- Captain America: Civil War (2016) movie review: Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Marvel’s latest big-screen entry does what summer movies are supposed to do.
Captain America: Civil War movie review: Latest Marvel superhero flick beats expectations
April 21, 9:53 a.m.: I was sitting down to watch an early screening of Captain America: Civil War on the Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California. I received a text inquiring if I’d heard the news. As a number of critics and studio types filed in – all immersed in their devices – we confirmed the news for each other: Prince was dead.
One noted critic, whose name I will not mention because she may not want you to know she cusses like a sailor, posed the question aloud, “How the fuck are we supposed to pay attention to this now!?”
I said in response, voice cracking, “No shit, I’m all fucked up!”
As it happens, I cuss like a sailor too. They started the movie.
Over the next 2 hours and 27 minutes, the full runtime through the end credits, Captain America: Civil War made me forget that Prince had died.
It’s that entertaining. It’s that good a piece of summer distraction, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be. And let’s not forget that it’s a film fresh on the heels of DC’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice fiasco; oddly, one whose narrative is virtually the same as that of the Marvel film.
Dawn of Justice v Civil War
Both Dawn of Justice and Civil War are about opposing camps of superheroes for one reason or another facing off in a battle to the death until a greater threat reveals itself.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was directed – which is to say “stylized” – by Zack Snyder. It’s exactly that, a Zack Snyder film, which is to say, bloated, bombastic, self-consciously serious, philosophically juvenile, and downright silly.
Captain America: Civil War was directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier and who will helm the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War – Part I and Avengers: Infinity War – Part II.
The key difference between Dawn of Justice and Civil War is that the brothers Russo are not stylizers, but rather storytellers whose work is varied in both format and tone.
From cult films like Welcome to Collinwood (2002) and You, Me and Dupree (2006), and even culty-er TV shows like Arrested Development and Community, the Russos are journeyman filmmakers with no personal agenda other than to make a really entertaining movie.
That is good. And that’s what they have done with Captain America: Civil War.
Steve Rogers v Tony Stark
Civil War opens with an action sequence.
It’s a combination of Avengers that includes the Captain (Chris Evans), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson), among others. (But not the Hulk, who isn’t in this movie.)
The mission goes badly, thus increasing pressure on the Avengers to come under some sort of authority. On the heels of events in New York, Washington, D.C., and the fictional land of Sokovia, nations have come to wonder if these superheroes are worth all the mayhem their protection provides.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is shaken by an encounter with the mother of a young man who was killed during one of his heroics in a scene similar to one in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – but done better here. Long story short, Tony wants to submit to an authority that the league of nations has endorsed. Captain America, however, does not.
The Avengers align.
Meanwhile, a darker plan unfolds, none of which will be revealed here.
Soldier v billionaire
Fanboys hate spoilers, but I wonder if the irony in the framing of Captain America: Civil War will go unnoticed by the superhero fans who will make this movie a worldwide box office hit.
I wonder if they will get that Captain America, a soldier who is by default subject to the authority of the elected officials of the American government, would be less likely to refuse what is effectively a direct order from his superiors, whereas billionaire Tony Stark, an Ayn Rand archetype of a self-made man, would not be inclined to have his individual authority usurped.
In any case, Civil War, though technically a Captain America sequel, is really a Marvel Universe sequel that uses this clash of heroes to introduce new characters – among them Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa (a.k.a. the Black Panther), king of the fictional land of Wakanda – and to reintroduce Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
Besides, the movie offers a new take on Aunt May, played by the age-appropriate and incredibly hot Marisa Tomei. Yep, Aunt May is hot.
Yet in the end it all comes down to a showdown between Steve and Tony. And let’s face it, they never liked each other anyway.
The fact that Captain America: Civil War is this good is surprising. There have been several of these superhero films of late and their relative entertainment value has been hit-and-miss for all but the most staunch Comic-Con-type fans.
I don’t need any more Thor films, either. Not to mention any number of Marvel and DC TV series, from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil to Gotham, The Flash, and Supergirl – each vying for their own galaxy in the Marvel and DC universes.
So chances are that for me to consider Captain America: Civil War a good movie – good enough to make me forget Prince had just died – it must be pretty good indeed.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Director: Joe and Anthony Russo.
Screenplay: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.
From the comic book by Mark Millar.
Characters created by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby.
Cast: Chris Evans. Robert Downey Jr. Tom Holland. Scarlett Johansson. Sebastian Stan. Jeremy Renner. Daniel Brühl. Paul Rudd. Don Cheadle. Marisa Tomei. Elizabeth Olsen. Chadwick Boseman. Paul Bettany. Anthony Mackie. Emily VanCamp. Frank Grillo. Alfre Woodard. Hope Davis. William Hurt. Martin Freeman. John Slattery. Stan Lee.
“Captain America: Civil War (2016) Movie Review” endnotes
Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans Captain America: Civil War images: Marvel | Walt Disney Studios.
“Captain America: Civil War (2016) Movie Review: Good Surprise” last updated in October 2021.