Posted on Monday, May 9th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
A Cast of Dozens
The ensemble of Captain America: Civil War is terrific before you even get to the guys and gals in spandex. As Helmut Zemo, the wonderful Daniel Brühl is one of the best MCU villains in ages, the kind of bad guy whose motivation is so crystal clear, so understandable, and so human that it’s hard to argue with his mission. He’s about as far from his comic book counterpart as you can get (I miss the purple balaclava, personally), but he’s the kind of string-pulling puppet master a movie like this needs. He’s not fueled by a desire for power. He just wants justice. Just like Steve Rogers. Just like Tony Stark. And like those two, he’s not afraid to break a few eggs to get there. His ending is tragic and worthy of an actor as strong as Brühl. Knowing that he’s broken the Avengers’ bonds into a thousand pieces, he’s perfectly comfortable putting a gun to his head and ending it all. The last-minute intervention of Black Panther ensures that he gets sent to prison instead, where he faces a more tragic ending. Now, he gets to spend who-kn0ws-how-long alone with his pain. And with Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross.
Freeman is just one of several terrific actors populating the sidelines of Civil War (and it warms my heart to see him essentially recycling his American accent from FX’s Fargo series). His slightly slimy government bureaucrat, who will supposedly play a larger role in the upcoming Black Panther movie, is one of those welcome sights, a reminder that we live in a world where everyone gets to be in a superhero movie at some point. Even more satisfying is the return of John Slattery as the older Howard Stark, carefully positioned to remind us this is the same guy we’ve seen before in the likes of Ant-Man and Iron Man 2 and Captain America: The First Avenger and that we should give a damn when we learn what actually happened to him on the night he died. However, the cheekiest piece of casting involves the return of William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, the Hulk’s number one frenemy and secondary antagonist from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. That film has always been the redheaded stepchild of the MCU, so watching Civil War directly tie it into the heart of the series warms my heart. Even the best comic books have to live with the continuity of the weaker issues.
If there is a weak spot in the supporting cast, it would me Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter, whose romance with Steve never rings true…especially since he’s literally just lost Peggy Carter. It’s not VanCamp’s fault – she’s a strong performer working with what she’s given – but in a film that is otherwise so airtight, she flounders. It’s telling that her big moment is immediately overshadowed by a reaction shot by characters we genuinely care about.
And that brings us to superheroes in the cast, each of whom deserve a moment. The Vision is possibly the most wasted of the bunch, but he remains such an odd and compelling character…especially when he’s wearing his civilian clothes and trying to teach himself how to cook. Paul Bettany finds the perfect blend of affability and iciness that allows us to like him while understanding that he’s not quite human. Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch provides the necessary counterbalance. She is all raw emotion, a young woman attempting to atone for sins brought about because she is flawed, because she is imperfect, and because she made mistakes. Wanda doesn’t get too much to do here, but Olsen allows us to understand her guilt and the choices it forces her to make.
We know what to expect from the characters who have been around longer. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow still feels like the bleeding conscience of the MCU, a woman who has seen enough to be truly torn between Tony and Steve’s perspectives. Anthony Mackie’s Falcon is still instantly likable and a truly believable best buddy for Cap. As Bucky, Sebastian Stan has got that brooding thing down pat. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is…well, he’s Hawkeye. And Rhodey gets the honor of being the Avenger who gets to be seriously wounded just to showcase how real the situation is getting. It’s all petty disagreements until a rogue blast from the weird synthetic man misses its mark and hits the guy in the robot suit.
But let’s get real for a second: Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man is the quiet MVP of this movie, the genuinely hilarious comic relief who shows up just when the movie is threatening to get too dark. I’m on the record as being a big fan of his solo movie, but this was the best possible advertisement for Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Spider-Man and Black Panther
Although every major MCU character of note gets something to do in Captain America: Civil War, the film also takes time to introduce two new players. Through them, it’s easy to see why these movies have showcased such longevity. Despite sharing the screen with a dozen other “enhanced” individuals, they feel completely different. They have nothing in common with anyone else. They are a breath of fresh air.
