Friday at the Movies: Captain America Civil War
Video games are an interactive experience and whether it’s that fact or something completely unrelated the stories in them, well, mostly suck. Comic books (as well as other media) somehow get lumped into the same world, which is completely without merit. Perhaps it’s that both started off as a target for kids, but whatever the reason this is a myth that is often regarded as fact. Comic books have incredible story lines, character development, and even rival contemporary films in terms of quality content. Captain America Civil War has to be one of the best translations from comic book to screen I have ever seen.
Just to get it out of the way – although I’m certain comic fans already know this – the plot of Civil War is not the same as the story from 2006 that involved more than 100 comic books. While it definitely shares similar themes, and for a moment near the beginning you almost think that’s where it was going, but it sets off on its own path with haste. Suffice to say the story deals with the circumstance that a series of events can disband a group of defenders of society from the inside out. If you watch the trailers, this film like all other superhero films can be written off as a bunch of costumed heroes engaged in fistfights and bombastic action sequences. The fact that it’s a Captain America film is most fitting because Civil War is far from that, it’s a drama. While the Avengers films thrive on spectacle and such scale that I sadly admit to being bored in moments of both films, Civil War is emotional. There are spotlight action sequences, but they take a back seat to the conversations, feelings, and even heartbreak of some of Hollywood’s strongest actors. This allows the movie to shine not only as a high point to the concept of comics to film, but also as a demonstration of the talent that almost every actor involved brings to the table. It may cost a ton of money, but for the first time it feels justified as talent like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans are more than muscle-bound men performing stunts in a green screen studio.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the “feel good movie of the year” that will bring all the RomCom fans out of the woodwork. To balance the heavy emotional moments are plenty of action sequences, fights, and of course quick quips to keep you chuckling. In addition, the Civil War aspect makes for some great moments where superheroes are fighting one another and you can literally use any frame in those sequences as a comic book cell. I’ve always loved when a bunch of superheroes are on screen at once, but even in the largest groups like the X-Men series provides I always feel the moment-to-moment action is lost in the mix. Here all of the battles are focused so that you are more seeing glimpses of a one-on-one fight before quickly moving to the next, but somehow Civil War never drags too long on any one character. Like so many other parts of this film, the fact that it’s technically a Captain America film is almost ironic as no one is in the spotlight here. Hopefully from this point forward we can drop the branding of so many of these movies and just title them, perhaps with a team name if necessary, but even that seems like overkill to me.
It all boils down to one key word: balance. Captain America Civil War is just a balanced film in every sense of the word. It balances each and every character and feels more akin to a comic book than ever before, especially one that focuses around a team. This is partially thanks to screenplay writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely teaming up for a fourth film, but I rather disliked the original Captain America and Thor: The Dark World, so let’s just focus on this as the natural evolution of The Winter Soldier‘s greatness. The Russo brothers are the second half of this congratulation by directing a film that merges all of these sequences while providing shots, transitions, and composition that is appropriate to the specific moment on screen. It also moves and flows like a comic book, something that may have already been present in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I didn’t notice until now. Throw it all together and I feel this is a great direction for the future of the Avengers storyline, although unfortunately I’m impressed with the outcome of removing the Hulk and Thor. Even growing up I felt these two had weaker books than most of the others in Marvel’s pantheon and whether that bias carries over or not, this film was better off without them. If you have grown tired of superhero films in recent years or even if you simply never cared, there is far greater appeal with Civil War than probably any other Marvel movie to date. Couple that with the fact that you could probably go into this film blind and appreciate the movie as a self-contained single story. If you are going to a movie this weekend and it isn’t Civil War, change your plans, it’s worth it.