I mean has there ever been a summer blockbuster that’s garnered more hype from the nerdier side of the critical spectrum? I can’t recall, but I’ve been sweating nerd juice for weeks in anticipation of this one.
Well, I mean, wow, just wow – Captain America: Civil War as a big-budget, action spectacular with some through-line of emotional and political resonance is probably the very pinnacle of the form. This is the summer blockbuster as a piece of art. All of the tenants of the genre are here – fight scenes, bombast, overwhelming plot details, a tinge of bloat – but somehow, the Russo Brothers and their hard-working screenwriters have managed to make it feel seamless, to somehow include a roster of characters so numerous that any intelligent creator of narrative visions would laugh in the face of whomever offered them the script. They’ve done this and they’ve still maintained the relationships that make the whole damn thing work. It’s not a complicated story: bad things happen in the wake of the Avengers trying to stop a criminal, the government decides that they need monitoring, and well, a line is drawn in the sand – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) on one side, Captain America (Chris Evans) stoically on the other. It is a testament to the work that Marvel has done in introducing this enormous collection of very specific individuals to the world meticulously over ten years, because in a film like this the Russo Brothers don’t need to dick around telling every story – the audience recognizes these faces and if they don’t remember every facet of their character arcs, they at least know enough (Ant-Man: guy with criminal past who can shrink) that the interactions between them have weight and credibility and mean something. There’s a moment in the end when the Winter Soldier and Captain America are just laying into Iron Man, and the camera keeps cutting into his helmet and has his armor depletes you can almost feel Tony Stark’s little heart breaking, that this beautiful thing he created has fallen so badly apart. And you realize that even if these characters are wearing armored pajamas and have crushing metal arms and super hero battle suits, that, well, you’ve really ended up feeling for these folks. To those films to have to follow in the wake of this behemoth, I pray for your soul, because, well, this film is near fucking perfect.
One Last Thought:
Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is pretty much everything you want from the character and he would be the fresh-faced star of this film … if not for Tom Holland’s pitch perfect Spider-Man. I have hundreds of Spider-Man comic books at my parent’s house and I’ve been waiting for the true realization of the character – a little bit emo, a lot slapstick, still a badass – to come to the screen. And finally, finally, he has.