Captain America: Civil War

Directed By: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, and Daniel Brühl

"Our very strength incites challenge.  Challenge incites conflict.  And conflict... breeds catastrophe.  Supervision is not something to be dismissed out-of-hand."
-Vision (Paul Bettany)

If Wednesday was May the Fourth Be With You, Thursday must have been Cinco de Marvel.  Yes, the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has arrived to get the summer blockbuster season started right.  There are few movies for which I'm genuinely excited in a big way, but Captain America: Civil War most certainly fits the bill.  What's even rarer is a film that exceeds my sky high expectations.  Avengers: Age of Ultron certainly did not last year, nor did Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  This third installment in the Captain America series and thirteenth installment in the MCU most certainly fits this bill as well.  Whether you're with Team Captain America, Team Iron Man, or the moviegoers just looking for a damn good night out at the movies, you're in for a treat with this one.  Introducing the likes of Spider-Man and Black Panther into the MCU, Captain America: Civil War changes the game for the comic book movie genre.

Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) leads a mission in Lagos to stop Crossbones / Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) from carrying out a terrorist act alongside fellow Avengers Falcon / Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and Scarlet Witch / Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen).  Things go south quickly, and innocent lives are lost in the process due in part to mistakes made by the team.  This is all too familiar for the Avengers after New York, Washington, DC, and most recently Sokovia.  There are people around the world who view them as heroes, but there are many who would consider them reckless vigilantes.  With the help of Iron Man / Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), Secretary of State Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) organizes the Sokovia Accords to put the Avengers in check.  

With 117 countries, War Machine / Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Vision (Bettany), and Black Widow all siding with Ross and Stark on establishing the Sokovia Accords, the lines are quickly drawn in this divisive argument about the role of superheroes.  Adamantly opposed to the idea of having oversight from the United Nations, Captain America stands strong on a lonely road that puts him at odds with Stark and others on the team.  Elsewhere, mysterious figure Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) becomes obsessed with learning of what happened on a fateful mission on December 16, 1991.  Chasing down former Hydra operatives including the Winter Soldier / Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Zemo quietly gets involved with the debate raging on the Sokovia Accords.  As the battle lines are formed over this controversial agreement, Hawkeye / Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Ant-Man / Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Black Panther / T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), and Spider-Man / Peter Parker (Tom Holland) enter the fray.  Team Captain America prepares to face off with Team Iron Man.  Their conflict breeds catastrophe as the empire the Avengers have built begins to fall.

Less has always been more in the world of comic book movies.  Many directors have tried to defy this axiom and have failed in the process.  Batman & Robin, Spider-Man 3, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are all potent examples of how overloading a superhero movie can go very wrong in a monumental way.  Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, on the other hand, serve up the rare exception to this rule of thumb with this weekend's Captain America: Civil War.  Tasked with both opening and closing Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the sibling directors craft a magnificent film full of the humor that has pervaded the MCU for the last eight years now.  They also manage to infuse the film with the same grit and darkness that defined their first foray into Marvel, Captain America: Winter Soldier.  Delivering a cinematic showdown for the ages full of superheroes of all stripes, the Russo brothers have put together an instant classic that joins the pantheon of outstanding comic book movies.

What's most impressive about Captain America: Civil War is how the Russo brothers use elements of both Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron to weave the narrative propelling the film deeper and deeper into conflict.  The Winter Soldier takes center stage, but the aftermath of Ultron's devastation in Sokovia simply can't be ignored.  It's a simple tale but quite powerful, especially considering how it will ripple across the MCU over the next several years throughout Phase Three.  More importantly, it manages to do justice to all the characters depicted in the movie, which is getting more challenging to do as the ensemble becomes more unwieldy.  Under the direction of the Russo Brothers, Captain America: Civil War does what has never really been done before in the superhero genre.  They make the MCU truly akin to the world of comics in which characters can move seamlessly from playing leads to supporting players as they crisscross through the pages of their comics as well as those of their super-powered counterparts.

Like everyone else, I was wowed by the big fight sequence.  The choreography and imagination that's needed to pull off this dream match-up is utterly astounding.  You have to blend the fists and kicks of Cap and the Winter Soldier with the web-slinging and aerial combat of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and War Machine.  Mix in Ant-Man, who can't seem to remain the same size, as well as Falcon and his new robotic toy Redwing.  Sprinkle it with the magic of Scarlet Witch and Vision.  When you add the mysterious Wakandan warrior Black Panther as the final ingredient of this recipe, you get something truly special.  Simply put, you get a spectacular extravaganza.  Blending all the styles and abilities of these heroes in grand fashion to craft a battle like we've never seen before, the Russo brothers realize the full potential of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we all recognized almost a decade ago now.

This blockbuster superhero pic boasts a gigantic ensemble of superior actors.  I could talk about each and every one of them, but then this review would never end.  We all know Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and their typical sidekicks bring their best to the movie to make it one to remember.  The standouts are the fresher faces in the ensemble, namely Chadwick Boseman, Paul Rudd, and Tom Holland.  Delivering the first live action incarnation of Black Panther, the 42 and Get On Up star brings quite a bit of mystery to the film as this powerful new superhero who can hold his own with any and every Avenger.  I can't wait to see him in his own solo film.  Tom Holland also rises to the occasion as our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  Stepping into shoes once worn by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, Holland really just gives us a kid having a good time in the midst of this epic showdown.  Finally, we have Paul Rudd making a kickass yet comedic splash as Ant-Man.  Reprising his role from last summer, he shows that the showdown with Falcon last year was no fluke.  All in all, these three actors are most definitely the MVPs of this superhero royal rumble.

If it's not clear, Captain America: Civil War kicks off the summer blockbuster season in grand style.  The conflict between Team Captain America and Team Iron Man breeds one entertaining catastrophe.  Ladies and gentlemen, the game has changed.  The empire has fallen, and I certainly can't wait to see what happens next.  Captain America: Civil War gets a sober rating.  Don't miss this one.