Review: Captain America: Civil War

ChnmRGIWkAIhYv8 As a direct follow up to the critical and financial success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, directors Joe and Anthony Russo are back with the 13th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third movie is the Captain America trilogy. Tackling the famous storyline involving hero versus hero, isn’t an easy juggling act, but somehow the Russo brothers manage to make a superhero epic while making perhaps Marvel’s most personal and touching story.

Picking up after the events of The Winter Soldier, we are thrown into a scenario that works to establish the new team of Avengers since the 2015 mega team up event film, Avengers: Age of Ultron. We now find Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) working to stop an international terrorist Crossbones (Frank Grillo) from stealing some weapons in Lagos. Unforeseen circumstances arise and innocent people are killed in the collateral damage during the event. This creates an international outcry for these superheroes to be reigned in by the world’s governments. The event also sparks off a worldwide manhunt when Captain America’s former friend and notorious brainwashed assassin, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), is implicated in committing some terrorist acts during a United Nations meeting soon after. These events drag in the prince, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), of the secretive African nation of Wakanda into the mix as well. That’s a lot of setup, but it goes rather smoothly and works to bring everyone into what happens next.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) feels compelled to reign in the Avengers initiative after being confronted by the mother of a kid who was killed during the Sokovia events in Age of Ultron. The hard linking from one film to another in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is what truly makes this film work on many levels. When done correctly, each movie benefits from the great work of the previous and deepens the stories going forward. The fracture between Cap and Iron Man begin to show as the two are on opposite sides of the Sokovia Accords, an international agreement on how the superheroes will act in the case of some major event. Iron Man argues for getting on board so they can be properly managed. Cap argues that people run governments and they can’t be trusted to not be corrupted. This is a direct reference to the events of The Winter Soldier film. Again, this is Marvel’s big universe building benefit. The disagreement between the two heavy hitters makes sense not only in the context of this particular film, but across the events of the entirety of the universe that’s been building since 2008.

Other behind the scenes things are happening pushing all the heroes to their particular sides of the argument, and we get to see our heroes all express their reasoning for the choice they make in reference to the Sokovia Accords. The Russo brothers do a wonderful job in making this not just about two big guys punching one another, but also giving us the emotional weight behind it. As the teams form against one another we begin to feel like a kid seeing his or her parents fight, except you can’t help but to cheer in parts. The end of the second act culminates into a massive superhero versus superhero mega beat down and it totally delivers. A fine mix of great action, comedic beats, and emotion make it more than just punching and shooting for 30 minutes. One of the absolute bright spots of that second act is the newcomer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Newly acquired from the doldrums of the Sony micro-verse, Spider-Man is able to play in the big leagues like we’ve never seen him. Holland makes his debut and never stops running his mouth the entire time. Welcome home, Spidey! In the 30 minutes that the webcrawler is on screen we get the best version of the fan favorite character yet. Embodying all the childish fun nature, fanboy attitude towards other heroes, and goofball antics should make anyone who said they were sick of the character eat their words. Spider-Man’s inclusions proves one thing above all else, no one knows their properties better than Marvel. Holland’s first solo outing hits theaters in 2017, and I have no doubt it will be spectacular (pun intended). Another massive standout was Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther. The aloof African prince (for a time) who goes from quiet diplomat to absolute badass was easily one of my favorite things about this movie. Boseman carries this character as if he isn’t even acting. Special notice should be taken to how convincing and well done his African accent is in this film. While his solo film doesn’t come out until 2018, Civil War does a great job of giving us a mini origin story so that we can move directly into his larger universe quickly. His fighting style is unique, fast, and with some serious finesse.

In the last act of the film, we get the true motivation of our behind the scenes puppet master villain, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl). Zemo makes for one of Marvel’s best villains to date because he is subtle and not on a mission to end the world. There is no doubt that he is not a throwaway villain and will return in future installments. I look forward to more of Bruhl’s work, as I think the guy could be a massive star in Hollywood. Zemo is wonderful in securing the fractures between Iron Man and Captain America that surely will be around for sometime, and helps to end the film on a serious down beat. This is Marvel’s Empire Strikes Back, and that in and of itself is the best thing I can say about Captain America: Civil War.

