With DC being the first to release a cinematic brawling between two beloved heroes this year, a second helping of good guy fisticuffs is now here with Marvel's Captain America: Civil War. While Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a mixed bag and a mashup of so many ideas that it felt like a grab bag of plot ideas and characters, Civil War feels more expertly executed in pretty much every way. From the script to the acting and even how fun the action can be, Civil War is just about everything BvS tried to be but wasn't.
Civil War follows the events of last year's Avengers: Age of Ultron, directly addressing the aftermath of all of the Avengers' battles around the globe thus far. Since this is a "Captain America" movie, it does directly serve as a follow-up to his previous film, 2014's Winter Soldier, but it also serves as a direct sequel to Avengers: Age of Ultron, focusing on the impact these heroes' battles have had on the world around them. Collateral damage and being held accountable is a big theme in the film. When Tony Stark is approached by a grieving mother who lost a child in the battle in Sokovia against Ultron and his minions, the encounter gives a face and personality and story to a nameless victim, and it stirs up some relevant issues for the team to discuss. At the same time, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt reprising his role from The Incredible Hulk) calls for the team to sign an agreement to become a government approved organization that would answer to them first and foremost -- instead of a quick-to-action band of vigilantes. Stark finds this situation to be an acceptable way to start making amends for the collateral losses, but Cap doesn't feel like it's the right way to go about it. Before long, things escalate past to a boiling point and the Avengers--along with some new allies--find themselves at odds with each other.
The Russo brothers reprise their roles as co-directors on this film (following Winter Soldier) and they do another stellar job of crafting an engaging story with deep, ethical and emotional topics. It's not easy to manage a movie with so many characters, but the Russos utilize them in a way that feels pretty natural to the plot, instead of forcefully jamming them into the story and using a line or two of cheesy dialog to explain it (like BvS does more than once). Sure, there still are more characters than one movie usually needs, and you might be a little lost if this is your first Marvel movie, but if you've been on board--and invested--since Iron Man eight years ago, you will likely get the most out of this culmination of story buildup over the course of at least eight films (that involve characters you see here). It's a bittersweet experience, however; while the scenes are exciting, there's also something terribly sad about seeing heroes fighting each other--and often nearly to death. The plot lays out some pretty clear motivations for each character (and an "if you're not with me, you're against me" kind of attitude), and you can kind of see each character's individual reasoning for the side they choose. What's great about how the Russos approach these superhero films, is that they often feel like regular action thrillers that just happen to revolve around superheroes. This film is undoubtedly more extravagant and fantastical than Winter Soldier was (which the directors aptly describe as a "political thriller"), but there's still a grounded feeling as a whole. The film's villain--yes, there is one--is just a regular guy with a bone to pick with the Avengers. I won't spoil it if you don't know, but they named him after a familiar Captain America comic book villain that isn't really the same kind of character, but I still kind of liked their treatment--especially if it is the only way they'll ever work the character into a Marvel film (and there's potential for future trouble-making from him). But following the large scope of Age of Ultron, Civil War keeps things pretty close to the ground (and chest, really). There's one big epic "can't we all just get along" fight that allows some truly crazy things to happen, but otherwise, Civil War follows in the similar footsteps of Winter Soldier's grittiness. And that probably has a lot to do with the fact that this plot revolves heavily around The Winter Soldier again.
After revisiting Age of Ultron in an at-home viewing, I had forgotten how much tension there was between Cap and Iron Man. I remember they butt heads in each Avengers movie, but when the team starts arguing over the creation of Vision, we got a little taste of what Civil War brings (Iron Man and Cap even briefly fight in that scene, too). See, it's obvious when watching BvS that DC is trying so very hard to catch up with Marvel (like cramming four movies into one, for starters), but Marvel is merely harvesting the fruits of the seeds they sowed eight years ago. Last night, I saw an online post that pointed out a newspaper article and date that was referenced in passing in the very first Iron Man movie in 2008. That date is super significant to the plot of Civil War. The fact that someone on the other end of the lens even cared to keep continuity with that detail is impressive. And the fact that that detail remained after multiple directors shuffled in an out of the series and things have continued to morph and evolve, is just mind-blowing to me. I think that one little example is a testament to what Marvel has done with this series. Civil War also works as a springboard to introduce the audience to Black Panther and a new Spider-Man, and for some reason it works and feels organic enough. Just think about Black Widow being introduced in Iron Man 2 and note how far she's come since then and the impact she's had on the series. Honestly, I'm excited to see where things will continue to go from here.
