Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 5/15/16
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, William Hurt, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl, cameos by Marisa Tomei, Stan Lee

Following the events in "The Avengers" (2012), "The Winter Soldier" (2014), and "Age Of Ultron" (2015), public opinion of The Avengers has turned sour and the nations of the world are clamoring to put them under the control of an international governing body. A terrorist attack in Nigeria only makes things worse and puts the heroes at odds with each other. In particular, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) cannot tolerate the proposed sanctions, and goes rogue when his friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is implicated in another terrorist incident. An uncharacteristically calm and rational Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) desperately tries to salvage the situation, but everything ultimately boils down to a no-holds-barred confrontation between the two rivals, with the devious Colonel Zemo (Daniel Brühl) pulling the strings in the background.

This film had the potential to be my favorite Marvel super hero movie, but similar to "The Winter Soldier," it's ruined by poor action cinematography, lamentable editing, and terrible visual effects. It's a major step backwards from a special effects perspective, and the character animation looks like it came out 15-20 years ago. The characters blatantly defy physics, have no physical presence or sense of mass, and fail to interact with their surroundings. Worst of all, they don't even look cool while they're doing it. The fight choreography is superb, with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) being particularly noteworthy, but again, poor camera work and sloppy editing ruin the end result. Fortunately, the second half of the film fares much better than the first, as if it were made by a completely different team.

The narrative weight is fairly heavy for a super hero film, but I appreciated the serious tone. I also appreciated the fact that Tony Stark wasn't a complete asshole, which is a first for the series. The dialog is both genuine and believable, as opposed to the offensively silly "Age Of Ultron" and the intolerably sexist "Winter Soldier," and even the humor comes across fairly well. The performances are excellent all around, and I'm really looking forward to seeing Black Widow and Black Panther get their own respective films. Black Widow even gets to wear decent footwear this time around instead of those awful wedge boots from the previous films, which is a huge plus. Elizabeth Olsen is quite charming as Scarlet Witch, although Vision's (Paul Bettany) feelings for her are downright creepy. Sadly, Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp) suffers from a weird haircut and doesn't see any action apart from locking lips with Cap, which is disappointing. Both Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) make appearances in the climactic super hero showdown, which ends up being a lot more fun than it has any right to be. While their lighthearted goofiness could have easily ruined the film, they somehow manage to be more endearing than annoying. Tom Holland is especially memorable as a teenaged Spider-Man, and the film is a blatant springboard for rebooting that series. Even though the film is overly long and most of the action scenes are disappointing, it never fails to be entertaining, and that's probably the most important takeaway.