In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I really wouldn’t consider myself a Marvel or comic book fanboy, but as I read my own gushing praise and geeky enthusiasm for this movie, I might have to rethink that.”
“This job… We try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn’t mean everybody. But if we can’t find a way to live with that, next time… Maybe nobody gets saved.”
Marvel Studios really has cracked the code. I read comic books for a few years as a teenager, but I’m in no way an authority of devotee. To me, the already massive, ever expanding Marvel cinematic universe is filled with movies that are all basically the same. The names of the characters might change, and the objects of desire they’re trying to keep from their interchangeable villains might be different, but strip away the surface level stuff, and there’s really no difference between a movie about The Avengers, compared to one about The Guardians of the Galaxy, or the latest offering starring Thor. Yet for all of that, I can’t help loving the ride every single time I take it. Which just happened once again, with Captain America: Civil War.
After the events of The Avengers: Age of Ultron saw an entire city ripped from the earth, raised to the sky and thousands killed, the US government, represented by Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), decides it’s time for enhanced humans like the Avengers to come under the control of the United Nations. The two alpha Avengers are split on this, with Iron Man / Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), in favor, and Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) firmly against.
Still looking for the Winter Soldier, revealed in the last Captain America to be his old friend from WWII Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Cap is determined to run his operations his way, with no government sanctions required. After Barnes is the supposed guilty party in the assassination of King t’Chaka (John Kani), leader of the African nation of Wakanda, the call for control of these enhance humans only becomes louder.
Soon, the heroes’ roster introduced over the last decade or so of Marvel movies is split down the middle. Ironman, War Machine (Don Cheadle as James Rhodes), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romnaoff) and Vision (Paul Bettany), along with new recruit Spider-Man (Tom Holland as Peter Parker) have singed the new accords to come under United Nations control. While Captain America goes rogue in the hope of saving his old friend, backed up by Falcon (Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd as Scott Lang) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff). Plus, the son of the late King t’Chaka (Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa), arrives as Black Panther, determined to take down the Winter Soldier as revenge for his father’s death.
That is so much more plot and so many more words than I usually like to dedicate to a synopsis for one of my reviews. But it really is just the basic setup. With a dozen or so movies before it in this epic franchise, there’s so much back story and character motivation to pull from and build on, that even with that extended summary, I barely scratched the surface of the specifics that fuel Captain America: Civil War. I never even got around to mentioning the villain and the part they play. Yet, with all of that, I never found it bloated, convoluted, messy or unfocused. Instead, I just found it all sorts of fun.
Like every Marvel movie to come before, I never gave a single crap about the details of the movie’s bad guy, what they wanted, or why the good guys were trying to stop them from getting it. Those sorts of specifics just don’t matter to me when it comes to these movies. What does matter, is seeing the interactions between the amazing ensemble cast this universe has built over the years. It’s also great getting to see them play a new side to these relationships. There are still plenty of quippy, motor mouthed exchanges of one liners and zingers, but there are also real moments of emotion when Tony Stark and Steve Rogers realise just how fundamentally they disagree, and the betrayal they both feel when the other refuses to back down.
And amongst all of that payoff from years’ worth of relationship building, every one of the newer characters makes sure they more than justify their inclusion as well. There’s the light hearted, self awareness of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, and brooding intensity of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, they bring the perfect amounts of light and shade exactly when needed. And everything about this version of Spider-Man is just perfect. From the way it’s written, to the way Tom aolland Holland delivers the unabashed teenaged enthusiasm of Peter Parker makes me genuinely excited about yet another reboot of the Spider-Man franchise… As long as they don’t bore us with the character’s third big screen origin story in 15 years.
I really wouldn’t consider myself a Marvel or comic book fanboy, but as I look back at the preceding 850 words of gushing praise and geeky enthusiasm, I might have to rethink that. I know that Captain America: Civil War is formulaic. I know that it’s massive success is a bad thing for cinema overall, as more and more studios will continue to make more and more movies exactly like it, instead of trying to find original stories about original characters. But I also know that Captain America: Civil War is just pure entertainment that delivers.