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What’s right,
Worth a fight
And the height of loyalty?
What’s wrong
Won’t last long
If right’s champions agree.

Surely all with decency
On seeking justice would agree,
And yet on how we seek and why
So many don’t see eye to eye.

Won, lost,
Wars have cost;
Lines are crossed and drawn once more.
Wrong, right,
And the fight
Never make a simple war.

MPAA rating: PG-13

Marvel has at last reached its Phase 3, and despite being the thirteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the reigning lords of summer blockbusters show no sign of stopping. In fact, Phase 3 might be the best era of the MCU, if Civil War is any indication. Captain America’s third film is a thrilling continuation of both the Bucky fiasco of The Winter Soldier and the Sokovian destruction of Age of Ultron, stressing the emotional damage that such disastrous circumstances can wreak on individuals and relationships.

Unlike other single-character-focused entries up to this point, Civil War doesn’t have just a few cameos from other MCU stars. It has nearly every Marvel hero introduced thus far — Cap (of course), Bucky, Iron Man, War Machine, Black Widow, Falcon, Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and the newest additions of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and a non-Sony Spider-Man (Tom Holland) — all being forced to choose between two equally defensible sides concerning how much freedom the Avengers should have to do their danger-prone duty. Even the notable absence of Thor and the Hulk is used to support the argument that ultra-powerful people should not be left unaccountable.

Most reviews of Civil War, including the initial reaction of my VC, have proclaimed it as the best Marvel movie yet. (I think the first Avengers edges it out, IMO.) However, I do know at least one naysayer, a DC fan, who considers the “Civil War” a mere petty squabble amid the big picture leading up to Infinity War. I’ll grant that much of the fighting between the heroes is not a life-and-death struggle, and it isn’t meant to be. For most of the film, the battles are meant for defense or damage control (not that they’re any less awesome), but the clash of ideologies is genuine. The seeds of it have been well-established, from the distrust of authority that The Winter Soldier instilled in Steve to the understandable guilt felt by Tony, who knows that, unlike most threats, Ultron really was his fault. Considering how much damage has been wrought by the MCU’s various baddies and heroes alike, it’s not surprising that the world’s governments would seek to reaffirm their authority. The other Avengers choose their sides based on loyalties or believable reasoning, with the exception of Hawkeye, who chooses Cap over his pal Black Widow for no other reason than to keep the fight six against six.

Considering how much ideological and character terrain is covered, it’s amazing how entertaining Civil War is. (The worst thing I can say about it is that the globe-hopping location titles are a little too HUGE.) Even if it seems odd now to introduce Spider-Man and Black Panther long before their respective stand-alone movies, both Boseman and Holland offer game interpretations of their characters that somehow manage to stand out among the crowd of heroes. Black Panther is the more mysterious of the two, reserved and stately outside his vibranium suit and vicious for revenge within it, while Holland as the youngest Spider-Man yet manages to top Andrew Garfield’s version with only a fraction of the screen time, even if his gee-whiz astonishment gets a little old. (I’m still partial to Tobey Maguire for now.) Despite their rushed introduction in Age of Ultron, Scarlet Witch and Vision also get some needed clarifying character moments. I was thrilled too to see Martin Freeman in a small governmental role, and I can’t wait to see if he’ll ever run into his Sherlock co-star as Dr. Strange. The semi-climactic battle between the twelve heroes at a German airport is really the crowning moment of the film and the franchise thus far and manages to surprise, poke fun, grieve, and impress with all the cleverness and enjoyment Marvel delivers so well. Casual viewers not up-to-date on the MCU may be lost at times, but for long-time fans like my VC and me, this is geek heaven. Stan Lee also gets one of his funniest cameo moments to date.

The advertisements for Civil War have urged audiences to “choose a side,” a choice which actually isn’t as clear-cut as the typical good-vs-evil battle. Tony has good reasons for his actions in trying to make amends for his mistakes, while Cap is trying to help his friend Bucky and remain unfettered by bureaucratic agendas. Considering his name is in the title, Cap seems like the obvious choice, and Bucky’s story is tragic enough to make him naturally sympathetic; but even the American hero can’t stop regrettable casualties. The costs of revenge become more real over time, and by the end, sympathies change back and forth until it’s hard to say where one’s allegiance lies. That’s what makes a brilliant conflict, the kind of built-up feud that can’t be done the same with one movie (ahem, Batman v Superman). It’s what sets Marvel and Civil War above the competition.

Best line: (Sharon Carter, speaking of Peggy Carter) “And she said, ‘Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, “No, you move”.’”

Rank: Top 100-Worthy

© 2016 S. G. Liput
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