A fine film with amusing surprises, stunning action sequences, and a bit of real heart
The thirteenth film in the Marvel cinematic universe, Captain America: Civil War, is miraculously substantial, choosing to engage in matters of friendship, loyalty, and most riskily for a film about superheroes, in “feelings”. Perhaps the reason for the success is the strong ensemble cast that have all, to date, been allowed to develop into complex characters with priorities and agendas and deep, dark pasts, saving this film from descending into the posturing frat boy antics that made Batman v Superman (also released earlier this year) so wince-worthy.
Yes, Iron Man (reprised with the usual verve by Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) go head-to-head, but not in the same flash of humourless, over-pumped male egos that reduced Batman v Superman to such a bore. This clash between Tony Stark and Captain Steve Rogers is not just about their differing opinions. It involves addressing the very issues at the crux of humanity such as accountability, respect for one’s fellow creatures, and a few ethical issues that are exclusive to the fictitious Marvel universe, such as the extra-legal privileges accorded to the Avengers because of their powers, and dealing with the very real insecurities that can embitter even a super-hero.
Fortunately, the plot too is fairly captivating aside from the emotional intricacies. The Avengers team, minus Thor, the Hulk, and Iron Man storm a building in Lagos, trying to stop a biological weapon from being stolen by an old nemesis. They recover the weapon but Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), a young Avenger with telekinetic capabilities, accidentally blows up an entire building while trying to save the Captain from a bomb that he missed seeing.
On the heels of the destruction in Sokovia (the plot of last year’s Avengers film Age of Ultron) the world is aghast at the impunity that these potentially dangerous superheroes apparently enjoy. Tony Stark, himself, haunted by his missteps from past films, and the (surely temporary) loss of his moral anchor Pepper Potts (played in previous films by Gwyneth Paltrow) feels compelled to err on the side of the United Nations, who proposes that the Avengers be managed by a committee – a vast encroachment on their powers, and a restraint that Captain America does not take well.
As the Avengers split over these crucial decisions, the Captain is further torn by the framing of his boyhood friend Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a super-soldier manufactured by Hydra, who also happens to be the dear friend of Steve Rogers from way back when he was a skinny lad in pre-World War II Brooklyn. What ensues is a fine film with amusing surprises, stunning action sequences, and a bit of real heart.