Let me put it this way: at the end of Captain America: Civil War last evening, the packed house burst into spontaneous, sustained applause.
With the world audience now thoroughly familiar with these two dozen Marvel superheroes through a dozen successful films, truly talented filmmakers can play those characters like instruments in a symphony. And this is Marvel’s Mozart.
We’re given a morally complex story about collateral damage, emotionally nuanced characters, suspense, tragic ironies, “hooray” moments, the most charming iteration of Spider-Man yet seen (in Tom Holland) and the single best superhero melee battle ever filmed.
I think the best of the many fine performances may be Robert Downey Jr.’s. Matt Mattingly and I were talking about how perfect Downey’s acting is in this. His Tony Stark is a completely recognizable and believable human being, and we’re talking about a damn comic book superhero here, people who do not and cannot exist.
Chris Evans' acting is dead on, too, even though the realistic portrayal of steadfast, compassionate heroism doesn’t give him a wide range to play. Downey's Iron Man is also heroic, but erratic around the edges, driven and slightly depressive.
As the Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson plays a specifically sane, female counterpoint to the male violence, cool and compassionate. Even the minor roles are well cast — for example, Alfre Woodard, an actress who can convey moral force with PERFECT conviction. They need to do more with her, and apparently will in Marvels' Luke Cage TV series.
I love the way the theme of the moral weight of “collateral damage” and vengeance is woven and rewoven into the plot, a golden story thread to follow.
This is High Noon for Captain America, in more ways than one. And I can’t imagine a more satisfying showdown. This is one of those rare movies where you keep catching yourself thinking, “Just LOOK at how much I’m enjoying this!”