**BE WARNED JUNKIES, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM THE FILM SO IF YOU DON'T WANT IT TO BE RUINED, STOP RIGHT HERE!!**
THE AFJ REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR **SPOILERS!**
By Jarrett Kruse
I went into my late night screening of Captain America: Civil War positively giddy with excitement. But by the time I got out of the theater....I was not giddy. No, no, I was instead wowed and amazed at what I had just watched. This is the superhero movie Junkies have been waiting for. Yes, it is just that damn good from start to finish and to be honest, pulling this off with such precision of a Mary Lou Retton dismount, managing to cram over a dozen characters is an absolute coups for the House of Ideas aka MARVEL. Kevin Feige, the MCU's wunderkind behind all of the MARVEL films, has been weaving this web since the very first Iron Man film back in 2008. Feige has the Midas touch and Civil War is jam packed with bits and pieces that have been accruing over the last 8 years. While all those films were excellent, Civil War is Feige & directing team, the Russo brothers' piece de resistance. Translation: Civil War is the most important and epic MARVEL movie to date and while I looked for flaws with help from AFJ cub reporter RJ Davis, we found nothing in the 146 minute film that irked us to give it less than 4 & 1/2 out of 5 stars. It is that damn good a movie Junkies with incredible repeat value.
The narrative begins with a mysterious incident from 1991 when the Winter Soldier, still brainwashed, takes out a car with unknown occupants to the audience, and steals the Super Soldier serum. It was a wonderful way to set up the story and the scene is integral later in the movie, even if at first, we do not know who the passengers of the car were.
It is a year after the Age of Ultron events in Sokovia and part of the team is in Lagos to intercept former SHIELD operative Brock Lumlow who, if you remember, had a building fall on his face in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Lumlow is now disfigured and damn powerful and goes by the name Crossbones. Much like the comic book iteration of Civil War, when Speedball accidentally blew up a lot of people in Stamford, Connecticut, the film takes its cue from that turning point in MARVEL history. After an epic chase sequence and all sorts of enhanced fighting, Crossbones attempt to blow himself up. However, Wanda Maximoff is able to shift the brunt of the blast with her powers but it takes out the floor of a building, killing Wakandan peacekeeping volunteers. While Cap is against it, Stark, still reeling from creating Ultron and the destruction that followed, agrees with Ross that the team is playing by their own rules which was fine once, but not anymore.
This incident, along with the casualties from New York, D.C., Sokovia, etc. that General "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) lets the team know about a possible solution to keep the team in check. The Sokovia Accords is a document Ross brings for them all to sign so that the entire team can be governed by an international body that will basically tell them what disasters and threats they can help out with. This is the point that begins to cause dissension among the ranks of the Avengers because Cap, most notably, does not think the team should only help on "approved" missions. The tension that that screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely are able to establish among the team is palpable and it is orchestrated with the precision of a Bobby Fischer chess move by the Russo's.
It is not until the Sokovia Accords are set to be signed and voted on officially in Vienna, when a car bomb takes out King T'Chaka of Wakanda who was in attendance with his son, T'Challa. And man, is he pissed, declaring to Natasha Romanoff that he is going after the man responsible. That man, according to the news, is none other than Bucky Barnes himself. The Winter Soldier has returned. I immediately thought of the courtroom scene in Batman VS Superman which I thought was one of the best scenes in that film but the MARVEL version somehow made it more human. The MARVEL characters can be killed and are not indestructible while 2/3 of DC's heroes in their film are more like demigods. I am in no way comparing the MARVEL U to the DCU, it was just my first thought.
While actor Chadwick Boseman broke out in the Jackie Robinson drama 42, he really shines when the Black Panther is revealed. In Bucharest, another wild chase scene ensues with the Panther going after the Soldier with Cap & Falcon trying to get Bucky to a safehouse. This scene was the equivalent of the French Connection but on foot with superheroes. The dexterity and sheer awesomeness of watching the Panther on the prowl will make Junkies realize why his new Marvel Legends figure is going for $100 on eBay. He is badass and super-cool at the same time.
The big bad behind all of this is none other than Helmut Zero (aka Baron Zemo) who lost family of his own in the incident at Sokovia. It was a little hard for me to process that this was all orchestrated by just one man. However, the little seeds he planted got Earth's mightiest heroes to distrust each other and eventually turn on themselves. Zemo manages to say the trigger commands to the Soldier and he busts out of the Berlin facility. This provides perfect cover for Zemo to leave unmolested and continues to make the Winter Soldier public enemy number one. I was unsure of how a top brass organization like the one in Berlin, did not realize that Zemo was a legitimate doctor, or handler, or whatever. Still, it was pretty damn cool to see Bucky get activated and go apes**t.
