'Captain America: Civil War' Review: This Is The Superhero Movie You've Been Waiting For

After the collateral damage caused by the previous efforts of the Avengers proves to be too much for the world's governments, the United Nations comes together to introduce the Sokovia Accords, a resolution that will turn the superheroes into a task force supervised and directed by the UN itself. But not all our heroes are ready to blindly follow the commands of an organization that could just as easily have an agenda like S.H.I.E.L.D. (or Hydra) before it, and that's what leads to the titular superhero conflict in Captain America: Civil War.

The result is a sharp, astounding, action-packed summer blockbuster that's the kind of superhero movie you've been waiting to see your whole life. This is a comic book film where the action is just as harrowing as it is entertaining due to the care and respect that we've come to have for these superheroes after spending a total of 11 films (not counting Guardians of the Galaxy) with them in the Marvel cinematic universe. Directors Anthony & Joe Russo have pulled together a movie that brings as much hard-hitting drama to the table as much as it does astounding action. It's the perfect model for what serial comic book movies can be.

Keep reading our Captain America Civil War review after the jump.

Black Widow in Captain America Civil War

A Busy But Organized Story

Our story begins with Captain America (Chris Evans) leading Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) on a mission in Nigeria, in pursuit of Crossbones (aka former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Rumlow, played by Frank Grillo) who has been making a run on various strongholds with no regard for human life. while our Avengers emerge victorious, it comes at a cost with innocent lives being lost due to a mistake by Scarlet Witch and her advanced, enhanced powers.

This is the straw that breaks the camel's back that causes the government to intervene with the Sokovia Accords, creating a rift between our superheroes. While Steve Rogers doesn't feel comfortable being sent into a battle in which he may not have any stake in, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) thinks they need to be kept in check after a heartfelt encounter finally instills in him the responsibility he should have for the lives he isn't able to save. What if they're lives lost because of his selfish motivations to be a superhero?

It's questions like this that give the disagreement some real weight among our heroes. Each of them thinks they're making the right decision by signing or not signing the Sokovia Accords, and that's what makes the slowly emerging conflict so compelling. Neither Steve Rogers nor Tony Stark is clearly right or wrong in this fight, and choosing a side as a viewer isn't so black and white. Complicating things even more is the reemergence of The Winter Soldier (aka Bucky Barnes, played with profound built by Sebastian Stan), seemingly responsible for another terrorist attack that kills more innocent people, which is also the catalyst that brings the Black Panther, played regally Chadwick Boseman, into play.

Captain America Civil War

The conflict escalates from here as Steve Rogers attempts to keep Bucky safe from meeting a grisly end at the hands of the government and their contracted Avengers, knowing that Bucky isn't behind the recent attack. While Avengers like Falcon and Scarlet Witch stick by Rogers by not signing the Accords, War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Black Widow opt to side with Stark and accept the fact that they need oversight. The result is two different sides who are in pursuit of Bucky, one trying to prove his innocence while the other wants him to answer for his crimes over the decades. Meanwhile a mysterious man named Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) is trying to learn more about a certain mission The Winter Soldier was sent on back in 1991 for some reason.

If it sounds like there's a lot going on, that's because there is, but the script from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely handles it all in a very organized way, and they even pull the rug out from under you a couple times with some surprising moments, especially concerning the villain's plan. Even though the first act feels like it's all over the place, all the characters are handled in a surprisingly organized fashion, and almost all of them have a substantial arc that is inherently tied to Captain America's pursuit to get his friend back. Paul Bettany as Vision and his interaction with Scarlet Witch are standouts in this regard, but each hero has a reason to choose a side in the exciting airport brawl that's been teased in the trailers.

The next page discusses the astounding action Civil War brings to the big screen.

Captain America Civil War

Marvel's Best Action Ever

To say that the first battle between all of our superheroes in Captain America: Civil War is the best action sequence Marvel Studios has ever created is not hyperbole or grandstanding. In fact, this is just some of the best action in movie history. The scene is that good. The way our heroes fight against and with each other on the airport tarmac delivers exactly what fans have always wanted out of a comic book movie of this scale. Whether it's Spider-Man swinging fast off of a flying War Machine, or Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) firing a tiny Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) towards Iron Man, the way these heroes engage each other is creative and endlessly entertaining.

