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Let's not argue, 'Captain America: Civil War' is a home run

“Captain America: Civil War” (2016) – Growing up, I enjoyed comic books as much as the next teenage boy.

Now, I did not own an extensive collection, but about once a month - when my family traveled to my Grandma Derrick’s house in Honesdale, PA – my brothers and I always asked if we could walk to Weniger Variety Store.

Weniger’s (as we affectionately called it) may have sold snow shovels, large cylinder-shaped boxes of oatmeal or gold bars from Fort Knox, but all we knew is the place carried several racks of comic books and a cornucopia of candy.

A kid’s dream.

The three of us would each buy some candy and a comic, which we would then read back at grandma’s house and again during the ride home.

I bring this up, because I never really read The Avengers comics.

I opted for the singular heroes, like Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and The Hulk, while The Avengers comic book covers always seemed too confusing with 12 heroes fighting 12 villains in seemingly 144 different directions.

I remember thinking, “Whew, there’s lot going on there, and why are they sometimes fighting with each other? Well, where’s the latest Superman issue?”

Well, fast forward to present day, and without much previous exposure to The Avengers, I am more than pleasantly surprised with the spectacle and storytelling of the cinematic Marvel Universe.

The latest chapter in this big screen saga, of course, is “Captain America: Civil War” and sans the opening scene, the film picks up about a year after the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), when the good guys stopped Ultron in the fictional European country of Sokovia.

The active Avengers consist of Captain America (Chris Evans), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and while attempting to stop a group of souped-up mercenaries from stealing a bioweapon in Lagos, some innocent lives become caught up in the superhuman crossfire and are killed.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government promoted General Ross (William Hurt) to Secretary of State which is sort of like making the caustic teacher from “The Breakfast Club” (1985) the Secretary of Education.

In any event, Ross wants The Avengers held in check to help prevent future collateral damage and to only take assignments when a group of 100 plus nations collectively deems it necessary.

Many Avengers, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Black Widow, agree and sign the Sokovia Accords, but Cap and Falcon hold out.

The fracture becomes worse when Captain America’s old friend, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), becomes the only suspect in a highly destructive bombing.

Cap comes to his old pal’s aid, and in the process, is arrested as well.

With Tony (Downey Jr.) trying to maintain order via Secretary Ross and Cap standing on the opposite side of the law, the two most charismatic Avengers draw lines in the sand and the other heroes flank their respective leaders.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s picture runs for 2 hours and 26 minutes, and the entire runtime carries tightly wound threads of political intrigue, adrenaline and surprises along a twisting and deeply compelling narrative.

The Russos whisk us to Lagos, Vienna, Berlin, Cleveland (of all places), and more into subplots that do not seem to individually fit but ultimately support the sweeping and jaw-dropping storyline.

As the movie shuttles between locales, the tension and dread of our heroes fighting one another becomes more apparent, and along the way, the nimble screenplay picks up more players, like Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).

The three newcomers arrive in the Avengers' world, and although their inclusion brings the hero total to 12, magically, none of it feels crowded or forced.

Boseman brings plenty of skills to “marvel” (pardon the pun), including catlike nimbleness, a fierce fighting style and Adamantium claws, and Holland and Rudd offer welcomed and utterly hilarious comic relief from Spider-Man and Ant-Man, respectively.

In the comics, Peter Parker is a teenager, and 19 year-old Holland brings down the house with his teen banter while taking on various “foes”.

At one point, Bucky throws a punch, and Spider-Man catches it with his hand and playfully says, “You have a metal arm? That’s awesome, Dude.”

The fight scenes which pit Avenger vs. Avenger are pretty awesome to behold as well, and spectacular is a more appropriate word.

The action sometimes flickers from friendly-fighting to some vicious attacks, and the Russos thrill - and sometimes horrify - us with wide-ranging superhuman punches and counters.

All of the blows carry weight, purpose and/or emotional baggage, as the film carefully highlights the motivation for each character in choosing a side, and for me, I felt the struggle from everyone.

The main antagonists and protagonists are each other, but the screenplay also includes a mysterious man named Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), and while the Avengers cross and turn to fight one another, we see that he is working some unknown, bigger plan in shadowy corners.

The arrival of “Captain America: Civil War” in movie theatres is not shadowy at all and, instead, pumped up with months of marketing spectacle.

Well, this movie delivers everything that it promises and more.

This is a dazzling and remarkably smart picture which juggles 12 heroes in a harmonious balance of emotional conflict and action, and the movie highlights the best of each individual character without making the film feel like a greatest hitsparade.

In my humble opinion, “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) is the best Marvel film to date, but I’ll lead the parade stating that “Captain America: Civil War” is only second to that one.

It makes me wonder what I missed at Weniger's comic book rack all of those years ago. (4/4 stars)

Image credits: Marvel Studios

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