The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was released May 6, and “Captain America: Civil War” already follows the pattern set by its predecessors of being better than the last film in the franchise.
Technically, this film follows “Captain America: Winter Soldier” as the third film in Chris Evans’ tenure as “the first Avenger,” with increasingly better Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 80, 89 and 90 percent. However, moviegoers would likely find themselves very lost about the cast of heroes had they not seen “Avengers: Age of Ultron” that falls between the two on the MCU timeline.
The film actually begins with a new addition to Cap’s storyline via “Ultron,” with the opening scene focusing on newbie Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen. Admittedly, the location titles seemed a bit romantic comedy-ish to me in their font choice and size, especially when compared to the unassuming serif that grazed the very bottom of the screen in prior MCU films, but if that’s the worst to complain about, the movie clearly does a lot right.
While new characters like T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, and Peter Parker, played by actual teenager Tom Holland, grace us with their angst and anxiety respectively, most characters are familiar faces. The one team member whose absence felt almost jarring was Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk. I don’t miss “the big, green guy” so much as I miss the doctor, played by Mark Ruffalo. His level-headedness and aversion from jumping to conclusions could have done the Avengers and company quite well.
Now, T’Challa is an instant favorite for me as a fan of the X-Men and sass in general, as for those who are unfamiliar with Black Panther, he is not only Wakandan royalty — and thus a snob in the best possible way — but also Storm’s ex-husband. Though this seems to be pre-marriage T’Challa rather than post-divorce, the two would have already met, as teens back in Africa, when Ororo Munroe (Storm’s civilian alias) lost her virginity to the young prince before they parted ways for a couple decades.
The newly revamped Spider-Man had everyone, especially comic fans, up in arms after Andrew Garfield’s recent version of the web slinger seemed to finally capture what the original trilogy fell short in: Peter’s personality and spirit. Plus, the “Amazing Spider-Man” movies gave us the Gwen Stacy we deserved in Emma Stone.
Having said that, I absolutely loved Peter. He came across to many as a bit extra yet loveable and a welcome addition, but I’m here to tell you he’s the closest adaptation we’ve seen of Spidey yet. While the revamp was still too soon for my liking, Holland’s done a remarkable job playing the role so far.
For those saying the plot could have functioned just fine without him, I point you in the direction of the comics of which this tale drew its inspiration from. In the “Civil War” comic crossover event, we saw a team split down the middle with Captain America versus Iron Man over the Superhuman Registration Act, which is represented in the film as the Sokovia Accords. In the comics, Spider-Man found himself caught in the middle along with the X-Men, and while he does choose a side in the movie adaption, he is much less hostile than his team members and clearly confused about what exactly he’s a part of.
Lacking the support of big players like Dr. Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic, and Ms. Marvel as he had in the comics, Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., is left assembling a team from his fellow Avengers, including, of course, his best friend, James Rhodes, played by Don Cheadle. The divide pits some best friends against each other though as is seen in Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, and Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner. And, though the two were never as tight, when Steve Rodgers says of Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan, “He’s my friend,” Tony replies, “So was I.”
The original story arc finds new meaning in the film adaption through the added intensity of Steve’s loyalty to his childhood friend. I’d even argue that this version is better than the initial plot, as it’s more personal. We’ve all had a friend who’s closer to family, a friend we might even die for.
“Captain America: Civil War” has surpassed $940 million in global revenue this weekend, helping the MCU reach a total of $10 billion for its 13 movies over the last eight years.