Captain America: Civil War is a massive crossover on a personal level. As the thirteenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War needed to tear the Avengers apart. Avengers: Age of Ultron arguably did it first, but Civil War is the only movie that succeeded. Civil War is based on the ambitious 2006 storyline of the same name. I honestly never thought I’d see the comic adapted into a movie, but Marvel movies were very prominent 10 years after its release. The Russo Brothers were thankfully brought back as directors after their success with The Winter Soldier. After jokingly calling it Captain America: Serpent Society, I was very excited to learn Civil War was the official title.
So excited that I read the entire drastically different storyline in preparation. Unlike the comic, the movie needed to adjust to the superheroes we’ve already seen in the MCU, while at the same time introducing new fan favorite heroes. This is still very much a Captain America movie despite fans calling it Avengers 2.5. The Captain America trilogy is very unique for featuring a 40’s war picture, 70’s style political thriller, and Avengers level conflict. Yet they somehow manage to complete Cap’s journey in a satisfying way. The game changing nature of Civil War was enough to make it the beginning of the equally ambitious Phase Three. A Phase that no longer cared if casual moviegoers saw the MCU movies that came before it. Everything about Civil War was a Marvel fans dream come true…
Captain America: Civil War seems like a no-brainer, but its existence was far from guaranteed. The original storyline involved almost the entire Marvel Universe. Civil War was created by edgy graphic novel writer Mark Millar. After the New Warriors inadvertently cause the deaths of hundreds of civilians, Congress passes the Superhuman Registration Act. Forcing superheroes to unmask and work alongside the government like a police force. Iron Man is pro-registration and Captain America is anti-registration. Meanwhile, Doctor Strange wants no part in the conflict, the Fantastic Four are divided, and Spider-Man is somewhere in the middle. Both Captain America and Iron Man form their own teams that end up fighting in a devastating civil war. Obviously involving all of these heroes would’ve been impossible. So producer Kevin Feige was sure to have Civil War make sense as part of the MCU. Lack of secret identities meant a few minor alterations to the registration act, but Iron Man’s presence was a must.
Otherwise, a few other Captain America movies were considered just in case. Including the Madbomb storyline where Cap is forced to fight several brainwashed civilians. That storyline was actually recycled for the ongoing Agent Carter. At the same time, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was becoming less important to the impact of the movies. On the Netflix side, Jessica Jones became a hit and Daredevil was in its second season with a similar premise that pitted Daredevil against the Punisher. 2016 was practically the year of heroes vs. heroes, because Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was also released a few months earlier. Civil War was the bigger success thanks to Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. having plenty of time to turn their respective heroes into already well developed characters. Making their falling out more devastating than anything seen in the MCU before. Despite his contract ending, Downey Jr. was thankfully on board to return as Tony Stark. Though it’s not exactly Iron Man 4 either, since Stark doesn’t suit up as Iron Man until the third act where most of the conflict is in response to events from The Winter Soldier. Which is why Steve Rogers is still the lead in his own movie. The first trailer reflected that by mostly focusing on Cap.
The pre-credits scene delves deeper into the Winter Soldier’s time as a brainwashed assassin for Hydra. Turns out all anyone has to do is say the words longing, rusted, seventeen, daybreak, furnace, nine, benign, homecoming, one, and freight car in a Russian booklet. The year 1991 is shown in a title graphic that takes up most of the screen. Since this is a globetrotting adventure, we end up seeing a lot of those. In present day Lagos, the new version of the Avengers is currently on a mission to prevent the spread of a deadly biological weapon. Much like Arnim Zola, it’s the best time for Brock Rumlow to appear in his comic accurate Crossbones costume. Which is more advanced with mechanical fist weapons. Say what you will about Age of Ultron, but at least it managed to increase the amount of superheroes necessary for a story like this. Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, and Scarlet Witch are all trying to stop Rumlow, but Vision and War Machine are strangely absent. The opening is an excellent display of everyone’s power and enhanced tech.
Everything goes wrong when Wanda launches Rumlow into a building after he sets off a suicide bomb. Although Frank Grillo is barely in the movie, Rumlow’s disfigured face and information on Bucky does leave a lasting impression. Plus his demise is similar to the inciting incident from the comics. The destroyed Lagos building unfortunately contained Wakandans on a humanitarian mission. After minor foreshadowing in Age of Ultron, the incident is finally enough to bring Wakanda to the forefront. With S.H.I.E.L.D. and the World Security Council no longer around, the United Nations passes the Sokovia Accords. Unlike the comic, the accords will force the Avengers to act as a Government organization that only takes action when the UN deems it necessary. I don’t think anyone was expecting William Hurt to return 8 years after the practically forgotten The Incredible Hulk. Yet former General, current Secretary Thunderbolt Ross is just right for the job of announcing the accords. He illustrates his point by showing footage of all the locations destroyed in the wake of every Avengers victory. Including New York from The Avengers, Washington D.C. from The Winter Soldier, Sokovia from Age of Ultron, and Lagos from a few scenes ago.
