Something must be in the air this year -2016 seems to be the year where superheroes just cannot get along! Of course, if this weren’t the case, we’d be deprived of such outstanding chapters in the genre as the second season of “Daredevil”, Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, and now “Captain America: Civil War”, and who in their right mind would possibly want that?
Returning to his role of super-soldier Steve Rogers aka Captain America is Chris Evans, while Marvel’s golden boy Robert Downey Jr. dons his metallic suit for a sixth time as Tony Stark aka Iron Man -each of our two leads here representing one perspective of this conflict.
Sebastian Stan returns as Steve’s close friend Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, while Scarlett Johansson is back as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow and Don Cheadle reprises his role of Tony’s buddy Lt. Colonel James Rhodes aka War Machine.
The newest Avengers to join the team are all back as well, including Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson aka Falcon, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch, and Paul Bettany as Vision. Jeremy Renner picks up his bow once again as Clint Barton aka Hawkeye and Paul Rudd dons his shrinking suit again as Scott Lang aka Ant-Man.
After an eight-year hiatus from the role, William Hurt is also back as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross while Frank Grillo returns in the role of Crossbones and Daniel Bruhl enters the picture as the newest villain to menace our heroes, the nefarious Baron Zemo. Thor and The Hulk are both AWOL this time around but fortunately we have two new Avengers to fill in, each making his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe -Chadwick Boseman in the role of T’Challa aka Black Panther, and Tom Holland as none other than Marvel’s flagship character, Peter Parker, aka The Amazing Spider-Man!
Although The Avengers remain dedicated to defending the world from its most evil threats, not everyone views them as a force for good.
With the Avengers’ most recent skirmish resulting in unintended civilian casualties, the nearly world-ending events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” are still fresh in the world’s memory. The United Nations prepares to ratify “The Sokovia Accords”, which will provide government oversight and restrictions for The Avengers’ activities.
The Avengers themselves are immediately polarized on their views on the new bill. However, they find themselves further divided when King T’Chaka of the African nation of Wakanda is killed in a bombing during the bill’s ratification, with Steve’s old friend Bucky Barnes being the prime suspect. Steve believes that Bucky is innocent, having freed his friend of the brainwashing that turned him into The Winter Soldier, but his efforts to find Bucky and uncover the truth puts him at odds with his teammates and King T’Chaka’s vengeful son, Prince T’Challa.
As one of the most pivotal storylines ever to be published in the pages of Marvel Comics, adapting Civil War to the big screen was always going to be a tricky proposition, especially considering that character rights and other legal mumbo-jumbo would keep the X-Men and the Fantastic Four out of the picture.
Fortunately, the Russos are some of the best filmmakers working in the Marvel stable and under their direction, “Civil War” is as cleverly scripted on the big screen as it was in the comics, one that’s as much “Iron Man 4” as it is “Captain America 3”, along with having some of the best action sequences the MCU has yet seen.
A good chunk of the credit for the latter is decidedly owed to Black Panther, who makes such an excellent impression in his MCU debut that the film should arguably have been named after him instead! Chadwick Boseman has consistently proven himself an exceptionally talented actor since his portrayal of Jackie Robinson in 2013’s “42”, and his portrayal of T’Challa could very well turn him into Marvel’s next Iron Man (i.e., a character only vaguely recognized by non-comic book readers transformed into one of the most iconic superheroes on the planet after his big screen debut)! It must also be said that Black Panther’s fighting style is one of the most impeccably crafted in superhero movie history, a blend of tiger and leopard kung fu in keeping with his “big cat” motif and Capoeira in keeping with his cultural background.
Daredevil set the bar high for martial arts in the MCU in his Netflix series, and Black Panther is the first character in the MCU movies to rival that, making an eventual matchup between the two of them a must. Iron Fist and Shang Chi definitely have their work cut out for them when the former’s Netflix series arrives that’s for sure.
In fact, the Russos understand directing both CGI heavy and practical action sequences at an intricate level. We expect the superpowers to be top of the line in a comic book adventure, but the foot chase with Bucky, Cap and Black Panther with the three maneuvering through a busy freeway in the second act is like something Jackie Chan would’ve done in his “Police Story” days, but the Russos are only just warming up.
The airport battle with the two warring factions of The Avengers is the stuff geeks spend years dreaming they could eventually see come to life on the big screen and in this case, dreams come true. Tom Holland absolutely nails it here as Spidey; his roughly 25-minute appearance capturing Peter Parker’s dorkiness better than we could’ve possibly asked for -even being on Iron Man’s team, he stills finds time to be star-struck at his first meeting with the likes of Captain America, Falcon, and The Winter Soldier.
While the airport battle isn’t nearly as dark and emotionally bitter as the final battle of Civil War played out in the comics, the film still captures that in Cap and Bucky’s final fight with Iron Man. This is where the Sokovia Accords and Bucky’s innocence of the bombing are completely eclipsed by something new that truly drives a wedge in between The Avengers that there may be no coming back from. When all is said and done, you’re truly left to wonder “Where in the world can the MCU possibly go from here?”.
“Captain America: Civil War” is exactly why the MCU is a popular and beloved franchise. Stacked with fantastic performances and outstanding action sequences, this makesit the best big-screen use of martial arts in the MCU so far. With exceptional MCU intros for Black Panther and Spider-Man, it’s also not afraid to take such a normally upbeat and joke-laden series into uncharted waters of darkness in its finale.
There’s a big question mark over where the franchise can possibly go from here with its gigantic screen adventure epics, but I think I can speak for most of the audience (especially the martial arts’ fight-action lovers among us) to suggest: bring on the Black Panther solo movie!
- While Sony had previously held the film rights to Spider-Man, thus precluding him from appearing in any Marvel Cinematic Universe films, it was announced on February 9th, 2015 that Sony and Marvel had come to a deal to allow Spider-Man to appear in the MCU, with Tom Holland subsequently cast in the role. Spidey’s first MCU solo film, which will still be distributed by Sony, will be “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, due for release in July 2017, with Robert Downey Jr. appearing as Tony Stark.
- The “Civil War” story arc was written by Mark Millar and published in 2006. In the comics, the civil war in the superhero community is triggered with the passage of the Superhuman Registration Act, which requires all super-powered individuals to register their abilities and identities with the U.S. Government. As in the film, Iron Man supports the act while Captain America opposes it, with Spider-Man initially siding with Iron Man before later defecting to Captain America’s side.
- In the Civil War story arc, Tony Stark designs a new high tech suit for Peter Parker which he dubs “The Iron Spider”. Although Spidey does not wear any such suit in the film, it is Tony Stark who designs his trademark suit that Spidey dons in the film.
- Black Panther, who holds the distinction of being the first black superhero to appear in mainstream comics, first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 in July 1966, before receiving his own title in the 1970’s.
- The Russos cite the announcement of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” as their inspiration to adapt the “Civil War” story arc in the MCU explaining in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter: “Our pitch to them was: People will tell you they love chocolate ice cream -until you give it to them five days a week. It’s time to give them some rainbow sherbet. Kevin Feige said he thought we might be right. After they announced Batman v Superman, he said, ‘you guys are absolutely right.’ We needed to do something challenging with the material or we were going to start to lose the audience.”