Captain America: Civil War – Could It Be the Best Comic Book Film Ever Made?
Marvel recently celebrated eight years of making their cinematic universe which started with Iron Man way back in 2008. Since then, they’ve produced 12 successful films broken up into two phases, with each phase introducing new characters and further progressing an underlying connected storyline. This weekend, Captain America: Civil War, the third entry into the Captain America franchise, opened in theaters and began phase three for the MCU, which will be the longest yet at ten possible films! The film is based on the incredibly famous Civil War comic book series run, which ran for only seven issues itself, but crossed over into so many other Marvel comic series and affected numerous superheroes and villains, the entire run actually lasts more than 100 issues! Of course, thanks to several movie studios owning the rights to other Marvel characters, such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four, and the fact that even if they didn’t, it would be absolutely bonkers to try and fit all of those characters into one film, the film solely focuses on the Avengers characters which we already know in the MCU (minus Thor and Hulk), while also introducing us to Black Panther and Spider-Man. Now, this may seem small in comparison to what took place in the comics, but I assure you, the story, subject matter, and emotion are anything but. Here is my spoiler free review!
Civil War takes place after the two major incidents of the Avengers films, where mass destruction happened in two major locations thanks to the Avengers fighting the bad guys. Then, much like the comic run, as expected, a serious incident happens in a very public location which involves the Avengers and causes the world to reevaluate how they feel about superheroes stepping in when the world is in need of help. Are the casualties and damages worth the ‘safety’ they provide? Should they be put in check? As seen in the previews, a bill is put together to have the heroes register, therefore making them answer to the government and no longer a private organization. This development splits the team in half over what is the right thing to do; therefore, we witness a ‘civil war’ within the Avengers organization. People choose sides, new characters are introduced, fights ensue, jokes are made, and emotions are tested.
The Russo Brothers have followed up their first Marvel installment, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, arguably one of the best of the Marvel films, with its sequel and trilogy topper, Civil War. These are two directors who really understand how to handle the material and its characters. While they do adapt an existing storyline, they do so loosely by choosing the best parts and making it work for their story and the MCU. Their Civil War is not the Civil War you have read in the comics. However, it does pay homage to it in multiple ways. To have done a true adaptation would’ve been a nightmare and something Marvel would not have been able to accomplish for years to come, but this adaptation is just as good, if not better than the comic storyline.
As with most of the Marvel films, Civil War balances its story, action and humor very well. In the past, we have had superhero movies that try to fit in too many characters within one movie and more often than not, the film feels convoluted and rushed. The X-Men series aside, it wasn’t really until The Avengers did we see that it was possible to have so many characters work side by side in one film and be balanced so well. Civil War is no exception. It helps that we’ve known most of these characters for at least five years and have watched them developed through their past film entries. At the same time, having all of these characters in this movie ran the risk of it feeling more like an Avengers film instead of a Captain American film. However, that is not the case. Even though we have all of these characters fighting, it still very much is Steve Rodgers’ story and never once felt like it wasn’t his movie.
In any sort of movie like this, audience members are bound to choose a side, even if one of the main characters names is in the title of the film. Many will choose their favorite character over the other, others who know the storyline ahead of time will choose based on their beliefs of which side is the correct side to be on. For me, it was difficult to decide because both arguments have fair points, which is what creates a good debate. Civil War is exactly that. The Russo brothers did an exceptional job at balancing the arguments on both sides of the decision. The movie never favored Captain America’s viewpoints because it was his movie, and it never favored Iron Man’s because he was a good antagonist to Cap. Throughout most of the film, I found my opinion swaying back and forth from each side. That’s just good storytelling!
The choreography and fight scenes in Civil War really stepped it up a notch for this installment. In general, these are action films and if the fight scenes weren’t good, the films would be pretty dull. But up until The Winter Soldier, much of the action was all the same. Then the Russo brothers delivered us a Captain America we’d been waiting to see on screen for years and it was incredible. The Winter Solider quickly became among fans’ favorites of the Marvel films and the Russo brothers knew they had their own big shoes to fill; and they did. All of the characters have at least one great fight scene moment in the film, if not multiple throughout. Black Widow and Captain America especially have fight scenes which give the Netflix’s Daredevil series a run for its money. The bar has been raised and we hope it stays there.
