We all trust Marvel, right? Disney’s grand vision for the Avengers and the Marvel Comics Universe (or MCU for nerds) is playing out almost perfectly. The four main Avengers are cultural icons. The studio is signing big name actors to five and six picture commitments. Everything is chugging along perfectly towards what, when all is said and done, will be a multi billion dollar film franchise.
So keep all of that in mind when I say that Captain America: Civil War is everything that Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice should have been. Marvel and Disney had an eight year head start on building the Avengers franchise, but DC Comics & Warner Bros. decided they needed to catch up right away with their 2016 blockbuster instead of building the fans’ expectations and emotions up for peak satisfaction when they finally saw the epic showdown.
The other thing the Marvel movies have done so well is they have been fun. I’m not saying that Civil War is two hours of jokes, but there is enough levity that keeps Captain America’s showdown with his former friend Iron Man from feeling like you’re watching the emotional version of Atlas rolling a boulder up a hill. That is something that DC just doesn’t seem to get. Instead that group gives us two orphans that hate each other but learn to love because their moms each have the same old lady name.
You may have seen the memo that went out about 18 months ago that declared there was no humor in the DC Universe. Those characters weren’t going to be all powerful scamps like Iron Man or likable every-men thrust into extraordinary situations like Ant-Man. No, the DC Universe is full of all-powerful demigods and are to be treated as such! The result thus far for DC is one really bad movie - self-serious garbage worthy of the barbs and catty comments it has received from the always outspoken world of internet geekdom.
Civil War is the story of how the all powerful deal with limitations. They still have their powers, but after an accident leaves 11 foreign aide workers dead in Nigeria, the Avengers become pariahs in the global security world. People no longer look at them as purely good. Sure, they’ve saved Earth, but in doing so they also destroyed New York, DC and the fictional Sakovia. The Avengers are asked to accept conditions: become employees of the UN or be treated as fugitives. Tony Stark (Iron Man’s altar ego) leads a faction of heroes that agree to the terms. Captain America is among the holdouts.
The real story here is about The Winter Soldier (aka Bucky Barnes). He was Captain America’s best friend during World War 2, and like Cap, was frozen to use for a rainy day. Bucky, though, was frozen by the bad guys. Now, even though he is free and on the run from the law, he is being framed for a series of terror strikes that divide the Avengers.
AND THEN THERE’S FIGHTING! LOTS OF IT!
OH, AND SPIDER-MAN IS THERE!!!!!!!!
Captain America: Civil War is one of those rare movies that show you what a summer blockbuster can be at it’s best. It’s dumb fun, but it’s not simply dumb. The story is a compelling one. The writing gives you reason to care about the characters on screen. There’s actually a story here instead of a series of grunts and one liners meant to carry you from one explosion to the next.
DC and Warner Brothers are trying to recreate The Dark Knight. That was an intense drama that took place in a world where superheroes exist. It is a rare gem - a superhero movie strictly for adults. Marvel and Disney have had a lot more success making movies for the kid that lives in each of us that gives our outward adults something to consider and care about. The latter are much better, especially when you’re dealing with stories that at their hearts, are about grown men and women that run around New York in textured spandex and masks fighting crime.
Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network. He can be heard weekday mornings from 6-10 on "The Morning Show with Mike, Lauren and Demetri" on Buzz Sports Radio.