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Marvel Swings For The Fences 

"Captain America: Civil War" is an ideological trip to the MCU

Cap and his team race off to face off with Team Ironman.

Cap and his team race off to face off with Team Ironman.

Captain America debuted in Marvel Comics in March of 1941, based on the character of Steve Rogers, a young man whose parents have died, who grew up during the Great Depression. Trying to enlist for World War II to fight the Nazis, he fails to pass the physical requirements, but is invited to take part in Operation Rebirth, with the goal to physically enhance soldiers to perfection. Seventy-five years later, real-world Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA) make the present day eerily similar, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) could seem daunting to someone who hasn't seen any of the movies.

"Captain America: Civil War" is the 13th film in the series, which dates back to 2008's Iron Man and includes the three "Iron Man" films, The "Incredible Hulk", two "Thor" films, three "Captain America" films, two "Avengers" movies, "Ant-Man", "Guardians of The Galaxy" and this November's "Doctor Strange."

The idea of a massive, shared cinematic universe is a bold one. It is also one that DC Comics is trying to ape with "Man of Steel," "Batman V. Superman" and the upcoming "Justice League," and that Universal will soon copy with its Universal Monsters shared universe. DC already failed in its bid because apparently, the architect of said universe, director Zack Snyder, fails to understand what makes Superman and Batman endure within the context of a cultural paradigm.

Marvel not only understands why Captain America and its other superheroes are important and lasting, it succeeds in its shared universe for multiple reasons. Casting is a huge part of the MCU's success. Watching Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans (as Captain America, "Cap"), Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Chris Pratt and others breathe life into these strong characters is a joy. That sense of fun carries over into the scripts and direction, making the MCU feel like a giant playground where anything can happen.

The Captain America films have always been the most serious in the Universe, with "The Winter Soldier" taking the basic superhero formula and applying it to a spy thriller, easily making it the most interesting in the MCU. "Civil War" takes Cap, Hawkeye, Falcon, Bucky, Ant-Man and Scarlet Witch and pits them against Iron Man, War Machine, Black Widow, Black Panther, The Vision and Spider-Man. It's a testament to the script and direction that the film can have this many heroes AND introduce Black Panther and a new Spider-Man and not feel overstuffed.

This is where the shared universe comes in handy. After the events of the Avengers films and "The Winter Soldier," the world's governments fear the power of the Avengers to cross borders and fight threats without any accountability. Secretary of State Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt returning from "The Incredible Hulk") gives The Avengers an ultimatum to sign an accord making the team responsible to the United Nations, or turn in their capes and retire. Stark thinks it's a great idea because he almost destroyed the world a few times and should be held accountable, but Cap refuses, resisting a loss of freedom to choose his own battles.

There's much more to it, but basically "Civil War" is a $250 million comic book movie with a central conflict based entirely on a set of ideological and philosophical disagreements. Not much time is needed in the script to set up this clash, since 12 movies have already laid the groundwork. It will be easy for someone not versed in the MCU to enjoy "Civil War," but the character relationships and backstory will be somewhat obscure.

Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Bucky, Rhodey, Natasha Romanoff and the rest grow through each one of these films. Character development is never sacrificed and all of the action is so exciting because the last eight years of the MCU have created a group of people worth caring about. Even with comic book movies reaching total market saturation years ago, it would be hard not to be excited about everything Marvel has in store.

"Captain America: Civil War"

Dir. The Russo Bros.

Grade: B+

Now playing at Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX

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