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'Captain America: Civil War' is another gem in Marvel's MCU gauntlet

The newest chapter in Marvel's cinematic universe is full of charisma, heart and spectacle. (Bonus: spoiler-free review!)

Marvel
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Marvel

"He's my friend."

"So was I."

Consequences are a major theme in "Captain America: Civil War." Our heroes are finally being held accountable for the damage caused in the first two Avengers films. The Hulk and Thor have gone missing, and Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), and the rest of the gang get a close-up view of the damage they've caused in their wake.

It's not pretty, and those ugly realities force an international treaty, the Sokovia Accords, in which the Avengers would be called upon only when asked by a coalition of nations. Aside from that, they'll be effectively retired. Some, like Iron Man, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle), sign the treaty, feeling it's a way to keep some control of their own destinies. Others, like Captain America and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) refuse to play ball, believing that political agendas could block their ability to help people.

It's a big concept. Big enough to go to war over. But at the heart of this argument, there's an even more polarizing figure: Captain America's old pal Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who may/may not be a terrorist, and is wanted by just about the entire world at this point. Cap, ever the optimist, thinks Bucky can still be saved. Keeping him alive, Team Cap becomes fugitives in the process.

There's a lot of concern that "Civil War" would be too big, and serve as a sort of Avengers 3 instead of a Captain America movie. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that's not the case at all here, and while we get a lot of Avengers action, this is absolutely a story about Steve Rogers and his friendships with Tony Stark and Bucky Barnes.

Every other hero gets a good moment, and most of the characters have solid reasoning for which side they've chosen. There are strong emotional beats for most of the main players in "Civil War," and nobody makes any dumb, illogical choices here. It's a very strong script; combined with the cast's confidence in their characters, there's a lot of good work done in "Civil War" tying up old ends and laying the bricks for arcs to come. The movie's main villain (Helmut Zemo, played by Daniel Bruhl), felt a bit overpowered by the Cap vs. Iron Man storyline, but his motivations and master plan are easily understood by the end of the film.


We're also introduced to new players in the game, Black Panther (played pitch-perfectly by Chadwick Boseman), and a teenage Spider-Man (Tom Holland in his first foray as our friendly neighborhood Spidey). You will be looking up when "Black Panther" and "Spider-Man: Homecoming" hit theaters after seeing Boseman and Holland play their respective characters. Boseman is regal, yet relatable. Kind, yet terrifying. As for Holland, I've never seen a better Spider-Man portrayed on the big screen. Sorry, Tobey and Andrew, this kid is it.

Marvel has spent the last six years laying the foundation for "Captain America: Civil War," and it pays off huge here. Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans and the other characters we know and love have spent a lot of time honing their characters into finely tuned machines, both literally and emotionally; indeed, without seeing that history play out on the big screen in previous films, their big showdown in "Civil War" would feel hollow and contrived. To see Tony and Cap's friendship fall apart is heartbreaking, because you buy it. You buy Tony's weariness. You buy Cap's unwavering loyalty to his friend Bucky, even in the face of international consequences.

After seeing "Captain America: Civil War," I'm fairly certain we should all change our relationship status to "it's complicated," because you'll be rooting for everyone in this film. They're all just so damn likable.

As for me? I'm #TeamFriendship.