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Published on April 3rd, 2018 | by Lauren Bycroft

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The Road To Infinity War: Captain America: Civil War

A lot of people tend to refer to Captain America: Civil War as Avengers 2.5 as it features most of the MCU’s heroes.  But while everyone’s role is important in one way or another, this is a film that primarily focuses on Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and the evolution of both of their characters 180 degrees.  Everything in the MCU has been leading this confrontation – this moment that threatens to tear apart the team we’ve watched come together over nearly ten years.  When you really think about it, considering the way other cinematic universes have struggled to connect on the level the MCU has, arriving at this point is an incredible feat of storytelling that Marvel has pulled off.

In some ways Tony Stark can be seen as the protagonist of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.  His story is the one that started it all and his transformation over the years has been arguably the most dramatic, not to mention the way that he’s found his way into other Avengers’ stories.  But every good character needs a good foil.  Often we see this in a black and white, good and evil way.  But in the case of Tony Stark, the MCU has Steve Rogers.  We root for and love both of these men equally.  We can empathize with both of them.  They’re on the same team.  And yet, they’re often at odds, mirroring each other, and driving forward the MCU in rich and exciting ways.

While most people can agree that the films of the MCU tend to be the pinnacle of superhero filmmaking I don’t believe they truly get their due in regard to the long term storytelling and character development they’re achieving.  Civil War manages to balance two juggernaut main characters and a large supporting cast while giving every single one time to breathe dramatically and comedically.  Revisiting the film for the first time since its release I was really struck by how emotional it is – how deeply all these characters are feeling their inner conflicts without the film feeling dark, morose, and angsty.  It manages to be an entertaining adventure while still delivering real stakes.  It’s something we’ll see again in a slightly different way with Black Panther – the ability to present two sides of the same coin in a way that’s relatable, believable, entertaining and incredibly emotional.

It’s not just Tony and Steve we see dealing with the burden and cost of being an Avenger.  Wanda (Scarlet Witch) is wrestling with her identity and how powerful she is; the fact that she is a danger to others.  This is coupled with the loss of her twin brother that she’s no doubt still dealing with as well as the hint of a romance with Vision.  Vision himself, as wise and powerful as he is, is trying to sort out the nature of his existence and the humanity that may or may not exist at his core manifesting in the very human feelings he has for Wanda.  T’Challa is reeling from the death of his father T’Chaka and the target of his revenge, Bucky, is haunted by every death and assassination that has happened at his hands as the Winter Soldier.  Natasha is truly caught in the middle having formed a close bond with Steve but also clearly fearing the loss of the only family she’s really ever had – her teammates as a part of the Avengers.

Even the film’s villain, Zemo, is emotionally motivated.  He’s not looking for world domination – he just wants revenge.  He’s destroyed by the loss of his family in the battle of Sokovia.  It’s part of what makes him an underrated villain.  Daniel Bruhl is a nuanced and immensely talented actor.  He brings a quiet menace and underlying wrenching pain to the calculating and relentless Zemo; a man who just wants to see the Avengers crumble the way his life did.  But in a way, the glimmer of a miracle that we’re left with is the spark of hope he inadvertently creates.  By tearing the team apart at its very core he may have forged them more closely together than ever.  Despite what they’ve been through, Steve ends the film with contrition, empathy, and a sign of loyalty to not just those who stood by him, but to Tony and those who didn’t as well.

When you remove the superpowers, the flying, and the talk of protecting the world, what you’re left with is ultimately a very human drama about the relationships between very different people who care about each other and are trying their best to do what they believe is right.  If that story doesn’t succeed it doesn’t matter how many effects or mind blowing action sequences there are, the film falls flat and leaves you cold. But Civil War avoids that pitfall.  It’s not just a great superhero movie but well-crafted dramatic filmmaking as well.


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