As the culmination of three Iron Man movies, two Captain America films, and two adventures featuring The Avengers, Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War is something of a masterpiece.
The Production: 4.5/5
As the culmination of three Iron Man movies, two Captain America films, and two adventures featuring The Avengers, Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War is something of a masterpiece. Probing much more deeply into character than the average comic book adventure film and using the audience’s accumulated feelings about each of the Avengers who take part in this saga, Civil War takes full advantage of differing rooting interests for various appealing characters while introducing some new faces to the cinematic world and surprising us with some heretofore unrevealed pockets of information that continually amuse and amaze. And with all of that, the same brisk sense of humor and wry turn of phrase is still present amid the gathering storm that may change the world for these crime fighters forever.
With the human death toll fallout from the showdown with Ultron and a new enemy Crossbones (Frank Grillo) more serious than anyone expected, the Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) presents the Avengers with an ultimatum: either sign an agreement through which the United Nations will oversee and direct all future work by the group or risk international search and capture. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), feeling guilty for some of his previous reckless behavior, encourages the other group members to sign, and he gets friend James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) on his side. Captain America Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) knows the vagaries of evolving international alliances and refuses to agree. When a terror attack occurs which is blamed on Steve’s friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and brings African prince Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) into the fight even though Bucky swears his innocence, the Captain is even more convinced their hands can’t be tied by this United Nations treaty. Joining his side of the argument are Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). And with some surprise entries into the fight, the superheroes aren’t aware that there is a puppet master offstage, Zemo (Daniel Brühl), who is pulling strings with his own fractious agenda.
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s screenplay really touches deeply into family and friendship dynamics throughout this nearly 2 ½-hour film, and discussion and debate, sometimes death to an action picture, here seems completely justified and even enjoyable. Cleverly, however, there are also several misdirects they’ve woven into their story making surprises sprung on the audience late in the movie deliciously unexpected and breath-catching. Naturally, the Russo brothers keep the action scenes mind-blowingly jumpy and memorable: the amazing battle with Crossbones at the start seems almost like child’s play compared to the epic battles ahead. Of course, everyone’s expecting the showdown between the sides supporting Captain America and those supporting Iron Man, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in the fast action, the surprises, the innumerable quips, and reverses we don’t see coming (it’s the centerpiece of the movie), but a later mano a mano between the two primary adversaries is even more spellbinding with greater emotions on display and the stakes more personal and less ideological. There is also a startling chase on foot and in vehicles through a tunnel underpass that any other action movie would kill to have as part of its framework, and here as the set-up for the face-off between the Avengers, it’s almost forgotten in its beauty in staging and complexity in execution.
Robert Downey, Jr. gets to show more stark (no pun intended) emotion in this film than in all five of his previous appearances as Iron Man combined. Chris Evans’ Captain America/Steve Rogers may be a little more stoic than necessary (when his eyes fill with tears at one climactic moment, it’s pretty astounding), but the movie allows us to see that personal friendship for him goes above and beyond belief in the greater good. Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow gets some choice moments too to weigh the pros and cons of each side’s stances before making a series of possibly controversial choices. Sebastian Stan gets to act expressively the Jekyll and Hyde nature of his brainwashed Winter Soldier. Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle as best friends respectively of Captain America and Iron Man get their own moments in the spotlight and do well with them. As for the newcomers, Chadwick Boseman gets a great introduction as Black Panther, and one can easily see a movie being developed around his character. Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, and Paul Rudd continue to play their superhero parts with enthusiasm, and Daniel Brühl makes a great villain because his fury is much more internalized and his scheme more intellectualized than simply someone who wants to destroy everything or simply take over the planet, a nice change from the usual comic film archenemy. In smaller roles, Frank Grillo, Alfre Woodard, Marisa Tomei, William Hurt, Emily VanCamp, Martin Freeman, and especially Tom Holland make the very most of their opportunities.
3D Rating: 4/5
The film is framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and is presented in 1080p using the MVC/AVC codec. Just as one would expect with such a multi-million dollar project (the budget has been estimated at $250 million), the imagery is top notch in every way, and the great reliance on CG effects either in the foreground or background never results in a loss of sharpness or focus while close-ups reveal much detail in facial features, hair, and clothes. Color is rich and real with true skin tones throughout. Black levels are superb. The movie has been divided into 19 chapters.
As a post conversion, there aren’t any forward projections of note (the feet of one of the superheroes do swing out toward the camera at one stupendous moment), but the sense of depth throughout is sensational, and director of photography Trent Opaloch along with the directing Russo brothers have shot quite a few scenes from a high angle facing downward which really accentuates the depth of field. Quite a few of the scenes are staged with characters on different planes making for very interesting depth compositions though there are other shots that do seem relatively flat and unimpressive.
Presented in Atmos in the theater, the sound mix here is DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, and it’s as thrillingly immersive and enveloping as any superhero movie should be. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been planted in the center channel. The propulsive score by Henry Jackman fills the soundstage without ever seeming too overpowering. Split effects and pans across and through the soundstage are most impressive while the LFE channel also gets a thorough workout.
Special Features: 3/5
The 3D disc contains no bonus material. All the bonuses are contained on the 2D Blu-ray disc in the case.
Audio Commentary: directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are all present to comment on the film’s planning, dead end script ideas, and production details which fans are always eager to know.
United We Stand, Divided We Fall (22:25, 23:18, HD): shown in two parts, this behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film concentrates the first part on the established story and characters while part two concentrates on the newer members of the Marvel cinematic family. Commenting along the way are producers Kevin Feige, Nate Moore, and Victoria Alonso, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and actors Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Frank Grillo, Paul Rudd, William Hurt, Tom Holland, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Daniel Brühl, Sebastian Stan, and Elizabeth Olsen.
Captain America: The Road to Civil War (4:11, HD): directors Tony and Joe Russo, producers Kevin Feige and Nate Moore, and actors Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. explain Steve Rogers’ side of the argument.
Iron Man: The Road to Civil War (4:27, HD): the same creative staff members explain Tony Stark’s point of view in the debate in this brief featurette.
Open Your Mind: Marvel’s Doctor Strange (4:02, HD): the film’s director and leading players give some insight into the next Marvel film premiering in November.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (7:52, HD): four scenes are shown in montage. They may also be accessed separately.
Gag Reel (2:53, HD)
Promo Trailers (HD): Doctor Strange, Contest of Champions.
Digital Copy: code card enclosed in the case.
Captain America: Civil War has set the bar high indeed for the next congregation of the Avengers (slated to be a two-part tale, Infinity War). The picture and sound quality is as good as one would expect, and the 3D, while possibly not earthshaking in its impact, offers a more than passable alternative to the 2D experience. Highly recommended!