Captain America: Civil War

Brodie's Grade: A

Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely; based on characters by Jack Kirby & Joe Simon; Based on the comic books by Mark Millar
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen & Daniel Brühl

Marvel's biggest problem right now is that they do a lot, and they do it all really well. Were I to rank all 13 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (I have), even the lower ranked films are still pretty good. They have yet to do an outright terrible film. This presents a problem of focus. And while Captain America: Civil War, the third supposed solo outing for the hero, is really good, it could have used a sharper focus.

It's easy for me to Monday Morning Quarterback what I think Marvel should be doing with their property, I have no stake in it other than as a fan and movie-goer. But the film felt less like a Captain America movie, and more the Avengers film that last year's Age of Ultron should have been. Ultron being the Iron Man film that Iron Man 3 should have been. Iron Man 3 being the Iron Man sequel Iron Man 2 should have been. I did not care for Iron Man 2, is what I'm taking a very long time to say. A bulk of this film could have been a straight Avengers film, then we get a jumping off point into a really good more Captain America-centric film.

A lot of the focus was on Captain America and the Winter Soldier, but Iron Man got a sizable chunk of screen time and character development, and with all of the other heroes running around with their very well developed narrative arcs, including the introductions of Spider-Man and Black Panther, it pulled away from Steve Rogers. This is all indicative of the larger trend, to make it bigger, louder, more bombastic. I wanted to avoid the inevitable comparison, but it's what sunk Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. That was cinematic Icarus flying too close to the sun.

However, to the credit of the Russo Brothers' incredible talent, they're able to wrangle everyone into the plot, they're able to effectively manage the huge cast of characters so even though it is big, it doesn't feel bloated. Everything still makes sense and 100% works. It's not a good CAPTAIN AMERICA film, but it's a really good Marvel film, a really good Avengers film, and a really good film in general.

What's made the Captain America stand-alone films so fascinating within the MCU, is how progressively better they've gotten. The First Avenger was a decent, if rocky, debut venture. But Winter Soldier two years ago exploded onto the scene as what has become my favorite of the MCU, and now Civil War is a very close second. They do better with the social and political allegories than some of the others do, and I appreciated that there wasn't any finger wagging in this film. They handled a complex problem with the deep, complex thought it deserved. The two conflicting sides weren't completely right, but neither was wrong either. They acknowledged the large grey area, instead of sanctimoniously sticking with black or white. Everything plot-wise was not easy or simple, including why each hero chose which side, but it all made perfect sense within the confines of the universe and the narrative.

I don't want to gush too much about the cast, both of actors and of characters. It was really awesome seeing all those people and all those heroes on screen together. But there were two stand-outs of the cast, Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Brühl. T'Challa/Black Panther played to Boseman's gravitas as an actor, and he was able to exude the deep, rich history of the character, despite his limited screen time. It was a crash course in Black Panther, and he played it very very well. Brühl plays a fascinating, calculating villain in Zemo. There's a quiet contemplation rooted in anguish and loss to his character, that contracts with a lot of the chest thumping we normally see in MCU villains. Tom Holland was great in his introduction as Spider-Man, and I'm hyped for Homecoming next year.

I appreciate the care and intelligence that went into this film. I appreciate that they were able to pair it with some amazingly fantastic and jaw-dropping action sequences, including the epic airport showdown that brought out every big gun they had. Captain America: Civil War is everything that there is too love about comic books, about the superhero genre, and about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is my second favorite film of the year, and I may have, in the process of writing this, convinced myself that it's my favorite MCU film.