Although action will always be the biggest highlight, Civil War is just as engaging for its deeper political discussions. The team is sharply divided with everyone having a mostly valid reason for either being for or against the accords. Thor and Hulk obviously aren’t around since they’re busy making Thor: Ragnarok (plus the fight would be over in seconds). After Age of Ultron, Captain America stuck around the Avengers Compound to train the new recruits. At the same time, he’s been focused on following any lead he can to find Bucky. Steve’s personal life factors in when Peggy sadly passes away. It’s only at her funeral that Steve finally discovers Sharon Carter is Peggy’s niece. Although it could never be as deep as the comics, Steve & Sharon do form a bound that could lead to a romantic relationship. Emily VanCamp has a bit more importance as Sharon begins to go behind the CIA’s back with any intel she has. For some reason she was marketed as being part of Team Cap, but I think that was just to hide who was really on the team. Cap wears one of his best costumes yet. It’s similar to his Age of Ultron suit with a bit of his S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform thrown in.
Thanks to the Russo’s direction, Cap is still a confident fighter with precision shield throwing. Most of which can be seen in the shaky cam Lagos fight. Steve sides against the accords, because he still believes in freedom. Chris Evans gets better and better with every passing performance. Not to mention his even more ripped physique as shown when he literally holds onto a helicopter. Despite blowing up his suits in Iron Man 3, Tony Stark continued building them. Along the way making the mistake of creating Ultron. Turns out it was enough to cause a temporary breakup between Tony & Pepper. Gwyneth Paltrow’s absence was actually beneficial since this is probably the most serious Tony has ever been. He still quips, but Robert Downey Jr. managed to readjust Stark without him seeming like the villain. Stark is first seen looking a lot like Chaplin in Marvel’s second major attempt at digital de-aging. What appears to be a flashback of young Tony saying goodbye to his parents before their death is actually Stark using a holographic simulation called B.A.R.F. (remember that!). Tony gives MIT a generous donation, but he’s still confronted by Miriam Sharpe. Just like the comic, Sharpe blames the Avengers for the death of her son who was in Sokovia. Although it is confusing that she’s played by Alfre Woodard who also appears in Luke Cage.
Stark sides with the accords, because all of his guilt makes it the only answer for him. Tony is mostly seen in business settings, but he does have F.R.I.D.A.Y. built into his glasses and carries a repulsor device for emergencies. The Mark XLVI armor he later dons is a lot sleeker with the usual red & gold coloring and lights meant to resemble the Bleeding Edge armor from the comics. It’s the most convincing armor for a movie as grounded as this. Since Civil War isn’t technically an ensemble piece, the rest of the team is given varying amounts of screen time. As the black best friend of his team’s leader, Rhodey strongly supports the accords due to his time spent in the military. Don Cheadle is equally serious as Rhodey takes on a more active role in rounding up those who go against the accords. The War Machine Mark III armor has subtle differences, but the only new feature is what appears to be a crowd control stick. As the other black best friend of his team’s leader, Sam opposes the accords mostly out of loyalty to Cap. Anthony Mackie is just as lighthearted as he was before. We’ve already seen the new Falcon suit in action during Ant-Man, but now his wings are a lot more tactical. My personal favorite feature is Redwing, which is a drone instead of a psychically linked falcon.
The two strongest members of the team also happen to be the most complex. Vision sides with the accords in a logical way that he feels will be beneficial for the team. Paul Bettany makes Vision much more unique with classy sweaters that he wears in his down time, but the same costume since that’s technically part of him. Just like the Mind Stone that he doesn’t totally understand. Wanda is in the unfortunate position of being responsible for the people killed in Lagos. She’s neither for or against the accords, but in the end she does side with Cap. Early promotional material left her out of Team Cap, possibly due to her complicated use in the MCU. Scarlet Witch is still partly owned by Fox afterall. Wanda slowly becomes more and more powerful with her telekinesis being the main power that she demonstrates. Her costume is just as busty, but not exactly the same as the one seen at the end of Age of Ultron. She mostly wears an all-red trench coat with magical flare. Despite being from 2 different worlds, Wanda & Vision quickly became my favorite couple in the MCU. Their inexplicable pairing may seem out of nowhere, but it’s actually very comic book accurate. They bond over their unusual powers as Vision tries to cook chicken paprikash for Wanda. Although their love is only hinted at since Vision is also trying to keep Wanda from leaving.
