Captain America: Civil War is the Best Marvel Flick Yet

The superhero throwdown caps a hot streak for the comic studio. Plus local movie news and notes.

Above photo credit Film Frame; thumbnail photo by Zade Rosenthal. © Marvel 2016.

It’s becoming useful to think of each Marvel Comics movie as one chapter in an overall story. While all are pegged either to an individual hero (such as Iron Man or Ant-Man) or all of the heroes (the two “Avengers” titles), the 13 films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe have more in common with long, incredibly expensive (and staggeringly profitable) episodes of a TV series than they do with standalone films.

And “Captain America: Civil War” is the best episode yet.

Backing up for the uninitiated: In the mid-oughts, Marvel brass decided that their movies should work like their comic books, where the characters occupy a shared universe and occasionally cross into one another’s stories. At the time, it was novel; while there had been plenty of superhero movies by that point, they were always distinct entities. Now, though, there was a grand plan. Phase 1 began with 2008’s “Iron Man” and added characters who would fight en masse in 2012’s “The Avengers.” Phase 2 kicked off with “Iron Man 3” in 2013 and built to “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (and its de facto epilogue, “Ant-Man,”) in 2015.

So “Civil War,” rather than serving as Captain America 3, is more aptly Marvel 13. In fact, it has much more to do with the series’ overall story than, say, “Ant-Man” or “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The events of all the “Iron-Man” films, both “Avengers” installments and the two previous “Captain America” flicks culminate here.

We re-enter Marvel’s world with Steve Captain America” Rogers (Chris Evans) leading several of the Avengers in a mission to prevent the theft of a biological weapon. They’re successful, but collateral damage claims the lives of several innocent bystanders. The fallout is worse: Many are growing fearful of the super types after a number of such incidents, and the United Nations wants to step in and oversee things.

Tony “Iron Man” stark (Robert Downey Jr.) agrees, pushing his team to register with the powers that be and comply. Cap sees it as a threat, however; with someone else calling the shots, how can they be sure they’re doing as much good as possible — or any good at all? The resulting schism is not simply philosophical; by the middle of the film, most of the heroes we’ve met to date (and a few new recruits) come to blows.

There are plenty of Marvel flicks with great action sequences, but directors Joe and Anthony Russo and cinematographer Trent Opaloch have created the most thrilling scenes yet for “Civil War.” The all-star cast has never been better, with new additions Tom Holland and Chadwick Boseman seamlessly melding with Marvel’s roster. And while the first hour may be a bit slow, it sets the table perfectly for the fireworks to come.

Those who haven’t seen much of the series to date might be a bit lost; I’d certainly say that both “Avengers” films and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” are essential to follow along here. But even first-timers will likely find the action and pure popcorn fun of “Civil War” irresistible. At this point, the only question is how Marvel will continue to top itself when the films are consistently so good. I have no doubt, though, that they’ll find a way.

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The Montage: If you’ve ever been exposed to “Dark Side of Oz,” it was likely in a somewhat low-fi format. The mashup of “The Wizard of Oz” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album has always existed as an urban legend/experiment in confirmation bias; at some point in history, some (high) person watched the former while listening to the latter and became convinced that they complemented each other, like, so much, man. (Later experiments have proven that the same effect occurs with a wide variety of movies, particularly if you’ve metaphorically taken your head off first.) In any case, though, the curious have usually settled for taking in the mash-up with little more than a VCR and a record player; this weekend, Row House Cinema is offering a rare opportunity to check out the effect in a theater. Late-night showings of “Dark Side of Oz” are set for Friday and Saturday; click here for tickets to Friday’s show and here for tickets to Saturday’s … Jason Bateman’s second directorial effort, “The Family Fang,” plays at Dormont’s Hollywood Theater this week. He co-stars with Nicole Kidman and Christopher Walken; the story, based on the novel by Kevin Wilson, follows a family of former guerilla performance artists. Tickets and showtimes here … In case you haven’t felt old yet today: The disaster film “Twister” is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. AMC Waterfront 22 is reviving the storm-chasing romp as part of its classic movie series; info here.


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