Robert Downey Jr.
reviewed by Tom-Tom
This is one of the film events I have been waiting for. It was one of the most innovative turns in the Marvel Universe. You have all of these superheroes running around unchecked and for many years, they only did good with no problems or hurt civilians, well, save for Gwen Stacy. So, in a realistic move, after a youngster filled superhero team’s attempt to catch Nitro, a super-villain whose explosive power roasts bus-fulls of New England school children alive as well as lesser heroes all while being filmed by reality TV, legislation moved towards superhero registration. Each superhero would have to register his/her secret identity and powers, receive training to best use said superpowers, and earn a stipend from the government for their services. Sounds great, right? The downside is that they would no longer be able to act alone when they see a crime but have to get permission first and that any super-villain hacker could get access to the secret identity info and use it as leverage or threat against any hero registered. Plus, the overseeing committee would be Congressional which means their motivation would be as malleable as the greatest campaign contributor taking away from the purity of classic heroism. Tony Stark, having experienced an encounter with one of parents of the victims of the Nitro incident (she slaps and spits on him), sides with registration. Captain America, always the advocate of pure heroism, is against registration despite his own identity being well known. Both are stubbornly fixed to their own causes. Slowly, various heroes side with either flagship and eventually the Civil War begins.
This isn’t precisely what happens here in the film version. Which is fine, as the comics had several titles and months with which to flesh out the various stories, characters, and plots. The events which transpire here are the results of years of MCU films and TV shows. We got a glimpse of in-fighting among Avengers in every single film they took part in so far. Hawkeye vs. Widow, Thor vs. Iron Man, Cap vs. Thor, Hulk vs. everyone, really. Recount the battle before the birth of the Vision. The schism in the Avengers has been building for a while and though it doesn’t occur the way it did in the comics, that shouldn’t dissuade comic fans from enjoying it. The break happens organically with remnants of camaraderie hanging on even during the conflict.
The Russo Brothers, whose previous Cap film Winter Soldier brought a sense of realism to the MCU with less use of CGI and more practical, aggressive martial arts which were less showy and more geared at downing baddies quickly (and non lethally) mostly achieve the same here. The Winter Soldier himself was a total badass who didn’t miss when shooting and had his own array of deadly weapons in addition to his bionic arm. He didn’t toy with his intended victims, he simply killed them or regrouped to where he could better kill them. It is possible to watch Winter Soldier several times and still feel the suspense, the immediacy of the danger in close quarters without the dramatic posturing that so defines many comic book films.
The realism is very present in the first intense minutes of Civil War. Cap and Wanda Maximioff, the Scarlet Witch are on a dual stakeout/learning experience with Sam Wilson the Falcon in radio communication as well as Natasha Romanoff. The Falcon, whose own sidekick in the comic books Redwing, is an actual falcon, goes the Jarvis turned AI butler way with Redwing the super drone which is actually more badass than it sounds. Wanda’s powers have been honed. She can pretty much fly now although her concentration is still lacking. A hero in progress. She’s certainly in good company. Brock Rumlow, former sleeper Hydra agent in Cap’s S.T.R.I.K.E. Team, surgically altered and wearing cybernetically enhanced tech and his goons are attempting to seize weaponized viruses from a Nigerian Center for Disease Control. The pulse races as we follow our heroes into action. Everyone is in the top of their game but not without flaws. The action takes place within crowds of people amping up the suspense. Eventually events end disastrously but not as bad as could have been.
General “Thunderbolt” Ross, (William Hurt) returns to the MCU now the Secretary of Defense making the practical if rather arrogant and unflinching case for superhero registration. Present are all acting Avengers save for Hulk and Thor. Debates begin and all give their very genuine reasons for or against registration. It’s a testament to how many films these fine actors have shared in the way their talks feel so natural. These aren’t A Few Good Men courtroom debates, but the attempt of friends to convince each other what they honestly think is the right way.
Enter the King of Wakanda T’Chaka and his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), finally bringing the Marvel created Kingdom of Wakanda firmly into the center of the MCU as a real country harboring one fo the world’s most powerful resources, Vibranium, and hundreds of years of refining the unlimited uses of it in next Gen technology which the country’s heretofore severely isolationist stance had fiercely protected.
Terror ensues marking the Winter Soldier as culpable and so the race begins. Black Panther emerges, the hero who has protected Wakanda throughout generations of its history passed through the royal lineage. None of this is really explained well in the film but the Vibranium suit, and the Panther’s badass moves and fierce Vibranium claws are all that are needed. Cap races to help his friend, the Panther races to avenge dead Wakandans calculating the best means of egress rather than just tearing mindlessly forth.
Things all come to a head at a German airport wherein the excellently cast webslinger joins the fray. The battle is wonderful with plenty of surprises and the pleasant addition of Ant-Man whose power of shrinking himself and things while maintaining a string of Paul Rudd humor counter-balances with Spider-Man’s delightfully awkward and verbose throw-downs with Hawkeye, the Falcon, and Cap. At one point, Falcon declares, “I don’t know how many fights you’ve been in, kid. But there’s usually not this much talking.”
The main dish comes in a bomb shelter where a terrible secret (which had lain in plain view) is learned about the Winter Soldier which results in a desperate battle between Cap, Bucky, and Iron Man.
The biggest thing I was worrying about with this film was the ending. How could so much strife come forth and resolve in even the massive 2 hours and 35 minutes of film time? Would everyone just shake it off and get ready for the Infinity War? What is actually done is perfect and in the organic way the MCU has progressed so far. I was so satisfied, I walked out of the theater with a big grin on my face. Those Russo Brothers know how to make a great movie.