Last night, we took in one of the public fan-screenings of Captain America: Civil War that were held in select cities. While we expect to have a more thorough, thoughtful review closer to release, here are some general, non-specific thoughts:
Everywhere that Age of Ultron failed, Captain America: Civil War succeeds.
Second entries for Marvel directors have always been tricky – Iron Man 2, and the aforementioned Avengers: Age of Ultron being prime examples. But Joe and Anthony Russo just get it, and produce the first successful return visit for any director in the Marvel Studios canon.
Why? Mostly because Captain America: Civil War is incredibly empathetic to its characters, giving both sides of its conflict believable motivations, and lots of room for nuanced reads from its audience that may side with one particular predilection or another.
It’s also the first time that I’ve found the “interconnected universe” to be an actual boon to the events on screen. The conflict, as formed, holds a good deal more weight because of the eight years worth of build-up that Marvel/Kevin Feige has (mostly) carefully crafted. We care about these characters, so when they fight, it hurts. This was very well played. Additionally, the focus of the film remains on this core conflict and while the film is very well balanced between its characters, it’s able to maintain a sense richness without the need to give everyone a subplot to mixed results.
The Russos also know how to shoot action. I won’t compare them to Luc Besson or anything, but they understand how to compose a kinetic sequence, and at no point does a set-piece devolve into tedium. Those sort of chops are hard to come by. It’s a long film, but with so much to give, and so much fun to be had, it’s worth just about every minute.
I might have a qualm or two with the villain’s actual scheme, which I’m not sure holds up to scrutiny (what else is new in the MCU?), and Tony Stark I think takes a *slight* mulligan as a character in order for the gears to begin to turn, but otherwise this is Star Wars-level blockbuster film-making. And back to back with The Force Awakens, Disney has produced a pair of some of the best blockbusters I’ve seen in years.
By the way, the best in show? Not Black Panther (who is great), not Spider-Man (who is great, Spidey fans are in for a treat by the way), but Ant-Man!! All hail Paul Rudd!
Entertainment Editor for The Beat covering film, television and the occasional comic book. His work can also be found at GeekRex.com and can be heard on the GeekRex podcast. Also, your go-to Grant Morrison/Love & Rockets/Hellboy/Legion of Super-Heroes expert.