Captain America: Civil War,
directed by Anthony & Joe Russo
(Walt Disney, 2016)

Everything comes to a head at a German airport, where two factions of the Avengers -- one led by Captain America, the other by Iron Man -- clash in a titanic superhero struggle.

It's awesome filmmaking, if you are at all a fan of the superhero genre. The clash among heroes -- many of whom are also close friends, now finding themselves on opposite sides -- is amazing to watch.

First, let's understand the setting. The Avengers are undisputed heroes who have saved many lives. But their actions also carry a huge price, not only in buildings collapsed and vehicles thrown, but also in lives that are sometimes caught in the crossfire. When a battle in Nigeria leads to the deaths of seven bystanders -- who died because of a very specific action taken by the good guys -- the United Nations steps in and says enough's enough. The UN wants to take the reins and call the shots for the Avengers from now on.

Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), favors the new accord, in part because of the guilt he carries from past actions. Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans) opposes the agreement, believing it will put the Avengers into the palm of people driven more by politics than justice. When Rogers' old friend James "Bucky" Buchanan, aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), is apparently responsible for a high-profile assassination and is targeted for death, Captain American goes rogue to save him and uncover the truth.

That leads to a major rift between factions, and heroes have to start choosing sides.

Besides the usual cast of Avengers, last seen together in Age of Ultron -- Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Paul Bettany as the Vision and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/the Scarlet Witch, with Thor and the Hulk MIA -- we have a couple of newcomers to the field. Chadwick Boseman is T'Challa, the new king of Wakanda, as well as the revenge-driven hero Black Panther. Paul Rudd is Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, who makes the leap from his recent solo film to his first team outing. And Emily VanCamp is Sharon Carter, also known as Agent 13, who is a holdover from S.H.I.E.L.D. and is a potential love interest for Cap.

And then there's Tom Holland, the latest incarnation of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, who makes a very entertaining entrance into the official Marvel Movie Universe from his lengthy exile with Sony. He is the youngest version of Peter we've seen, and his costume -- before Stark makes some modifications -- is more in line with what a teenager might come up with. (Also, his aged Aunt May, now played by Marisa Tomei, is surprisingly hot for the venerable Parker matriarch.)

There are villains, too, such as Crossbones and Zemo, and a questionable role played by Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), who was a general when facing the Hulk but is now the Secretary of State and rabidly anti-Avenger.

But these are all secondary to the conflict that pits Avenger against Avenger, and the movie here serves up pretty exciting stuff.

With this movie, the Marvel Movie Universe officially enters its third phase, and there are a lot of questions about what will come next. We have new heroes, such as Dr. Strange, entering the arena, while others, such as Ant-Man, are preparing for new solo films. Fans are clamoring for a Black Widow movie, which is looking more likely. It's not clear, however, how much longer stars like Downey and Evans will continue in their roles, although it's hard to imagine Marvel's cinematic world without them. If they do continue, it remains to be seen how the events of Civil War will affect their interactions in the future.

Meanwhile, I'm pretty eager to watch this one again.

review by
Tom Knapp

28 May 2016

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