I’m a lightweight superhero fan, which means I’ve got no allegiance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe over DC Comics. Like any film lover, I simply enjoy a great storyline packed with even better action. However, screening “Captain America: Civil War” changed everything for me. By the time the film actually started —ten minutes behind schedule — the theater was so rife with anticipation that people were nearly fidgeting out of their seats. It was as if everyone but me knew just what we were about to experience.
So often as viewers, we are relegated to the sidelines when watching superhero films. We sit in our seats, eagerly taking in the spectacle that is laid out before us. However, Joe and Anthony Russo’s latest entry into the Marvel Universe proved that the audience can be active participants in the action. Since “Iron Man” dropped in 2008, all Marvel roads have been leading up to “Captain America: Civil War”; and somehow, the film lives up to every bit of the hype. The Russo brothers invite their audience into the story alongside the Avengers, while eloquently dealing with all of the characters and storylines that are intertwined throughout the film.
The divide between Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), and Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), starts slowly, with an initial disagreement. Cap’s comrade Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is in grave danger, but The First Avenger’s interest in helping his friend goes directly against Stark’s newly established status quo. As the film continues, the divide between the duo begins to crackle and spread. This split slowly infects every other member of the Avengers team, forcing them to choose sides. By now, the audience knows these characters, their motivations and their ideals. However, the Russo brothers’ story brilliantly requires their viewers to exercise patience. Nothing is rushed in this film, which makes the climatic sequences all the more exquisite. Where “Civil War” succeeds, while DC Comics recent “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” failed, is it’s willingness to allow its characters time to develop. The film digs well below the surface and into the history of the Marvel Universe. Just as we are invested as fans, these characters are steadfast in their beliefs and their particular experiences.
The fighting sequences—while authentic and eloquently done— are much more poetic than the brutish violence often found in “typical” superhero movies. Most importantly, the audience isn’t left feeling exhausted as the Avengers continually come to blows.
The technology used in the film is also breathtaking; and that says so much, considering all that it takes to impress a twenty-first century audience. From the moment I slid my 3-D glasses on my face, I felt as though I were journeying in Lagos, Moscow, Berlin, and every other city depicted here. Everything seemed sharper and more in depth, from the precision of the battle sequences themselves, to the gleam on Captain America’s shield. Quite frankly, the only thing they could have kept was the pseudo romance between Cap and Agent 13, aka Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp).
The film’s main narrative was exciting to watch, but it’s the introduction of two new Avengers that really steals the show. Leading into the character’s third reboot in fifteen years, we’re introduced to a teenage Peter Parker, aka Spiderman (British actor Tom Holland); a Queens high school student, who has only had his powers for six months. Already, it’s obvious that Holland’s web-slinger might just have the best origin story yet. But honestly, it was Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, aka Black Panther, that I was breathlessly anticipating. Helmed by Creed director Ryan Coogler, Black Panther will be getting his own franchise in 2018. But in this film, we got to see just what Boseman would make of the Wakandan King.
Though Boseman has proven himself as a fantastic performer, I was hesitant about his accent in the film. Growing up in a household with a Nigerian father, my ears have been trained to seek authenticity. Though Wakanda is a fictional African nation, getting the dialect down from regions similar to the country was important in making the character feel believable. Fortunately, my concerns were futile. With an air of regality, Boseman’s T’Calla strolled on to the scene as though he had been there all along. It is only after he is provoked that his alter ego Black Panther is unleashed. Slipping perfectly into the role of superhero, Black Panther is agile and poised. His black vibranium coated costume screams elegance in a way that Stark’s bulky Iron Man suit and Roger’s Cap gear do not. T’Challa’s presence is so much more than a cameo; instead we are given a lengthy teaser of what’s to come. I’ll just say that after Black Panther comes “clawing,” even the Cap’s shield doesn’t go unscathed.
Though the biggest Avengers, Thor and the Hulk, are absent in this film (we’ll see what they’ve been up to in next year’s “Thor: Ragnarok”), they aren’t actually missed. The rest of the gang is still very much present.
“Captain America: Civil War” proves that Marvel knows how to lay down a stunning foundation in order to detail an epic saga. Things get very real in this film, secrets are revealed and there’s destruction (physical and otherwise), and yet it all fits perfectly into the fabric of Marvel’s expansive work. If anything, it just proves that we are in for even better films from the superhero powerhouse in the near future.
If you see this film, just be sure to stay until the very last credit rolls. You just might see a glimpse of Black Panther’s native Wakanda.
“Captain America: Civil War” opens nationwide in the USA, this Friday, May 6.
Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami