‘Captain America: Civil War’ Review: Caught Between An Iron Man And A Hard Place

Captain-America-Civil-War-Review-Caught-Between-An-Iron-Man-And-A-Hard-Place
(Disney)

“Captain America: Civil War”

Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson

Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

(Rating: 4 stars out of 5)

The time
has come to pick a side. Either you’re
with me – and you agree that the third installment of the “Captain America”
film series is the second-best movie yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – or
you’re against me.

Regardless
of which side you’re on, I think we can all agree that “Civil War” is certainly
the biggest, the boldest and the most ambitious movie yet to come from Marvel
Studios since it launched as a stand-alone production entity with the first
“Iron Man” in 2008. But it’s also
bloated, uneven and lacks the focus that defined its superior predecessor,
2014’s “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” which still is the best movie yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

That’s
not to say that there isn’t a lot to love about “Civil War,” because there most
definitely is. For one thing, it features
more costumed superheroes than any other Marvel movie to date, including both
“Avengers” films. And it all comes to a
head in one exciting 17-minute showdown at an airport that easily stands as the
best fight scene ever depicted in a comic book-based movie.

WATCH: Chris Evans & Anthony Mackie Tease ‘Captain America: Civil War’

It also
introduces the cinematic incarnations of not just one, but two new Marvel
superheroes – well, sort of. In addition
to the Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman, “Civil War” also introduces
the latest big-screen version of Spider-Man in advance of his stand-alone
reboot (due in 2017), and as perfectly depicted with youthful vigor by newcomer
Tom Holland (“The Impossible”), he virtually swings off with the whole movie.

As for
why a civil war has broken out among the Avengers in the first place, it all
comes down to political pressure. Sure,
the Avengers saved the world (twice, actually), but they did so at the expense
of too much collateral damage. Now the
government wants to control them and hold them accountable for their actions –
a move supported, to everyone’s surprise, by Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man
(Robert Downey Jr.). But Steve Rogers,
a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans), believes that the team should remain free
to operate without government interference, forcing the rest of the Avengers to
pick a side. Complicating matters
further is the presence of Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), a mysterious villain who has
been pulling the strings on the cataclysmic events leading up to their internal
conflict.

PHOTOS: Chris Evans: 10 Swoon-Worthy Shots!

While the
prospect of costumed heroes being held accountable for their actions was
recently depicted to a rather underwhelming effect in the disappointing DC
offering “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,” there’s no question that the
results are more effective in “Civil War.” That’s because returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen
McFeely depict both sides with equal measure, which increases the stakes of
their gripping moral dilemma.

But the
strain shows on the efforts of the writers and returning directors Joe and
Anthony Russo to continue the momentum they started on “Winter Soldier” while
expanding the scope – and the cast of characters. The scene where Tony Stark recruits young
Peter Parker (Spider-Man) to join the team is a rousing highlight of the movie,
but the plot device feels somewhat contrived, and the playful tone is a stark
contrast to the sluggish pace of the first hour that preceded it.

The
filmmakers fare better when it comes to justifying the presence of characters
like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Vision
(Paul Bettany) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). And after toplining his own hit film from
last summer, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) adds some fun comic relief to the proceedings,
while the Black Panther has a strong backstory that sets the stage for his
stand-alone film (due in 2018). But as
with previous Marvel entries, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye once again misses the
bulls-eye for an effective storyline, while Don Cheadle’s War Machine feels
woefully underutilized.

“Civil
War” marks the beginning of Phase 3 for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s
off to a great start. There’s no
question that Marvel threw in everything – including the kitchen sink – to make
it stand out as their biggest movie yet, and they certainly succeeded.

WATCH: ‘Captain America: Civil War’: Will Don Cheadle Return For More Marvel?

But it’s
not the best, and as for where you stand, either you agree and you’re with me,
or you’re against me.  The time has come
to pick a side.

— Scott Mantz 

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