-game to this movie. Their banter is great whenever they’re on screen together, because you believe they are actually friends. So when they’re fighting, it cuts deep into your psyche because you don’t want either to hurt the other any further. I will point out that RDJ does serve as the de-facto antagonist in this installment, but his reasons for the turn seems reasonable at the beginning of the film…then the reasons become downright impossible to counter at the end. Downey doesn’t become a cartoon villain, but becomes a tragic figure that you can’t help but sympathize with.
The rest of the cast continue to embody their characters like they’re all wearing very comfortable gloves, and the writing is the cement that strengthens the interplay between all of these thespians.
If I have to criticize this movie for anything is that the main events behind the central conflict is all driven by a single character that is only introduced in this film. This character’s actions and abilities seem a little too convenient, but it gave way to such a strong emotional outburst from the main heroes that it could almost be forgiven and I think many audience members will quickly forget about this character’s role in the grand scheme of things.
In case you couldn’t tell, I freaking love this movie. Logical misstep from the previous paragraph aside, this is a highly recommendable summer blockbuster and it might be in my top 3 of all of these Marvel productions. For me? This is getting a very high and very enthusiastic…