Captain America: Civil War–Juggling Characters and Stars in Big, Joyous, Entertaining Mode

captain_america_civil_war_posterBig in set-pieces, fast in speed, noisy in sound effects, and sometimes structurally messy, but always vastly entertaining, Captain America: Civil War, should fulfill the expectations of the Marvel Universe’s devotees and the aficionados of this particular franchise.

The movie is inspired by Mark Millar’s comic-book series of the same name around 2006-2007.  Made under all kinds of pressures, both artistic and commercial, this follow-up to the first two Captain America segments has necessarily juggled many different hats.  

The large-scale epos unfolds as a cross-polination feature, in which several Marvel superheroes are joined effectively with some new figures.  End result is sort of an epic blockbuster—albeit by necessity not a very deep one—which boasts at least a dozen individual characters, some of them more developed than others.

captain_america_civil_war_2Like the self-assured superheroes in the story, and the confident directors (the Russo brothers) responsible for this gargantuan spectacle, the studio (Disney) execs must have felt confident in their product for press screenings were held (and reviews were allowed) over three weeks before the official U.S. theatrical opening, May 6.

Early estimates suggest a boffo box-office, breaking some records for opening weekend, but erhaps more significantly, coming right after Warner’s artistically disapointing Batman v. Superman, Disney should be proud in making a terrifically diverting picture.

captain_america_civil_war_3_evans_mackieThat said, underneath the glossy, well-produced package, there is a rather familiar plot, with an interesting twist of a narrtaive that oses hero versus hero, and thus packing a bigger emotional punch.

However, the overall success of this installment rests on the robust shoulders of the ever-likable and continuously developing actor, Chris Evans, who, over the past couple of years, has circled around the notion of major stardom.

The most anticipated asset of this picture—and the reason why the fans will flock to see it—is the showdown between Captain America and Iron Man, even if unlike the climactic equivalent of westerns and other actioners, it is not a final or a definite battle. After all, we know that there will be other sequels that revolve around these two major characters—and stars (Chris Evans vs. Robert Downey Jr.)

In this segment of the saga, Steve Rogers leads the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity–what else?

captain_america_civil_war_4However, after another incident that results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team.

Interest in the plot increases when the new status quo inevitably causes a fracture within the Avengers, and new alliances are formed, only to be later broken. There are two camps, one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other led by Tony Stark’s decision to support government oversight and accountability.

The writers are smart enough to know that viewers will care less about the various power plays and more about the exploration of the meanings of friendship and family and the nature of sacrifices that the conflict calls for.

captain_america_civil_war_5_evans_downey_jr.Chris Evans rises above the limitations of the plot to suggest a man faced and torn by tensions and struggles on all sides: Cap’s childhood pal Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), a scarwny Depression era kid who still feels lost in time. Barnes served alongside Cap in WWI, but was resumed killed in battle.  Later, he was brainwashed by the Soviet Union into being the assassin Winter Soldier. , Framed for a terrorist incident in Vienna, he is hiding out, trying to rebuild the memories of his previous, truer identity.

While he’s against the move, Tony Stark is for it, at one point descending to the level of claiming, “Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect teeth.”

Thematically, the divided teams allow for the appearance of many characters, each with its own moment, like the android Vision (Paul Bettany), newer heroes Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and mainstays Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the War Machine (Don Cheadle), who’s Tony Stark’s most reliable friend.

Two other elements help considerably in elevating the stature of Civil War.  Spider Man-Peter Parker (played by the charming Tom Holland, who’s only 19) has a suporting role in this segmene, a function of negotiations between Sony (the Sider Man studio) and Marvel: In exchange for geting the webslinger, Feige promised to co-finance Sony’s Spider-Man reboot in 2017.

The second element, Black Panther, was added to the gallery of characters only after Marvel figured out a way to introduce the prince of the (fictional) African country of Wakanda in a way that would help his future stand-alone picture, planned for  2018.

The filmmakers have instructed their actors to see the essence of the picture as sort of an argument and struggle with your family, for your family, and against your family, and Chris Evans has said that he perceives the emotional death match in Civil War as “just an exaggerated version of an ultra tense Thanksgiving dinner.”




The direction of siblings Anthony and Joe Russo (who had also helmed the sceond chapter, The Winter Soldier) is often vigorous, swiftly moving from one subplot to another and from one character to the next, resulting in a speedy and diverting epic, which doesn’t allow you as viewers much time to think about the deficiencies during the experience.