John Allegretti ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Empathy is the driving force behind Captain America: Civil War, a film that’s more of an Avengers outing than a Captain America one. This movie features tons of superheros, all of whom are motivated by the need to protect people. But when the death toll from Marvel’s previous films is tallied up, the U.S. Secretary of State (William Hurt) decides that the world’s superheros need to be placed under control in order to prevent more destruction. This idea is supported by Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a man who now uses his wealth to help shape the future rather than feed his ego. The person who opposes this idea, surprisingly, is Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), someone who feels the Avengers will lose their freedom once they lose control of who they can choose to help. Rogers is also out to protect his friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), the badass assassin from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. When a chain of events is set off by Bucky, characters are forced to take sides in a conflict that may have been orchestrated by someone behind the scenes with a very specific agenda.
Civil War is the 13th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the cinematic equivalent of an elaborate and well-constructed block tower. To understand how Marvel works you also have to understand the concept of “plussing”, an idea the studio borrowed from Walt Disney. Plussing is when you look at a good idea and say “This is great, but we can make it better”. The characters of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark have clear motivations, but what happens when you flesh out all of the other superheros in Civil War? To be clear, this includes Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Black Panther, War Machine, Vision, Hawkeye, Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Falcon, and Spider-Man. Handling all of these superheros seems impossible, but Civil War is somehow able to effortlessly juggle twelve separate characters throughout its 146 minute runtime. Even more impressive is what happens when the film drops them all into one big fight scene. Instead of being an absolute mess, the battle turns out to be coherent, inventive, and funny.
If there’s any downside to Marvel’s “plussing” fever, it’s the romantic subplots that these movies have. Age of Ultron had Black Widow and Hulk, and now Civil War tries to build a relationship between Scarlet Witch and Vision. This pairing ends up feeling neither developed nor organic, especially when you compare it to a movie like The Empire Strikes Back (which Civil War gleefully references in one of the big fight scenes). In Empire, Han and Leia’s romance is set up from the very beginning of the film and pays off later when the characters find themselves in terrible danger. Civil War makes the mistake of trying to use its romantic scenes for emotional effect minutes after they happen. If Marvel could set up romances the same way their future films are teased, the ball might not get dropped as much.
One thing Civil War does not drop the ball on is Spider-Man. Tom Holland is an amazing actor, and his performance is like Toby Maguire’s Peter Parker crossed with Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man. Holland’s version of the character wisecracks a ton but also has awkward moments, just like any teenager. The film also introduces us to the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), a claw-wielding cat who follows in the footsteps of cinema’s other great black superheros such as Blade (Wesley Snipes) and Storm (Halle Berry). Boseman plays the prince of the Wakanda nation who moonlights as a superhero, and has a very personal reason for getting involved in the conflict between Rogers and Stark.
Most of Civil War is an Avengers film with a small Captain America plot that moves things along efficiently enough. It’s a very funny and impressive character-based movie that turns out to be a little rough around the edges. This is a flaw found in many other Marvel films, and something critics have predicted will spell the end of the Cinematic Universe. People have sadly been talking about a tower collapse without bothering to admire a building where the architect has the courage to say “That’s great, but we can do better”.
Overall Grade: B+
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