review roundup

Critics Are Calling Captain America: Civil War Marvel’s Best Movie Yet

Photo: Marvel

Less than a month after the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a new movie about superheroes fighting each other has critics talking. The only difference? This time, they actually have good things to say. After its early screenings, Captain America: Civil War has received almost uniformly positive reviews, with many critics saying that the longest Marvel movie ever is also one of the best. (Those Disney checks are paying off!) When it comes to Captain America films, it seems the third time really is a charm. Civil War hits theaters May 6.

“Given the relative dullness of the Marvel supervillains, the studio has resorted to making its colorful superheroes fight one another in Captain America: Civil War, a combination jamboree and ethical colloquium. There’s a lot of bloat, but the fanboy in us all will have a hard time not grinning when Spider-Man be-webs Captain America’s shield while Ant-Man scoots around pulling out wires in Iron Man’s suit.” —David Edelstein, Vulture

“Not every globe-trotting action movie is self-critical enough to acknowledge the many lives that are presumably lost when buildings blow up and cars flip over. And while the idea of collateral damage was certainly central to the conflict in Batman v Superman, that film ultimately banished any sense of ethical responsibility — and any lingering audience goodwill — with its bombastic and incoherent end-of-the-world climax. Whatever apocalyptic associations its title may generate, Captain America: Civil War turns out to be an infinitely smarter piece of multiplex mythmaking, blessed as it is with a new villain (played with unnerving subtlety by Daniel Bruhl) who has more on his mind than blowing human civilization to smithereens. And the sides-taking showdown between Team Captain America and Team Iron Man, far from numbing the viewer with still more callous acts of destruction, is likely to leave you admiring its creativity.” —Justin Chang, Variety

“The film tangles itself up with fears of endless war and the annihilation of innocent humanity, and in doing so it continues to validate the ongoing series. It’s a fact of movie history that films are created as both a response to, and a product of, the larger world. And superhero movies, which are the current cinema’s site of obsession over anxiety-making issues of global safety, must continue to address the unthinkable if they’re to be more valuable to culture than mere moneymaking products on an assembly line, or retreats into childhood nostalgia that only pretend to be making sense of the environment that produces them. Civil War strikes that admirable balance: serious-minded action that never forgets to indulge in serious fun.” —Davie White, The Wrap

“If you were disappointed by Avengers: Age of Ultron we’ve got good news for you. Marvel’s big summer release Captain America: Civil War is the Avengers movie you were hoping to get last year — even if it still suffers from some of the studio’s continuing problem to include every superhero in sight … Overall there are certainly too many heroes to make this a true Captain America movie, but Civil War benefits greatly from the participation of Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. Rudd is simply the funniest performer on the screen, stealing scenes left and right and often opposite a befuddled Downey, Jr. (no easy task).” —Gregory Elwood, The Telegraph

“It’s incredible how watchable Captain America: Civil War is and how dull Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice turned out to be when you consider that both movies have pretty similar core plots: Superheroes fighting against each other, a mysterious figure behind the scenes pulling the strings … and, remarkably, a superhero’s mother plays a large role in both films. Yet Marvel has this down. Marvel knows how to move the story along and keep us entertained. Marvel knows how to trick us into liking these characters and caring about what happens to them. (That trick is by making them ‘likable.’)” —Mike Ryan, Uproxx

“Under the direction of Winter Soldier’s Anthony and Joe Russo, Civil War is the most epic Avengers movie so far, even though it’s not an Avengers movie. The divided team allows many character moments for the android Vision (Paul Bettany), newer heroes Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and mainstays Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). The movie also features the impressive introductions of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), a Wakandan prince bearing claws and a grudge, and a new Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Previous movies have had issues balancing the youthful banter and scientific confidence of the comic-book wallcrawler, but Holland nails the role in every aspect.” —Brian Truitt, USA Today

“Reflecting the material’s comic-book roots, the Russos keep the film’s action heavy on physics- and biology-defying thwacks and slams, with almost no blood, although there is a crucial injury late in the proceedings. Amid the mayhem, the movie doesn’t necessarily feel overloaded with Avengers, but some personalities get to shine more than others. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye barely registers, while Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man has comedy and wow-factor f/x at his disposal to make more of an impression. But for all their kickass moves and fretting close-ups, such charismatic actors as Cheadle and Johansson feel sidelined through much of the story.” —Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter

Captain America: Civil War is a good movie, one worth enjoying on the biggest screen you can find, and one that will entertain the hell out of lots of people even as it goes against the grain in some surprising ways. But the film is periodically an exercise in long-form frustration, one which flirts with ‘The Idiot Plot’ more often than it should. I’m not sure if this counts as a major problem, but I was shocked at how often I found myself siding with Tony Stark over Steve Rogers.”—Scott Mendelson, Forbes

“It’s even bolder that the conflict at the film’s heart doesn’t pander to genre convention and become sidetracked by a grandstanding supervillain plot. And this is the second way Civil War earns our ‘Greatest Marvel Yet’ accolade: by rising above the series’ greatest weakness. Too often, the snappy writing and slick action in these films is undermined by flimsy big bads and formulaic final acts. Yet there is no Loki or Ultron (or, for that matter, Lex Luthor) equivalent this time. Not a whiff of Thanos, or any more of those forgettable Marvel sub-baddies with ‘The’ for a middle name. There is a meddling manipulator — of course there is — but, interestingly, their agenda is as blurred as Steve’s and Tony’s. Arguably just as sympathetic, too. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo don’t just want to rocket your heart into your mouth with their action sequences, which have the tight choreography of a Greengrass Bourne, and the brutal flair of a Gareth Evans rumble; they want to keep your brain firmly engaged, too.” —Dan Jolin, Empire Magazine

Captain America: Civil War isn’t just a great Marvel movie, it’s a great movie. And that greatness — which is dependent in part on the groundwork laid by 12 previous movies — is the final proof of the concept that Marvel Studios first tried out in Iron Man back in 2008. It’s the film that proves the shared universe concept isn’t just cool, and isn’t just a great marketing idea but that — when used right — it creates a kind of gripping, resonant longform storytelling that no one else has ever accomplished on this scale. It’s also great because of the combination of Joe and Anthony Russo, directors, and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, screenwriters, who have put together a movie that just works, a movie whose epic plot has a stunning sweep, whose thematics are built on solid (and fertile) ground and whose tone is perfectly controlled from scene to scene, allowing the movie to contain some of the most joyous big screen spectacle that you’ll see this year but also feature some absolutely heartbreaking scenes that are emotionally harrowing.” — Devin Faraci, Birth. Movies. Death.

Review Roundup: Captain America: Civil War