Movie Review – “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

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With the abundance of super hero films out there, it is easy to forget that these heroes are imperfect like everyone else. Our imperfections and flaws are what make us human. We can be stubborn, emotional, vulnerable, forgetful and so many more that remind us we can pick ourselves up and learn from our mistakes. We like to think that super heroes are above that, but “Captain America: Civil War” shows us they might be more broken than others.

I have no problem saying this film might be just as good, if not better, than “The Avengers.” While that film gave us some great character moments where these larger than life icons work off one another and blast some aliens while they’re doing it, “Captain America: Civil War” brings them down to Earth and gives us the most human super hero movie so far, where every character is boiling with so much passion that it is blinding them.

While on a mission in Lagos, the Avengers accidentally cause a massive explosion that kills several innocent people and the world witnesses the whole thing. The team is approached by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and the Secretary of State, formerly General Ross (William Hurt), who has that the Avengers have far too much power for someone who sees no world boundaries and takes the law into their own hands, pointing out the many lives that were lost in the previous two Avengers films and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Ross proposes an agreement the team had to sign, stating that a team of world leaders would now decide when and where they would be deployed into action and always under close watch. The leader of the Avengers, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), can’t sign the papers, believing that the safest hands in the world are still their own. The team is splintered in two by all this, as the Captain’s old friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) reappears and seems to be up to his old diabolical acts again, but not of his own free will.

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Part of the reason I loved “Captain America: Civil War” so much is because you can see both sides of the argument. Iron Man’s side understands that the Avengers invoke challenge and competition across the globe, which causes chaos and destruction. If the Avengers didn’t have so much power, they wouldn’t have created Ultron and Sokovia wouldn’t have been destroyed, killing hundreds if not thousands of lives. They need to be put in check and reminded that they’re not all-powerful.

But, at the same time, Captain America’s side remains logical yet heroic. The Avengers didn’t cause the destruction of New York City in the first “Avengers” film, all they did was stop what was already coming. Cap’s side understands that lives have been lost, but even more would have died if they didn’t step in. They try to save as many lives as possible, but that doesn’t always mean they’ll save everyone.

Neither side is wrong, and both can be debated. That’s the beauty of this scenario.

This is fueled further by the ever-growing rivalry between Captain America and Iron Man, two very different heroes. One driven by kindness and intuition, while the other by his ego and technology. The two have never really gotten along, as they both see the world differently. In the past, they’ve gotten along due to the rest of the team, but now they’re forced to make a personal decision and their animosity towards each other explodes.

Part of the reason Iron Man’s side works so well is because of how emotionally unstable Tony Stark is throughout this film, thanks in no small part to Downey Jr.’s performance. He’s still beating himself up over Ultron, and by his own admission he “has worked non-stop,” no doubt trying to come up with better ways to save the world. This has caused Pepper Potts, his girlfriend in “Iron Man 3,” to break up with him.

Now he’s beginning to see how much of emotional train wreck he can be. So being reminded of the lives he’s destroyed thanks to his actions as Iron Man does not help. Keep in mind, in the first “Iron Man” film, once he found out his weapons were being used by the bad guys, he shut down all of his weapon manufacturers. While Tony has the biggest ego on the planet, he has a tendency to be hard on himself when he messes up, to the point that he has to start everything all over again.

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As the film progresses, this side of Tony becomes worse, to the point where he is endangering his friends and comrades for a personal vendetta and to prove that he’s always been right. Tony is almost tragic in this film, and its heart-wrenching to see a good man lose himself in his own rage and revenge.

In fact, if there were a theme throughout “Captain America: Civil War” it would be one of revenge. Many characters outside of Iron Man are acting out of anger towards the lose of loved ones, including the villain, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) and the newest hero Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). They’ve been consumed by the past and are unwilling to let it go to the point that vengeance is the only thing that matters, all while Captain America, a hero from the past, as learned to live in the now and not worry about history.

As for the new heroes, Black Panther was a wonderful addition. A hero that is one of the animalistic we’ve seen so far, while still being intelligent enough to figure out what his enemies are planning and wise enough to know when not to act. Then we have Spider-Man, who doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but is a blast to watch when he’s there. We get to see a vulnerable Peter Parker who is still unsure about what he should be doing, while getting the wise-cracking down perfectly that it doesn’t come as force.

If I did have one complaint with this Spider-Man it was the CGI used on his suit. Usually Marvel studios has great CGI, in fact the entire airport landscape for this film was entirely computer generated, but their Spider-Man was the worst effect of the film. Far too rubbery and didn’t always move in an human-manner. According to Marvel, there was no man underneath that suit while Spidey fought, only a computer image, and it really does show.

Outside of that, I think “Captiain America: Civil War” might be the funniest Marvel film in recent memory, in particular the titular war that occurs at an airport. Part of this is because it has Spider-Man, Ant-Man and Iron Man all in the same location and we just watch their natural snarkiness bounce off one another. Ant-Man had some of the funniest moments, like when he throws a toy truck at the opposing group and watches it explode, only to be disheartened that it wasn’t a water truck. Or when he gets inside of Iron Man’s armor and begins to rip it apart, while quickly turning into Jiminy Cricket for Tony.

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I didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did, partly because this is a film where friends and allies are trying to tear each other apart. Still, the quips weren’t distracting and brought some levity to dark scenario, something that “Batman vs. Superman” desperately needed.

Overall, “Captain America: Civil War” is one of the best Marvel films to come out yet. It gives us an emotional and down-to-earth super hero story while still capturing the fun and imagination that we’ve come to expect from these Marvel films. This one has some spectacular acting from Robert Downey Jr., Sebastian Stan and Chris Evans that help drive the sentimental and fiery moments throughout this film. This is a blockbuster where everyone can find something to enjoy, even if you’re not a fan of super hero movies.

Final Grade: A

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