Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain America: Civil War (2016)
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, Daniel Brühl, Marisa Tomei, Martin Freeman, John Slattery, Hope Davis, Alfre Woodard
Director of Photography: Trent Opaloch
Music by Henry Jackman
Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Matthew Schmidt
Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Rating: 8,5 out of 10

Captain America: Civil War is another entertaining Marvel movie that reinforces the studio's movie-making and universe-building qualities its competitors can only dream of.

Watching a MCU movie feels like watching an episode of a long-running TV show. If you don’t know what MCU is, this might be one proof for that idea already because if you haven’t watched most or the most important episodes, uh, movies, you won’t understand much of what is happening in Captain America: Civil War. Or maybe you understand enough to be entertained because following the character arcs and story elements that are carried over from most of the previous movies is just one of the many delights that are offered here. There are action sequences that often stand out, like the huge airport fight between dozens of super-heroes (in Leipzig of all places) or an innovative car/foot chase in Bucharest.  There is an interesting story that poses some relevant questions without easy answers, without going too deep but certainly farther than Batman v Superman even attempted (thereby even improving on its source material). There is humor, dry and sparser than in Age of Ultron or Guardians of the Galaxy, but it is still effective. There are new characters introduced that work surprisingly well. There is, again, a long list of talented actors that manage to find some space to shine among basically fifteen main characters. 

The MCU is also getting better and better at diversity. Besides prominent appearances for Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), we are introduced to T’Challa, the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). While there are some stereotypical elements to the only African superhero (from the fictional country of Wakanda), like giving him more mystical powers than genetically modified ones. But overall his character is really interesting and doesn’t fall too much into any stereotypes. In the same aspect, the use of Lagos as a location avoids most of the typical Africa tropes and presents it as just another city. Compared to many other fictional accounts of African locations, it is almost revolutionary that the name of the city and of Nigeria are mentioned repeatedly instead of just calling it “Africa”. If they had also filmed it in Lagos, it would have been really groundbreaking.

The female characters also keep getting better with Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) still one of the strongest, most complex character in a blockbuster movie. But Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) also succeeds in not simply doing what she is told and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) is one of the biggest surprises because she has a memorable appearance despite being a relatively minor character that does more than just being a love interest.

The biggest surprise might be the villain, Zemo (Daniel Brühl). Not only is he played in an interesting way by Brühl (who I wouldn’t have guessed to ever land in this place when I first saw him as a graduating student in Schule in 2000) but he is written brilliantly by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Instead of being bland or just evil for evil’s sake like many other Marvel villains, he is multi-layered and contemplative, there are reasons for his actions that go beyond lust for power or simple vengeance. He does want revenge somehow but the way it plays out feels different then what we’re used to. The showdown and resolution are, while not mind-blowing, unlike the standard way these things normally go down. They really step out of the binary depiction of good and evil and that is the last thing you’d expect from the second sequel that is a part of a larger multi-billion-dollar franchise.