“Welcome to the movies, how can I help you?”
“Can I get two tickets for the movie where one superhero thinks that people with such immense power have to be kept in check and the other superhero thinks that being required to answer to someone would prevent them from doing what they know to be right and these opposing viewpoints spiral out of control until they actually fight each other when they should be concerned about the villain’s plot?”
“Batman v. Superman?”
“No, the good one.”
Tony snarks, Steve is buff, and Clint does his best to actually keep up with all these super people. All is right with the world.
Captain America: Civil War hits an incredibly satisfying mix of drama and fun. The movie hits the ground running with an opening action scene that energizes you while laying the groundwork for the plot. Watching the Avengers interact with all their abilities and personalities is a joy. Every action scene from there forward is kinetic and filled with moments that had me clapping with enjoyment. It’s an amazing feat that a movie with no fewer than twelve superheroes manages to give each one at least one cool moment to shine. Some of the characters feel shoehorned in just to pad the numbers but end up being so entertaining that I’ll forgive the movie for that. Even the new characters are given just the right amount of exposition to make them a part of this universe. I already can’t wait for Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
But action doesn’t mean much if you don’t enjoy the characters caught in it. This is where these Marvel movies really excel. All of these people are complete and likeable. Marvel’s long game of establishing characters over years of movies is paying off in spades; the history behind the relationships on screen add weight to the entire ordeal. We understand why Steve and Tony would be on opposite sides because we know where they’ve come from. We feel heartbreak when they are at each other’s throats because we’ve seen them fight as comrades. The movie also knows that the audience is smart. It gives enough to help along those who may not be up on every facet of the MCU but it also leaves plenty of room for longtime fans to see between the lines.
With fun action and fun characters the movie is even effective when the S hits the F. There are moments when “things get real” and I feel for these characters. Writing, direction, and performance come together to sell the quieter dramatic moments better than a movie that is essentially a comic book grudge match has any right to. Civil War even plays with the theme of its title more effectively than I expected. Once the third act rolls around I thought I knew how things were going to go down but there was still a surprise in store for me. Remember, it can always get worse.
This review is shorter than my review for Batman v. Superman because that movie was so frustrating. Captain America: Civil War is not. It’s just plain great. This is the only movie from Marvel Studios that I’ll be reviewing during #366Flicks. I’m glad it’s one of their best. Marvel has been knocking it out of the park with their MCU; interconnected movies that reward regular viewers and stories that build on one another while still being entertaining in their own right. Some of the Marvel movies are better than others for sure, but even the worst ones I’d still call good. I’m sure they’ll be making these movies for years to come and for the time being I’m on board.
After thirteen movies I haven’t been let down yet.
Other movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):
Monsters University – This sequel about not accepting your limitations manages to carve its own story and give a message that feels unique from its predecessor instead of derivative and unnecessary. I went in expecting a cash in sequel and was surprised to find a movie that has some good messages, is cute for kids and not at all grating for adults.
Haywire – Before her breast was popping out while fighting Colossus, Gina Carano led this Steven Soderbergh spy flick from 2011. Double agents and triple crosses abound as Carano loses tails and cracks heads. An MMA fighter and former American Gladiator, Carano is given plenty of opportunity to show off her skills. The action is raw and dirty with little of the typical Hollywood flair. Unfortunately the rote spy story doesn’t support it very well. I found myself watching the fights and checking out for the rest.
The Forest – Natalie Dormer heads into a creepy Japanese suicide forest to find her lost twin sister. I’m a fan of stories with unreliable narrators. As the angry spirits of the forest mess with our heroine’s perception they also mess with what the audience can be sure is true. This kept me engaged while she used her twinternet connection to try and find her way. A woefully cliché ending doesn’t ruin this creepy ghost story.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – This sweet indie dramedy follows Greg, the titular Me, as he learns that joy, and pain, of letting people get close to you. All three of our central characters give charming and emotional performances. Funny bones and heartstrings alike will be engaged.