The content for the film is about on par with Winter Soldier, with a bit more profanity this time around, surprisingly (there's a handful of uses of the "S" word and quite a few of "h*ll" and "*ss," as well as a couple "g*dd*mn"). The violence is pretty much the same; the punches land a bit harder when you're watching characters you love fight one another, but there's also plenty of bullets flying throughout the film and the final fight gets relatively bloody (mostly characters' faces). There's also a brief scene where a Russian agent is interrogated with his face in a sink that's slowly filling up with water and is left to die, and another where we see the silhouette of the arm of a dead body against a shower curtain and some blood on the side of a tub (and later briefly see photos of the actual dead body). Another scene shows several bodies with a bloody spot on each of their foreheads where they were shot, and finally, there's a pretty emotional sequence that shows two people in a car accident being murdered (only partially shown, but it's rough). Needless to say, sadly, this is not the kind of movie you take the kids to.
We did see Civil War in 3D in the theaters and I didn't think it made much of a difference. In fact, I can't remember it ever really standing out to me. I did, however, feel like the frame rate was skipping a lot during the fast action, and I couldn't tell if it was the 3D effect causing it or if we were perhaps just a row or two too close to the big screen (I think it was more so the 3D though). Overall, I didn't feel like the 3D added anything, but I'd be curious to see how it looks on Blu-Ray in 3D on a smaller, in-home viewing.
Whether you side with Team Cap and his allegiance to his manipulated childhood friend Bucky, or you side with Team Iron Man and agree that the heroes need to be kept in check, Civil War makes a compelling case for both sides and gives viewers a lot to think about while giving plenty to entertain them in the process. Civil War may just be the Avengers sequel fans wanted Age of Ultron to be, as it's a stronger story and all-around plot than Ultron, but the inner turmoil between the Avengers (which started with that first team-up film in 2012) makes it a bittersweet pill to swallow. For those tired of the humor-heavy offerings of the Joss Whedon-directed efforts, or even Ant-Man (which this reviewer really enjoyed), the Russos strike a strong balance between the two, letting the humor alleviate the tension at just the right moments (usually at the hands of Spider-Man and Ant-Man), while letting the story otherwise be as serious as it needs to be to make the audience feel for our heroes. Captain America: Civil War just might be one of the best Marvel movies yet. If you're a Cap and/or Iron Man fan and have been along for the ride this whole time, you won't be disappointed.
- John DiBiase (reviewed: 5/6/16)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Captain America: Civil War is available in a 3D Blu-Ray/2D Blu-Ray/Digtial combo pack, on single disc DVD, single disc Blu-Ray, and through the usual digital movie providers. What really surprised me with this release is that the single-disc Blu-Ray release does NOT come with any form of digital copy. If you want a digital copy with a disc purchase, you have to get the 3D combo pack set. Hopefully this will not be starting a new trend for Disney releases going forward, because a digital copy just seems like a standard feature to come with your purchase; the fact it no longer comes with a $20 Blu-Ray release is really chintzy.
I saw the film in 3D in the theaters and found the 3D on the big screen to make the action a bit hard to follow at times. On 3D Blu-Ray, it looks pretty solid. 3D is rather gimmicky, but it sometimes does give the movie a more immersive feel. I wouldn't say it's a must for Civil War, but it did look pretty cool.
The special features on this Blu-Ray disc include:
Deleted and Extended Scenes (7:52) - First, there's an extended version of Peggy's funeral, which features more dialog between characters, especially from Sharon (and her eulogy). There's also alternate footage between Steve and Sharon to focus on their relationship more. It's good stuff, but it definitely slows the pace down. Next, we see a little moment that shows Zemo meeting the psych doctor at the airport. The third scene is Black Widow talking to Black Panther at the base after the Berlin incident. Lastly, during the airport fight, Bucky briefly uses Cap's shield and remarks that he needs to get one of those too.
Gag Reel (2:53) - The short gag reel shows just how much fun everyone had on set making the movie, but it includes quite a bit of bleeped language (especially the "F" word).
