If some of the recent Marvel films (Avengers, Age of Ultron) left you wondering about the collateral damage that tends occur when superheroes and villains fight, Captain America: Civil War may slightly soothe your real-world conscience. In fact, there’s a pervasive sense of accountability running through the entirety of Joe and Anthony Russo’s Winter Soldier follow-up which, depending upon your outlook may be a welcome respite from the usual fare, or slightly dour and heavy-handed. But, before we go on, a ***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers ahead — if you’re looking to avoid character information and surprise character appearances, check back after you’ve seen the film. SPOILERS***
From the outset of Civil War, it’s clear this isn’t just another fun romp through Avengersland and in fact, provides some interesting reflection on our current social consciousness; to what extent does a particular superpower’s sense of right and wrong outweigh demands for the world community’s safety and security? Adding to the Ultron age of destruction, another attempt by the Avengers to stop an anger-fueled Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) from obtaining a biological weapon only ends in more death, giving rise to the call for restrictions on our superfriends. Leading the charge for Homeland Security *Plus* is rabid Secretary of State, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), who informs the gang a new United Nations accord is demanding a reckoning, a governmental hand to guide the Avengers’ decisions and actions; they can either agree and sign away their free-range powers, “retire,” or go off the grid. Seemingly spurred by a single grieving mother (Alfre Woodard), Tony makes the uncharacteristically unselfish decision to leash himself, and it’s the start of the break right down the middle of team Avengers.
By the time the split-decision sends Widow to Vienna where another catastrophic event sets up brainwashed (Hail, Hydra) Bucky as perennially perilous, and the cause of nearly everyone’s need for vengeance, the film has settled into a semi-sluggish nook that threatens the escapism so many of us were longing for. A short sentimental aside leads Steve back to Sharon Carter, who reminds Cap to follow his gut, even when every outside force seems to be going against him; like Stark — with whom Rogers has always clashed — Cap takes (Sharon’s passed-on) advice to heart. Despite all evidence pointing in Bucky’s direction, Steve believes the best of his childhood friend, and as a new enemy carries out his detailed plan (more vengeance!) the rest of the (metric shit ton of) Avengers take their sides. Black Widow, Rhodey, and an oddly, dare I say emotional, Vision — who at Tony’s behest, holds Wanda hostage for a time — align with Stark, and it is just when he makes a side trip to bring on a new recruit that things take a much-needed lighter turn.
It’s here that I’ll interject a whoop and a cheer for Marvel’s latest casting coup, and like a sharp, cool breath for both audience and Robert Downey Jr., Tom Holland’s introduction as Peter Parker flips the whole slog upside-down. Like a joyous toddler taking his first wobbly steps, Parker’s excitable “Spiderling,” and “unusually attractive” Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), bring back the spark to Tony’s eye and it is here the Russo wit begins to flow. A much-needed flood of delightful one-liners flow throughout the rest of the movie, reminding how necessary humor is to the MCU (admittedly, that Whedon dialogue is sorely missed). If Parker’s (and Holland’s) youth is the free-flowing elixir Civil War needed, Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa brings the necessary gravitas, fierce and grounding, but not in that over-the-top way that RDJ has a tendency to (self) serve. His Black Panther is sleek and elegant, furious and fast at times, but also measured — T’Challa isn’t driven by emotion alone. Jointly, their fresh perspective lends exactly the balance the Avengers require, and while Tony and Steve butt heads over Bucky — truly a well-played torn and broken soldier by Sebastian Stan — Spidey and Black Panther steal the show.
When all the revelations are made and the infighting is at least temporarily done, the superhero damage isn’t only external, and injuries are major…lasting; friendships permanently affected or broken.
While Iron Man was more flexible than his moniker might indicate, Captain America stuck to his guns, and like the team our allegiances may be split; there is no black and white, only a muddied and dusty moral landscape to be consistently surveyed. The line between sides may be less blurry, but as in real-world conflict, neither are the major powers truly willing to concede.
“And I wonder when we’re ever gonna change it, living under the fear until nothing else remains.”
Chris Evans again did a fine job as Cap, the weight of the world heavy on his gorgeous shoulders.
“Tony Stank” is my favorite, and I’d really like to see Iron Man and Aunt May on a date.
Aside from Spider-Man’s often hilarious involvement in the big fight scene, Bucky getting hold of that motorcycle was by far the most amazing action moment.
Well, and this:
Paul Rudd is adorable, but I just cannot with Ant-Man. Too stupid.