Directors Anthony and Joe Russo revitalized Marvel Studios — which wasn’t in dire straits to begin with — when they put together “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” They continue to bring their winning formula of smart storytelling with wildly frenetic action in the third and latest in the series — “Captain America: Civil War.”
It’s no small accomplishment juggling a dozen superheroes, one villain, and assorted supporting cast and still tell a coherent, compelling story while still delivering plenty of exhilarating action scenes as well as heartfelt character moments. It’s no wonder the duo have been tapped to take over “The Avengers” franchise.
So, in the wake of the last big Marvel film — “Avengers: Age of Ultron” — the world, along with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), is feeling a mite skittish about people with enhanced abilities. The final straw takes place in Nigeria after an operation involving the new Avengers — Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) ends in tragedy.
The world’s governments put together the Sokovia Accords, which would require the Avengers and any other superheros to register and work for an international governing body if they want to use their powers in public. Cap refuses to sign the accords, feeling government control of superheroes would be a bad thing. Much discussion follows and alliances are formed.
When the time comes for the accords to be publicly unveiled, an explosion rocks the building where the ceremony is taking place. The No. 1 suspect in the bombing is Cap’s old friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), a.k.a. The Winter Soldier. Cap is determined to clear his friend’s name, but to do so means going up against Iron Man, those Avengers who stand with him, and newcomers Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
Every superhero story must have its villain, and for this one the role goes to Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl). While most actors playing villains deliver outlandish performances, Bruhl is always calm and understated. And unlike most villains, he seems to have accomplished his goal.
“Captain America: Civil War” is sooooooo much better than the comic that inspired it. The action scenes are filled with incredible moments — from the opening sequence to the free-for-all at the airport to the final, brutal face-off between Cap, Iron Man and Bucky.
It is amazing how cleanly the Russo brothers pull together such a complicated tale with so many characters and yet give everyone a chance to shine. Sure, some people get more screen-time than others but no one is left with nothing to do. Oh granted, there’s not enough Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), but that’s probably just me.
Newcomers Boseman and Holland prove themselves worthy of joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m not sure if I’m going to get used to Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. She’s just too…you know…not Aunt May.
Despite its large cast, the focus is still on Steve Rogers, his strong moral code, and the difficult places it takes him. Evans continues to shine in the role, and Downey also impresses as his usually lighthearted character goes down a dark path.
In fact, while there are plenty of comic moments, this is a darker Marvel film than audiences will be used to — especially in the final act. That final segment, while truly gripping, hinge on what I consider major suspension of disbelief. And it has nothing to do with superpowers. I’ll leave it there.
“This story changes everything” is a tired, overused phrase in the comic book world, but “Civil War” really does leave our heroes in a much different place than they started. It will be interesting to see how things play out in the future.