IT’S NOT a question of whether “Captain America: Civil War” is Marvel Studios’s best movie yet. With Friday’s release of Marvel’s greatest film, the debate immediately becomes: Where does this movie rank within the history of comic-book cinema?
Captain America’s “Civil War” visage is fit to be carved on the Mount Rushmore of comic-book movies. But where to make room alongside such greats as Tim Burton’s first “Batman” film, the first two Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” movies, the second “X-Men” film and Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”? Let’s delve into how Cap stacks up.
With the Russo brothers as directors, what Kevin Feige and his entire Marvel Studios team have achieved with this third Captain America film is cinematic magic — the culmination of a Marvel Cinematic Universe that has been allowed to luxuriously build out its interconnected films over the years, with 2008’s “Iron Man” as the true launch pad.
“Civil War” features two flush teams of superheroes duking it out, yet it never feels overcrowded, even as two new MCU franchise characters are introduced in Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).
Here are Comic Riffs’s eight key takeaways from “Captain America: Civil War”:
1. The next Avengers movies will have a tough time topping “Civil War.”
Who knew that “Civil War” would set the bar so high for the forthcoming Avengers films (“Avengers: Infinity War” Parts 1 and 2). As directors, Joe and Anthony Russo might need personalized Infinity Gauntlets to try to craft an Avengers tale with Thanos (the baddie in the next Avengers films, of course) that can top “Civil War.” It’s now abundantly clear why Marvel has decided to let the Russos guide the next stages of the assembled Avengers. With their two Captain America films, the Brothers Russo have turned the character into Marvel Studios’s top superhero franchise.
2. Spider-Man is brilliantly “rescued” by Marvel.
What a difference Marvel Studios makes. Now that Marvel and Sony share joint custody of the wallcrawler, Marvel has shown the power of its oversight by making us actually want another Spider-Man movie. As the new Peter Parker, the teenaged Tom Holland steals scenes and holds his own opposite such Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. Holland’s charisma shines whether he’s in costume or not, and he provides the Spider-Man franchise with something it’s never: genuine youth.
3. Black Panther is triumphant.
As regally portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther’s MCU arrival lives up to the hype. The Black Panther doesn’t just appear for a cat-suit cameo; he plays a major part in “Civil War,” and is connected to the future of Marvel in a massive way. If you loved this character on the comics page, you will not be disappointed with the screen incarnation.
4. RDJ shines, but this is Chris Evans’s movie.
Downey Jr. may be the most naturally charismatic actor in the MCU — and his Iron Man performance here is his most emotional yet — but he doesn’t dominate “Civil War” because he pitches his performance just right. Meanwhile, Evans gives his best performance yet as Steve Rogers/Captain America. Here, Cap is a soldier who opposes government interference — a stance that comes from the heart as he looks out for his fellow Avengers. That narrative allows Evans enough of a spotlight to exude a steely, sometimes quiet strength. That puts one fact into high relief: Downey becomes Iron Man when the high-tech suit comes on; Evans is Captain America whether he has donned the mask and shield or not.
5. Cap and Bucky: A bond among brothers.
Since the first Captain America movie (“Captain America: The First Avenger),we’ve been shown the strength of the bond between Steve Rogers and James “Bucky” Barnes. Before the super-soldier serum began flowing through his blood, Steve Rogers was a guy who couldn’t defend himself, let alone his country. He was bullied frequently. Who was always there to help him? Bucky. And Steve, even in becoming a super-strong all-American hero, has never forgotten that. So when Bucky is in the crosshairs of a world that is convinced he’s a dangerous terrorist, it is Steve who is there for Bucky when no one else believes in him. Steve and Bucky’s bond is at the center of “Civil War’s” conflict, but Steve will never abandon Bucky, even if Iron Man is the one aiming at him.
6. The biggest superhero battle royal delivers.
The airport battle between Team Iron Man and Team Captain America is one of the most fun moments ever in a Marvel film, and one that will be hard to top — even when it is time for Thanos to come to town in the next Avengers movie. We’ve seen the trailer with the two teams running toward each other prepared to engage in battle. That’s just a taste. Spider-Man becomes Marvel’s newest star in this battle, but he doesn’t pull off the most incredible feats. The biggest moment of this battle comes from the hero you’d least expect.
7. It’s a war, but there’s room for laughs.
Things get heavy and serious in “Civil War.” This is an emotional film that takes a toll on the heroes involved, but this is Marvel and you can always expect a few laughs. One surprise is the chemistry between The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). They have some great moments together. Downey of course will always have his comic moments and any movie with Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man has to be funny.
8. “Civil War” sets a new superhero-movie standard.
This is the pinnacle of what comic-book moviemaking can be. Just as “is it as good as The Dark Knight” and “Is it better than the Avengers” have been comparison points when watching comic book films, “Is it as good as ‘Civil War’?” becomes the new superhero-movie benchmark.