Chris Evans returned for his third solo outing as Captain America in Captain America: Civil War in 2016. Based on the comic book run of 2006-07 of the same name, it was billed as a face-off between Captain America and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). The end result fell short of this promise, but delivered a classic Marvel romp along the way.
Right from the beginning, the premise was incredibly flawed. The question of the members of Earth’s mightiest heroes requiring some kind of oversight may have been a question, but a difficult one to make an entire movie out of. It was so incredibly out of character for Tony Stark of all people to lead the group in the push for greater government oversight. He might have been a symbol of the American Military Industrial Complex, but his character has always been fiercely independent, not likely to adhere to much less advocate for any oversight of himself and his work.
If anything, Captain America’s character choices made slightly more sense. With the re-appearance of Bucky (Sebastian Stan), it was completely like Captain America to stick by his friend, his only connection to the past from whence he came, under any and all circumstances. After the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with revelations about the true nature of SHIELD, it also made sense that Cap would reject any kind of governing body claiming to have the world’s best interests at heart. Captain America is defined by freedom and any deviation from that would have completely taken away from the character.
It made less sense where all of the Avengers fell within this debate that was a non-debate. William Hurt returned to his role as Secretary of State Ross. There was still no mention of his daughter, who was the love of Bruce Banner/The Hulk’s life, but we haven’t given up hope Liv Tyler’s role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will at least be mentioned again. Ross’s one argument that had any merit involved questioning the whereabouts of Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), neither of whom made an appearance in this movie. His argument is well-taken that these are incredibly powerful beings, and not knowing the location of nuclear weapons would be the equivalent. This point would have been easily remedied by some sort of agreement that the whereabouts of the Avengers is publicly known at least some of the time (not a difficult proposition in the digital age), and Team Iron Man would effectively include no one.
I personally came away from Captain America: Civil War not so much enthralled by the plot, but excited to see the stand-alone movies that were teased within this one. For starters, this was the first time Marvel fans got a look at Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. His sweet earnestness won fans over immediately, and it was clear that casting someone young enough to portray a high school student was the right choice. It was also smart to forego the backstory which we are all so familiar with at this point after many iterations of Spider-Man. Poor Uncle Ben has already been killed on-screen enough times, and fans can use our imaginations if needed. Marisa Tomei was stellar as Aunt May and became an absolutely essential part of the MCU.
The introduction of Black Panther, played by the late great Chadwick Boseman, was also a highlight of Civil War. His character’s loss of his father T’Chaka (John Kani) was a poignant and emotional beginning. It was clear that this character was special from the beginning, with his irreverent spirit and thirst for justice. I came away wanting way more scenes with him, and the set-up for his solo movie was incredibly solid. Re-watching any of Boseman’s work is such a bittersweet experience, and a reminder to all of his fans of his incredible talent that he brought to each and every project.
Although Civil War contained the classic Marvel banter, and one of the most objectively fantastic action scenes with the airport fight sequence, it struggled to develop its characters by trying to include so many. Zemo (Daniel Brühl) had so much potential to become a solid Marvel anti-hero, in a franchise that focuses more on disposable villains. His plan made no sense and hinged on characters being in an exact place at an exact time. The final battle between Iron Man and Captain America was anti-climatic, and all of the tension was dissolved by the fact that there never was a real rift in the Avengers, just a temporary disagreement among friends.
Ultimately, while Captain America: Civil War was based around questionable storylines and character choices, there was enough that worked to make it an overall enjoyable re-watch for Marvel fans. It set the groundwork for some great Marvel entries, and contained classic Marvel components that keep fans coming back for more.
Captain America: Civil War is currently available to stream on Disney+.