Very rarely is it that I find that ensemble cast movies actually work. The movie New Year’s Eve for example (boasting the likes of Zac Effron, Halle Berry, Robert De Niro, Jessica Biel, Common, Seth Meyers and many more), was a box office disaster, earning itself a 22 out of 100 on Metacritic and making 5 million less than of its budget of $56,000,000.
One of the chief complaints from both regular moviegoers and critics alike was that the directing and writing were simply not able to keep up with the absurd amount of characters and plot lines happening at the same time.
Most ensemble movies have complaints like this (ironically, many of these movie have Robert De Niro in one of the main roles. Coincidence?). So when a movie is able to manage a large cast of characters so that each character is true to themselves and still be able to tell a coherent story, it’s an achievement. One such movie released this past week in the form of Captain America: Civil War. Directed by Joe and Peter Russo, (and starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Anthony Mackie, and many more), the Russo Brothers have crafted a thrilling movie about the dangers of superheros and their implications in modern day society.
The second Marvel movie to be based off an event that happened within the comics, (the first being The Avengers: Age of Ultron), the film borrows only the most base level of plot from the comics. Following the wake of events that rocked the world in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the world is scared of The Avengers.
The governments of the world band together to introduce The Superhero Registration Act, which would effectively limit The Avenger’s actions and force them to work under the supervision of the United Nations. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is strongly in support of this act, claiming that they need to be put in check and cannot be allowed to operate however they want. Captain America (Chris Evans), however, thinks that this is a terrible idea as all they want to do is save the people of the world.
He thinks that they cannot leave the fate of the world into the hands of the governments of the world. This creates a rift within the team causing Falcon, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Bucky Barnes, and Ant-Man to side with Captain America. On the other side, War Machine, Black Widow, Black Panther, Vision, and Spider-Man team with Iron Man to ensure that the Superhero Registration Act happens.
Meanwhile, a mysterious figure is lurking in the shadows, secretly pulling the strings for an unknown reason.
First, the positives. In my opinion the best part of this movie, bar-none, was Spider-Man. Do we see any of the Uncle Ben “With great power comes great responsibility?” No. Do we see Spider-Man do what he does best and actually save people? No.
But what we do see is a true-hearted, honest, kind 16 year-old who doesn’t know how to fully use his powers yet and just wants to help people the best he can. Tom Holland does an amazing portrayal of this iconic character, and (in my opinion) is the best Peter Parker that has ever been put to film. His character just seemed so genuine that you couldn’t help but giggle at his awkwardness and boyish charm.
The other newcomer to the Marvel universe, Black Panther (as portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, was a great change of pace from the other characters we are used to seeing. His character was motivated by only one reason over the course of the movie: revenge. Now as to why he’s seeking revenge I’ll leave to you to find out, as that is starting to go into spoiler territory.
But it was nice to see a character who didn’t want to be a part of the big picture and just wanted some good ‘ol fashioned revenge. And did I forget to mention, his suit is made out of the same material that Captain America’s shield is made out of, making him completely impervious to bullets?
The rest of the cast was stellar, with notable performances from Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Holland, and a short-lived performance from Paul Rudd. The one thing that I really love about this movie was the exact thing that Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice got so wrong: character motivation. Every action that the characters make feel like the exact ones they should make as the character. Why does Cap oppose the Superhero Registration Act? Because he feels that it will get in the way of the only thing he wants to do: helping people.
Why is Iron Man all for the Superhero Registration Act? Because his company used to manufacture and sell weapons of mass destruction and he knows what kind of damage The Avengers can do if left unchecked. The characters are written in ways that perfectly fit their personalities, which I absolutely love. Not to mention the amazing cinematography for the fight scenes.
The airport scene is probably my favorite fight that I have seen in a Marvel movie. It was insane the amount of work it must have took to make that fight scene come together. Even though 10 plus characters were fighting at the same time, you were still able to follow the entire fight and were never confused as to what was happening at any one given time. Massive props to the Russo Brothers for being able to pull that scene off in such a great way.
Next, the negatives. Since I have no major qualms about this film, keep in mind that this next section is mostly nitpicking and my personal preferences regarding the film. First, for a portion of this movie, Tony Stark acts like a complete sociopath. He quite literally tricks Peter Parker (a 16 year old boy mind you!) into fighting in a war that Peter has nothing to do with under the guise of a flashy costume and “the betterment of the human race.”
Where does this come from?! When does Tony just suddenly decide to just start using people for his own gain? It comes out of nowhere and not for the better. There was one scene in particular that really urked me the wrong way, when a minor character dies in an explosion. All the cliches are present: slow-motion, ash falling everywhere, dramatic “crying”, the body laying down with no rubble around him. The dude’s head is even propped up on a rock!
This scene left no impact on me whatsoever. Just a typical plot device that seemed unnecessary and could have been carried out in a million different (and better) ways. Other than that, there’s not much to complain about with this movie for me.
Ensemble casts are always a strain on an audience. It gives them too many things to try and focus on at the same time. “Do I want to look at this person or this person?” “Another character introduction?” “How does any of the side stories fit into the overall story?”
Luckily, I thought none of these things when i was watching Captain America: Civil War. With excellent writing, characters, and cinematography, this film stands out to me as one of the best Marvel movies in recent memory. A must-watch for any Marvel or superhero fan, and just anyone who loves some fun in their movies.
Final Rating: A-