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Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Marvel Studios has been an interesting experiment in franchise building since its first foray in 2008 with Iron Man. From the meager beginnings, the company has become a full fledge juggernaut with no signs of slowing down. Now into its second phase of movies, Marvel Studios is working to up the ante on all their known properties. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the third sequel of Phase 2, and it very well might be the best of the lot. Starring Chris Evans as Captain America, the movie takes on the ideas of corruption, raised stakes, and loyalty.

Directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, deliver an interwoven story that keeps the audience guessing while simultaneously not making things too confusing. Captain America: The Winter Soldier resembles 1970s spy action flicks in the best of ways. Slick technology, good looking and charming heroes, and villains who matches our heroes in equal measure. Winter Soldier is the pitch perfect example of how to keep these superhero genre films from going stale.

Our story begins with the first meeting of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). A great start to the movie with a light hearted connection between two characters who will become lifelong friends. Immediately following we are off to the races when Cap gets picked up by Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannsson) after being called in for a covert mission. Since the events of The Avengers, Cap has been working non-stop on covert missions for S.H.I.E.L.D. and he begins to question motivations of its leadership. When Cap is ordered to retrieve hostages from a hijacked ship our adventures truly begin and really never slow down for 2+ hours. With an appearance from George St. Pierre, famed MMA fighter, as Batroc the Leaper in the first 15 minutes the movie feels to have already surpassed its predecessor in style already; we haven’t even started yet! After the mission is complete, Cap’s suspicions are further validated and his trust in some characters begin to falter. Cap is then introduced to Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), a S.H.I.E.L.D. director, who asks Cap to go further then he has previously. Pierce is a very gray character and his motivations are simply too muddy to glean a clear picture. In an incredibly compartmentalized spy agency things begin to appear less than transparent. For a character like Captain America, these are the best stories. Muddled between what is right and what is his duty help with this type of character's exploration and makes him more interesting. However, even more than that is Cap’s past that just won’t stay dead.

When Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is attacked by a shrouded figure named The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), the spy world is thrown upside down. Cap works to find this elusive character and has some direct run-ins with him, which make for excellent action sequences. The level of action in this movie is sheer spectacle. Showing off more hand to hand combat was a major jump in the right direction. Lacking from Cap in his first outing and in The Avengers was his fighting ability. The Russo brothers fixed this and then some. Showing off Cap’s extensive physical ability as well as The Winter Soldier’s was fantastic. The pacing of the action was fast and intense. We didn’t get much shield throwing in the previous iterations of Cap, but here we get to see Steve Rogers really show off. You can now see why he is the leader of The Avengers, and not just a member.

At this point in time, Chris Evans is Captain America for me and many fans around the world. He will become synonymous with the role after people see this film. Evans is able to embody the pragmatic, no nonsense, and boy scout nature of Captain Steve Rogers. Anthony Mackie as the wise cracking partner of Cap was really great. The Marvel universe, and frankly comic book movies as a whole have lacked minority characters, but Mackie’s addition was greatly appreciated and I look forward to seeing more of him in the near future. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was better here and more explored than we’ve seen previously. Her character is getting more play in the gray area -- where she belongs. Last but certainly not least, Samuel L. Jackson has played it cool in all these movies with slick one liners, but The Russo brothers show you just why Nick Fury should be considered a badass. Its nice to see the top spy get some serious action moments.

In conclusion, Marvel Studios didn’t meet my expectations...they far exceeded them. Some argued that Captain America: The First Avenger was the weakest of the Phase 1 films. I wouldn’t agree, but what cannot be debated is whether Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best of Phase 2...it is. While a bold statement, I feel comfortable in saying that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best Marvel film to date, including The Avengers. Go see this movie immediately, it's your civic duty (even if you aren’t America).

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