Captain America: Civil War
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo; screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Renner; William Hurt
After their last mission is resolved in the loss of many civilian lives (including some residents of Wakanda), the Avengers are confronted with the need for oversight by the United Nations. The superheroes are divided and the situation becomes even more complicated with the reappearance of Bucky Barnes, old friend of Steve Rogers turned into the deadly Winter Soldier and accused of new terrible actions. Captain America and Tony Stark will then find themselves on opposing sides while new and old loyalties are tested.
From its first scenes, the latest installment in the adventures of the Marvel heroes stages yet another clash between factions of superhumans (preceded by Batman v. Superman and soon to be followed by X-Men Apocalypse) as well as the issue of oversight of those who, as well as having the power to save the world, could also destroy it.
While still mainting the blend of action and humor that has now become a trademark of Marvel, this Captain America (which, by the number of characters present and plot ties could easily be a third Avengers installment), attempts a more serious thematic lunge by tying itself to current events (and the issue of collateral losses) and exploring in each protagonist the problem of the sense of responsibility and guilt for their actions.
Even if the starting point is fictional, the intrigue unfolding in the background is more complex than it appears at first and the issue being tackled is genuine. The best part of the movie is undoubtedly the ability to create two opposing factions, each with its own (at least partially) sensible reasons.
On one side is Tony Stark, inclined to endorse the request for oversight of the Avengers, appeals to the law as a chance for an order capable of restraining moral impulses which, while often good natured, have unpredictable consequences. On the other side is Captain America, claiming the primacy of personal conscience and fearing that delegating final judgment to a higher authority is just a way to silence feelings of guilt. Whichever side you are on, we are far from DC’s ultimately nihilistic pessimism, in which there is always the hint that every good deed contains the seed of the next evil.
The presence of a brand new teen superhero (Spiderman, depicted here as a rookie) and a robust new arrival (the prince of Wakanda, aka Black Panther) reinforces the desire for justice rooted at the core of the actions of all those involved.
In the midst of it all is the figure of Bucky Burnes who, under the mind control of Hydra, has been guilty of heinous crimes, some of which touch our heroes very closely. This plot strand reiterates the eternal dilemma of balancing objective wrongdoings with the measure of moral responsibility connected to them.
In a movie that still avoids (perhaps culpably) touching on real tragedy, a sense of grief and loss is still present, with the death of a major character like Peggy Carter. It’s her, Steve Rogers’ first love, who will provide him with the motto that will serve him as moral compass: “Compromise where you can. But where you can’t, don’t.”
The screenplay, which also has to to pull together many characters, manages to keep tabs on the various elements that are sown in the course of the plot. It keeps pace and unity, with a couple of remarkable twists, and adequate space for considerable psychological depth.
Problematic elements: nothing noteworthy.
Laura Cotta Ramosino is a story editor for Rai Uno, the national Italian broadcaster, and contributes to several magazines and websites about cinema and television.