Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

Marvel heroes get a bit introspective but that doesn't stop the action

Captain America: Civil War
Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
With Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd

Most action films these days are filled with endless explosions and shooting, with the good guys declaring victory and then moving on to the next bigger and hopefully better sequel.

There is a bit more introspection in Captain America: Civil War. The carnage of the previous films featuring heroes of the Marvel comics universe, especially the destruction of the fictional country Sokovia in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, is called into question. People around the world want the Avengers, as the group of Marvel heroes is called, put under some kind of control. The United Nations wants to be involved in determining when and where they will go and what they can do — sort of as a peacekeeping force. As one can tell from the title, this idea splits the Avengers and when the next threat comes up, old friends are on opposite sides of the fence.

But now, the people continuing to fight against evil plots and nefarious villains are considered criminals and subject to arrest unless the UN gives pre-approval.

While Captain America, played by Chris Evans, is mentioned in the title, much of the credit for the success of the film goes to Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man. He has been the backbone of the series since he first appeared in the role in 2008. His back story is developed a bit this time, making him more sympathetic.

He has grown a lot as an actor since his first appearance. His character has become more introspective and less cartoonish.
Among the large cast, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch also stands out in one of the major roles. She in particular feels the guilt for her responsibility in the deaths of innocent bystanders in this and previous films.

Joining the ensemble for the first, time, Paul Rudd brings a low-key sensibility as Ant-Man, a contrast to the big egos of the other characters. He had his own solo film in 2015.

Captain America, though, doesn't add much to what we already know about him. He stands up for what he sees as right, even if others don't share his views. He also stands up for his friends even if his friends are unpopular. His relationship with Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier (played again by Sebastian Stan) is among the divisive factors in the plot.

Some new hero characters are introduced as well, and best left as surprises. Also, by now there are so many that a few heroes have to get rest. One major character is absent as his appearance would have apparently conflicted with developments in a future film.
Among the characters who are not comic book heroes, Daniel Brühl does a strong turn as a new villain called Helmut Zemo. He was recently in Colonia, a film about Chile in the 1970s. He has been mixing big action films with smaller art-house roles.

William Hurt turns up again, having been in The Incredible Hulk in 2008. His character is a bit different this time, having been promoted to US secretary of state. Hurt is a fine actor most of the time but doesn't make that much of an impression among the large cast. His odd haircut is his most memorable attribute.

Even though the characters admit that their violence in the past has not always brought the results that were intended, the new film is filled with large action scenes, this time in Lagos, in a Berlin airport and a Siberian lab.

The difference, though, is that much of it has good guys versus good guys, and it is not clear which ones to root for.

The audience is put in the position of wanting the action scenes to be shorter and less intense, so nobody would get hurt. But those hopes are in vain, as the huge action scenes are again the core of the film, and this entry clocks in at almost two and half hours — though it doesn't seem that long.

If you haven't seen a film from the Marvel universe, you may be a bit lost. The filmmakers don't waste much time on flashbacks and explanations. If you can't find Sokovia on a map, you may be a bit lost as to why so many people are concerned over what happened there. And knowing the story behind Winter Soldier also is essential for following the film.

As always, stay through all of the credits. There are two scenes that set up what you can expect in the upcoming films.

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