Published July 1, 2016 for the film review site I created, Crowd vs. Critic. Each film is reviewed twice, once from the Crowd perspective for its entertainment value (Popcorn Potential) and once from the Critic perspective for its Artistic Taste.
The Avengers’ approval ratings are plummeting. On their latest mission, they foiled the bad guy’s plot with a level of collateral damage that would have fit right in with his plan. If you’ve seen any of the Avengers’ last few big screen outings, you know this isn’t the first time innocent life has been lost on their watch. In fact, it’s tallied high enough to make the world wonder if they’re saving the day at all.
When the Secretary of State (William Hurt) presents the team with the Sokovia Accords (named for the site of destruction in The Avengers: The Age of Ultron), it’s an attempt to bring the heroes—or vigilantes, depending on whom you talk to—under the umbrella of the United Nations. The U.N. would determine the squad’s itinerary, if they give them one at all. Some of the group hardly needs convincing. “We need to be put in check,” Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) decides. “Whatever form that takes, I’m game.” Others see it as a Catch-22. “It runs by people with agendas, and agendas change,” Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) counters.
As those two charge the ideological battlefront, another threat arises: Steve’s old pal Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) resurfaces, apparently the mastermind behind a terrorist attack in Vienna. Now the fight for safety is personal for Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers are picking sides.
Whew…did you get all that? Those three paragraphs didn’t even cover the subplots about revenge and family secrets, the flashbacks, or the villain. This movie weaves enough storylines to sustain an entire season of a network TV drama, and I’m confident the question, “Who’s that again?” has never been asked more times in one sitting.
Yes, Captain America: Civil War is a spectacle to behold. Marvel’s longest flick yet. 10 superhero lead characters. At least six plot lines of future movies teased. Cap’s third outing (really, the Avengers’ third outing) is filled to the brim.
And as I said about The Avengers, I’m impressed it’s not just a hot mess. The action consistently excites with wow-worthy moments. The right characters get to be funny at the right times. (Paul Rudd might singlehandedly be keeping my interest in these superheroes.) And though his reappearance would have felt more triumphant if Andrew Garfield’s duology never happened, even our new Spider-man (Tom Holland) shows promise.
Still, I can’t help but wish for a little less spectacle. If the last half hour were cut, we still would have ended in the same place: with enough loose ends to advertise three more movies. Removing a plot hole the size of Iron Man’s ego, an underwhelming last-minute plot twist, and a forgettable villain could have cut that time, but at this point, those flaws are almost givens in the Marvre, so they may not be deal breakers for you.
Civil War is also the first movie in the Marvre that rewards fans who have sat through every episode. Conflicts that have been escalating in the Captain America, Iron Man, and Avengers series finally come to a head here. Missing any of those seven chapters impacts your understanding of the plot, and six of the current Avengers lineup have only been introduced in the last 2 years of movies.
Bottom line: Just like this review, Captain America: Civil War could have been trimmed down a little. (Though I’m sure a significant chunk was deleted from the original cut, also like this review.) On the plus side, it’s stuffed with everything you’re hoping for in a super-sized action movie.
If you have kept up with Marvel movies: 9/10
If you haven’t kept up with Marvel movies: 7/10
Blue vs. Red.
Freedom vs. Accountability.
“If I see a situation pointed South, I can’t ignore it,” vs. “If we can’t accept limitations, we’re no better than the bad guys.”
Captain America vs. Iron Man.
In Hollywood, it’s one of the biggest on-screen clashes this side of any lightsaber duel. (By all secondhand accounts I’ve heard, Batman vs. Superman didn’t count in the least.) But the fray between the First Avenger and the Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist isn’t just a macho showdown or a battle of frenemies. It’s a conflict of views on government oversight and the appropriate amount of involvement in world affairs.
Not that Captain America: Civil War takes a bold stance on the issues. No, that would be too big of a financial risk to alienate half of the country’s potential ticket buyers. Then again, maybe its commentary is really on how we handle conflict.
In the middle of the Avengers’ brawl that made up the grand finale of almost every trailer, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) asks mid-punch, “Are we still friends after this?” “Depends on how hard you hit me,” Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) half-jokes. That becomes the central question for Iron Man, Captain America, and all of the other Avengers: Can they stay friends and allies even when they disagree? From there, the obvious question follows: Who or what are they willing to lose in the name of their principles?
Wait, did a Marvel movie just become the best metaphor for our current political climate? Well, it’s more accessible than Oscar bait like Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker, or American Sniper anyway (even if all of those Oscar nominees feature at least one Marvel hero in the cast). These superheroes’ polarized politics are almost too relevant to the debates we have in courthouses, Senate floors, and online in the real world.
Bottom line: Maybe I’m giving Marvel too much credit, but the credence they lend to both red and blue views is a refreshing, much-needed reminder in this year’s heated election cycle.
ARTISTIC TASTE: 7/10
Photo credits: IMDb.com