Black Widow shocks everyone by siding with Stark and supporting the accords. Although I think it’s just to have a female member on each team, Natasha’s explanation does sort of make sense. She wants to keep the Avengers together, so her heart sides with Cap, but her head tells her that oversight may be a good idea. Scarlett Johansson is now sporting long stylish red hair and continues to play up Romanoff’s mystery nature. Her catsuit is fairly similar, but her widow’s bite is given a bit more attention. Most of Black Widow’s screen time is actually with her fellow black superhero Black Panther. King T’Chaka of Wakanda is the first to voice his support for the accords, but his son is only around for moral support. Despite the scale of Civil War, the first black superhero in Marvel comics makes his long awaited debut. Chadwick Boseman was the first major casting announcement when he was chosen to play the future King T’Challa. Boseman was flawless casting since he understood how important the African character was. T’Challa is regal, but humble. He makes mistakes, but you respect his authority. This is my favorite portrayal of Black Panther since his arc perfectly fits the story, but it will always be bittersweet after Boseman sadly passed away. John Kani helped Boseman develop the Wakandan language and the costume department was put in the unique position of developing parts of Wakanda before the solo film was even released.
T’Challa sides with Team Stark out of revenge after a life changing attack in Vienna that claims King T’Chaka’s life. Although the Winter Soldier is framed for the attack, the true villain is Helmut Zemo. Don’t expect a purple mask or the Baron moniker just yet. Zemo is an ordinary former member of Sokovian intelligence who lost his family in the fight against Ultron. Although I’d prefer Captain America’s last major villain to be closer to his comic counterpart, it does make sense to have a behind the scenes threat. Zemo’s complex plan plays out throughout the movie with him finding Bucky’s mind controlling booklet, framing him for the bombing, and forcing the Avengers to track him down. Daniel Brühl is subtle, but effective for a mostly underused antagonist. With Sharon’s help, Cap & Falcon go against the accords by tracking Bucky to Bucharest. Sebastian Stan now plays a cross between Bucky and the Winter Soldier. He’s weary with some flashes of the man he once was. As Steve tries to reason with his friend, the authorities break in. Leading to an intense close quarters fight in an apartment where Bucky makes a run for it. As he jumps onto a rooftop, he’s quickly greeted by Black Panther in an awesome claws out fight. The Black Panther suit is highly detailed with hand woven Vibranium fabrics that hint at Wakanda even more.
The second best action scene is a car and motorcycle chase where Black Panther chases Bucky as Cap closely follows. Only ending when War Machine arrives and T’Challa reveals himself. Steve, Sam, and T’Challa are all taken into custody at the Joint Counter Terrorism Center lead by Everett Ross played by Martin Freeman. All of Steve and Tony’s past arguments reach their tipping point when they have a heated debate over signing the accords. But all that will have to wait when Zemo manages to get close to Bucky and unleash the Winter Soldier with his 10 trigger words. Bucky ends up fighting Steve, Sam, Natasha, Sharon, T’Challa, and Tony before trying to flee in a helicopter. When Cap stops him, Steve & Sam manage to clear Bucky’s head long enough to learn about a team of Winter Soldiers that Zemo may be searching for. The Ant-Man post-credits scene is finally shown when Sam suggests enlisting more help. Natasha and Tony similarly enlist more help to take Cap in without interference. Natasha enlists T’Challa’s help after a confrontation with Ayo of the yet to be seen Dora Milaje. Tony also has someone very familiar in mind. I practically screamed as soon as Queens appeared on screen. I knew that meant Spider-Man finally arrived in the MCU.
After the disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony finally came to their spider-senses and allowed Disney to use the famous superhero. Yet his inclusion never feels last minute since everyone already knows who he is. Peter Parker is once again a teenager living with Aunt May, but his accident already happened 6 months ago. Although I was skeptical, Tom Holland is Spider-Man. He embodies Spidey’s lighthearted optimism, constant talking during fights, and nails every iconic position. Tony somehow manages to find Peter through YouTube videos of Spider-Man wearing a homemade costume. He’s first seen with Aunt May played by the surprisingly attractive Marisa Tomei. Ironic considering the history she has with Downey Jr. Tony and Peter form an unlikely father/son bond as the latter recruits the former. Peter manages to keep his genius intellect since he makes his webbing and web shooters himself. Mr. Stark is mostly responsible for upgrading his suit. Sharon drops off Cap’s shield and Sam’s wingpack at the airport where they also share a kiss. Although the Falcon and the Winter Soldier don’t like each other, they are equally supportive of Steve.
