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Captain America: Civil War (3D Blu-ray Review)

9 Sep, 2016 By: John Latchem

Street 9/13/16
Box Office $408.03 million
$29.99 DVD, $32.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 3D Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem
Stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, Daniel Brühl.

Captain America: Civil War, the 13th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is a spectacular realization of the storytelling potential inherent in properly cultivating such an environment for fictional crossovers. As directed by the Russo Brothers, the film provides a culmination for multiple story arcs that have been weaving through the MCU since it began with Iron Man in 2008, but is also a perfect sequel to both 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The story picks up in the aftermath of the collateral damage of Ultron, with the world’s governments demanding accountability from the Avengers. Captain America (Chris Evans) is unwilling to trust the United Nations to regulate the activities of superheroes, while Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), feeling guilty for his role in causing the destruction in Ultron, believes the Avengers now require oversight.

However, the U.N. conference to ratify the proposal is seemingly bombed by Cap’s old pal Bucky (Sebastian Stan), the brainwashed assassin of Winter Soldier. Cap suspects Bucky is being manipulated by a mysterious agent named Zemo (Daniel Brühl of Inglourious Basterds), though Iron Man refuses to believe it, further fracturing the Avengers.

The result is a pure 18-minute nerdgasm representing the film’s signature setpiece, as the Avengers assemble in an abandoned airport only to split into opposing factions to fight each other.

If Batman v Superman represents a main event title fight at some sort of superhero Wrestlemania, then Civil War is the Royal Rumble. This fight sequence has pretty much everything fans of these characters want to see, down to references to specific comic book panels. (The story itself is loosely based on one of Marvel’s more-famous comic book storylines in recent years.)

The Russo Brothers manage to perfectly infuse humor into the story’s serious tone. This is achieved primarily through the introduction of Spider-Man (Tom Holland) into the MCU via an agreement with Sony Pictures, and a scene-stealing appearance from Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), by way of his own movie last year. Yep, the insects get to fight each other, too.

On the serious side, we get Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who wants revenge on Winter Soldier after his father is killed in the attack on the conference.

The film carries emotional resonance because we’ve seen these characters developed over multiple movies, with the possible exception of Spider-Man, who is thrown into the action with a quick introduction and a lot of reliance on audience familiarity with the character (whose basic origin has already been told in two movies this century, and may be touched on again in his MCU movie next year, Spider-Man: Homecoming).

What’s especially fascinating is the way Iron Man and Captain America have managed to evolve over the course of several films to the point where their worldviews have effectively switched places. Cap, the dutiful soldier, has seen corrupt authority figures abuse their power to the point where he no longer trusts institutional control. And Iron Man, who gave a speech in Iron Man 2 about how government oversight would hamper his ability to privatize world peace, has decided that government control is the only way to check his arrogance.

What makes the film so special, beyond the way it so expertly balances more than a dozen primary characters without the story spinning out of control, is that the characters have valid reasons for disagreeing with each other, and the film helps us understand the multiple points of view at play. Sure, we can still pick a side, but it’s not like we can’t have fun seeing the other guys win a little, too.

Still, being nominally a Captain America film, Civil War pays off several storylines related to Cap dating back to 2011’s The First Avenger, and also, in a way, the ‘”Agent Carter” TV series. The biggest thread is the friendship between Cap and Bucky, which comes to amplify the conflict between Cap and Iron Man thanks to the exploitation of a plot development first revealed in Winter Soldier and put to brilliant use here. The role Iron Man has in the story is so integral that with a few tweaks to adjust the POV, this could almost be Iron Man 4.

As with Winter Soldier, the film is shot like a political thriller, though the story is more psychological this time around. The frame is again in the 2.39:1 ratio, unlike the fuller 1.85:1 of some of the Avengers movies.

The exception is the 3D version, in which the airport scene expands to 1.85, since it was shot for larger Imax screens. It’s a bit curious why the 2D version doesn’t similarly expand its aspect ratio to take advantage of the Imax footage.

The visual effects look great, though repeated viewings on a home video format might yield a few instances in which certain situations start to look computerized. That’s a blessing and a curse, given how much the quality of the film inspires multiple viewings to begin with.

The Blu-ray offers a two-part behind-the-scenes documentary that runs about an hour, which reveals a lot about how they shot the airport sequence, among several other amazing action scenes. There’s also some interesting tidbits about the creative process, such as how pivotal getting Downey to return as Iron Man was to even pursuing the idea of a Civil War adaptation.

These ideas are further fleshed out in the informative commentary with directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

Captain America and Iron Man each get their own four-minute “The Road to Civil War” featurette, which summarizes their MCU storylines to this point.

There are four deleted/extended scenes totaling about eight minutes, interesting for a few bits of dialogue here and there but otherwise not intrinsic to the main film. The Blu-ray also includes a three-minute gag reel.

Finally, the disc includes a four-minute preview of how the MCU will start to explore the supernatural with its next film, Doctor Strange, arriving in theaters Nov. 4.


About the Author: John Latchem

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