United We Stand, Divided We Fall: The Making of Captain America CIVIL WAR - This featurette is split up into two parts but works as one long featurette if it had not been. Part 1 (22:25) introduces the story, talks about its comic book origins and shows a lot of behind the scenes footage. It then runs down a profile of all the key players, labeling their role in the fight. When Part 1 ends, it's a little after the start of profiling Team Stark. (1 "s" word, 1 "h*ll"). Part 2 (23:18) continues to go through Team Stark and the motivations behind these characters, profiling each one and highlighting any changes with them. We're also introduced to the new Spider-Man and see some fun behind-the-scenes stuff with him (including revealing that Tom Holland did some motion capture suit work for the character). It also covers the big airport battle between the heroes, the finale between Iron Man and Cap, and details on Zemo's villainous character (1 partially silenced "S" word, 1 "h*ll").
Captain America: The Road to Civil War (4:11) is about Cap's evolution and relationship with Tony (as well as Chris and Robert as actors) and his distrust in the government now, especially after the Hydra events of The Winter Soldier film.
Iron Man: The Road to Civil War (4:27) covers Tony's arc across all of the Marvel films, as well as the tension between Cap and Tony throughout the series.
Open Your Mind: Marvel's Doctor Strange Exclusive Sneak Peek (4:02) - As a teaser of the next part of the Marvel franchise, we're given a little look into the upcoming Doctor Strange film, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. They say it's the most supernatural entry in the series that apparently changes the Marvel world going forward--and label it a "mind trip action film."
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 9/17/16)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: None. Tony comments several times how hot Peter's Aunt is.
Vulgarity/Language: Roughly 5 "S" words, 6 "G-d," 1 "J*sus," 2 "g*dd*mn," 9 "a" words, 8 "h*ll," 2 "S.O.B," 1 "Oh my G-d," 2 "d*mn," 1 "sucks"
Alcohol/Drugs: We see a man drinking from a glass; There are bottles seen in a man's house.
Blood/Gore: We see a man with lots of scarring on his face from previous burns and injuries; Several people have blood on them after an explosion goes off outside a building; We see the silhouette of an arm up against a shower curtain in a tub, with blood having dripped down over the side of the tub; Tony has a black eye after being hit in the face; Rhodes has some blood on his face after falling; We see a room with various chambers with people inside of them, and each one has a bloody bullet hole in their foreheads; We briefly see an image of the aforementioned dead body lying in the bathtub with some blood on them; A man crawls away from a car accident with blood all over his face. We see a woman inside the car with blood on her face; Cap, Bucky and Tony have a lot of blood on their faces after a long brawl.
Violence: The movie opens with a flashback where The Winter Soldier is brought out of cryo to be used for a mission. We see him riding a motorcycle and running a car off the road into a tree. It catches on fire; Cap and his team follow Crossbones' team into a city and fight them. There are lots of explosions, gunfire and a truck used as a battering ram through the cement archway of a facility; A man blows himself up but Wanda uses her magic to contain it and throw the explosion. Unfortunately it hits a nearby building and blows up a section of it, accidentally killing some civilians; We see footage that Ross shows the Avengers of destruction caused during events from previous films; Soldiers go to Bucky's place to apprehend him, but Cap helps him escape and the two fight the soldiers in a pretty brutal encounter as they exit the building; We see a man hanging upside down with his head in a sink and it slowly filling up with water. The villain then turns the water on all the way, drowning the man; An explosion outside a political meeting causes the death of several people inside and outside; We see a chase through a tunnel with Cap, Bucky, and Black Panther. There's lots of mayhem and vehicular destruction; The Winter Soldier is incarcerated in a metal box with glass windows. At one point, he breaks out and escapes, fighting everyone he encounters as he runs through the building. He chokes Black Widow in one scene (after she jumps on him and hits him repeatedly), and then he and Tony fight over a gun which goes off in Tony's face; A large battle between the Avengers breaks out in an airport runway, with lots of explosions, debris and destruction; A fight in the air with Falcon chasing after War Hammer who's chasing after Cap and Bucky ends with War Machine crashing into the ground, leaving him severely injured; There's a flashback that shows numerous super soldiers being created with a serum injection (and one has a violent reaction to it). We then see them fighting through a prison to escape, beating up and throwing guards around; We see more of the car accident flashback that shows a man with blood on him crawling away from the wreck. A villain then punches them in the face repeatedly. We then see the same villain approach a woman in the passenger's seat and put his hand around her throat (as she's crying). The camera pans away, but it's obvious he kills her; A big fight breaks out between three superheroes, which ends up being pretty brutal and violent, with them all beating each other within an inch of their lives; A man's prosthetic arm is burned off; A man tries to shoot himself in the head but another man stops him. And other comic book style action violence.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.