Civil War is a very good movie. It brilliantly creates the blockbuster for the thinking man that Marvel seems to be able to do better than anyone. It also shows a couple of problems for Marvel’s movie future under Disney.
The Russo Brothers are masterful craftsmen that do best with big action set pieces that move from twisty plot point to twisty plot point, just as they manage here and in Winter Soldier. However, they are not actor managers, but they lucked out in two points. First, everyone here is hitting their stride in their roles and don’t seem need any direction. Two, this movie is full of understated moments where characters have to consider the weight of their actions. Of the newcomers, Chadwick Bosemen as Black Panther, dives right in and delivers a worthy turn as the heroic king.
I am not the first person to say it and I won’t be the last but the fight at the airport is magnificent. It’s fun. That’s all there is to it. It’s a blast to watch and will make even the most cold-hearted fanboy or fangirl smile. In this fight, we finally learn what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been really missing. The big hole we all needed filled was Spider-Man. Spider-Man is a breath of fresh air among the overly self-serious, weighty world of Marvel on screen. This is the Spider-Man we were all hoping for. The other great thing about this action is how everyone fights. Spider-Man feels like the comic version of himself. Black Panther fights like a cat. Captain America fights like a kid from Brooklyn. It’s all just so much fun.
And then there’s the but…
Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) is not at all a memorable villain here. The bulk of the Marvel Cinematic Universe relies on the Avengers being aggressive fools and the bad guys mostly taking the place of set pieces. They fight amongst themselves and allow Loki to escape in the first Avengers film. They decided it’s a great idea to build a robot out of Loki’s evil staff in the second Avengers film. In Civil War they fight, once again, amongst themselves even in the face of finding out Zemo is behind most of their problems. Zemo himself is far less memorable than his comic person and doesn’t really fit any Zemo from the comics, but rather fills a plot role.
If you name all of the best Marvel antagonists, you’ll end up with a list that has Ultron and Loki on it. The rest of this list will probably be Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and X-Men villains. Even two of the best bad guys from the Marvel Disney world are a Spider-Man bad guy (Kingpin) and a Fantastic Four bad guy (Ronan the Accuser). I don’t have a good answer to this other than to ask that Marvel please, please, please get the Fantastic Four rights back. Or to take risks and build up some of their second tier villains while going full comic book to create memorable antagonists.
Civil War is fun. It moves from thriller to summer spectacle seamlessly. Like Winter Soldier, this film manages to ask some important questions without preaching. It doesn’t get bogged by the depressing quagmire of Batman v. Superman while still managing to hit most of the same beats that both movies follow dealing with the good or bad of superheroes being above the law. And, best of all, it reinvigorated my love of comic book movies after the so-so Avengers 2 and the depressing slog of Batman v. Superman. Check it out. See it in IMAX. Enjoy the beautiful cinematography. Be ready for more Black Panther and Spider-Man.
The TL;DR version of this review: Civil War is a very good movie. It’s definitely worth checking out in the theaters. It competes with Winter Soldiers for the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I highly recommend it. It’s near the top of the superhero heap and easily falls in the 8/10 rating range.