Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is the movie that Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Winter Soldier wished they were. It’s unabashed fun that makes sense, remains driven, and keep its focus on its characters, from beginning to end.

This isn’t to say that it’s perfect—I’m looking at you, shaky-cam and quick-cuts in the first act—but it’s one of the better Marvel movies we’ve gotten in a while, up there with the first Iron Man, the first Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

I have a lot that I could ramble on about. And I will, I’m sure, in the spoilers section. But for the purposes of this review, I’m going to focus on one thing that Civil War gets right: theme.

Theme is important in a work. It helps to tie elements of a narrative into a cohesive, powerful whole.

The reason that, in my opinion, The Dark Knight is the best out of the Nolan trilogy, is because it sticks to simple, resonant themes. The Joker announces the main theme of the movie when he says, “The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules”. The whole movie is about people placed into situations where they might have to compromise on their moral foundations in order to survive, and what it turns a person into when they do that. It’s repeated again and again and again, always from different angles, always asking different questions about the issue.

In Civil War, the theme is the past coming back to haunt the present. Whether that’s Tony being made to feel the lives they didn’t save, or Bucky being pursued for his actions as the Winter Solder, or the Avengers as a whole and the agreement that would put them under government control. Even the villain’s actions are bringing the past back to haunt the heroes.

The story has other themes, themes that tie in beautifully with the primary. Revenge vs. justice, yes, but also revenge vs. mercy. It asks the question: Even if revenge is sometimes justified, is it ever the right choice? What happens by a person driven by revenge as opposed to a person driven by justice, or driven by mercy?

These themes are present from the first minute of the movie to the last. They are the beating heart of the film. This movie is a master class in making theme work for you.

I’ve heard complaints about the villain, and I can see some of the flaws. He probably has little in common with his comics counterpart, and the plot he brews up is convoluted if not downright contrived in places. But he is essential to the movie, in my opinion, because of the way that he fits into this beautiful exploration of theme.

Almost everything is wonderful about this movie. The actors give their best performances so far, which is saying something, from Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans. Every character we know that’s in it gets their own moment to shine, including characters that you might truly expect to fall into the background. The two new heroes are fantastic, and the actors are great. The action is unbelievable, minus the shaky-cam and quick-cuts mostly isolated to the beginning of the film. There’s one action sequence that makes the movie worth the ticket price all by itself, and it’s far from the only great action scene in the movie.

This is in my top 5 Marvel movies. And if you know me, you know how much of a compliment that is. It’s tied for my favorite superhero movie of the year, and despite how excited I am for Doctor Strange, I don’t expect it to reach the heights that Civil War has climbed.

If for some reason you’re still on the fence, go see it. I can guarantee that anyone who likes comic book movies, and many people who don’t, will love this film.

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SPOILERS

Spider-Man! Every moment he’s on screen, I grin ear-to-ear. I love the fact that he reacts to his spider sense out loud. He’s very ADD, very talky, and that works perfectly for the character. He’s also able to hold up literal tons and can fight two other super-powered characters to a virtual stalemate. He’s my all-time favorite comic book hero, and I just got to see all kinds of awesomeness that I never thought I would on film.

Ant Man continues to annoy me. Not the character or the actor or the humor, which is all fantastic. The technology. No, wait, “technology”. I’ve started to just wave my hands and say “Magic!” whenever he’s involved, to keep him from ruining those scenes.

I’m not the first person to complain about it, so I’ll be brief. Shaky-cam doesn’t add tension to a shot. All that it does is cover up sloppy choreography, sloppy acting, or sloppy effects. If you’re a competent filmmaker, you NEVER need shaky-cam. Particularly not so much that it hinders the viewer’s ability to understand what’s happening.

Zemo at the end, talking to Black Panther, gave me chills. The fact that him listening to the message on his phone has entirely different meaning there at the end is just a stroke of brilliance!

Weren’t those title cards with the locations weird? They covered up the whole screen! I hope the DVD release will have normal, corner-of-the-screen cards there instead.

I loved Rhodey’s speech. I’d have loved for Cap to hear it, and it makes me look forward to possibly seeing a scene with Rhodes and Falcon together. It’s really powerful, and is a nice little stamp on the end of the movie. HOWEVER, I was incredibly disappointed that this takes place as he’s GOING TO BE COMPLETELY FINE because of Tony’s technology. Make us live with the repercussions of his injuries. Make him give this speech in the face of permanent disability. That would turn this ultimately throwaway scene into an emotional powerhouse.

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