Saturday, May 7, 2016

'Captain America: Civil War' is a fantastic 'Avengers' film (No spoilers!)

Once I heard "Captain America: Civil War" was going to feature so many members of The Avengers, I started referring to the third Cap film as "Avengers 2.5." But only somewhat facetiously.

In reality, "Civil War" is more like "Avengers 2.75." But it's a great film.

There's a balanced mix of fantastic drama, action, humor and character interplay.

It's a treat to see the various Avengers interact with each other -- especially those who haven't met each other until now.

The Russo brothers (the co-directors also delivered the kick-ass "Captain America: The Winter Soldier") are adept at handling ensembles, so there are plenty of wonderful "moments" for fans to enjoy. They "get" the characters and know when to let them shine.

Even though the subtitle is "Civil War" and we know there are warring factions, the story never lets us forget these same Avengers are teammates who have a history with each other and siding with Captain America/Steve Rogers over Iron Man/Tony Stark (or visa versa) is a difficult moral decision. And making those decisions aren't as clear-cut as it might appear from the outside or even judging from the trailers.

There are legitimate reasons the characters support who they do. But as I said, despite the philosophical divisions, you always know these superheroes are friends, first and foremost. (As one Avenger asks another in the middle of the Big Battle, "we're still friends, right??")

And even when some of the heroes might not have met until they do battle, it's obvious they have respect for each other. Contrary to how Stark is characterized in the trailers, he'd rather be on the same side as Rogers then not. But there's one certain spoiler-ific revelation that pushes Stark over the edge. ...

(And honestly, anybody paying attention to the facts laid out in "The Winter Soldier" -- to a much lesser extent, "Ant-Man" -- and the first "Civil War" sequence will see that development coming long before that Big Reveal.)

So the Big Battle (now that I write that, I realized there are two!) -- while extremely fun to watch and borders on sensory overload, is no free-for-all.

The dramatic moments inspire gut-wrenching moments of fans truly "feeling" (as the subsequent generation and so-called "emo" fans might say).

On the other end of the spectrum, the Russos deliver a fun experience, with lines and circumstances that provoked me to laugh out-loud genuinely.

Comic book fans will see immediate connections to the CIVIL WAR limited series. While it's a must-read for Marvel fans, keep in mind it's not necessary to read it before seeing the cinematic version. Very much like what the Russos did with "The Winter Soldier," the movie is its own creation while clearly being deeply rooted in its published cousin.

That being said, it is completely necessary to watch "The Winter Soldier" beforehand to understand how the situation in "Civil War" — and the challenges and baddies Cap and The Avengers now are facing -- has to come to be. Without the "Captain America: Civil War" predecessor, the casual fan might be somewhat lost and wonder who's who.

Before seeing "Civil War" on Thursday, I managed to fit "Captain America: The First Avenger," the first "Avengers" film and "Winter Solider," but I didn't get around to watching "Avengers: Age of Ultron." (Those are the four Marvel Studios flicks you should see before "Civil War" -- in that order.) Maybe it's the way I remember movies and my undying love for Cap and Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but I didn't feel like I missed anything too important to setting up "Civil War" without "Age of Ultron." I hope that helps!

There are some genuine geeky surprises.

To say anything more about the biggest of those giddy moments would ruin it. Let's just say fans of classic AVENGERS comics will really dig where they take one of the superheroes. And this Caphead was tickled to know this "Civil War" story developed a certain long-time romantic relationship from the CAPTAIN AMERICA comics.

So the question might remain: Where would I rank "Captain America: Civil War" in the grand scheme of the plethora of exceptional Marvel movies?

"Civil War," without a doubt is one of Marvel's most delightful, well-told and well-done films. The crowd at Thursday's sold-out show in Sandusky, Ohio clapped as the credits started rolling -- a rarity I hadn't experienced in years and years (aside from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on opening night in nearby Norwalk).

If push comes to shove, I'd rank it easily in the top 3 or four 4 of Marvel's greatest movies.

"The Winter Soldier" remains my favorite, but to say how I'd rearrange my top 5 now is like asking a parent to say which kid he or she loves the most: It's just wrong! And impossible to say! All the Marvel movies and one's children are great in their own unique ways, so how -- and why -- should we choose?

(Although before "Ant-Man" was released last summer, I did rank my favorite Marvel releases. Crazy thing to do, huh?!? Start that two-part op-ed here with Nos. 11 through 6.)

There's no doubt about this: "Civil War" is fun and a must-see experience.

Grade: A-


  1. Ok, first, no spoilers. Which is a bit tough because I have questions. So I'll move on. Gotta say one thing right up front - Chris Evans has never given a more solid performance. The guy ACTS in this one or I should say GETS TO act. He doesn't just throw his shield. It's very tough as an actor to play the straight man and it's very hard to play the kind of straight man that Cap is. You KNOW what he's going to do because he's the "by the book" good guy. He's as Lawful Good as is humanly possible. But they spent a lot of time - and it's very well-spent - on Steve the person. When he got his text and went to London, I choked up right there. And then his face in the next scene? Man, that hurt. And it didn't get any easier. But, as you said, it's well-balanced. The big set piece 6 on 6 will be a highlight for all eternity like the Asteroid Field or Indy chasing the convoy to get the Ark. Well-told action with big bits of funny interspersed throughout. He was in the trailer so talking about a certain arachnid should be ok. He was marvelous. I particularly liked Widow in this one. But I always like her. This film never lost sight of the characters, not one. That's the main reason the movie works. Bucky, of course, was key. They handled him well. Don Cheadle fits War Machine perfectly. Tony Stank, uh...STARK, is not as flip in this one and it's almost weird to see Robert Downey, Jr. use his dramatic chops as much as he does. But the situation demands it and of course, he nails Stark. Black Panther made a completely credible and totally believable debut. I look forward to seeing him again. Falcon got most of the one-liners and he was terrific. Not surprisingly, Paul Rudd made the most of his limited time by being both likable and hilarious. He was pretty big for a little guy. ;) And I love Vision. Period. Although Clint had a better part in Ultron (the best part of that film for me, other than Spader), he was integral to this one, too. And Scarlet Witch was fine. She's very different than I pictured her in my head but she brings the red fire to the party. :) Oh and speaking of (future?) Red, William Hurt is good in making Ross a little more than the one note character he could be. It's a kitchen sink movie. But since it's Cap's movie, it's all about heart. He is the heart of The Avengers and that is totally what this film relies upon. And that's why it works from start to finish. I'm with you, Cary. Winter Soldier still is the best as a straight-up thriller. But, dramatically, this one is the best. You're right, though. We don't have to choose. It's the beginning, middle and end of the Cap trilogy. On that basis, as strong as both Avengers films are, these are the best Marvel movies ever.

  2. Thanks for the feedback! You did a superb job of breaking it down. Yeah, the scenes after Steve gets the bad news is done oh-so well. The writers handled Black Panther with the perfect amount of nobility. I was especially pleased with the way T'Challa is integral to the story. The chemistry among Bucky, Cap and Falcon is geektastic (more of that in the future please!!) and as a comic book fan, I appreciated the Vision-Scarlet Witch connection. The way Elizabeth Olsen moves when Scarlet Witch uses magic is nothing short of, well, enchanting. These writers just "get" Cap. You're right, he isn't just full of heart, he's the heart of the Marvel Universe. "Winter Soldier" and "Civil War" are so good, I almost don't know how the Russos can keep their ball of kick-ass movies going.