CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is a Marvel Masterpiece
In CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a puny weakling from Brooklyn who will do anything to serve his country, even lie to get accepted into the war. Following several failed attempts he finally gets his chance when Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) a kind, brilliant scientist helps Steve on the condition he volunteer for Project Rebirth. This involves being injected with an experimental serum that could have devastating effects if not successful. Luckily for Steve the serum works and transforms him into a muscular marvel with superhuman abilities making him the perfect soldier. Although he is battle ready, Steve ends up being relegated to performing under the colorful moniker “Captain America” and serving not on the battlefield but in the USO. It’s not until his best friend James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) becomes a prisoner of the evil HYDRA army led by Johann Schmidt aka Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) that Steve decides to jump into action and use his extraordinary powers to help stop the enemy and rescue his fellow officers. When his covert mission proves his ability to be an effective soldier, he becomes “Captain America” for real, leading a band of Howling Commandos behind enemy lines. During one of the dangerous missions Bucky is tragically lost after falling from a train, leaving Cap feeling immense guilt and grief. This accident pushes him even further to stop Red Skull’s plan of destroying the planet using his secret weapon, The Tesseract, a mysterious cube discovered in Norway that holds the power of the Gods. Captain America finally wins the day against Red Skull, but makes the ultimate sacrifice when he crashes the evil mastermind’s plane into the Arctic leaving him frozen in suspended animation for decades.
Upon awaking from his 70 year slumber, Steve finds himself thrown into a new war alongside a group of superpowered misfits dubbed THE AVENGERS. The group battle an army of invader aliens called the Chitauri led by Thor’s renegade sibling Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Following this world shaking event, Steve finds new purpose working for SHIELD in Washington D.C. It’s revealed that the government organization has been infiltrated by HYDRA since its inception and Steve encounters a mysterious assassin called THE WINTER SOLDIER who turns out to be none other than his long lost best friend Bucky. This personal connection raises even more stakes as Steve and his new pal Sam Wilson aka The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) work together to take down HYDRA and their plans of world domination through a targeting system called Project Insight. Captain America once again triumphs but is nearly killed in the process. Bucky who had been brainwashed for decades actually saves Steve’s life and then goes on the run.
In CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR we catch up with the New Avengers who are on a mission in Lagos where the vicious HYDRA agent Brock Rumlow aka “Crossbones” (Frank Grillo) is infiltrating a disease center to steal a highly deadly toxin. Before he can make good on his departure, Captain America (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) arrive to intercept him in a breathtaking, action packed sequence that shows their finely tuned tactical skills. Although they succeed in getting the toxin back, an accidental explosion kills several nearby Wakandan humanitarian aides.
Back at Avengers Headquarters, Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, former US Army General turned Secretary of State presents Tony, Steve and friends with a look at past catastrophic events (Sokovia, Washington DC, New York) that have forced the United Nations to implement the “Sokovia Accords” an international treaty that all The Avengers must sign. This will assure that various nations will have control over the heroes before they might take action on their own. During the U.N. meeting in Vienna to ratify the Accords, King T’Chaka of the African nation of Wakanda is killed from a terrorist bombing. His son, the esteemed Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who witnesses this, immediately seeks revenge on Steve’s bestie Bucky who is accused of being behind the attack. In the aftermath of this incident, Tony, who’s still feeling massive guilt from his failed Ultron program (as well as personal troubles with Pepper) and Steve, someone who has lost all his trust for government agencies, begin to butt heads.
While The Avengers become entrenched in a mini war between themselves, its revealed that a mysterious figure with his own grudge against The Avengers named Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) has been secretly trying to rip the team apart from the inside. Zemo is not a super villain with extraordinary power, but rather a lonely, tragic figure working out of a suitcase, making him one of the most intriguing MCU baddies we’ve seen so far. When Cap learns of Zemo’s intentions from Bucky he recruits Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and newbie Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) to aid him. Tony has ideas for his own secret weapon to help him confront Cap’s outlaw crew in the form of a wall crawling, web spinning vigilante called Spider-Man whose real identity is Peter Parker (Tom Holland) a lower class, geeky teenager from Queens. The scene where Tony suddenly pops up at Peter’s apartment to request his assistance in taking on Cap & Co. is both hilarious and heartwarming.
The film’s most mindblowing, epic action set piece takes place at a German airport where the Avengers family quarrel culminates with the two opposing teams throwing down and showing just how immensely super (and humorous) they all are. Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa aka “Black Panther” is a welcomed addition to the roster. He is a fierce and bombastic sight to behold when he is in full raging Panther mode with vibranium claws extended and ready for all opponents. Tom Holland’s Spider Man hits the mark perfectly bringing a roguish charm and wisecracking wit as he swings across the screen. It’s simply the best live action version of the character I’ve seen so far.
Where CIVIL WAR truly excels is displaying the vulnerabilities and humanity of its characters. The Russo Brothers and Writers Markus and McFeely have not just taken Captain America to the next level but all of the characters involved. At the heart of the movie is a personal story about real loss and revenge and how it can destroy so much for those it touches. I think most importantly it shows that having crazy powers doesn’t mean the characters are untouchable or unaffected. This film ultimately proves that the “super hero” genre can and should be about more than just costumed heroes flying, jumping and punching. When placed in the hands of writers and filmmakers who truly love these mythic characters of pop culture, they can be elevated with an integrity the best movies have to offer.