Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlet Johanson, Jeremy Renner and a million other famous people.
Rated PG-13: For extended sequences of violence, mayhem and action.
Captain America. Iron Man. Good verses... good? How does this happen? What a weird and interesting scenario to present to us. These two guys want the same thing; why are they fighting? In a rare achievement for modern film this movie takes on the intimidating notion that nothing is as simple as it appears or as we think it should be. Captain America Civil War takes place shortly after Avengers: Age of Ultron. It is equally Avengers 2.5 and a direct sequel to Captain America: Winter Soldier. So be warned, if those movies are a little blurry in your memory it would be beneficial to revisit them before watching Civil War. Playing off similar themes of consequence and accountability that were presented to us in Batman VS Superman, Civil War asks tough questions and rejects easy answers. After an encounter with a mother grieving the loss of her son, a casualty during one of The Avengers rescue missions, a guilt ridden Tony Stark is a man in desperate need of redemption. Tony sees an opportunity in a law proposed to him by the Secretary of The State (played by the always reliable William Hurt, reprising his role from the ill fated and quickly forgotten Incredible Hulk). He approaches The Avengers with a law stating that they can no longer act as uncontrollable vigilantes, and do nothing with their powers outside the consent of the U.N. A law written by 117 different countries... yikes! The reaction among The Avengers is where the film starts gaining its heat. "If we can't accept consequence or limitations, we are no better than the bad guys" Tony Stark quips; only being able to see the countless lives lost because of his careless and arrogant creation of Ultron. "The safest hands are still our own." responds Steve Rogers, who can only see all the lives saved because of The Avengers efforts. They both want to save future lives, they both fear the path the other one is taking will divert their efforts... and They're both right.
This movie is jam packed full of stories, big ideas, tough questions and plenty of action. In lesser hands this movie could have ended up like the unbearable third Spiderman movie or even the over the top Batman VS Superman (a movie I liked!). But there are four components to this movie that make it a step above most movies you're likely to watch this year. It has an fantastic script; full of heavy themes and plenty of humor. These writers had the impossible task of taking a star studded cast and their equally iconic characters, throw them all in a movie and not have it feel like an overcrowded mess; and they accomplish this with ease.
The 2nd component is the performances. By now we know that Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlet Johanson and the gang are perfect choices for their roles. They have made The Avengers sympathetic, lovable and layered characters. Downey Jr. and Evans give their best as these characters yet, and it's clear to see why they keep coming back for more: When the content is this good, how could you turn it down? But the real surprise for me came in a couple of the new faces. This might be premature to say, but Tom Holland is the best Spiderman we've seen yet. I grew up on Toby Maguire and adore Andrew Garfield, but Tom Holland embodies everything that Spiderman was supposed to be. As some one who groaned loudly at the sound of yet another Spiderman franchise, I can gladly say I have very high hopes and firmly believe the best is yet to come for Spiderman. We also get our first glimpse at The Black Panther, played a young actor who could very well be the next Denzel Washington. Chadwick Bosman was outstanding as Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get On Up. His character is small here, but in what little time he has he brings a depth and darkness that would have been missed in a lesser actor's hands. Keep your eye out for this one.
The third component is the stakes are high! No, this movie does not take sides. It takes the bold approach of not telling the audience what to think and forcing us to think for ourselves. More than once watching this movie I sighed in exasperation and said "Everyone is so right!" They don't make any of the characters less likeable, but they allow you to see and understand exactly why they are fighting; and for all the smart and funny dialogue, this movie packs an emotional punch! This is a testament to how tightly knitted the Marvel Cinematic Universe is. You care about these characters because the creators of the previous 17 Marvel movies did their due diligence.
The fourth, and most impressive component to this film is the Direction by the Russo brothers. Two guys who's previous directing experiences include some episodes of Arrested Development and Community, as well as that horrible "comedy" with Owen Wilson, You Me, and Dupree. You guys, we've seen Neo dodge bullets in The Matrix. We've seen William Wallace in epic battles with Braveheart. We've seen the shaky camera documentary style of filming of the battle in Saving Private Ryan. We've seen showstopping superhero action in the the 1st Avengers. So how the Russo brothers can make you feel like you're watching a type of action scene you've never seen before in this day and age is astonishing to me. I was impressed with their ability to direct a fight scene in Winter Soldier, and they blew me away here. Nobody directs actions scenes like them; a compliment all the more impressive given their background in entertainment.
In the end, Captain American Civil War is a near perfect movie. It is emotional and funny. It's writing is impeccable, the performances are remarkable and it's directing is as good as you're going to see in a superhero movie nowadays. It's rare for me to walk out of a movie with no complaints, and I'm sure some will come as I watch it again; but as it is Civil War brings something refreshing to the conversation happening in cinematic art. It is some of the most fun you're going to have at the theaters this year: Go watch this movie!
Parental guide: The movies action scenes are intense, and some of the themes are definitely a little dark and could be unsettling for younger viewers. I don't recommend this for anyone 10 and under.