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Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

A little darker and more compelling than previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films, Captain America: Civil War is a vastly entertaining, action-packed, and star-studded affair that pits Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) against Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and uses an unexpected reversal of ideologies to define the sides of the two supers. In the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony Stark is feeling quite guilty for the damage done across the world by the Avengers. The latest catastrophe is accidentally caused by Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen) in Nigeria during an Avengers mission. This new event sparks international clamour to place accountability on the Avengers and force them choose to either work under the United Nations or retire completely. Stark and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) quickly agree to sign the Sokovia Accords, but Cap and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) hold out. Suddenly, a terrorist explosion in Vienna sparks a manhunt for Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Cap is forced to work outside the law to find and save his friend while a conspiracy brews around the mysterious Winter Soldier. The Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) makes his debut as an independent figure, out to punish the man who caused the explosion that killed his father, the king of Wakanda, and a brand new iteration of Spiderman (Tom Holland), younger and funnier than before, gets picked up for a short ride.

Civil War has reached Game of Thrones/Downton Abbey levels of character saturation, but instead of teetering into the bloated messiness of Age of Ultron, some characters are edited out (goodbye Thor and Hulk!) and everyone else is given pretty straightforward plotlines, motivations, and pairings. The main thrust of the film also harkens back to the critically acclaimed plots of graphic novel Watchmen and Pixar film The Incredibles as supers are rejected by society and forced to accede their powers to the government. Civil War also balances weighty stand-offs between Captain America and Iron Man with lighter comic scenes, thanks in part to the natural comedic talents of Anthony Mackie and Paul Rudd, the “nerd” chemistry between Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland, and brief cameo appearances by the always-welcome Jim Rash and Martin Freeman. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who have previously worked on episodes of the wildly funny and idiosyncratic TV shows Arrested Development and Community, also manages a few, clever, meta-jokes, including one about the physically impossible feats that Captain America executes with his shield. The film naturally includes many exhilarating action sequences (there’s a stairwell fight that almost rivals that of fellow Marvel property Daredevil’s second season stunner) and real WTF moments of shock and awe (i.e. a Winter Soldier back story reveal that will not be spoiled here!) Admittedly, a few characters took more of back seat: Scarlet Witch and Vision (Paul Bettany) should technically be the most powerful and interesting supers of the bunch, what with their reality-shattering powers of magic and apparent godliness, respectively, but they sit out for most of the movie as the youngest and least experienced members of the Avengers. The main villain, played by Daniel Bruhl, is necessarily unspectacular in order to allow Captain America and Iron Man to really face off against each other. And that’s what we wanted in Civil War, right?

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 teenaged RDJs

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