The Avengers have faced some difficult opponents, either as a team or on their own: the Red Skull, Loki, the Mandarin, Ultron. However, in “Captain America: Civil War,” they face a new kind of enemy: each other. “Civil War” divides the Avengers, forcing them to align with either Iron Man or Captain America. Iron Man believes superheroes should sign a government document that will keep them all accountable; Captain America fears the government will abuse that power and it would be dangerous to sign. They are also split on exactly how the Winter Soldier — the Cap’s brainwashed best friend Bucky Barnes — should be brought to justice. This conflict will challenge and even ruin friendships, and it will bring an end to the Avengers as we know them.
“Captain America: Civil War” is a tense, thought-provoking superhero film that is both global and personal in its scope. It ventures into definite moral gray areas and sometimes it’s tough to decide who is actually doing the right thing. Although there are a lot of superheroes, and a lot of subplots, the Russo brothers — who also helmed 2014’s excellent “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” — successfully manage everything that’s going on and never lose sight of the central conflict between Iron Man and the Cap. “Civil War” is a must-see for Marvel fans and shakes up the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“Civil War” starts by examining a theme that, a little surprisingly, is often overlooked in superhero films: collateral damage. When superheroes battle super-powered villains, city blocks tend to get leveled and the landscape gets destroyed. We may not like to think about it, but in these types of epic battles, civilian casualties would be difficult to avoid. In “Civil War,” Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, inadvertently kills civilians while trying to stop a bomb. This incident appears to be the last straw in a long line of catastrophic Avengers-related events (New York, Washington, D.C., Sokovia), and the United Nations presents the Avengers with a document called the Sokovia Accords, which are designed to control them and keep them accountable.
Normally the rebel but now haunted by his past mistakes, Tony Stark is one of the first to sign. However, Steve Rogers can’t bring himself to do the same. He’s afraid of giving the government this kind of control, and he is concerned the government could abuse this power. He also believes Bucky Barnes is a victim of brainwashing, even though the government has labeled his as a No. 1 priority terrorist and has ordered their agents to kill him on sight. Captain America ends up going rouge with Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and several other Avengers, and Tony is forced to hunt him down with the help of War Machine, Vision, and Black Widow — and a couple surprise allies.
While there’s a lot going on in “Civil War,” the directors keep everything running smoothly, and it feels like every character and plot point gets just the right amount of screen time. It’s a more satisfying film than last summer’s “Age of Ultron,” which remains the only MCU film that I don’t own and the only one that left me feeling slightly disappointed. “Civil War” does a better job of managing its large cast and finding time for some quieter, more character-focused moments, even in the midst of all the action. Marvel’s weak link is sometimes its villains, and you could say this film’s villain, Helmut Zemo, isn’t as dynamic as he could have been. But this film was never really meant to be about the Avengers fighting an outside villain: it’s about what happens when they fight each other, and Zemo is merely the catalyst who facilitates that conflict.
Although this is very much the Cap and Iron Man’s film, there are some great cameo appearances and newcomers here. I was excited to see Ant-Man join the Avengers for the first time, and the revelation of his new “special ability” is one of the best — and funniest — moments of the film. I also really loved Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther, and I’m excited for his upcoming solo film. He brings an outside perspective to the conflict, and he’s definitely a superhero you want to have on your side. And no review of “Civil War” would be complete without talking about Spider-Man. I was a little nervous about how the character would blend with the Avengers, but the Russos handle his introduction marvelously, sending Tony Stark to recruit the excitable and lovably awkward teenager. It’s also a blast to see him using his powers in the big showdown between the opposing groups of superheroes.
The film ends on a slightly ambiguous note, which I was actually happy about. There’s not a direct resolution to the conflict, and the Russos don’t completely repair the division in the team. I was concerned the film would try to rush and wrap everything up too neatly, and thankfully, it doesn’t do that. The conflict will continue to impact Marvel films in the future. All in all, I was very pleased with “Civil War.” I’m not sure yet exactly where this ranks on my list of favorite MCU films, but it’s definitely in the top 5. I guess I’ll just have to go see it again.