“Batman v Superman” move over, because “Captain America: Civil War” is set to become the first superhero mashup of the year, to achieve a billion dollar global take. Hey, it’s the better movie, plus it’s a lot more fun…also it has the more established pedigree. And, like “Dawn of Justice” before it, with the smashing debut of a Wonder Woman for the 21st century, “Civil War” unveils a spanking new teenage Spider-Man for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And actual teenager Tom Holland appears up to the challenge…he’s terrific. In fact, “Captain America 3” is nearly a full-fledged “Avengers” movie! But more on that later. However, make no mistake, this is still Chris Evans’ show, continuing his pitch-perfect interpretation of the Steve Rogers/Captain America role. His character arc is the most interesting of all the Stan Lee heroes. And Evans nails every nuance.
This 147-minute gargantua has a plot line that follows off of both 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. So, in a nutshell, the Avengers are being taken to task by the United Nations, for all of the destruction and death that occurs during their various battles and/or rescue efforts around the globe. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), aka Iron Man, supports a level of oversight and restrictions set to be established by a U.N. panel. Captain America (Mr. Evans) disagrees, trusting his own judgement more than a government imposed guideline. This opposition leads to a battle between the split factions of established and new heroes. So, just where will the allegiance fall, amongst a group that includes Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Plus, expect a little bit of help from a web-slinging high schooler.
Some may feel the running time is bloated, and that the cast is too top-heavy…but I believe things are kept cohesive, via a relatively nimble screenplay (Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely), along with solid, steady direction from the Russo brothers. Also, outside of his snarky, original appearance from the first “Iron Man” in 2008, this is my favorite Tony Stark performance from Mr. Downey. He plumbs some hidden depths here, and it shades the aging interpretation wonderfully. Scarlett Johansson, now one of our finest film actresses, is marvelously conflicted as Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff. And if you don’t know by now, how smashing I find Chris Evans’ superhero work–you haven’t been paying attention. Debits? Well, as deftly as this handles the various new Avengers unleashed, it occasionally feels like an extended trailer in its plugging away for the MCU. A great trailer, but still… No matter, because it’s an exciting blockbuster, and one that remembers to slow down the action occasionally, and focus on plot and character. It’s the kind of movie that is an 11-year-old boy’s dream–and I know, because I attended with one. And son, it’s quite possibly the best Captain America entry yet.