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Family Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War (PG-13)

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MPAA Rating: PG-13       Length: 146 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 12+. Lots of typical action violence in this latest Marvel superhero movie, including fighting, gunfire, hand-to-hand combat, explosions, car crashes, destroyed cities, and both villains/criminals and innocent people dying, although as usual, none of this is gory or bloody. Also some language, some kissing, a funeral for a beloved character, another character is paralyzed, and an argument about the purpose of the Avengers that touches on government oversight, responsibility, and morality and may go over the heads of younger viewers.

Marvel keeps upping its own hype train with each film, and the much-anticipated ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is no different. But the well-crafted superhero blockbuster digs deeper into its characters with a mix of tones and themes that works.

By Roxana Hadadi

At this point, death and taxes aren’t the only certainties anymore—so are Marvel superhero movies, arriving every few months in our theaters, dominating the box office, and selling a ridiculous amount of merchandise to children and adults alike. Every Marvel movie arrives on a train of hype, and “Captain America: Civil War” is no different in that regard—but thankfully, the film goes against the grain of so many of its predecessors by doubling down on the superhero characters we keep paying money to see onscreen.

“Civil War” is all about character motivations, and about what happens when people who used to think they were on the same side—who used to think they agreed on what was “right”—realize that they’re at an impasse, at a point that can’t be turned back, at a decision that can’t be undone. The most-annoying thing about these superhero movies is that both Marvel and DC Comics have planned their movie release schedules years in advance, and each movie feeds into a future movie, and this interconnected framework means that there can be very little definitive forward progress because there is always another movie coming—and always more cash for us to give the studios.

“Civil War,” thankfully, actually commits to its idea that the Avengers are fracturing and breaking apart, dividing into two camps that may not see eye to eye ever again. There is real investment here in that idea, and that gives the film greater heft. Sure, there are great chase scenes and great fight choreography and a great homage to the original comic books that inspired this film. But the real key to “Civil War” is its sense of inevitability, and its acceptance that sometimes things change—they change big.

Set after “The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron,” “Civil War” focuses on the current Avengers team doing what they do best, theoretically: saving the world. But with every world-saving event has come tons of destruction—from New York City in the original “Avengers” to the fictional Sokovia in “Age of Ultron”—and so Avengers leaders Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans, of “Before We Go”) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., of “Iron Man 3”) find themselves asked by the American government and the United Nations to sign the Sokovia Accords.

The document would, essentially, give the more than 100 countries that signed the Accords power over the Avengers, creating a system in which they would be working at the behest of various governments. The idea is flatly rejected by Steve, who sees danger lurking in the prospect of outside control, but embraced by Tony, whose guilt over the innocent deaths caused by the actions of the Avengers is becoming unbearable.

As Steve and Tony take opposite sides on the issue, so do the rest of the Avengers, with a key sticking point being the future of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan, of “The Martian”), Steve’s childhood friend who was brainwashed into becoming the villainous Winter Soldier. Steve thinks it’s his responsibility to save Bucky and keep the Avengers neutral, while Tony thinks it’s necessary to bring Bucky in and make him pay for his years of murder and mayhem. Who is right? And what will the future of the Avengers hold?

It would be easy to praise only the action scenes of “Civil War,” of which there are many that are great: a chase scene through a tunnel that brings the Winter Soldier, Captain America, Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie, of “Love the Coopers”), and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, of “Gods of Egypt”) together; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, of “The Jungle Book”) facing off against close friend Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, of “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”) on different sides of the Avengers divide; or the climactic final fight between Steve and Bucky, teaming up against Tony in a Siberian laboratory, in a scene where past traumas are brought to the present.

But that would overlook the great character development at work here—Black Panther nearly steals the show, and Bucky Barnes will be beloved—and the nuances of the script, which tease out the dueling friendships between Steve and Bucky and Steve and Sam, the inner pain of Tony, and the identity struggle of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen, of “Godzilla”). Those elements, and the finality that “Captain America: Civil War” allows into its storyline, are what make this Marvel film finally seem worthy of its hype.

Note: As in all the Marvel superhero films, there are two post-credits scenes after “Civil War,” so keep that in mind if you want to stick around after the film ends.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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