There are a few critics out there calling this movie the best comic book movie of all time. While I will agree that this is the best comic book movie I’ve seen in ages, I don’t know that it’s enough for me to give it the “best of all time” title.
It is a great movie, though. The Captain America films have been Marvel’s strongest series overall, and this film continues that trend. The writers on this film did an excellent job with all the characters involved; while the story focuses heavily on Steve, Bucky, and Tony, the writers haven’t shirked characterization of the other Avengers (or newcomer Black Panther).
The action scenes are really well choreographed overall, and most of them don’t feel too long or overextended (though one at the end with Steve, Bucky, and Tony went on a little longer than necessary). Everyone has something to do, their fighting styles are pretty unique, and the in-fight banter wasn’t too over the top (like it was in Age of Ultron). Also, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by CG most of the time. There are a couple times that it pushes it, but for a superhero movie it’s really not too bad.
The only issues I really had with the film were motivational; while the motivations are mostly explained, some of them are very weak. Steve’s stance on the law that divides everyone in the first place is not explained well, simply because the audience is never told what exactly the law says. Steve’s objections are pretty cliche, without nuance, and I wasn’t even sure I agreed with him, though I wanted to. For a movie that is more or less about Captain America (he’s in the title!), that wasn’t a great place to be as a viewer, I think. Ultimately, I did sympathize with Steve and was on his side, but that bothered me.
The other thing that bothered me was the total lack of due process and accountability of the government (or whoever). There is no talk of fair trial for anyone, regardless of what they have done. People are thrown in ridiculous jails or cells without discussion of anything that many people – not just Americans – would expect for criminals or even terrorists. The idea behind the war is based on a law that the United Nations wants to pass, with 117 countries signing on, but then there is no due process? That didn’t sit well with me, but maybe that’s the lawyer in me talking.
As a fan of the comics, and as someone who read and was heavily invested in the Civil War event back when it happened, I was afraid that the film would demonize Tony. I generally don’t like Tony Stark in the comic books (largely because of Civil War), but he’s one of my faves in the film universe. I am happy to announce that the film does not demonize him. It doesn’t really demonize anyone. While the motivations may be a little weak at times, everyone is still human, and most of the characters have at least some level of depth to them, and I could not appreciate that more.
The new additions here, Black Panther and Spider-Man, exceeded all expectations I had for them. Black Panther could be a very offensive character, considering his origin, but Marvel didn’t really over-exoticize him or Wakanda. They used an existing language for the Wakandan language, instead of making something up. While we don’t yet know a lot about Wakanda in the MCU, the glimpse we have here is promising.
Spidey is a weird thing in the Avengers film universe because of copyright issues. In the MCU, we’re now seeing baby Spidey, as a young teenager, for once appropriately played by a a younger person, and he does not disappoint. He was probably my favorite part.
One last minor complaint I have here is the total failure of this film to even TRY to pass the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test is a really low bar, honestly; all it requires is two women having a conversation with each other that is not about a man. While there are three “main” female characters in the movie, they never even interact with each other. In some spheres Marvel seems to be trying to do female characters justice, but unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. None of them here are damsels in distress or anything like that, and the two that we see fight definitely hold their own against anyone they engage with. But because this is a movie focusing on Steve, Bucky, and Tony, the girls are secondary and I definitely felt that watching it.
Still, I watched this twice in theatres (so far) and I enjoyed it overall. This kind of writing and filmmaking is what I want to see in the MCU, and it made up for how much I disliked Age of Ultron. Job well done overall, Marvel. I hope they keep it up with the titles coming out over the next couple years.
4 out of 5 stars.