It must be tough being an Avenger. Sure, you beat the bad guy, maybe save your love interest, but though you come home alive, you have to answer to the higher-ups, the government officials who ask, “What about all the buildings you collapsed?” I mean, can’t they just give you a break after you saved them from an alien invasion?
But collateral damage, rather than the villain that caused it, is the catalyst of Captain America: Civil War’s plot. After a botched covert mission in Lagos, during which an embassy explodes, the Avengers are reprimanded by the Secretary of State (William Hurt), who reveals that the UN wants official oversight of the superhero team. Any unsupervised activity would be illegal.
In an ironic twist, usual maverick Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) wants the team to register and operate underneath the government, having been wracked with guilt over wanton destruction that ensues with Iron-Man-level hijinks.
Opposite him is ever-vigilant Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who believes that the agendas of others will ultimately compromise the superheroes’ integrity as keepers of the peace. The good Captain’s conscience is kept even busier with the re-emergence of his best friend turned brainwashed assassin, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who has inflicted the wrath of African prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). Barnes claims he was framed for the murder of T’Challa’s father but others, like Stark, aren’t so quick to believe him.
This is the setup of Civil War which, for being branded a “Captain America” picture, is surprisingly equally dedicated to Tony Stark’s story (and the other Avengers’) as well as Steve Rogers’. And yet, while it may lack the full cohesiveness of The Winter Soldier, the cinematic Civil War at hand is possibly the most mature and impressive films to come out of the Marvel factory.
I say “mature” because this superhero movie is patient. Though it opens with an action sequence, it spends the next half-hour setting up the conflict between our heroes, and the movie moves similarly with subsequent action scenes. Rather than have Iron Man and Captain America beat the snot out of each other from the start, they discuss their positions on the UN oversight first. They argue to the point of desperation, and Downey Jr. and Evans sell this frustration with impressive nuance. The movie believes in our intelligence, allows us to invest in the building tension so that, when the punches are finally thrown, we actually give a damn.
And the action scenes are so rewarding. Near the end of the second act, there’s a thrilling battle at a German airport where Cap and five other superheroes resist arrest from Iron Man and his own superpowered team. If you have any interest in this movie, you’ve, by no doubt, have seen snippets of this segment in trailers and commercials. But that’s only 1% of the actual twenty-minute superhero extravaganza, in which you see Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) throw kicks at Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) shrink down inside Iron Man’s armor, or a certain red-and-blue wallcrawler take on Bucky and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie). A magical spectacle that comic-book nerds only dreamt of. Until now.