Bringing Ant-Man and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) into the mix, you've never seen our heroes fight like this, not even in The Avengers before they all had to work together. Each of the insect-named heroes have their scene-stealing moments, making the fight massively exhilarating. But just as quickly as this sequence lifts you up with huge action, it tears you down when the consequences of a fight like this become all too real. Ultimately, it's the impact that the action in this movie has which makes the movie as substantial as it is enjoyable.


Spider-Man Swings into Action Superbly, But a Bit Clumsily

Speaking of Spider-Man, the inclusion of the character in the Marvel cinematic universe for the first time is a little conflicting in Civil War. Tom Holland plays the character effortlessly and with an affable personality that makes this iteration of Peter Parker/Spidey a promising addition to the MCU when he gets his own franchise. His interaction with the various heroes during his action debut contains just the right amount of teenage sarcasm and nerdiness as he geeks out over their various abilities and superhero suits. Even though he has to fight some of these heroes, he's just happy to be there.

But I couldn't help but feel like his recruitment into Civil War was merely added into an already stuffed movie instead of being part of the story from the beginning (and we've heard that's kind of how it played out behind the scenes anyway). Don't get me wrong, Stark shares a fantastic scene with Peter Parker where we come to understand who he is as a hero, sort of a variation on the "with great power comes great responsibility" sentiment from the kid himself, but it still feels tacked on. So while he's easily one of the most exciting and fun aspects of the first major battle between the Avengers, it's not as smooth as it could have been.

Captain America Civil War - Black Panther

Black Panther Is Kingly and Has a Bright Future

On the other end of the spectrum, the introduction of T'Challa, aka Black Panther, is perfect and feels completely organic. The hero makes for a fantastic contrast the quick wit and smart mouths that most of the Avengers have in the heat of the moment. T'Challa is filled with such confidence and conviction that you get the feeling this is a man who has been a hero to his people for awhile. Nothing will get in the way of the safety of his people, and the world in general, but he's not without his own flaws. Thus, his character arc, all while being a new addition to a crowded MCU, is all the more impressive, and it should be interesting to see how he evolves in his own film series.

On the final page, we praise the performances and direction of Civil War.

Captain America Civil War

Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. Are the Heart of Civil War

But the new heroes aren't the only ones who deserve praise. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. have never been better in their respective roles as Captain America and Iron Man. Evans performance is a little more subtle as he's truly conflicted about the decision he's making and the inevitable fight he will have to endure against his friends. Meanwhile, Downey has never been so reserved in his performance as Stark, who finally takes into account the weight of being a hero and the loss of life that can occur from his actions. While the funny quips are there every now and then, Stark has never been given such emotional complexity as he truly regrets having to beat the hell out of Steve Rogers, and faces the fruits of his superhero labor in more ways than one.

By contrast, their final fight doesn't have the spectacle as the first battle between all of our heroes, but that's on purpose. While the airport battle is full of shots and a color palette lifted straight from the splash pages of comic books, this final fight is much more grim and emotional. Tony and Steve aren't messing around anymore, and every single punch hits hard. Even the way Anthony and Joe Russo shoot this fight feels much grittier than the Bourne-esque opening action sequence, and the pure comic book battle from before. They're directors who know how to shoot action with intensity while also having it mean something.

Captain America Civil War

A Cinematic Universe Done Right

Ultimately, Captain America: Civil War succeeds because of the groundwork that has been laid by multiple films before it. But it's how the movie continues the evolution and story of our characters that makes Civil War work. While I don't think a comparison to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are necessary to express just how good Civil War is, it must be noted that the Marvel film tackles similar themes of superhero responsibility and collateral damage with much more aplomb and grace.

Both films have a packed storyline and a villain with a somewhat complex plan, but Civil War pulls it off mostly because the writers and directors know how to use the heroes to progress a meaningful story that makes you care about the characters. Again, this is bolstered by the preceding films that Marvel has already made, but that's just more evidence that proves why DC Comics fans may not have been fully prepared or invested in what unfolded in Batman v Superman.

At the end of the day, Captain America: Civil War is a Marvel movie that is both new and familiar. It offers big spectacle and plenty of superheroes like the Avengers, but it feels more significant and grounded by comparison because of how our heroes interact and confront the responsibility of being a superhero. It's all handled quite impressively considering the how daunting the task must have been to include over a dozen key characters, each with their own pivotal role and character arc. Captain America: Civil War isn't flawless, but it's the kind of comic book movie you never thought you would see executed so successfully and satisfactorily, all thanks to a pair of directors who are taking the genre to new horizons.

Captain America: Civil War hits theaters on May 6.