The MCU has now entered Phase Three.
If you understand that sentence, you may proceed immediately to the theater and enjoy Captain America: Civil War.
If not, it’s highly recommended that you skip the tenth Marvel movie in five years and instead enjoy a nice book, perhaps get some of that pesky yard work done, or maybe take up needlepoint. There’s no point at all in even considering buying a ticket. Not only is Civil War so wildly esoteric that a re-watch of every Marvel movie (or, at the very least, both prior Captain America movies) is pretty much required, but the truth is– Captain America: Civil War isn’t that great a movie anyway.
After a prologue that shows us how Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) was brainwashed by the Russians in 1991 for a series of nefarious missions, we get reintroduced to the Captain (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). They’re all duking it out with Crossbones (Frank Grillo), who has stolen a vial of some nasty biological weapon. In the course of the battle, the Avengers end up (accidentally) killing a dozen innocent civilians. Oops.
After the dust settles, the Avengers are told that the United Nations has drafted up the Sokovia Accords (named after the country that the Avengers essentially destroyed in Age of Ultron), so the heroes can all be held accountable for the massive collateral damage they always leave in their wake.
Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is reluctant but understands that signing the accords is better than the alternative of being disbanded or outlawed altogether. Captain, though, is having none of it. A bunch of the Avengers side with Iron Man. Another bunch line up behind Cap. Hence the civil war.
At the same time, the Captain is also trying to figure out how to help his old friend Bucky. His brainwashed buddy, it seems, is still up to no good, planting a bomb that kills a bunch of people at the signing of the Sokovia Accords. Captain wants to help him, but Iron Man wants to have Bucky brought to justice. Hence even more civil war.
There’s no shortage of action in the movie, including more fist fights and hand-to-hand combat than every kung fu movie ever. Combined. There’s also plenty of cool gadgets and visual effects and even some fun surprises along the way. The one thing missing is a smart, well-thought-out script.
Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley were the scribes behind the other two Captain movies, but something happened on the way to Civil War. Trying to hard to match the deft way Joss Whedon balanced action, humor, and heart in the Avengers films, M&M come up short. Much of the humor is forced or telegraphed from a mile away, the story gets muddled beyond all recognition barely an hour in, and most importantly, the script is entirely dependent on the maddening concept that two grown, adult men can’t just sit down for literally 30 seconds and share a very simple fact that would very quickly and very easily end all the discord.
To this point the Captain films have been among the best of the MCU (that’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, by the way), right up there with the Avengers flicks and far better than the Thor entries. But while Whedon was successfully able to juggle a dozen different characters (and almost as many storylines) in the Avengers films,Civil War ends up feeling more bloated than boffo.
…unless you’re well-versed in the Marvel Phases and are well-schooled in everything from Ant-Man to Aunt May… in which case, Captain America: Civil Waris probably the best thing since, well, the last Marvel movie.
Worth the 3D glasses?
If you can endure sitting in the theater for a full 2 hours and 26 minutes (including both a mid-credits scene and an end-credits scene), go for it– there are plenty of swoopy flying bits and a ton of stuff being tossed around. But, no, it’s not particularly necessary.