The newcomers to the MCU are Spider-Man and Black Panther, both of which are set to get their own solo films in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Starting with Black Panther, this is one of the few times we’re getting a brand new character without having their own solo film first, so it was curious to see how the Russo brothers would handle that situation. The character was introduced and handled beautifully throughout the film. We are given a great sense of the character from beginning to end and it really gave us a look at what we can expect to see in his solo film in two years.
Now it’s time to talk about Spider-Man. It’s no secret how big the news was that Marvel/Disney and Sony made a deal to share the character and that he would be joining the MCU. So to save time, I’ll just get straight to the point. I have always been a fan of Spider-Man. I’ve enjoyed every movie except for the third Sam Raimi film and thought both Maguire and Garfield brought something good to the character. Of course, I’m naïve and silly. While Maguire was enjoyable, he didn’t really capture the essence of Peter Parker. Garfield came pretty close and I thought his movies and storylines were great. (I was incredibly disappointed to find out we would not be ending the story of his parents with a third film.) But now we have Tom Holland and lord did Marvel hit the nail on the head with this one.
When it was announced Spider-Man was coming to the MCU and getting rebooted, everyone groaned at the thought of getting a THIRD origin story film; something which would be completely unnecessary. Thankfully (and hopefully), again with no spoilers, we get an almost origin tale of how he became Spider-Man. It is ever so lightly touched on and then we move forward, thus ‘rebooting’ Spider-Man for the MCU and it works perfectly. Now we can only hope we only get flashbacks, if that, in his solo film. As far as I’m concern, from the little bit we see of Parker/Spider, he is straight out of the comics. I think it is safe to say we finally have a true comic adaptation of Spider-Man. The suit is gorgeous, his fighting is pretty strong, but he is still learning, and his witty banter is perfect throughout. In what little amount of time we have him in Civil War, Marvel has redefined Spider-Man for us and shown us where they intend to take the character. 2017 can now not come soon enough!
Last but not least is probably one of the most interesting aspects of the entire movie. Everyone remembers a little movie which came out just over a month ago, Batman V Superman. If you’re curious how that film turned out, you can read my review of it here, but for here, let’s do a quick barebones comparison. Without giving details of either and just breaking both films down to the bare essentials of plot and story, each film is about two or more major characters battling it out over a disagreement of sorts while at the same time having an underlying secondary plot which is driving the battle/war forward and adding in new characters to the universe, i.e. Wonder Woman and Black Panther. Both films remarkably have similar structure and format. However, one film handled the material in a much superior way. Where BvS was disjointed and choppy, CW’s story was fluid and smooth. Both movies have a major reveal, but BvS’ was so subtle and quick, it missed its opportunity to be incredibly dramatic. CW balances all of its characters evenly, whereas BvS felt like they crammed characters in just because they wanted/were told to ala the Sam Raimi Spider-Man 3 syndrome. This is not coming from a Marvel fan boy who wants to see DC fail and thinks Marvel can do no wrong, but someone who wants to see both groups succeed! Someone who sees people constantly bash one side over the other and ask ‘Why can’t we just enjoy both for what they have to offer?’ Unfortunately, Civil War is the superior film and it isn’t even close.
Wrapping up, Civil War sets a clear tone of what we can expect in the MCU’s Phase 3. With films like Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and Infinity War, it is clear we are in for a whole new type of phase and Marvel still has many tricks up their sleeves to show us. Marvel has so much going for them at this point. We as fans have invested years into these characters and stories and because of that, it isn’t difficult to get us to choose sides with our emotions and care what happens to these characters. Dare I say it, Captain America: Civil War is the best Marvel film to date and quite possible the best comic book film ever made. Is everyone going to agree on that? No way, of course not. But I tried and tried to find flaws in this film and I just couldn’t. The Russo brothers have crafted and perfect their art and it shows in this film. Only time will tell if they’ll be able to top it with the next two Avengers films.