Captain America: Civil War has officially been released in theaters across America, and I, of course, grabbed a pair of tickets to see the very first screening I could find. My wife and I went decked out in geek-gear: me in Cap socks and shirt, and her in a Spider-Gwen hoodie that I’m convinced she plans on being buried in. We arrived at the theater early Thursday night and just watched in delight as people came out by the dozens to show their support for the First Avenger with t-shirts, jackets, hats, and all manner of Cap garb. Hell, one girl was wearing a full on Cap onesie. I’d say it looked ridiculous but I’m just being jealous- I wish I’d have thought to do that.
After two and a half hours of intense action, thought-provoking story and some serious twists that I did not see coming (and a few I did) I left the theater last night feeling somewhat conflicted- what I had just seen was probably the best Avengers movie to date, and I should have been jumping up and down with excitement, but instead I couldn’t help but feel a tad disappointed. I mean, following up a movie like Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a tough task. I constantly go back to it as the prime example of a movie doing everything right, and as a result any movie that isn’t so spot-on is a let down.
That’s not to say Civil War was a let down, don’t misunderstand me- from a cinematic standpoint this was a solid, entertaining movie. My wife, a casual Marvel fan and devout Cap-reader, absolutely loved it, and even if I didn’t think it was quite as strong as Winter Soldier, I still had a blast. The movie has all the working parts to make it the summer blockbuster it is, mixing serious issues with outlandish but brilliant fight scenes all interspersed with laugh-out-loud humor (thanks mostly to our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man). The story moves along at a fast pace, which works both for and against it as it has a lot to set up in a short period of time, leaving the first act a little rushed, but working flawlessly for the second and third acts. And while it does have a few too many moving parts, it does a much better job of focusing on the “right now” than Avengers: Age of Ultron did, which seemed more interested in setting up the next slew of Marvel movies than paying attention to its own story.
Also like the previous Avengers movies, Civil War is crammed full of superheroes who need to battle for screen time. However, unlike AoU, every character present serves the plot in one way or another despite having over a dozen costumed heroes running around. Joe and Anthony Russo do an outstanding job keeping us engaged in our familiar faces while simultaneously introducing some new friends along the way, assuring us that the next two Avengers movies are in good hands. This is one of the movie’s greatest strengths- being able to juggle so many characters without having anyone feel forced in or left out, but it’s also one of my biggest issues with the movie. With a so many characters pulled from all over the MCU, Civil War is as much a sequel to Avengers as it is to Captain America, maybe even more so.
A great deal of the film’s time is spent reminding us about Sokovia and the events that took place in AoU, even so much as to be the driving force behind many of the character’s motivations. Now, I have no problem with the Avengers, and if this movie had been titled Avengers: Civil War, I would probably feel very different about it, but I wanted to see a sequel to The Winter Soldier. Despite wrapping up the plot started in that movie, not enough time was devoted to developing Cap’s supporting cast (Falcon, Sharon, Crossbones) so the film could make room for the Avengers team members like Vision and Scarlet Witch (though Zemo is a truly spectacular villain worthy of his legacy).
So in that respect, I was disappointed with Civil War. Not because of what it was, but because of what it wasn’t. It’s a fun, action-packed Avengers movie that’s sure to please fans of the MCU, but Captain America fans may feel a little underwhelmed that it wasn’t quite the Cap movie we wanted.