Captain America: Civil War is hands down the best Marvel superhero movie to date. The pinnacle of a decade of superhero storytelling.
2016 is the year of superhero infighting, and so a review of Captain America: Civil War cannot be possible without a comparison with that other superpower bash two months ago. I.E. Dawn of Justice.
Why did DoJ fizzle while Civil War shines? Is it because of Marvel’s accumulated experience in cinematic presentation? Is it because Civil War has predecessors that saved it the tedium of origin stories?
No. In my opinion, both movies enjoy no overriding advantages because the producers of DoJ could have easily drawn from other movies too. And anyway, how many viewers are unfamiliar with the origin stories of Supes and Bats? What Marvel did right with Civil War, and correspondingly triumphed at, was its method of superhero storytelling. This is the acknowledgement that audiences do not watch superhero movies just for over-the-top fights, explosions and special effects. Instead, they seek to understand superheroes on a personal level. They crave to be told about the humans beneath the masks and powers. During fights, they cheer not for rampant destruction and wreckage, but because they are reminded of their quirks, strengths and weaknesses. The greatest thrill comes when these quirks are exemplified through the characteristic ways these superheroes battle with.
Therefore, Superman and Batman slugging away at each other, destroying an entire area, doesn’t thrill. Collapsing buildings and exploding vehicles feel run-of-the-mill. Clark’s “WTH?” reaction to the distrust of his power, is cliché and flat.
On the other hand, deeper examination of Ironman’s damaged psyche is evocative*. Steve Rogers’ simplistic, boy-scout mentality is both endearing and infuriating, particularly the way he both defends and compliments his opponents, even as they battle**. And lethal super-assassin Black Widow is very much the streetwise big sister you hope to have, when she’s not snapping your neck with her legs.
There’s also the character comparisons. In the form of two “cameos” for the big fight. One’s a chatty teen new to the adrenaline of superpower fights. The other, a still-clueless crook forced into a high-tech suit. The spectacular ways they experiment and execute their powers aside, they provide intriguing contrast with the older cast. Here are the new and fresh, alongside the jaded and veteran. What should be the direction for these new heroes to go forth with? What’s going to happen to them in their coming battles? In that sense, the end-credit scene for Captain America: Civil War doesn’t just feel promotional, it also feels ominous. And with that, Marvel secures a sea of audiences for its coming releases. It also cements its position as the king of superhero storytelling.
*Take note of how often Stark is shown with bruises or injuries in this movie.
** I think the meaning of the scratched shield is easy to grasp.
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