Film Review: Captain America’s (and possibly Marvel’s) best outing yet

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I often talk about how I get tired of the onslaught of Marvel movies and while it’s true that there’s some I couldn’t really jive to like Thor and… well… Thor 2, there are way more hits than misses which is more than I can say about the DC universe in the world of film. However, I didn’t even fall in love with the first Captain America film but the second one was very good and this one is easily the best Cap film and may be the best Marvel film I’ve ever seen. This is a film that is not just for superhero fans. I feel like everyone will enjoy this much the same as I said that everyone would enjoy Ant Man as an everyman film rather than a movie that’s entrenched in the Marvel Universe.

The film involves the main conflict surrounding Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) with various Avengers and other superheros siding with one or the other in a battle of ideals. Basically, the United Nations decides to present an accord to the group to enact a panel that will oversee the Avengers’ actions against villains/terrorists because of all the collateral damage that they have caused that has taken innocent lives, especially in the foreign nation of Sakovia where a building landed on a large group of people and took their lives in the midst of a battle involving the Avengers. What follows is a divide in the group about where they stand on the accord with Captain America leading the anti-accord side and Stark leading the pro-accord stance. Shit really gets crazy though when Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) goes to Sakovia and is in the middle of a large explosion killing the Sakovian king supposedly caused by the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes. What follows is a series of intense battles both physically and psychologically with a whole bunch of very well-rounded characters and a wonderful script.

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The acting is all about what you would expect. While the regular favourites like Chris Evans (Cap), Robert Downey Jr. (Stark), Sebastian Stan (Bucky), Don Cheadle (War Machine/James Rhodes), Paul Bettany (Vision), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff), Liz Olsen (Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff), Anthony Mackie (Falcon/Sam Wilson) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye/Clint Barton) all return and are pretty much uniformly solid I would say the highlights in that group come from the two leads with Evans and Downey Jr. putting forward their best performances in the entire Marvel series so far. Downey Jr. is still the fast-quipping asshole but he also takes on a much more serious side as well that we didn’t see that much of in the previous films. The details about his family life are astounding and add a very vulnerable layer to his character. Evans plays a character who stays true to his convictions and thus it makes it a very hard sell on who to side with during the “civil war” aspect of the film. Sebastian is brooding most of the time as Bucky but he does a very good job at making you not quite sure of where he stands for most of the film until the big reveal. Paul Bettany is wonderfully understated as Vision. Johansson is good but I feel like she is one of the least interesting characters in the series. Liz Olsen and Jeremy Renner are welcome returns and I really liked Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle as counterparts to Evans and Downey Jr, respectively.

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I’m gonna need another section here just to list all the new characters and performances. Chadwick Boseman, who I last saw in the awful Gods of Egypt, shows up here to redeem himself as Black Panther/T’Challa, a man who is gravely affected by the death of his father in the aforementioned attack on Sakovia and thus dons the mask and costume of the Black Panther to take revenge. He has a similar character path to someone else in the film (can’t reveal who that is or it would be a spoiler) and his story is wrapped up in a very satisfactory manner. Paul Rudd has a very fun appearance as Ant Man/Scott Lang where he actually gets to do a lot more than I would have expected. Tom Holland makes for a very believable Spider-Man/Peter Parker and I can’t wait to see him in the eventual Spider-Man films. Finally, Daniel Bruhl is a great slimy villain but much like every character in this film he is not one-dimensional and there is a reason for every facet of his personality.

Above all the acting, I had already mentioned that the film has a tremendous script. Themes are explored here that are not normally discussed in a superhero film like this in terms of the aforementioned collateral damage and loss of life due to that being the biggest one. In fact, I thought this was touched upon in a MUCH better and more effective manner than Batman v. Superman could even hope to do. If we’re comparing the two films in terms of this theme, this film is Citizen Kane and BvS is Pootie Tang. We also get some very believable dialogue which is no small accomplishment when it comes down to a complicated plot and the huge amount of characters like this film. Also, the fact that this film would’ve been utterly ridiculous if the script was anything but tight and slickly produced and that is what we got here. I love the complicated relationship between Captain America, Bucky Barnes and Iron Man. This is not a movie about black and white ideals; this whole film is full of shades of gray. Even the main villain is not a complete psychopath without reason!

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If you desire action in your films, you came to the right place as well. Not since the church sequence in Kingsmen have I seen an action scene that enthralled and held my attention for so long. That extended airport sequence involving most of the cast using their various powers on each other is full of CGI as well, which makes it an even more daunting task to make it look realistic… but oh, it does. Not only does the whole thing look genuine but it is some of the most astonishing editing I have ever seen. It takes place late in the film and acts as a sort of release for everything that has been building up to it at that point. There are many other great action sequences as well but that one trumps anything else in any other movie for a very long time. There is a battle near the end between the three main characters that is not only cool to see but it is a very different type of battle in a superhero film with high emotion at the forefront. It is also choreographed really well but in a different way that makes it a very dark scene and makes it pack more than just punches.

What else can I say about this awesome film? Go see it even if you don’t typically enjoy Marvel or superhero films in general. It’s like Batman v. Superman was the shitty entree while Captain America was a delicious slice of superhero pie. Yes, superhero pie.

*****

 

Rating System:

* (Brutal; the worst rating)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)