09242017Headline:

“Captain America: Civil War” movie review

By Jeff Boudreaux

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     The latest installment in the immensely popular MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), and more specifically the Captain America/Avengers film franchises, delivers to rabid devotees and average moviegoers alike what may possibly be the greatest comic book adaptation of all time. There are no excuses to be made for this film (nor should there be), because from start to finish the viewer is captivated and entertained with an action-packed, humorous and also thought-provoking soon-to-be blockbuster that is quite honestly a fanboy’s dream.

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     When the sinister and horribly scarred former S.H.I.E.L.D. double agent Brock Rumlow, a.k.a. Crossbones (Frank Grillo of “The Purge: Anarchy”) takes his terroristic act to Lagos, a fraction of the Avengers (or more accurately the newly assembled team that made its debut at the close of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) are on the scene. Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans), his loyal friend and confidant Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannsen) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are performing a stakeout that would make Ethan Hunt and his team from “Mission: Impossible” proud. If that’s not enough, this quickly turns into an absolutely dynamic action sequence that brings to mind the opening missions of the last four (Daniel Craig-era) James Bond films – that is if 007 were cloned and on steroids! Just when the Avengers appear to have Crossbones in custody, the dastardly villain reveals that he is wearing a suicide vest and is prepared to take Rogers with him. And in order to save the good Captain’s life, the Scarlet Witch teleports their foe away from any superhero, but into a nearby building where a number of innocent civilians are killed along with Rumlow.

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     As they say “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” and don’t our heroes know it. Because of this mishap, the Avengers come under the scrutiny of the United Nations led by U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt reprising his role as the General from 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk,” and receiving a promotion in the bargain). You see, Ross wants “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” to sign the newly-penned Slovakia Accords which would basically place them under the jurisdiction of the U.N. and thereby not allowed to operate without the permission of the General Assembly! Part-time hero, full-time businessman and philanthropist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) happens to agree after meeting a diplomat who lost her son in the attack. Yet Steve Rogers, who is for all intents and purposes the heart and soul of the Avengers, refuses to comply. And besides, if he did he would have to change his name to Captain World, I suppose.

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     Complicating issues even further is a reappearing Winter Soldier, a.k.a. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) who goes from Cap’s best friend to a mind-controlled puppet on a dime (or actually when real-baddie Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) chooses to re-enact a classic Hydra brainwashing session). As Iron Man becomes hell-bent upon bringing Barnes in for a bombing in Vienna, and the Captain refuses to “give up the ship” so to speak, we have the classic makings of an internally stricken group that could have very well been titled “Avengers: Disassemble!” As Iron Man picks his team – The Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow, War Machine (Don Cheadle), and the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) – Captain America (who’s actually now considered an outlaw!), Falcon and Bucky are joined by Scarlet Witch, a returning Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and the astonishing Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) for a superhero smackdown of epic proportions. Oh, and lest we forget, a certain web-slinger is guaranteed to make his presence known when the two sides clash!

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     It’s really amazing to ponder the substantial screenwriting (by series regulars Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) that was created to fit into this film’s two hour and 26-minute running time, and believe me, I give these authors tremendous credit because there isn’t one single moment onscreen that can be labeled as slow or begging excuse from the audience as a reason for “building exposition.” “Captain America: Civil War” works as a whole, and from top to bottom is undoubtedly the smartest superhero movie ever made (if not the best). The introduction of longtime fan-favorite Black Panther is handled with the utmost reverence (he is a king after all) and the results are phenomenal. One thing is for sure, this character is destined to become one of the most popular onscreen characters in the Marvel universe and is played with appropriate fervency by rising star Chadwick Boseman (“Get on Up,” “42”).
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     Also worth noting is that in this clash of true titans, you may be inclined to choose a side. In the most divisive decision of allegiance since the “Twilight” series, will you choose to be on Team Captain America or Team Iron Man? I picked a side, but I also have to say that I couldn’t bring myself to hate the other guys either – they’re all Avengers for crying out loud. And besides, my all-time favorite superhero wasn’t even on my team! Why were these things so much easier when we were forced to choose between Edward or Jacob? And please, accept my apology for even comparing those posers to Stan “the Man” Lee’s greatest creations!

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     Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo (“Welcome to Collinwood,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), “Captain America: Civil War” explores timeless themes of loss, friendship, and believing in one’s actions and proves that a foray into a darker or more adult subject matter can be just as fun as it is important. As this film was based upon one of the most important and polarizing storylines (one that greatly renewed interest in Marvel Comics back in 2006) in the last two decades, this 10th anniversary screen adaptation shouldn’t necessarily be expected to go in the exact same direction that the comics did (i.e. “Walking Dead” fans know exactly what I’m talking about), and I happen to agree 100 percent. Keeping ideas fresh and new, while maintaining the standard that fans of Marvel and their storylines have come to expect allow the viewer to continuously guess, and trust me, that’s always a good thing.

***1/2 (three and a half out of four stars)

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