You ever go to an all-you-can-eat buffet at one of those five-star restaurants, try out each and every dish that’s in it until your stomach is full and then come away feeling fully satisfied with an expression on your face that makes you look like you are high or something? That’s exactly how I felt after seeing Marvel’s incredibly muscular and unbelievably spectacular latest superhero extravaganza, Captain America: Civil War. This is Marvel’s best film yet and I’m not exaggerating. Just when you think you’ve seen them all, directors Joe and Anthony Russo come up with something new and they keep improving themselves with each movie. As with their previous effort Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Russo brothers don’t waste a single second setting up the events here. They begin with an explosive set-piece in Lagos, Nigeria where you see Steve Rogers/Captain America (once again played by Chris Evans) having a violent confrontation with one of his adversaries from the previous film, a disfigured former Hydra agent-turned-mercenary named Crossbones.
It doesn’t end well. Few innocent lives are lost and the government decides it’s time to supervise and regulate the activities of the Avengers. In order to prevent more collateral damage from occurring, they are asked to sign a group of documents called the Sokovia Accords (named after the fictional country that was destroyed in Age of Ultron). Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey jr.) is all for it but Rogers is reluctant to sign it. While Stark is ridden by the guilt of a death he caused in Sokovia, the old-fashioned Rogers believes that there are things that will happen if you are trying to save the world and you just have to deal with it instead of perpetually wallowing in guilt. Needless to say, this initiates a fiery clash between them. You can tell that the Russo brothers are really passionate about their work right from the opening scenes. And they do get so many things right. They wanted to make a damn good movie and that’s exactly what you get. It’s as if they are telling you, “We got this. Now sit back and relax. You are going to love this.” Not a lot of movies do that these days, especially the ones in the superhero genre.
I’m neither a DC nor a Marvel fanboy bur I have to bring up DC’s Batman v Superman here because there are some similarities in their plots. But Civil War does a much better job at telling it than BvS. Superheroes are being made accountable for their actions, there is a disagreement and one (or several) superheroes are pitted against each other. And there is, of course, someone behind the scenes pulling all the strings. Without spoiling anything, I would say that the deaths of more than one of these superheroes’ parents’ play a huge role in shaping the rest of the story. The film continues the storyline that began in The Winter Solider – whose primary focus was on Rogers’childhood friend Bucky Barnes – and takes it to the next level. While the previous film dealt with themes like terrorism, espionage, privacy, and paranoia, this one is about vengeance, loyalty, guilt and accountability. Bucky is the pivotal character here and everything revolves around him. He is so much like Jason Bourne. Actually, he is the sole reason – more than anything else – why everyone beats the shit out of each other. There are no “good guys” or “bad guys” and so you can’t really apply those tags to any of these warring heroes.
Some new characters are introduced and among them are Black Panther (a suitably dignified Chadwick Boseman) and Spiderman (a playful Tom Holland). Paul Rudd is back as Ant-Man (who had his own solo movie last year). It’s exciting to see all these characters in action and I don’t know how the Russo brothers do it but they have a great knack for accommodating and juggling them all in a way that never feels forced. Black Panther has his own vendetta against Bucky and certain events that happen very early in the film has to do with that. Tom Holland really nailed it as Spiderman. He is exactly the Spiderman I imagined when I was a kid reading the comics. His version of Spiderman outshines both Tobey Maguire’s and Andrew Garfield’s versions. I like the fact that they cast Marisa Tomei (a great actress who still looks hot) as his aunt May. Parker makes a grand entrance during the gobsmackingly epic airport fight scene between the both parties. It’s so exciting to see all these characters go at each other intensely all while mouthing funny one-liners and making pop culture references (one of them being The Empire Strikes Back) at the same time.
I know I’m not the only person who stated this but Captain America is the only Marvel series that keeps getting better and better with each sequel. Everything is weaved in a coherent manner. The stunts are well-choreographed and they are really astounding. Everything from the tone to the pacing is perfect. There is a fine balance between the light and dark elements.And there is a sense of camaraderie and character dynamics here that I hadn’t seen since those vastly entertaining “men-on-a-mission” films of the past such as The Seven Samurai, The Guns of Navarone or The Dirty Dozen. And this is mostly due to the presence of Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man (you get to see some neat tricks from him), Falcon and Spiderman. And speaking of villains – and there is one – we get to see Daniel Bruhl playing Colonel Zemo, who I think is the best Marvel villain I’ve seen so far. I wish we could see more of him. He has a clear motivation and it’s not “world domination” unlike the other Marvel villains. He basically wants to rip the Avengers apart. The one character I really missed seeing was Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury. Overall, this is an exhilarating and immensely satisfying ride and I didn’t want it to end.