My brother saw this movie with his friends before me, and he really liked it. That alone was an indication that I wasn't going to be disappointed. For one, my brother and I have a very similar taste in movies. And secondly, this was the second movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that he has seen so far, with the first one being Guardians of the Galaxy, but these two movies have practically nothing in common. For me it meant, that you don't have to be acquainted with this gigantic Avengers Universe to fully enjoy and appreciate this one film. It meant that this movie could work on its own, as a film and not just as a part of a series where you have to set up other movies.
In summation, I went in with pretty high expectations. And Civil War exceeded them all.
Okay, this is going to be a longer and more detailed movie review than the ones I did for Deadpool and The Martian. I have a lot to say about this movie, but rest assured, there will be no spoilers.
We all know the premise: because the Avengers have caused so much damage while saving the world and fighting bad guys, the United Nations now want them to sign a document that will essentially make the heroes their property. This creates a rift among the Avengers, with Tony Stark being pro-government control and Steve Rogers opposing the whole thing. But there are other things happening, there are other people who have their own agendas, and very soon this conflict becomes very personal for everyone involved.
I guess I was expecting a very fun but still a pretty standard comic book movie where we have two sides fighting each other and then coming together to fight the real enemy. In reality, Civil War is so much more complicated than that. I walked in to the theatre being team Cap, and I walked out, being team Cap, but I never actually disagreed with Stark's side. Both sides make excellent points, and (almost) everyone involved has very legitimate reasons for thinking what they're thinking.
You understand their motivations, and it's sad to watch friends turn against each other not because they want to but because they feel that they don't have a choice.
There are a couple of characters that make you wonder, if they need to take part in this conflict at all or if they're only there for the sake of the movie.
I was laughing so hard when I asked my brother who's side he was on, and he said he was team Iron Man. I know this is just silly fanboy stuff, as we're all just there to enjoy the movie, but it was still funny - for me, at least - that even my brother and I ended up on the opposite sides of this fictional yet captivating conflict.
A few words need to be said about the villain. This is an interesting villain, an interesting character. Don't watch this movie expecting Loki or Hydra, who are out to take over the world. This is a different type of character, who's more subdued than the other Marvel villains, and just as with the heroes, you understand this character's motivations.
But the way I see it, there are two villains in the movie. Two forces that present the real menace to the heroes and - ultimately - to the world. No spoilers, of course, but I love how the writers managed to write such a multi-layered story, where there is no black and white, where things are more complicated than they may seem.
Which brings me to the next topic:
Captain America: Civil War is a smart movie with a very well-written script.
This movie was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the same guys who wrote the previous two Captain America movies, and you can see that they know their characters. They know what kind of movie Civil War needs to be.
There are so many arcs that need to be developed in the course of a two and half hour long movie, and it would be easy to make these arcs compete for screentime, making the movie unbalanced and chopped. But the writers do a great job balancing all these arcs. A couple of subplots do feel a little rushed, some things that happen that are a little too plot-convenient. But they don't feel forced. It's still rewarding for me as an audience member to see the movie take its sweet time to set the tone, and to let the conflict grow naturally and develop at its own pace.
There are a lot more characters here than in the Winter Soldier, and almost all of them get the time they need to develop and find their place in the story.
Just think about the ambition: Civil War has to be a sequel to the Winter Soldier, a sequel to The Age of Ultron; it also has to introduce new important characters like the Black Panther and Spider-Man; it has to set up more Avengers movies, and still be its own movie, with a beginning and an end. And the writers accomplish all of these tasks.
The Winter Soldier was in its core a political thriller. It was smart, and it was darker than the other MCU movies and it took place in a more realistic world (at least as far as comic book movies are concerned). It was a movie where there were consequences to your actions. And Civil War continues with this tone, taking it to another level. We deal with the consequences of the Avengers' "problem solving techniques"; we get to see the world from the point of view of the innocent civilians. We get a glimpse into a chilling future where the UN, and the world governments get to control people, and use them as tools for their own agendas.
But in its core, this movie is about the people. Not only do we finally hear from the innocent civilians that have suffered in the previous Avengers movies, but we get to explore the inner workings of these comic book heroes, and see them as real people, who are dealing with personal tragedies, and have to make difficult choices. There is so much going on emotionally in this film, with Tony Stark dwelling on the death of his parents, with Wanda Maximoff trying to reconcile with her own powers, and with Steve and Bucky Barnes trying to find their way back to their friendship. All these larger than life characters are brought down to the ground, with the rest of us mortals, and we care about them.
I don't have anything specific to say about the actors' efforts. They're good at what they do. They have been playing these characters for years now, but you don't get the feeling that they're tired of portraying the same people. I was particularly impressed with Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of a very torn and conflicted Tony Stark. He really gets to shine in this movie, as his character get more depth.
First of all, the movie looks good. It's beautiful. The action and the CGI are superb. It's difficult to believe that most of the action scenes were shot in front of the green screen. But the physical action, the stunts, the choreography, and the way it was filmed is just praise-worthy. I saw it in 3D, which is okay, but it sometimes doesn't work for the really fast-paced action, especially in the opening sequence. There's some really fast action going on there, and it almost looks as if the 3D can't keep up with the pacing. However, that big throw down scene - the one they promote so heavily in the trailers - is breathtaking. Everything about that scene is perfect. There are so many characters and fights to keep track of, and the directors make it a seamless scene, from the beginning to the end. I was sitting there, eyes glued to the screen, thinking "now, that's entertainment!"
Civil War is a very impressive movie. Just like its predecessor - Winter Soldier - it is a more grounded and realistic comic book movie that brings these larger than life characters to the ground and makes them act in a less fantastical and more unforgiving world. But it's still funny, like any other Marvel movie. I have to praise the MCU for doing such a good job balancing the serious and emotional sides of their stories with witty humour and pure entertainment. Civil War is one of those movies that will both entertain you and make you think.
Some subplots are a little rushed for the sake of the story, and there also characters that were kind of shoehorned into this conflict.
Captain America: Civil War is an unpredictable movie with smart plot twists and interesting relationships. With the risk of sounding like a Marvel fangirl, I really like this movie. It's everything I wanted it to be, and a lot more.
My rating: 9/10 stars.