W.B. at the Movies: Captain America: Civil War


This is Marvel’s decade, I think. Ten years ago it was Pixar. Marvel Studios has reached a level where it is a trusted brand: As a group their storytelling ability is as good as any corporate enterprise has a right to be. Pixar proved it could be done. Marvel is proving that Pixar wasn’t a fluke.

Captain America: Civil War hits all of the right notes. It is a great, emotional story with fine actors and filmmakers at the top of their game.

When I was a kid, reading Marvel Comics was probably my favorite pastime. From the time I found them in 1963 and for the next five to eight years, they were compelling and satisfying fantasy entertainment that transformed what comic books could be.

The first 38 issues of Amazing Spider-Man, issues 39-52 of Fantastic Four – the characters of Iron Man and Captain America, Thor, Ant-Man/Giant Man and the Hulk, Sub-Mariner, the X-Men, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Nick Fury – all of those early adventures had a magic to them.

And now here they are, capturing the spirit if not always the letter of those early tales, on the big screen. I suspect many of the people whose names scroll up during the last five minutes or so of the films are kids like me who grew up to be movie makers.

The three Captain America films are the best of the lot, and I believe it’s because the character of Steve Rogers gives Marvel its best opportunity to link this fantasy-filled universe to our real world. The themes explored, in this tale of a World War II hero thrust into the modern era, resonate in a way that the other films don’t. I still think I was most entertained by the matchless Marvel’s The Avengers, but especially these past two Captain America films have the most meat on their bones.

A debate has raged in this country for as long as it has been a country: When a problem arises, who is best equipped to solve it – The private sector or the public sector? Is regulation the answer, or should the solution be found organically by the people closest to the problem?

That’s really the question posed by the film, where the problem is that when super-powered people have a fist fight, property damage is done and people die as buildings collapse and explode and burn. Enter government, in the form of an international treaty that aims to bring “enhanced people” under the control of our rulers.

Nicely, in the debate there ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys, they just disagree. I (and clearly the filmmakers) sympathize more with Rogers and company, who trust the individual and the private sector, but the heroes willing to trust the government are given good and compelling motivation as well. And they find a way to come together to defeat a common foe.

Mostly I am a kid again, reveling in seeing my childhood heroes portrayed faithfully and extremely well in big budget films. Fifty years after these heroes showed that comic books could tell great stories, they’re being used to make movies that are more than superhero movies used to be.