Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR | PG-13 | 146 min
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Emily VanCamp, Daniel Brühl, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo,
Well, kids. With the release of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, we’re officially soaking in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Phase Three” – and boy do directors Joe and Anthony Russo open the third block of superhero films in a killer, kick-ass fashion. Just like their previous film, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, the brothers give ethical conflicts just as much pathos as the calibrated action. While it’s immensely entertaining and has a biting sense of humor to boot, the film feels more like an AVENGERS series film than a stand-alone Cap pic.
The spoiler-free plot: Our favorite band of tight-knit heroes is divided over the “Sokovia Accords,” a peace treaty/ government action that puts the Avengers under the command of all nations. Half the squad sides with Iron Man/ Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in begrudgingly accepting the new checks on their considerable power. #TeamIronMan includes James Rhodes/ War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The other half, led by Captain America/ Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), is determined to retain the group’s independence. Those #TeamCap dissenters include Sam Wilson/ Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wanda Maximoff/ Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Clint Barton/ Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). The latter group is forced to go rogue to combat an emerging threat brought on by Cap’s bestie Bucky Barnes/ The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and a mysterious baddie (Daniel Brühl).
It’s sort of funny that CIVIL WAR is the second film this year about the fallout caused by the collateral damage from superhero battles (after BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE). The Marvel entry is far better, but still. It’s almost as if DC and Marvel both read the same nerd-blogger ‘think piece’ and decided to address said moral/ ethical conundrums. However, this is a conceit forged from the comics. The ship, er, helicarrier has been headed in that direction the entire time.
Unlike the prior AVENGERS film we saw last Summer, new characters and their backgrounds are worked in far more effortlessly than ULTRON’s ham-handed, kitchen sink approach. There are no tangential storylines or overarching lore (like those stupid infinity stones) clumsily shoe-horned into the narrative. That’s not to say there’s not a lot going on. There is, and it can be a wee bit difficult to track it all. We get to take our time with (meow!) T’Challa/ Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Peter Parker/ Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) introductions. Panther’s arc got me revved up to see what his stand-alone film will entail. This Spider-Man is guaranteed to wash out the bad taste in your mouth from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN series. Baddie Bruhl proves to be a formidable foe. Even in a smaller role, Crossbones (Frank Grillo) impresses. Plus it’s wonderful to see another strong female character further develop her own voice – in this case, Sharon Carter (Emily Van Camp).
Perhaps the best, most memorable part of the film comes late in the second act – and it’s where the movie really takes flight. Marvel superfan or not, I dare you not to have a slap-happy look on your face during the abandoned airport sequence where all the superheroes, whose dividing line is literally scorched into the Earth (earning an “oh, honey” for non-subtlety), face off against each other. It’s the best use of well-established characters blending with the new crew and it’s freaking awesome. The Russos capture the mounting action, character development and humor in a coherent way particularly well here. Otherwise, the chase through the marketplace looks like BOURNE generic shakey-cam, as does the hyper-cranked quality in the almost Hitchcockian-inspired, parkour-infused “reverse RAID” sequence with Cap in Bucky’s Bucharest hovel.
It might be too soon to tell, but I think Marvel’s third phase has already corrected itself on using death and reincarnation as dramatic devices. It seems to break the rules to make up new ones – and I’m more than okay with a little shake-up of their formula.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR opens on May 6.
Photo credit: Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War..L to R: Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan)..Photo Credit: Film Frame..© Marvel 2016