Captain American: Civil War offers the perfect antidote to Batman V Superman by deftly balancing thought provoking themes with gritty action.

Steve Rogers leads the new team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. After another international incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability and a governing body to determine when to enlist the services of the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers while they try to protect the world from a new and nefarious villain.

The Captain America franchise has set itself apart from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (so far) with a less cartoonish approach to its stories. Civil War continues with the forbidden Steve and Bucky bromance with some gravitas. The movie tackles collateral damage and commits to it without the dour gloom and doom (see: Batman V Superman).

The interesting twist is that Steve Rogers, the straight arrow patriot, opposes the UN. Tony Stark, the cynical genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist, approves the Sokovia Accords. A governing body will monitor and police super humans, which doesn’t sit well with Rogers after his experience in the Winter Soldier. Obviously, all hell breaks loose and we’re given what The Avengers have teased since the first ensemble movie – biological enhanced super soldier Captain America vs. robot powered Iron Man.

The Russo brothers decision to focus on Bourne-style action sequences pays-off, as the movie offers highly enjoyable super powered fight scenes that has Black Widow do more than hair flipping and effectively introduce new faces to the roster. If you’re wondering how Spider-Man’s web hold-up against Captain America’s strength and if Panther’s claws are sharp enough to damage the shield, you’re in luck. This attention to detail combined with mano-a-mano fight scenes are refreshing from all the CGI-manufactured mayhem that has become stale over the years.

There’s a lot of dialogue, but the solid performances from the cast provides the needed conviction for the characters. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. has finally something to work with – the movie puts their character development to good use after being squandered away by Age of Ultron. The rest are great as expected, with well placed twists that doesn’t betray their characters. Paul Rudd and Tom Holland added the needed levity in the film. Marvel proves once again that they’re good at casting with Chadwick Boseman. Let’s just hope that they give him better ideas than what now looks like an unnecessary Spider-Man reboot with a side eye worthy casting of Aunt May.

Marvel’s franchise building machinery appears once again and takes advantage of the ensemble picture. Civil War doesn’t provide anything new outside of its creator’s cinematic universe. It merely continues previously established themes and wraps up loose threads while also serving as a platform for up and coming features.

It’s not clear why Ant-Man is there in the first place and Spider-Man is just playing along. Hawkeye makes a cameo because they can’t give him anything better to do. The Black Panther is inserted through a forgettable villain with a tacked on motivation that becomes unnecessary in the end. The first half of the movie is bloated, then we get the hyped up team showdown in scattered skirmishes at an airport lot. This battle scene would have benefited from Whedon, but alas Marvel broke him.

Fortunately though, Captain America: Civil War is executed well enough to make up for these flaws. It’s a smart superhero movie, an oddity in the mega-million franchise driven Hollywood industry. It poses interesting questions about well-intended but catastrophic derring-do in today’s paranoid world. In the end, the movie also shows us that super powers doesn’t exempt anyone from human fallibility as The Avengers’ real enemy, is indeed itself.

More importantly, Civil War is a much needed change of pace from the Marvel template. If the studio allows its films to make more effort than destroying buildings and throwing punches, then I daresay it will be a new stage of the superhero blockbuster movie that could convert cinema cynics like me.

My Rating: 8/10

Alternative Movie Poster by Hiro Mashima

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