Take T’Challa, the prince from the African nation of Wakanda who becomes king when his father is assassinated who also happens to be the Black Panther, a protector role that has been passed down amongst his people for centuries. His unique role to play in the film goes beyond a cool costume. Civil War never forgets that T’Challa is legitimate royalty and he carries himself with the confidence of a young man who was literally born and trained to lead. He’s serious by design, a guy so secure in his position that he can deflect Sam Wilson’s cracks about his “cat” costume and make him look like the fool. He’s regal, intense, a leader with the literal weight of a nation on his shoulders. You can see the gears turning behind his steely facade. His blood boils easily, but he maintains a calm face. He seeks vengeance, but he knows when it is time to put away his claws. Black Panther is vital enough to the plot of Civil War that he never feels like an advertisement for his own solo film, but this is a character that deserves his own spin-off.
Chadwick Boseman has given us every reason in the world to look forward to his solo adventure.
And that brings us to
Tom Holland‘s Spider-Man, who feels a little less important to the proceedings but is so much fun that it’s hard to care too much that he was obviously worked in at the last second after Sony and Marvel agreed to share the character. While I remain a fan of Tobey Maguire’s nerdy sad-sack take on the character (and don’t even have the energy express my disdain for the Amazing Spider-Man movies anymore), Holland’s Peter Parker is the first cinematic version who actually feels like the classic Spider-Man. He’s a kid, as uncomfortable in his own skin as he is in a superhero suit cooked up by Tony Stark. He’s a wisecracker, not because he’s naturally funny, but because it’s a defense mechanism against being deeply, painfully in-over-his-head. Holland makes a strong impression in his handful of scenes, letting us know everything we need to know about his Peter in the quickest amount of time possible. He’s a geek. He’s a genius. He’s painfully insecure. When put in the same room as the super-soldier and the billionaire futurist and the rest of the veteran heroes, he sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s the kid referring to “old” movies like The Empire Strikes Back in the middle of a battle to suggest a specific combat tactic. We may have seen five Spider-Man movies in the past fourteen years, but in the context of the MCU, Spider-Man, this Spider-Man, is a breath of fresh air.
Humor, Character, and Making Us Give a Damn
At one point in Civil War, Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter lock lips. It’s not a great moment. Their romance is half-baked at best. It feels like the climax to a relationship that ended up on the cutting room floor at some point. But then the film cuts to Bucky and Sam Wilson, watching the scene from inside the hilariously small Volkswagen Steve acquired for their journey across Germany, and they both nod their approval. It’s a tiny moment. A character moment. And it brought the house down in my theater, earning applause, laughter and cheers that rivaled anything that would go on to happen in the big airport battle.
The reaction of one theater to one scene is anecdotal at best, but the truth is that I agreed with that audible surge of approval from the entire audience. I think this speaks to the true power of the MCU and why we’re thirteen movies deep into this series and audiences are still getting excited. We don’t come to these movies for their dynamic action (it’s only occasionally something special) or storytelling that breaks new ground (these movies tend to focus on bread and butter plotting). We come to these movies because we love these characters and we want to see what happens to them next. We don’t want to watch Iron Man and Captain America fight. We don’t want them to fight. We want them to stop fighting. We want them to be friends and go to a bar and swap stories and be best friends forever. Watching characters we’ve grown to love, friendships we’ve grown to appreciate, crumble into dust is a painful experience. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier approving of Captain America’s love life is an oasis in the storm, a reminder that we’re watching these guys fight because we like them when they’re not punching and blasting and flying and shooting and so on.
There are few MCU scenes I enjoy as much as the party sequence in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where all action pauses for fifteen minutes while the characters drink and socialize and share war stories. It’s a testament to these actors, and to the directors and screenwriters and producers working behind the scenes, that we love these people enough to want to see them socialize outside of superhero-ing. It’s painful when that sequence is interrupted by Ultron and nearly every scene of Civil War is infected by a similar pain. Great drama occurs when people we care about are put through the wringer. This movie treats every other film in the MCU is prologue. It is the culmination of everything we’e seen so far. And under that logic, it is allowed test every bond and tear every relationship apart.
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Source : http://www.slashfilm.com/captain-america-civil-war-spoiler-review/2/