Superhero fatigue. It’s a made up term being thrown around quite a bit in movie discussion circles of late, and with good reason. Since the turn of the millennium when Hollywood began to wrap its metaphorical head around the idea that comics aren’t solely for kids, the superhero film has been one of the most popular genres in the local multiplex. It began with a Spider-Man and X-Men movie every few years, with some Blade and Hellboy thrown in for good measure. Then Christopher Nolan put his spin on Batman and suddenly audiences could not get enough. Before Nolan could finish his trilogy, Marvel entered the movie game with their very own studio, and they showed everyone else how it was to be done with their movies which managed to strike the perfect balance between serious and light-hearted, action and character, real world and fantasy. But, 8 years later, with two Marvel movies every year, an X-Men film every couple of years, a Spider-Man film here and there, plus more, and all of these films trying to create their own shared universes to cash in on what made Marvel a success… Fatigue is the perfect term for what audiences, even die hard comic book fans, are feeling.
So, leave it to Marvel to recognize this and bring their A game to make us forget entirely about that feeling of fatigue, and for nearly three hours, at that. In Phase 1, Marvel introduced to us the characters that were to make up the Avengers, and then delivered those characters as a team in a wonderfully pulled off experiment that succeeded beyond most people’s wildest dreams. Phase 2 of Marvel’s universe was a little less focused in intent, and a little more varied in quality, but it did manage to make the films a little darker in tone without sacrificing fun, and, for better or worse, also made their movie universe much more interwoven with nearly every film referencing other films. Captain America: Civil War is the film Marvel has decided to use to kick off Phase 3, and what a brilliant start it is. Marvel keeps learning from its mistakes and successes and has given us a film that does nearly everything right. It shakes up the typical hero versus villain schtick, gives us incredibly creative and engaging action set pieces, keeps the light hearted tone which keeps the narrative from bogging down too much, and still injects themes which are meaningful for the audience to ponder.
While, per the title, this is a film that focuses more on Captain America’s (Evans) character than any of the others, this is really more of a third Avengers film than a solo act. The only two major characters missing from the earlier films are Thor and the Hulk, and while they are missing we are introduced to two new characters to make up their space in the roster: Black Panther (Boseman) and Spider-Man (Holland). All the characters get quite a bit of screen time, and it’s nice to see the Vision (Bettany) and Scarlet Witch (Olsen) get some much needed fleshing out from their lack of time in the less than stellar Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, to see characters like Falcon (Mackie) and War Machine (Cheadle) finally really get their day in the sun, and to see Black Panther so well realized as a character before he gets his own movie next year. The true show stealer here, however, is Spider-Man. He’s in the movie for probably only about 20 minutes, but those 20 minutes will make you ecstatic to see the character finally done perfectly, and sad that Sony had the character whom they obviously didn’t quite understand outside of Marvel’s influence for so long.
There are nitpicks to be made about the film. A certain subplot which seems to be important ultimately leads nowhere by the end of the movie, the acting could be better, and one or two of the film’s admittedly cooler moments come out of left field when you really think about them meaning they were there purely for fan service and nothing else. But, these really are nitpicks. Captain America: Civil War manages to avoid most of the fan service and future film set-up pitfalls that were so prevalent in the films they released during Phase 2 of their run. What little pure fan service that was here, was at least justified in the fun factor, and there is next to no set up for later films here, really just a throw away line or two is the extent of it.
Is Captain America: Civil War the cure for superhero fatigue? Maybe not. Marvel, and Fox and Warner Brothers, will have to keep working on that with every future movie they release. But, when you talk about the best comic book movies ever made, this is one that will have to be brought into the discussion from now on. If Marvel keeps releasing movies like this one, even if superhero fatigue does finally catch up to me, Marvel will be the one studio that will get my butt into the theater time and again after I’m done with whatever the other studios may be trying to force feed me.
Rating: 8.4 out of 10