Superhero brother turns against superhero brother as the bonds of friendship and loyalty are stretched to their breaking point in the deeply satisfying colossal adventure, Captain America: Civil War.
Since the superheroes have fought to save the world, there has been tons of collateral damage, known and unknown. From stop-to-stop around the globe, The Avengers have thwarted evil but at what cost to the civilian population? The question is never more apparent than when several of the world’s elite crime-fighting unit find themselves in Lagos trying to stop Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo) from stealing a biological weapon. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) are hot on his trail until an unexpected tragedy occurs that leaves dozens of civilian casualties and is the final straw for the world community.
Under the direction of the Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), he informs them that the United Nations is prepared to pass the Sokovia Accords, which will establish an international governing body to monitor and police the rapidly growing superhuman population. As expected, this revelation splinters the formidable team into two factions, one that feels that stronger oversight is needed, led by Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and those who feel that government intervention is only the beginning of stricter control that will prohibit them from acting freely, a view championed by Rogers.
While The Avengers are sorting through the complex issues that divide them, a mysterious figure, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) is hatching an unknown plan to further divide them will use information that occurred 25 years earlier using someone close to one of the Avengers that will lead to a severe case of a house divided. As pressure mounts from Stark trying to convince Rogers to support the initiative, the death of someone close to him leads Cap to an important revelation that further strengthens his position to operate outside of the system that his friend, Tony supports.
Fast forward to Vienna as the accord is preparing to be ratified further tragedy strikes when a bombing kills King T’Chaka of Wakanda in front of his grief-stricken son, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who vows to kill the bomber, who security footage indicates is Bucky Barnes. Rodgers immediately goes into protection mode trying to locate the source that is creating the mayhem. Along with himself and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Captain America recruits The Falcon (Mackie), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and The Scarlet Witch (Olsen) as anti-accord supporters opposed by Iron Man (Downey), War Machine (Don Cheadle), The Black Panther (Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow (Johannson) and Spiderman (Tom Holland).
From Civil War through Winter Soldier to this story, Anthony and Joe Russo have explored Cap’s journey from patriot to insurgent, placing him in various situations that challenge his morals and internal makeup. Veteran screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The First Avenger, The Winter Soldier, and Civil War, Thor: The Dark World) have created a muscular yet layered screenplay that builds on the continuity of the two previous films but also successfully incorporates the entire history of relationships between the crime-fighting supergroup that feels not just familiar but draws you in because of the various relationships that have explored over the past eight years.
Their complete understanding of these characters, as well as their continuity, gives this franchise a familiarity unlike any other standalone character in the MCU. While the film deals with all of the interpersonal drama that each Avenger brings, Markus and McFeely don’t forget the action, which is absolutely jaw-dropping. There are several notable sequences where fans will almost jump out their seats at the sheer audaciousness of The Russo Brothers, who direct this story with plenty of reflection, zeal, and glee. Despite having twelve superheroes on screen, simultaneously, the Russos never give you the sense that any of them is minimized as they superbly capture the not just the action but humor as well between the combatants, creating the single best action sequence of the year.
This de facto Avengers Three story, not just strikes all of the right notes but has produced arguably the two best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that were NOT Avenger films. Their screenplay may be Marvel’s The Dark Knight as it explore friendship and loyalty in ways that DC Comics can only dream of achieving.
While the pairing of DC’s signature superheroes registered just a ripple on the excitement Richter scale, the Russo’s introduction of both The Black Panther AND Spider-Man to this franchise provides an electric jolt of excitement, not just in their appearances but the expanded role each played in moving this fantastic story along.
While the climatic battle of the titans was an awesome display to witness, the face-off between two friends and leaders, Cap and Iron Man, brought a certain sense of sadness. The uneasy feeling of division between two characters that have stood side-by-side for so long is a wonderful tribute to the work of not just the incredible screenwriters but the Russo Brothers, who have the audience so emotionally invested in the well-being of each character.
As each company fights for dominance with their superhero characters, one thing is clear, Marvel may not possess the star power of DC’s universe but they have mastered how to tell and frame the exploits of their heroes. To quote a famous comic book line, “you either die the hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” While it never quite reaches that level for Cap, Captain America: Civil War is a wildly entertaining cinematic dynamo, that is a visual feast as well as a triumphant and fitting celebration of one Marvel’s most popular characters.