2014’s Captain America: Winter Soldier did a great job of grounding the admittedly science fiction world that The Avengers took place in. Personally, I found the mix of Bond/Bourne spy thriller elements and sci-fi elements (like Dr. Zola being trapped in a really old computer) refreshing. Let’s face it, there are a lot of spy thrillers where the hero will do something ridiculous than would kill them in real life and it takes you out of the movie. Like Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond using a parachute to surf on an avalanche in Die Another Day. The gadgets are ridiculous in (earlier) Bond films, but at least Q explains the flame thrower shoe or poison dart cufflinks at the beginning of the movie. That is precisely the point. The sci-fi elements in Captain America, the fact that he got super powers in a lab, actually made the movie’s crazier action scenes more believable because you knew what you were watching. The stunts in Fast and Furious movies, on the other hand.
Well, there is more of that kind of spy thriller meets superhero stuff in Captain America: Civil War. It feels like a sequel to Winter Soldier, because it is. Not Avengers 2.5. By watching the trailers, you probably know that this movie centers around a conflict between Iron Man and Captain America. The government wants the Avengers to be under the control of the United States government, after an international incident that Scarlet Witch feels really bad about. Iron Man agrees. The ironically-named Captain America doesn’t think they should answer to America. He thinks they should act independently of any politicians with their own agendas, which nods back to his experiences with Hydra in the last film. This splits the team (again), but the focus of the story is really on Cap and Iron Man and their difference of opinion. The other Avengers are just supporting characters with various sized roles.
Cap wants to protect his old friend Bucky/Winter Soldier from a mysterious villain (Zemo, not yet a “Baron”) who has learned to control him the same way Hydra did in the last film. This technically makes him and the Avengers who side with him fugitives. Iron Man is on the side of the government and (General-turned) Secretary Ross, whose daughter used to date the Hulk. Both Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. are given a lot to do and give great performances. Same with Elizabeth Olsen who also stands out. Her scenes with the Vision, where they show their affection for each other, is one of the more interesting subtle touches in the film.
And any discrepancy in a superhero’s screen time is made up for in the airport fight scene that you saw in the trailer. Any characters with small roles in this movie are given something show-stopping to do to make up for it. And there is a lot in this scene that the trailers didn’t spoil and I liked that about this movie. Lots of surprises that were not spoiled by trailers.
This movie also gives the new movie version of Spider-Man and Black Panther a great introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther is a diplomat turned King of Wakanda who blames Winter Soldier for his father’s death. But he later does what Sinead O’Connor once suggested on Saturday Night Live and fights the real enemy. His fight scenes kick butt and his suit and accent are great.
Peter Parker/Spider-Man is recruited to the team by Tony Stark himself, who flirtatiously tells the uncharacteristically young-looking, sexy new version of Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) that Peter has won a grant from his company. This is the best version of Spider-Man that we have seen on the big screen yet (nostalgia leanings aside). The way he moves, his quips, the character itself. Very well-done.
The Russo Brothers, who also directed Winter Soldier, once again do a wonderful job of grounding sci-fi/superhero elements with drama and emotion. I am looking forward to seeing what they will do with the (about 60?) large number of characters in the next two Avengers films, which they also are directing. My only minor gripes with this movie are some of the scenes that go on too long. There are talky scenes that beat the same points to death and fight scenes that beat the same characters too much, creating minor pacing problems. They are few and far between and easy to overlook in a very entertaining addition to the MCU.
RATING: 8 shields out of 10.
Now, about the sexy Aunt May. Anybody remember the movie Friday, with Ice Cube and Chris Tucker? Remember the mature lady who was watering her lawn in short shorts and all the kids were checking her out? Her name was Miss Parker. Imagine if Ice Cube DOES end up playing J. Jonah Jameson and you see him checking out “Miss Parker” again.