I'm just about to head off for a late-night show at the ArcLight. I'll be posting a review either much later tonight, or in all likelihood, tomorrow.
I hadn't quite planned on going to see the movie this soon, but it's getting really difficult to avoid spoilers.
I've really been looking forward to this movie, since Winter Soldier was so good. But on the other hand, Age of Ultron was quite a disappointment, so I have no idea how this will turn out.
Except, of course, that it will be much better than Batman v Superman.
They'd have to work pretty hard for it not to be.
Or tune back in later... since, you know, three hours is a long time to sit there and stare at an empty blog post.
(One good night's sleep and breakfast later...)
Okay, now that's how you make a superhero movie.
First of all, Captain America: Civil War was fun to watch. There are quite a few "Wow!" moments in the film - fantastic action sequences: fights, chases, surprises, new characters, characters' abilities being showcased in new ways, new revelations, etc. The action sequences in this film take superhero movies to a new level, and the Russo brothers have a knack for bringing them to the screen in a way that's both fantastic and believable. I was watching Avengers: Age of Ultron again the other night, and had a hard time following what was going on in many of the action sequences. It often felt disjointed and fake (which, of course it is). But the Russo's manage to keep the action grounded, more accessible. More personal.
Second, it's a compelling film. These are well-liked, established characters, and it's tough to watch them in serious conflict with each other. Sure - there's been arguing amongst the team in the two Avengers movies, but what happens in this movie is genuinely divisive, and something that the filmmakers did a good job of showing both sides of. The sides that each team member comes down on makes sense for their character arcs, especially for those who are conflicted about it. There are shades of gray - not always a clear-cut answer.
In essence, the underlying cause behind the plot is very much like Batman v Superman: what do you do about the collateral damage caused by superhero conflicts? However, the tone of each film couldn't be more different. In BvS, the whole film was dark, moody, angry, and neither of the two main characters had any redeeming or likable qualities left to them. I didn't care about their conflict, who won or lost, or what the consequences were.
However, in CA:CW, despite the huge number of characters in the movie, I found something to care about (or at least root for) in all of them. Now, part of this is due to how well the Marvel Cinematic Universe characters are already established. However, there are new characters introduced in this film who have relatively little screen time, yet manage to be compelling anyway. And they're all very different characters, with different personalities, different perspectives, and different stakes in the conflict. This is well-written stuff, and unlike Avengers: Age of Ultron, it doesn't feel overly-busy. Yes, there's a lot going on, and some characters have less to do here than others, but this is primarily a film about Captain America, and he carries the film. The characters driving the story get the most screen time, and the rest are nicely balanced amongst the supporting cast, each of which have their own moments to shine (and some quite spectacularly). I never felt that anyone got unduly short-changed, and we got some tastes of the things we can look forward to in future movies.
Now... is CA:CW a perfect movie? Well, no. I felt the main villain behind the whole thing was a bit of a let-down. I thought the basic idea behind what he was doing worked, and it also tied together some long-existing threads in the MCU, but he wasn't developed enough to be interesting (Marvel just can't seem to come up with another Loki). Also, when the reason the heroes were fighting each other changed, I'm not sure I bought 100% into the ferocity behind it. It seemed a bit out-of-character at that point in the movie. But it was still compelling to watch - you worry about these characters. Not just for what may happen to them, but what they may end up doing. What lines will they cross?
Like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this is primarily Cap's movie, and Chris Evans does a great job in the role again. His character is much better developed in his films than in either of the Avengers movies. He shines in the action sequences, and his relationships with others and his own convictions are at the heart of this movie. Because of all of the other characters at play here, it would be almost fair to call this movie The Avengers 3, except that if it was, the emphasis wouldn't have been so much on his story.
Now, I have to go slightly off the spoiler-free tracks for just a moment, and mention two things:
First - Spider-Man. Marvel totally nailed it. Welcome home, Spidey! Tom Holland is so young, I was surprised when I first saw him as Peter Parker. I was so used to 30-something actors playing the role, it caught me off guard. But Spider-Man started out as a high school student. This is a return to his original roots, and Holland captures that element of youth, excitement, enthusiasm and humor so well. And yet, even in his limited screen time as Peter Parker, you can see some of the tragedy that drives him. He never actually says, "With great power comes great responsibility"... but there was a point where that phrase was underlying everything he was saying. And as for Spider-Man's time in the movie? It was awesome! Was he integral to the plot? Not really, but it's such a huge, important step to have him in the larger MCU, that just seeing the character and getting the sense that Marvel is going to treat him right was more than worth having him in the film.
Second - The Black Panther. Considering how much is going on in this film, I'm impressed how much they were able to do with this character. He helps drive this movie, and he's yet another compelling Marvel character. And he's tremendous fun to watch in the fight scenes, along with Cap and Bucky. Three not-quite-but-almost superhuman characters going at it? It doesn't get much better than that. Take notes, Batfleck.
I had a ton of fun watching this movie. There are a lot of great action/fight/chase moments in this movie, and the airport fight is probably the single coolest sequence in any superhero movie to date. It checked all the right boxes. Yet the movie wasn't without a serious tone, driving the story and characters along. But it was not dark. It was not a moody, hopeless, dystopian world, full of perpetually depressed, angry, mopey jerks. There was certainly distrust, hurt, anger, betrayal, and anguish, but that's not who the characters are at their core. They were torn and conflicted. Always wanting to do the right thing, but struggling at times to know what that was. Trying to rise above it. To still be heroes.
Captain America: Civil War is what a comic book movie should be. It's exciting and fun to watch. It has characters you care about. They should be in genuine peril - and sometimes that means more than just physically being in jeopardy. It means what choices do they make? How do they change? What happens next? This movie has all of that. It changes the Marvel Cinematic Universe again. Not just for the sake of change, but to add depth to it. The real world is a complex place, and this movie reflects that complexity. And it sets up the next Marvel movies very nicely indeed.
(And mercifully, for once, not a single mention of the Infinity Stones.)
Go check it out. On the big screen. With a whole bunch of people.
Captain America: Civil War gets a tough-to-score 8.9/10.
(I think Winter Soldier was a better Captain America movie, because it was so much more his story, much like the first Iron Man movie was the best story about Tony Stark. But as a superhero movie, this is among the best of the best. Huge action set pieces, but overall on a more personal level than either of the Avengers films. And ultimately, personal stakes are much more compelling than dropping a giant rock out of the sky.)