Hawkeye comes out of retirement to side with Cap mostly due to his obligation to help Wanda. Thus, Jeremy Renner is a bit more lighthearted with a decent archery costume to fight in. Clint holds off Vision, but Wanda is the only one powerful enough to subdue him. The last member of the team is also the funniest. Paul Rudd manages to be major comic relief as Scott Lang has his first team up with the Avengers. He doesn’t have much personal say other than his experience as a former criminal. What follows is fan service of the highest order. The greatest scene in the movie and a major highlight of the MCU is the airport battle. Every superhero has time to shine, starting with Spider-Man making his grand entrance. The second trailer also made me scream as soon as I saw his classic comic accurate Steve Ditko costume with expressive eyes and everything. Spider-Man taking Cap’s shield was his official introduction into the MCU. A shrunken Ant-Man reclaims the shield and reveals his new costume in the process. The only primary difference is a slightly modified helmet. Ant-Man and Spider-Man were both omitted from most promotional material for obvious reasons.
Each team member has a personal connection to at least one respective member. Captain America & Iron Man are the feuding team leaders, Falcon & War Machine are their black best friends, Hawkeye & Black Widow are close spy friends, Scarlet Witch & Vision are the powerful heroes with a close bond, Ant-Man & Spider-Man are the joke heavy bugs, and Black Panther wants revenge against the Winter Soldier. The extended fight has far too many epic moments to name everything. Spider-Man using his strength, climbing up the walls, and webbing up Sam & Bucky is a dream come true. More satisfying is Spider-Man’s fight with Cap that ends with them bonding over being fellow New Yorkers. Black Panther scratches his way through Cap and Bucky, but saying he doesn’t care about Clint’s name embodies his character the best. Black Widow is forced to fight Hawkeye, but they agree to stay friends. Ant-Man being shot from Hawkeye’s arrow is a comic book image I never expected to see on the big screen, but its inclusion was extremely satisfying. Wanda is especially powerful in the fight as she moves anything in her way. Vision arrives late to cause even more damage by phasing through objects and destroying things with his head beam. War Machine mostly tries to defuse the situation, but he gets some quips in.
Ant-Man shrinking to fight his opponents is awesome, but finally becoming Giant-Man is the biggest cheer worthy moment. It’s only Spider-Man webbing up Giant-Man Empire Strikes Back style that takes him down. Cap & Bucky manage to escape thanks to Natasha having a change of heart and slowing T’Challa down. The fight takes a dramatic turn when Vision accidentally shoots down Rhodey, leaving him paralyzed from the waste down. Although the fall should’ve killed him, the accident is enough to make it personal for Tony. Evidence of Zemo’s plan is leaked to Stark as he tries to get information from the Raft. A prison from the comics that houses superpowered individuals. Clint finally refers to Stark as a “futurist,” Scott mentions Hank Pym, but Tony has no clue who he is, and Sam is slow to give out information. Cap & Bucky fly to the original Hydra base where Black Panther follows in his private Wakandan jet. Tony also follows close behind in his plane that suits him up mid-flight. Cap & Stark agree to a truce in order to get some answers from Zemo. Turns out the other Winter Soldiers were a red herring that Zemo killed unceremoniously.
Without throwing a punch, Zemo tears the Avengers apart by showing Tony footage of the Winter Soldier causing Howard & Maria Stark’s car accident and killing them in cold blood. Cap’s knowledge of the incident causes Stark to snap and attempt to kill Bucky. Leading to what is easily the most emotional climax in the MCU. As T’Challa apprehends Zemo, Captain America & the Winter Soldier fight Iron Man. It’s enough to bring back Cap’s catchphrase “I can do this all day.” Iron Man doesn’t win right away since his suit substances heavy damage. He does manage to destroy Bucky’s metal arm, but Cap holds him back by recreating the Civil War comic book cover. The intense fight only ends when Cap uses his shield to take out Stark’s arc reactor. Sadly, Tony reminding him who made the shield is enough to make Steve give it up. In the aftermath, Tony tries to help Rhodey recover in a somber scene turned hilarious when Stan Lee cameos as a FedEx delivery man looking for Tony Stank. The package contains a flip phone and a letter from Steve apologizing to Tony. As well as promising to be there for the next fight. Both post-credits scenes are important for setting up the solo movies of Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming. The mid-credits scene shows Bucky being taken to Wakanda where T’Challa agrees to heal him. The after-credits scene shows Aunt May tending to Peter’s blackeye and Peter looking over his Stark issued web shooters. Captain America: Civil War may mostly be a Cap sequel, but it’s undeniably Marvel at their very best.
Preceded by: Captain America: The Winter Soldier