“Oh, you’re going to have to take this to the shop,” says a shrunken Ant-Man. Iron Man replies, “Who’s speaking?” Ant-Man responds, “It’s your conscience. We don’t talk a lot these days.”
Marvel Studios’ Phase Two films (2013’s Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man) were a critical and financial success while expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel’s impressive Phase Three slate kicks off this year with Captain America: Civil War, which was loosely based on a very famous Marvel Comics storyline and directed by Captain America: The Winter Soldier helmers Joe and Anthony Russo. With the growing number of characters set to appear in the new film, there was some concern that it might come off as Avengers 2.5 rather than Captain America 3. I recently saw the Russo brothers’ Captain America: Civil War on the big screen, and it exceeded all of my high expectations. The film’s focus is thankfully (and ultimately) the continuation of Cap’s story (loaded with a ton of guest stars).
2016’s Captain America: Civil War follows Captain America as his disagreement with Tony Stark over the signing of the Sokovia Accords leads to the splitting of the Avengers into opposing factions while Cap tries to save his friend Bucky, formerly the brainwashed Winter Soldier who’s been framed for a bombing that kills the king of Wakanda. The Russos gathered a terrific ensemble that includes Chris Evans (as Steve Rogers/Captain America), Robert Downey Jr. (as Tony Stark/Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Sebastian Stan (as James “Bucky” Barnes), Anthony Mackie (as Sam Wilson/the Falcon), Don Cheadle (as James Rhodes/War Machine), Jeremy Renner (as Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Chadwick Boseman (as T’Challa/Black Panther), Paul Bettany (as the Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch), Paul Rudd (as Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Emily VanCamp (as Sharon Carter), Tom Holland (as Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Frank Grillo (as Brock Rumlow/Crossbones), William Hurt (as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross), Daniel Brühl (as Helmut Zemo), Martin Freeman (as Everett K. Ross), Marisa Tomei (as May Parker), John Kani (as T’Chaka), John Slattery (as Howard Stark), Hope Davis (as Maria Stark), Alfre Woodard (as Miriam Sharpe). The entire cast shines, especially Evans, Downey Jr., Stan, Boseman, Brühl, and Holland (the last three being the film’s biggest surprises).
The screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely explores the themes of loyalty and vengeance while expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe and starting to lay the groundwork for future Marvel films (they also add a good amount of humor and introduce the best villain to appear in a Marvel Studios film in a while). Trent Opaloch’s cinematography reflects the darker tone of the film, and Owen Paterson’s production design is top-notch (especially the Hydra base in Siberia). Judianna Makovsky’s costume designs features updates to existing Avengers costumes and entirely new ones (like the ones for Spider-Man and Black Panther). The special effects are amazing (particularly during the hero vs. hero battle at the Berlin airport, which holds some nice surprises). The editing by Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt keeps the film moving at an excellent pace, keeping track of all the little story arcs without losing track of the main arc and punching up the action. Henry Jackman delivers another thrilling score, expanding upon the palette he established with The Winter Soldier. The Russo’s Captain America: Civil War successfully kicks off Marvel’s Phase Three with an emotional, thought-provoking, action-filled entry with exciting twists and turns that also succeeds where Warner Bros. and D.C.’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failed a couple of months ago.