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Captain America: Civil War is the Marvel throwdown we’ve been waiting for

Captain America: Civil War movie review

Nutshell: If you’re an MCU fan, you know you’re gonna see this, but wanna know if it’s actually any good. IT’S BETTER. If you’re not an MCU fan and wanna know if you should see it? There’s plenty of amazing battle scenes, as well as scenes that will have you feeling all the feelings, because the actions in this gutsy storyline have very real consequences.  So yeah, Civil War can satisfy fans and non-fans. What are you waiting for? Grade: A

I’ve been salivating over the idea of a Civil War storyline in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe, for folks who are still having trouble with all the acronyms) ever since they announced it back in 2014.  The idea that Marvel would make a film about the consequences of epic superhero throwdowns, and how dealing with those consequences shatter the Avengers, made me bounce in my seat.  Because let’s face it; as much as I love superhero movies, after a while it’s the same old Bad vs. Good punchfest we’ve seen a million times or more.  Adding themes of responsibility, the price of freedom, and what it means to be a hero?  Could reboot the entire franchise, and Civil War does just that. And it might just be the best thing Marvel has dropped into our lap so far.

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.  At least for the next paragraph.  Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

Synopsis: After the events in Sokovia, the Avengers are still going out and fighting the good fight.  But during a mission to stop a bad guy (Crossbones/Brock Rumlow), Scarlet Witch becomes “distracted”, causing the deaths of Wakandan aid workers.  The UN decides to ratify the “Sokovia Accords” (the “Superhero Registration Act” in the original Civil War comic book arc), with Tony Stark/Iron Man supporting the idea, and Steve Rodgers/Captain America deciding that having others telling them what to do could mean that superheroes could be prevented from doing the good they should if the powers-that-be deemed their actions unnecessary.  But the building is targeted by a bomber, leading to the death of King T’Chaka of Wakanda.  Heroes choose sides, and battle lines are drawn.

Civil War works on several levels.  First, it’s a knock-down, drag-out fight; a movie that takes every kid’s “who’d kick who’s ass” comic book conversations and plops up up on IMAX.  Because let’s face it; monster-on-monster movies are the best Kaiju movies, hands down. So of course seeing superheroes duking it out is boom-tastic. But knowing these superheroes after following their stories for years makes their feuding tough to watch. Picking a side though, well that’s easy; you’re either with Captain America and his stand for freedom, or you’re wrong.

But how can you cheer Iron Man, Black Panther et al. getting beat up by Captain America, Falcon and their crew? Well, you can’t.  These scenes are tough to watch because directors Anthony and Joe Russo manage to keep the bonds these characters feel for each other front and center.  They may be fighting, but they still feel the pull of friendship.  And while these battles are absolutely amazing – Ant Man in particular gets to show off his stuff in a big way – I couldn’t help but wish they’d stop fighting and band together again.  (Particularly heart-wrenching?  Seeing BFFs Black Widow and Hawkeye on opposite sides.)

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely inject plenty of humanity into the storyline, from Black Panther’s reasons for siding with Iron Man to the Big Bad’s reasons for being a Big Bad.  They also add in the requisite jokes and bonhomie between comrades we’ve come to know and love here in the MCU. Yeah, that mix of anger and humor doesn’t sound like it’d work, but whipsmart editing and a cast that knows their characters inside and out, Civil War leads the charge into MCU Phase Three beautifully.  Not only does Civil War stand on its own, but the aftermath of what happens here is sure to echo through the rest of this new Phase.

No spoilers, but the climax will break your heart.  And you’d better have a strong one, because that’s not the only time you’re heart will get put into a blender on frappé.  A major character we all know and love dies halfway through the film, and it’s gut-wrenching.  Or at least it is if you have a soul.  And there are many more moments that will have you clutching your popcorn, pearls or what have you.  In Civil War it’s not the story that’s the thing – this is basically a who’s in/who’s out thing – but how they get there, and why.  Here, the why is the thing.  And the behind the scenes craftsmanship, along with actors giving top-notch performances, make for a compelling two-plus hours.

Gotta say I’m glad to see Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff and Anthony Mackie’s Falcon/Sam Wilson get lead status here.  You know there’s more to them than what we’ve been given so far, and getting to know them even better – especially Falon and his kickass suit – is just what the movie doctor ordered.  After so many Marvel movies and TV shows, things can feel weighted down, or worse yet, dull.  Getting each character to decide where s/he stands is a great way to dig into their psyche, giving us heretofore unknown tidbits on who they really are.  Eight years into the MCU wonderland, that brings new life to the franchise.  Bonus: with getting to know these characters, I didn’t miss Thor or Hulk once.  (Okay, maybe Thor’s abs.  Sue me. But keep an eye out for Cap biceps.  Seriously, you’ll wanna catch that.)

Here’s the newbie rundown.  Spider-Man? As much as I feared this new revamp, Peter Parker feels like the high schooler  I remember. (And Marissa Tomei’s vivacious Aunt May is a nice 21st century upgrade.) He definitely makes his presence known in Civil War – everyone’s seen the Spidey-with-Cap’s-shield teaser – but Petey is the bumbling newbie he was when I read the comics and Sunday papers back in the day.  And there’s plenty left over for Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017.  Black Panther?  This is just…wonderful.  Chadwick Boseman is absolutely amazing as T’Challa (aka Black Panther).  His commanding but understated onscreen presence is powerful, and I can’t wait to see what he does when Black Panther hits theaters.  Plus, gotta love that suit!  I’m a sucker for retractable claws.  Just ask my cats.  And while we’ve seen Vision and Scarlet Witch in Ultron, it’s good to see their characters fleshed out a bit more here, as they bond (after all, both Witch and Vision are hyper-powerful beings) and choose sides.

As for the usual multiplex add-ons, definitely go IMAX. 3D isn’t necessary, but if you need it for your IMAX  thang, do it. You really wanna see this on the biggest screen possible. Let it all come at you large and in charge.  You’re welcome.

Sneaks after the film?  Most definitely.  There are the usual mid-credits & post credits sneaks. The after-credits song “Left Hand Free” is a groovy way to pass the time between the two. Oh, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for Uncle Stan.  I think this is my favorite cameo of his to date. Ranks right up there with Cap’s “Language!”`

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Denise Kitashima Dutton
Denise has been covering books, movies and music since 2003. She's hoping she'll get the hang of it any day now.