By Jarrod Jones. If it seems a bit daunting to jump right into Captain America: Civil War, there’s a damn good reason for that — because on paper, it totally is. As the thirteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first of its third phase, Joe and Anthony Russo’s second Captain America flick carries all the weight and momentum of every film that preceded it while laying the cobblestones towards that next great splash-pagey battle, Avengers: Infinity War Part I. (There are six more movies to go before that particular milestone.) So if you’re not up on your Scarlet Widgets, Ant-Guys and other whoozits, you ought to know going in: Civil War is still gonna knock you on your ass.

Yes, it seems that all that stuff I mentioned up there sounds like a ton of baggage, loads more than certain other franchises are burdened with anyway, but Civil War lugs it all around with nary a sign of narrative strain. Even when it does take moments to contort itself around to regain its comfort, you never get the feeling that that perhaps we’ve come too far or maybe it’s a good thing that Black Panther and Doctor Strange and Spider-Man are on their way to hold this tentpole saga aloft. (Though, that is a good thing.) Chris Evans is still stoic and insufferably wonderful as Captain Steve Rogers, and as Iron Man, Robert Downey, Jr. is still just as sharp and wily as he’s ever been. Both men play fair when it comes to sharing Cap’s movie. No one cancels each other out, which goes a long way in making this such an engaging film.

And while it might be a smidge unfair that Cap has to share his movie with practically every other live-action Avenger, especially when he went and starred in what is indisputably the best of all these ding-dang Marvel movies (and still is)Captain America: Civil War doesn’t suffer the top-heavy character development that nearly caused Avengers: Age of Ultron to implode entirely. The Russos give the requisite lip service to characters like Paul Bettany’s Vision and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch so that they can further explore their own little corner of the world without sacrificing the film’s core mission. (There is an exception, of course, and that is Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, but he’s so friggin’ cute and it’s so damned satisfying to see him web-slinging around the MCU that you forgive the digressions that made it possible.)


That core mission is to justify its superhero fisticuffs. There’s a topicality at play — Cap needs to conform to the world’s shifting views on globe-trotting superheroes at the peril of himself and friends who are either far too loyal or are complete and utter liabilities — but it’s all in service to the why of it all. Sure, it touches on societal fears of world terror and the violent responses from our would-be guardians, but only just so. Civil War doesn’t linger on these ideas for too long, not because it can’t handle the material — Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and the Russo Brothers have more than proven their mettle with The Winter Soldier — but because there’s a churning engine inside this movie that needs to be fed, and its diet doesn’t call for socio-political allegory.

The word of the day is bombast, and you better believe Captain America: Civil War has it in abundance. But it’s also imbued with enough wit and heart that when it comes time for these titans to tussle, it hits with the emotional impact that certain superhero slugfests swung for only to discover they were playing above their pay grade. And that’s what is so satisfying about Civil War. It may be the culmination of years of diligence, patience and fan service, but it feels as free as the stars and stripes for which our titular hero takes his licks.

Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt and Daniel Brühl.

Rated PG-13 because people get pissed and pissed people fight.

8.5 out of 10