With all the love, perhaps rightfully so, that the other characters and movies that focus on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU), it seems like Captain America is modestly going around and doing a lot of the work in moving the storytelling arcs forward in these flicks. Chris Evans was an understated focus in the Avengers movies and in Civil War, we get to see something onscreen that we haven't seen done in a while, maybe ever; taking a few charismatic protagonists who many have spent invested time and money in, and pitting them against one another as part of a different yet looming crisis.
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian), who have written the previous two Captain America movies, return for this one, which is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (Community), who directed the last movie. The Avengers find themselves at a crossroads when the Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt, The Host) informs them that the damage that cities have seen which they are involved with has become too much to bear, particularly without some form of supervision, and the United Nations is suggested to be the ones to do so. At the heart of the conflict is two sides: one is Tony Stark's (Robert Downey, Jr., Iron Man 2) side, who feels that this supervision is needed, the other is Captain America's (Evans), who feels that a supervising body will eventually lead to constriction of the Avengers' freedom. Meanwhile, a Russian doctor with ties to HYDRA (Daniel Bruhl, Rush) attempts to try and unlock a secret in the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes' (Sebastian Stan, The Martian) past that could cause a further splintering between Stark and Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America.
What Winter Soldier did that perturbed me were a couple of things; number one was a weird foothold on reality and then a clunky transition to the MCU in such a way where some characters could be on death's door, return, and everyone would just shrug their shoulders and chalk things up to advance medicine in S.H.I.E.L.D. or some such silliness. There is a tiny bit of that in Civil War, but not so much that it's predominant throughout the feature. In fact, the characters make some kind of bold choices, and some of them have kind of bold repercussions associated to them.
Further to this point, I noticed the run time for this and at 147 minutes, this is a bit of a monster that feels a lot of that time. But when you look at it further, there is a lot going on within Civil War where all this time is necessary; the story is giving time to the already known MCU characters as they ruminate over the coming controls, and make their decisions accordingly. And the film gives a fair amount of time to those characters of varying empathy. Additionally, the film also introduces new characters to the mix; one I will omit here for the 8 of you (like me) who didn't know about it, the other being Black Panther, played well by Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up), who based on his work alone should hopefully see an increased role in these films.
Even when it gets to the fight between all of these Marvel characters, sure, nobody is REALLY going to face an ultimate fate here, but the path that a good number of these characters are on amongst one another at times would seem irreconcilable. The Russos keep things light when they have the chance, flirting between cheesy one liners (note: I would watch the hell out of a spinoff sitcom between the Winter Solder and Falcon) and more substantive fractures between figures. Civil War retained what made the previous movies fun while leading the viewer into the darker woods of interpersonal battles that the possibilities in how these battles are fought quite possibly is the most promising thing of all.
As one who really liked the first Cap film and liked the second much less, for my money Civil War is closer to the first one for me in terms of appeal, and as far as the MCU goes, should serve as a significant change in motivation for many characters in it. I don't know if that actually happens, but one could easily look back at Civil War and see it as a Empire Strikes Back for our times, where our preconceived notions about many of these superheroes were, and where they go, made the storytelling choices for them far bolder than anyone could have anticipated.The Blu-ray Disc:
We received the Captain America: Civil War package that included the 3D and 2D discs, and checked out both, and the results are good, all the more so on the 2D disc. The 3D disc looks OK, with lots of large (and small) objects being tossed during the marquee fight that make the viewers dip and duck reflexively. The 2D disc is noticeably better, with ample image detail and faithful color reproduction, whether it's the red of Spider-man's costume set against the darker colors of the suits of Iron Man or War Machine. Image detail on things like faces or costumes can be discerned, and detail is abundant in background shots frequently. I wasn't that impressed with the 3D disc, and liked the 2D far more.The Sound:
A DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless surround track graces the 3D and 2D discs and both are generally excellent. When the film's action sequences get going, they get going, with lots of directional effects and channel panning to make for a convincing, immersive sound experience, with ample amounts of subwoofer engagement. Quieter moments of dialogue are consistent and well-balanced, and the overall soundtrack is a wonderful ride from softer moments to the bangs and booms.Extras:
All of the extras are on the 2D disc, starting with a commentary from the Russos, Markus and McFeely, and it's a pretty good track. It discusses approaching this story while Avengers: Age of Ultron was being shot, and discarded ideas for stories in Civil War. Obligatory raves for the stunt coordinators and visual effects artists are recounted, while deeper things such as character motivations are talked about. Larger topics like striking a balance between shooting a ‘dark movie' against the mythologies of the characters that have already been laid out are given some discussion as well, and it's a better than expected complement to the movie.
The other extras are "United We Stand, Divided We Fall," a two-part look at the menagerie of characters in the film. It looks at their introductions and thoughts on the characters and the actors who portray them, from their peers on the cast, and the crew as well. Things like fight rehearsals, weapons and costume upgrades, larger themes in the movie are shown. The first part (22:25) looks at Captain America's "team," while the second (23:18) looks at Iron Man's. The remaining extras are kind of paltry from there: "The Road to Civil War" is a two-part quick look at the leaders of each team, with Captain America (4:11) and Iron Man (4:27) through the MCU movies to this point. 4 deleted/extended scenes (7:52) include an extended scene from a funeral, but the rest are forgettable, as is the gag reel (2:53). A look at the next Marvel movie, Doctor Strange, is the only other thing to speak of (4:02).Final Thoughts:
I really hope that Captain America: Civil War serves as an action movie superhero cinematic milepost of sorts. The type of film that isn't afraid to be loyal to what it's already done in its previous films, yet being bold and willing enough to throw their characters into territory that is uncomfortable and much more expansive. I didn't love it, but I really, really liked it long after I watched it. Technically it's a winner and the commentary alone may justify purchase, and is heartily endorsed as appointment (or refreshed) viewing for all.