The old adage “addition by subtraction” does not apply to “Captain America: Civil War.” There are literally a dozen super heroes involved in this sprawling plot that moves characters from Queens to imaginary African countries called Wakanda.
Oddly enough, the phrase “less is more” also applies to the thirteenth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This extremely personal and mature plot ditches the typical arch-villain and makes the big bad guy our heroes themselves. In short, this is a small, psychological story being told on an astronomically large scale.
Naturally, the two characters at the center of the movie are Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Tony has retired from the super hero game and left the Avengers in the hands of Steve, who leads a current team comprised of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson), Vision (Paul Bettany), and War Machine (Don Cheadle).
An unfortunate event in Nigeria ends with innocent civilians being killed and the world’s governments refuse to allow the Avengers to work unchecked any longer. US Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt, last seen in “The Incredible Hulk”) presents the team with the Sokovia Accords, which would give a United Nations governing body control over the Avengers and essentially licenses all the superhuman people on Earth.
The Accords have Tony’s blessing, but Steve sees them as a way for a group of people with a potential agenda to use the Avengers in improper ways. This is where the title “Captain America: Civil War” comes into play as this splits our super pals up into two extremely marketed factions, Team Cap or Team Iron Man.
The plot thickens even further when Wakandan super hero T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who is dead set on revenge against Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), shows up. There is also Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), a shady guy building a conspiracy against the Avengers that only reveals its true goal in the film’s final twenty minutes.
Yes, there is a lot to mentally unpack in “Captain America: Civil War.” The directors, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, should be considered for awards if only for making sense of it all. Not only are the action scenes done with Bourne-like closeness and severity, but they move characters in and out of the movie with ease and make this near two and a half hour journey go by in the blink of an eye.
The Russos also give the world exactly what they want, which is the big super hero showdown. It all goes down on an empty airline runway and not only does it deserve all the hype it’s gotten, it blows all expectations out of the water. There is so much action, fun, humor, sheer glee, and joy in this sequence that it puts other action movies to shame.
While it’s exceptionally cool to see Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who has the movie’s biggest (ahem) applause-worthy moment, and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) show up to bring yuks and wise-cracks to the situation, this Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely screenplay knows where its bread is buttered. No matter which character is on screen, they all become ancillary when compared to Evans’ Steve Rogers and Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark.
Evans’ Rogers has always seemed like one of the more boring characters in these Marvel films, but “Captain America: Civil War” allows him to bring more depth to a character that he now embodies. Evans is essentially the good guy in this scenario, even if his choices are unpopular, and he is so noble and likable that he may make you root against Marvel’s Golden Boy.
Of course, the Marvel Golden Boy is Robert Downey Jr. There is no doubt he is reveling in the opportunity to play Stark as an obnoxious jerk you are finally meant to not like. It’s a welcome change for an actor who has to be growing tired of doing nothing but delivering snarky zingers over and over.
Marvel and Disney would have to lay a serious egg for this franchise to fail. “Captain America: Civil War” pushes these characters into uncharted territory and is creating a world that is much more complicated than good versus evil. This entry proves that Marvel can further their brand, mature their storytelling, and entertain the masses all at the same time.
In stores Tuesday, September 13th.