The task seemed as impossible as facing Dr. Doom, Thanos and the Sandman armed with nothing but a pointy stick. That’s the magnitude of challenge Marvel Studios faced releasing its next movie after the nearly flawless “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and hero-packed “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
In the ever-expanding universe of comic book-inspired films, “Winter Soldier” had just the right amount of chaos and control to make it an unrelenting movie thrill ride. Anything following that would have to be bigger, louder and more exciting.
“Ultron” pumped up the volume of players with the addition of Scarlet Witch, Vision and Quicksilver. Anything less would seem a letdown (as in the case of “Ant-Man”).
Directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo come as close as a hair off the head of Ant-Man to accomplishing the goal of topping those movies with “Captain America: Civil War.” A minor blip with the villain and a costumed addition who seems like a promotional appearance take away some impact.
The film picks up in the aftermath of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Although the heroes have been doing their best to save the world, leaders are noticing a lot of civilian collateral damage. They decided the heroes can no longer go willy-nilly into the night to fight the bad guys. There needs to be some control.
Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), agrees some guidance is warranted. Captain America (Chris Evans) believes in full freedom. Slowly, the heroes take sides, a decision that creates a bruising game of Red Rover.
This is the biggest difference compared with another big superhero movie that featured good guys fighting: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” The reasoning behind Batman calling out Superman ended up such a muddled mess that the movie never develops a central core. “Civil War” makes it perfectly clear why the heroes are fighting and that makes it more powerful than the loco motives of “Batman v Superman.”
A dozen heroes show up for the “Civil War” battle royale. The Russo brothers do a masterful job of giving all of the participants their moment in the center ring – both for the fight and for more contemplative moments. It’s not an easy task considering how many characters need to be served.
Any portion of the major showdown staged at an airport would have been sensational in past Marvel movies. Altogether it makes captivating cinematic combat.
The only small bump is the addition of Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to the mix. The filmmakers wanted the fight to feature some players with no emotional attachment to the Avengers. But Holland’s Spider-Man is so detached he comes across as little more than a way to promote a future Marvel movie than a real piece of this puzzle.
Contrarily, the introduction of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is done so organically it’s as if the character had been part of the movie universe from the beginning. He provides a personal perspective to the battle as he looks to avenge a death. Boseman embraces the role with such force and regal form that he will be able to handle his own movie with ease.
Daniel Bruhl’s addition as Zemo should have been equally as engaging as he becomes the source of evil. But his story doesn’t ring as authentic as that of Panther’s and his contributions are a little too disconnected. There’s so much else going on that this stumble is not as big as it would have been in some of the other past films.
Toss in a few secrets revealed and “Captain America: Civil War” kicks off the summer movie season with a punch strong enough to make the Hulk’s head spin. The problems are more nitpicks because comparisons are being made to one of the best films in the Marvel film legacy and one with the largest array of heroes.
Coming in a very close second to that combination is still a major victory.