Truth be told, I wasn’t that excited about Captain America: Civil War. Not that I’m not a huge fan of the first two Captain America movies—they may be #1 and #2 if I were to rank the MCU movies—but I’m leery of ensemble superhero movies. The first Avengers movie was ok, but Age of Ultron was a mediocrity. And I’ve heard only bad things about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (don’t let this post fool you, I haven’t actually seen Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice). The first run of Spider-Man movies wound up having a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen problem too. Reading about the basic concept behind the plot didn’t help. It didn’t sound like a great hook, but it did sound like the sort of thing Hollywood screws up repeatedly.
So what was the difference? Execution.
High performance. Delivered. As my former employer used to say. Or still does? You would think I would know, as much time as I spend in airports these days. Anyway, back to the movie. I’m a little disappointed they drop the fight explicitly centering around a registration act. It is a little weird that a few dead Wakandans in the opening action sequences tips things off. But it is the straw that breaks the camel’s back after New York. After D.C. After Sokovia. (And that other little scuffle between Hulk and Iron Man right there in Africa, but everyone seems to have forgotten about that.) And it brings Wakandan royalty into the picture, which provokes a reaction of its own.
And since they call it the Sokovia Accords, that probably has the most to do with it. It’s hard not to blame that one on the Avengers, since it was Tony Stark’s creation that did the harm. That probably says a lot about why Stark is the biggest proponent of the Accords. We don’t hear much about the particulars. This isn’t about a political/philosophical dispute. That’s just a catalyst; everything begins to turn on personal relationships and reactions to earlier actions.
So we have the usual setup and some twists that are somewhat pro forma (and at least one that isn’t). What makes it all work is that the writing and the acting is uniformly superb. Stark’s guilt, Cap’s faith in Bucky, Bucky’s pathos, the Black Panther’s righteous anger, the Black Widow’s loyalty all come through in sparse dialogue and nonverbal acting.
I won’t break down who is Team Iron Man and who is Team Cap. Things are somewhat more fluid than that anyway. In the end, everyone has a motivation for their actions. I get my first look at Ant Man. Falcon took a serious level in badass. The Black Panther and Spider-Man both get sweet costumes and great fight scenes. I am absolutely psyched for the Black Panther movie, if not for yet another iteration of Spider-Man (I still want adult Spidey taking shit for Mary Jane, and if he’s played by Steve Yeun that would be cool too). Vision is still lame.
The action sequences are another big step up from the Avengers movies (Winter Soldier was pretty much the best ever at this). No more tearing through papier-mâché robots. The action sequences are tight, exploit the various powers of the heroes beautifully, and tactile. When somebody gets hit you feel it.
It may not be the best MCU movie, but it’ll do until it gets here.