After Barnes is back to normal, he is able to tell Cap & Sam that Zemo is headed towards the original Siberian Hydra base where their are five other super soldier's on ice. Hmmm, their were five bags of serum in that opening scene where the Soldier crashed that car. My curiosity was more than piqued at this point but man does the narrative hold up solidly. They do not miss a beat and everything is accounted for and I really love that. This was interesting in that now because of the Accords, Cap has to decide to wait for the go ahead to get Zemo or do what is right. He opts for the latter going off the reservation all the while taking not only Falcon for the very dangerous ride, but also Hawkeye, Wanda & Ant-Man to join Team Cap.
Their is an interlude scene that was so well done that I have to include a special paragraph here. Throughout the movie, title cards of the locations (Berlin, Vienna, Bucharest, etc.) are used. So when I saw "Queens," I got completely giddy because I knew right away what hero lives in Queens. Enter Tom Holland as teenager Peter Parker who has only had five months to hone his skills as the amazing Spider-Man. Sitting on the couch with his strangely attractive Aunt May played by Marisa Tomei, is Tony Stark himself who wants to talk to the kid in private. Holland just kills it here. He has exactly what we have been waiting for--the nervous energy, the wiseacre cracks, talkative, the covering of his identity. When Stark shows him a YouTube video of this "Spider-Boy," he has Parker dead to rights and tells him he is in need of a complete overhaul. Enter Spider-Man into the MCU! So ridiculously awesome.
Stark somehow convinces General Ross to let him bring Cap and company in and the mission is a go. Tony's team is comprised of Black Widow, War Machine, Black Panther, Vision and newcomer Peter Parker. The teams go head to head in a fantastic battle sequence at the German airport that made Batman & Superman's gladiator match look more like a Zoolander walk-off. We get to see the whole gamut--Black Panther with his crazy abilities, Spider-Man swooping in to save the day (we need adult versions of the mechanical web shooters), Scott Lang going large as Giant-Man where the planes on the runway look like Hot Wheels. It was truly epic folks and I was wowed. Not even wowed, amazed and I almost felt rewarded for the patience I have had with my favorite MARVEL character (Spider-Man) finally coming into the fold. It was a major bummer to see Vision shoot down Rhodey which causes the veteran pilot to become paralyzed. I was bummed because I am a huge Don Cheadle fan going back to his portrayal of Earl "The Goat" Manigault in the amazing HBO film, "Rebound." But, its the movies, I am sure they will figure out a way to bring him back to 100%.
After Tony finds out that Barnes was framed, the finale of the film has Bucky & Cap headed to the secret Siberian Hydra base where Stark shows up and they reach a truce for now. It is discovered that Zemo has killed the five cryo-Super Soldiers with gunshots. They seem to be a team for a minute or two but that changes when Zemo plays the raw footage of the car crash from the beginning of the film for Stark and it is revealed that the two passengers were Tony's parents, killed in brutal fashion by the Winter Soldier. This sets Tony off and the battle, which is an absolute slugfest, is choreographed with the precision of a skilled surgeon whose hands never shake. When Tony asked Cap if he knew that was who was in the car, his face says it all. He knew. And Iron Man is pissed, so much so that he takes off Winter Soldier's robotic arm! It was glorious I tell ya!
T'Challa followed them to the base but after realizing that Zemo did all of this because he lost his family in Sokovia, he decides to take the terrorist in rather than kill him. I was fuzzy on this because I really thought that Black Panther was going to do some serious Van Damme-age to Zemo. Frankly, I wanted to see another Black Panther scene because let me tell you Junkies, this B-list MARVEL character just got a bump up to the A-list in the pop landscape. Junkies are going to be buying Black Panther everything, he was just that seriously dope.
When all is said and done, the Avengers are fragmented and will never be the same team. Everybody seems to have gone rogue by the end of the film when their is a brief montage of follow-ups and where everyone is located. Before taking asylum in Wakanda, Rogers busts out his fellow Avengers from The Raft but my first thought was, "aren't they all going to be on the run now?" I am not sure and honestly, I am not that concerned about it right now because I am just marveling (pun intended) at what a fantastic superhero movie Civil War was.
The key to making this film, for me, was that everything felt organically introduced into the narrative. Their were precedents and introductions as opposed to someone just showing up in the middle of the fight and everyone looking around saying, "I thought she was with you." I'm looking at you Wonder Woman! Civil War proves that a film can be dark and still maintain its comic book street cred for both the Wednesday pull-list crowd to the casual fan of the MARVEL brand. I know, I know, its not a contest between MARVEL & DC but you just cannot help but think about it. They nailed it on all fronts from the script, the humor, the pacing and of course the introduction of two major players in the MCU. I cannot wait to see what Kevin Feige has up his sleeve next because right now, he can do no wrong.