When listing the credits for Captain America: Civil War, it was mighty tempting under "Starring" to simply put "Everyone." I mean, seriously, who isn't in Captain America: Civil War?
Philip Seymour Hoffman? Maybe?
I wouldn't be surprised if even he shows up somewhere in an Easter egg.
I mean, seriously. When did the Marvel Universe become so damn universal?
Here's the thing. It works. I admit this somewhat begrudgingly, but it's hard to picture too many devotees of the Marvel Universe being unhappy with anything that unfolds in this nearly 2 1/2 hour long widely anticipated adventure that plants more seeds than Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Captain America: Civil War is neither as brilliant as some will proclaim it to be nor is it anywhere near a middle-of-the-road popcorn flick. In fact, Captain America: Civil War is a damn near perfect popcorn flick, though it is worth saying that it is, in fact a popcorn flick.
In short, Captain America: Civil War serves up one hell of a good time but if the words "one of the best films ever" are flying out of your mouth then you'd best be a pre-teen, a masturbatory fanboy or a film critic prepared to fork over your journalistic credentials. After a year that has already brought us the satisfying self-importance of Batman v. Superman and the humorous nihilism of Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War is Marvel at the top of its game offering up what may very well be its finest cinematic effort yet and, at minimum, a film certainly in its top three.
If you can't tell by the film's title (You can? Can't you?), Captain America: Civil War has at its core a conflict brewing between the Marvel Universe's major players. Since we're playing another round of Mr. Obvious, it should also be readily apparent that one side of that conflict is led by Captain America, that purveyor of perfect smiles, and the other by Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark/Iron Man, who loudly proclaims to Cap ""I'd like to punch you in those perfect teeth,"
The issue that triggers the conflict? Collateral damage.
No, silly. Not the Tom Cruise movie.
We're talking about the serious collateral damage when these superheroes do superhero things that don't quite always end up with superheroic results. You know? Like people die? A LOT of people die? A lot of buildings fall? A lot of, well, collateral damage is done?
But hey, they mean well. So that makes it okay, right?
Apparently not for Secretary of State, played with appropriate bluster by William Hurt, though I could have sworn I saw Trump Tower somewhere in the background. So, it's decided that these superheroes, if they are to continue being superheroes, must somehow be held accountable under the "authority" of the United Nations.
Um, yeah. About that idea.
Stark/Iron Man? He's actually kind of okay with the whole idea being that he's still dealing with the guilt over that whole Sokovia debacle.
On the other hand, the usually agreeable Cap has a major problem with the idea.
Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) align themselves with the charismatic Cap'n. Not particularly surprisingly, War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Vision (Paul Bettany) and, in a non-spoiler, Spider-Man (Tom Holland), a newcomer to the Marvel Universe.
It also shouldn't be a surprise that T'Challa, also known as Black Panther, shows up and seemingly baffles everyone while Cap's longtime BFF Bucky (Sebastian Stan), also known as Winter Soldier, both gives and receives ample doses of conflict.
If you've followed the entire series, and you have, then you already know that the Russo brothers, Joe and Anthony, have taken over directorial duties for the epically building series and aren't, in fact, leaving anytime soon. In some ways, it felt like we spent the first hour of Captain America: Civil War helping them catch up so we could move on with things. Once we did move on, Civil War was pretty much a non-stop blast.
Captain America: Civil War may be too long and too much and too, at times, convoluted, but the Marvel universe is such a relational universe and such a consistently developed universe that one almost wishes the teams behind Hunger Games and the increasingly awful Divergent films would have taken a graduate level course in Marvelology (I made that up!) as a way of figuring out how to effectively develop multiple threads that actually mean something and actually go somewhere! Somehow, despite nearly impossible odds, Captain America: Civil War is both convoluted yet in the end makes perfect sense.
That was painful to admit.
Robert Downey Jr., who seems to have bounced out of his master thespian phase and full-on into his "I can't believe they pay me this much effin' money" phase, manages to dish up a nicely shaded and more emotionally complex Stark/Iron Man than we've seen yet in these films. Similarly, Chris Evans adds layers of emotional honesty and spark to Cap that help to give Captain America: Civil War an emotional resonance that sits comfortably alongside all those high-tech action sequences. Chadwick Boseman is a welcome newcomer as T'Challa/Black Panther, proving once again that Boseman is one of Hollywood's best of the up-and-coming actors. Tom Holland steals just about every scene he's in as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Both Boseman and Holland have upcoming stand-alone films - I can't wait.
Captain America: Civil War isn't a flawless film, though I'm guessing most diehard fans will be more in awe of it than newcomers to the Marvel universe. As a non-fanboy, I was completely geeked out by Holland's Spider-Man, but I had little trouble both enjoying the film immensely and recognizing the errors of its ways.
Despite some modest reservations, there's little denying that there's much to enjoy here in a film that does right just about everything that Batman v. Superman did wrong, though I happen to be one of the few film journalists who also gave Batman v. Superman a modest thumbs up. Intelligent, insightful, consistent and the perfect balance of action-packed meets emotionally meaningful, Captain America: Civil War sets everything up and makes sure that we absolutely fall for it.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic