ReelBob: ‘Captain America: Civil War’

By Bob Bloom

Principle vs. pragmatism is the root of a schism that pits superheroes against each other in “Captain America: Civil War.”

Instead of battling an external enemy, this latest offering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe finds humanity’s protectors reluctantly fighting an internal conflict that divides friends.

Make no mistake, despite its title, “Civil War” is an Avengers movie; just Thor and Hulk are A.W.O.L.

The impetus for the story is the collateral damage — human and property — inflicted by the various superheroes in their previous clashes to save the world and protect the planet.

As a smug Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt) points out, thousands were killed in New York, Washington, D.C. and Sokovia during the Avengers crusades to save the world.

It seems the United Nations has passed the Sokovia Accords, which will place the Avengers under the U.N.’s jurisdiction, nullifying their ability to simply decide for themselves who, when and where to fight.

A guilt-ridden, practical Tony Stark-Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) believes the action is necessary as a safeguard to keep the Avengers in check.

Steve Rogers-Captain America (Chris Evans) is more of an idealist, believing the Avengers should not be under the constraints of any politicians or organization, that they should be free to deal with any threats whenever and wherever necessary.

Sides are chosen: Supporting Iron Man — and agreeing to sign the accords — are Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Vision (Paul Bettany).

Allying with Captain America are Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Cap’s lifelong friend, Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

A couple of new allies join the fray, but more on that later.

Events go awry when Barnes is blamed for a deadly terrorist explosion on the U.N. facility in Geneva, where the accords are to be signed.

Cap, of course, defying the U.N. and his friends, goes after Bucky to ensure he is captured alive.

What he discovers when confronting his longtime friend puts him more at odds with Iron Man and the others.

“Captain America: Civil War” uses a plot device seen a few months ago in “Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice.” That is, the emotional and political fallout from the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in the course of doing what is necessary to save billions.

In “Civil War,” at least, it is handled in a more rational manner than in ‘BvS,” in which vigilante justice seemed to be the sole recourse. Here, at least, a world body weighs in and votes that restraints were necessary.

The movie brings back Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, who joins Captain America’s band. Rudd’s geeky performance, though limited, is one of the film’s major pleasures.

The film also marks the debuts of Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Captain America Civil War 2Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, both of whom come to the aid of Iron Man and his cohorts.

Holland, especially, shows promise, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in his own film.

Boseman continues his streak of sharp performances, which will be showcased in his own upcoming adventure.

Also in the film is Daniel Brúhl as Zemo, a former Sokovian intelligence officer with a personal vendetta that influences the proceedings.

How the emotional dynamics of the schism impacts the characters is what elevates “Civil War.” These are friends and comrades forced to fight for their beliefs. Each blow they inflict on each other is as painful to them as it is to their opponent.

The centerpiece of the movie definitely is the throw down at the Leipzig airport, where the two sides bash each other with all their resources. Yet, even in the midst of this intensity, flashes of humor are evident to lighten the tone.

Credit must be given to directors Anthony and Joe Russo, as well as writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, for creating such an energetic and entertaining movie.

“Captain America: Civil War” is a comic geek’s nirvana of action, wit, special effects and, most importantly, heart.

With the Avengers now at odds, it will be interesting to see how the gradual healing of this rift takes shape in future films. I am confident that Marvel and their heroes will rise to the occasion.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
3½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), intense action violence

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