Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Rudd, Daniel Brühl, Tom Holland

This is the thirteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The number 13 is typically an unlucky number for some, yet Marvel is in top form with its third Captain America film. With so many characters it may seem like the next Avengers film, but Captain America/Steve Rogers (Evans) and the relationship he has with best friend Bucky Barnes (Stan) is front and center. Bucky’s known as The Winter Solider and has been on the run following the events of the previous film, The Winter Soldier. He is believed to be the man responsible for an explosion at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna killing the Nigerian leader. Steve knows that Bucky wasn’t behind the explosion and seeks to find him before the authorities catch him. The man behind the explosion is Captain Helmut Zemo (Brühl) who’s after secret HYDRA reports from a December 1991 mission involving Bucky.

This isn’t the only problem plaguing Steve; the Avengers are starting to unhinge after witnessing and realizing their actions and attempts at saving the world come with a cost. Many innocent lives have been taken and an incident in Lagos, Nigeria left a shattering death toll. This all leads to the creation of the Sokovian Accords. If this passes, it would mean that the Avengers are no longer a private organization. The government would step in and control them. This concept drives a sharp divide between Captain America, Iron Man/Tony Stark (Downey) and the rest of the Avengers.

For those following along closely at home, we have now entered Phase 3 of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Marvel continues to make smart choices with the direction of their franchises. The Winter Soldier has been lauded as one of the best in the franchise, so it was a wise move for producer Kevin Feige to keep that creative team in place with directors Joe and Anthony Russo and writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Marcus. As I think back on the entire Marvel canon, the Captain America entries have been the strongest and most consistent as they continue to evolve and raise the stakes for our central characters. You can’t just keep making the same “good guys vs. villain” film over and over or else they start to all feel the same. To a certain extent we have that here with Daniel Brühl in the villain role. The real conflict and heart of the movie falls with Steve’s relationship with Bucky and the core group of Avengers. Like many long-lasting friendships, there are times when you realize you vehemently disagree on a position. The film tackles that very concept and it’s a sharp move to ask the audience to take on that journey of how we act when we’re wrong but think we’re right. There’s an impactful image of each side lining up as if they are in a shootout at the O.K. Corral.

A majority of the fan favorite characters are back with the exception of Thor and the Hulk. Steve continues to play the role of loyal friend to Bucky as that’s the one friendship he can’t let go of from his past. It’s easier for him to turn against Tony. This is Robert Downey Jr.’s sixth film playing Tony, and we’re starting to see a very different side to the character. He’s worn down, exhausted, and no longer the hotshot playboy that we’re used to from previous films. He’s really starting to feel the ramifications of what Iron Man has done to his personal life with Pepper Potts and the lives that have been taken due to the Avengers.

Civil War also acts as the introduction to new heroes who will be getting future movies in Phase 3. Chadwick Boseman (42, Get on Up) is donning the claws as T’Challa/Black Panther. T’Challa’s father is the Nigerian leader who is killed in the U.N. attacks. It’s a relief to feel like he is given a proper arch in the film with a true conflict at hand against Bucky. The other noteworthy appearance is that of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. There had been some studio disputes involving the rights to the character who was previously played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. While it seems redundant to have yet another Spider-Man, Kevin Feige is taking a new spin on the character by reminding the audience he is actually a high school kid. This time he’s played with a spritely sense of humor by newcomer Tom Holland with Marisa Tomei popping up as lovable Aunt May. For those who were hesitant or feared he was a one-scene cameo, he is given more to do than what’s been shown in the trailers.

This film clocks in at being the Marvel film with the longest runtime at 146 minutes. In case you hadn’t noticed yet, the film has a lot of ground to cover with the multiple storylines and characters. It all coalesces together well without feeling gimmicky or a ploy to add unnecessary characters which I was originally afraid of with all of the hype surrounding the film. This can easily happen when screenwriters try to bite off more than they can chew, but I never felt lost or confused by their choices. The pace is kept up and never drags, as the action sequences are swift yet controlled in how they are edited together. I never felt like any of them suffered from being too long, which plagued Avengers: Age of Ultron and many other superhero films like DC Comics’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

I’m drawn to the superhero movies that feel like they have plausible stakes at hand. I am far more invested when the emotion and conflict is grounded in reality. Yes, you can have fun with a man who can shrink down in size, use a deadly shield, or fly around in an iron suit, but finding the proper balance is key. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have masterfully crafted their film and found that balance. Despite the serious tones and heavy weight put on Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, there is still so much humor in the film thanks to the witty script and comedic entries of Paul Rudd as Ant-Man and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. It’s a globe-trotting spectacle which fully utilizes every Avenger, side hero, and villain along the way. Just when you thought you might need a break from the superhero genre, it pulls you back in again. I need to find time in my calendar to see it a second time.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It’s the best Marvel film in years.


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