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Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

Captain America: Civil War (2016) movie poster Captain America: Civil War

Theatrical Release: May 6, 2016 / Running Time: 147 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo / Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (screenplay); Mark Millar (comic book); Joe Simon, Jack Kirby (characters)

Cast: Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon), Don Cheadle (Lieutenant James Rhodes/War Machine), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Chadwick Boseman (T'Challa/Black Panther), Paul Bettany (Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch), Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Emily VanCamp (Sharon Carter), Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Daniel Brühl (Helmut Zemo), Frank Grillo (Brock Rumlow/Crossbones), William Hurt (Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross), Martin Freeman (Everett K. Ross), Marisa Tomei (Aunt May Parker), John Slattery (Howard Stark), Hope Davis (Maria Stark), Alfre Woodard (Miriam Sharpe), Stan Lee (FedEx Driver)

Preorder Captain America: Civil War from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD • Instant Video

The box office numbers, critic scores, and IMDb viewer ratings for The Winter Soldier suggest not many share my opinion that Captain America's movies have been the weakest of the single hero, multi-film series born out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe launched in 2008. Nonetheless, I am happy to report that the line's third entry, Captain America:
Civil War
, is more of an Avengers movie than a Captain America one. And while those underwhelmed by last year's Avengers: Age of Ultron may groan at getting another comparable outing with much of that ensemble intact so soon, it's not a bad thing, especially since the team's official next sequel is taking the lamentable "Part 1" and "Part 2" approach.

Civil War follows up on the one real narrative strand that ran through both the 1940s-set original film and present-day Winter Soldier, involving Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), the childhood best friend of Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) who became a potent killing machine having been brainwashed by the terrorist organization HYDRA. Captain's decades-long history with Bucky gives him sympathy for the accused terrorist many would like to see dead. We open in 1991 Siberia, where the unfrozen Bucky is being indoctrinated and given a series of Russian words that program him to do evil's bidding.

In the present day, surviving Maximoff sibling Wanda, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), is in Lagos, Nigeria with Captain and his friend Falcon (Anthony Mackie) trying to stop deadly HYDRA agents from stealing a biological weapon. The ensuing mess down there invites enough backlash for the superheroes to suddenly find themselves having to answer to a United Nations panel before acting with the world's interests in mind. Iron Man himself, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., who despite second billing, gets about as much screentime as the titular hero), is on board with the proposal, but Captain is not, creating a rift.

Meanwhile, a running plot involves Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), a Sokovian colonel with secret plans.

Opposing government regulation of superheroes are Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Captain America (Chris Evans), and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

With directors/brothers Anthony and Joe Russo returning from The Winter Soldier, Civil War again places action above story and characters. There are lots of fight sequences, beginning with that jerkily-shot escapade down in Africa.

The movie really hits its groove slightly past the halfway mark of its substantial 147-minute runtime. It is here at an airport in Germany where the movie establishes two teams of six with opposite views squaring off against one another. On one side, there is Iron Man, Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), newly introduced vengeful African king Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), newly-cast and new-to-this-universe young and nerdy Spider-Man (Tom Holland), The Vision (Paul Bettany), and War Machine (Don Cheadle). On the other are Captain America, Bucky, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and FBI Agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who is revealed to be the niece of Captain's old flame Peggy Carter.

This sequence embodies everything that people love about Marvel's superhero movies. You've got these diverse characters using their varied powers against one another. Spider-Man tangles up foes with web fluid and talks too much. Ant-Man grows from the size of an insect to a giant. There are explosions and one-liners. Where DC's movies, like the much-maligned Batman v Superman, go dark and broody, the Russos keep this light and fun. There is weight to the plot and actions, but there are also more laughs in this stretch than any other.

Okay with the proposed United Nations panel are Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), and War Machine (Don Cheadle).

The film keeps on going until it arrives at a mano a mano fight between Iron Man and Captain America, which reminds one of that recent Batman/Superman showdown, albeit without the darkness, silly twist, and loud, prolonged hurling.

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Though they both may hail from the pages of comic books, the two rival superhero universes do have a decidedly different way of presenting the material on film. And while some may be tiring of Marvel's safe, crossover-heavy approach, whose Phase 3 this thirteenth production kicks off with the occasional feel of an ABC series designed to keep you coming back, it still manages to excite and entertain the masses. Civil War is a little better than the previous two Captain America movies and almost as good as the two Avengers movies it more closely resembles. Really, all we're missing are Thor, the Hulk, Nick Fury, and S.H.I.E.L.D., all of whom were likely kept on the sidelines so as to distinguish this from the dream team line. (Hulk and Fury were cut from the project during production and development, respectively.)

The lines are nonetheless blurred and while this might not have the sky high box office expectations of the films wielding the full Avengers lineup and a title to reflect that, there's enough superhero power here to foresee this joining the 24-film-and-counting billion dollar worldwide club that counts both Avengers movies and Iron Man 3 as members. Doing so would embarrass Batman v Superman, which is going to fall short, and intensify the battle between DC and Marvel fanboys that is being waged in comments sections throughout the Internet.

Yes, there are additional scenes both mid-end credits and at the very end. Yes, you'll probably want to endure the endless scroll of names to see them both.

Preorder Captain America: Civil War from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Captain America: The First Avenger • Captain America: The Winter Soldier • Avengers: Age of Ultron • Ant-Man • Iron Man • Iron Man 3
Thor • Thor: The Dark World • Guardians of the Galaxy • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete First Season
Spider-Man • Spider-Man 2 • Spider-Man 3 • The Amazing Spider-Man • The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Now in Theaters: The Jungle Book • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice • Keanu
Chris Evans: Snowpiercer • Before We Go | Robert Downey Jr.: The Judge • Sherlock Holmes
Written by Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe • Pain & Gain

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Reviewed May 5, 2016.

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