“We’re still friends, right?”
This sentiment by Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to her good friend Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) in the middle of the epic airport melee just about sums up the main undertone of Captain America: Civil War (aka, The Avengers light). There’s no denying that before, during and after the major conflicts that drive the film, the superheroes involved are and will always be… family. And as with any family, they are bound to disagree. It’s not as if anyone wants to go straight to fisticuffs; there’s enough attempts at diplomacy to fill a misplaced email server. The question to ask is whether it was inevitable that the bubbling differences in mindset, friendship, miscommunication and manipulation would come to blows?
With Marvel’s continuing expansion of its cinematic universe — each new film adding more to the galactic storyline that all began with Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) suiting up as Iron Man — Captain America (Chris Evans) remains the catalyst within the series, tying all of the other films together (and really messing with the television universe, most notably Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), while pushing the narrative of each new wave of films into the next chapter. And much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier before it, Civil War doesn’t shy away from upping the ante in everything from character development to action set pieces.
After Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) and his ragtag team of fresh Avenger recruits complete a mission to stop an evil mastermind from getting his hands on a vile of some type of lethal poison, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) inadvertently causes the death of dozens of innocent citizens, an accident that becomes the final straw for the government. Led by now Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), an accord has been drafted to keep the Avengers in check. Tony Stark, after being kicked in the teeth with a sense of personal responsibility from a mother (Alfre Woodard) who lost her son in the Sakovia incident, becomes the lead voice for the accord. Of course, Steve is totally against it, and understandably so. The accord would be run by politicians who all have agendas. Whose to say they would allow the Avengers to fight the battles they need to fight, or be told to do something their totally against?
At the same time, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), aka, the Winter Soldier, is targeted for setting off a bomb as the accord is being signed, inadvertently killing the king of Wakanda. Steve doesn’t believe his old friend could do such a thing and goes on the run with him to prove his innocence. And as both sides gear up to fight for what they believe is right, they each recruit new teammates to join them. One of the more prominent additions to Tony’s side is T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), prince of Wakanda who’s chosen Tony’s side mostly because he seeks revenge for his father’s murder, not necessarily because he believes in the accord.
Which leads to a much deeper meaning behind the fight between our heroes, especially Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Their relationship has always been a contentious one, but when Steve chooses Bucky over him, that’s a choice that rips the fabric of their relationship for good, and not just for the reasons that have been previewed in the trailers. There’s a nice twist in the third act that solidifies the division between the two, one that may not be mended anytime soon. The magic of it all is the way in which both Downey, Jr. and Evans represent their characters. The pain and the emotional impact over having to endure the severing of not only their friendship, but of the Avengers as well, is felt in every fiber of their body language and dialogue.
But enough of that. It’s time to discuss the centerpiece everyone will be talking about: the battle royal at the airport, where sides are chosen and allegiances are torn. I was amazed by how well-choreographed the fight was, utilizing everyone to the best of their abilities. Not once did I ever think that anyone was being left out or underutilized as Tony’s side (including Vision (Paul Bettany), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Widow and Black Panther) tries to stop Steve (and his gang, including Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch) from hopping a jet with Bucky. Tony is hoping Steve will allow him to bring him back to the Avengers compound to discuss the situation further; Steve hopes Tony will allow him the chance to prove Bucky’s innocence. But each have made a promise they are bound to fulfill, and it shows in how they interact with each other, both verbally and physically. They aren’t out to kill; just distract and acquire. There are some awesome moments and surprises that make this fight a comic book, cinema geek and overall action junky’s dream come true. (This is the battle the chaotic, dour duel between Superman and Batman should have been.) One reason for the outpouring of awesomeness are two new additions to the Avengers family: Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
Throughout the series, it’s been well established that both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers have very wry, ironic senses of humor. Their dialogue is full of snark and wit that stays mostly dry and sardonic. Enter Scott Lang and Peter Parker, who are all about fast and furious quips and one-liners, which contrasts perfectly with Tony and Steve. When Ant-Man came out last year, I wasn’t sure how well he’d fit with the rest of the Avengers, but now I’m sold. Choosing Steve’s side is easy for him, as he’s never been against being a fugitive, whether he’s on the right side or not. All he cares about is being part of the team.
It’s almost as good as Holland’s impressive interpretation of Spider-Man, still a young high school student who wants to help the little guy who can’t fight for themselves. He’s on Tony’s side mainly because the rich icon sees potential in the young kid and wants to nurture it, providing him a new suit and a purpose for his powers. Both of them bring a new lightness to the the series that’s sorely missing from their current DC counterparts. As this now fractured team moves forward, not only can I not wait to see how Holland handles his own movie (as well as what they do with Black Panther), but getting to see how this civil war plays out over the course of the next five or six films will be one tremendous journey.
My Grade: A
Next week, new movies include Money Monster and The Darkness. If you would like to see a review for one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.