DirectorAnthony and Joe Russo
Release Date(s)2016 (April 23, 2019)
Studio(s)Marvel Studios (Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B
Building on a series of solid entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War brings The Avengers to a new and more personal crisis point. In the wake of the events of The Avengers: Age of Ultron (reviewed here in 4K), the world has had enough of rampant destruction unleashed by those with mutant superpowers. The United Nations has taken action and decided that The Avengers must sign the Sokovia Accords, which places their activities under U.N. direction and control, or else retire for good. This divides members of the team between Tony Stark (aka Iron Man – played by Robert Downey, Jr.), who feels that The Avengers have indeed caused too much collateral damage, and Steve Rogers (aka Captain America – Chris Evans), who agrees but is afraid that future U.N. leaders might try to use The Avengers to serve their own personal and political agendas. Into this mix comes Helmut Zemo, who seems intent on reviving the old Soviet weapons program that created the Winter Soldier (aka Bucky Barnes). When events cause Barnes to emerge from hiding, Steve quickly moves to help his old friend – after refusing to sign the Accords – which deepens the rift between Steve and Tony… and soon sets Avenger against Avenger.
Based loosely on Marvel’s 2006 Civil War comic book series, Captain America: Civil War succeeds in no small part because Disney and Marvel (unlike their counterparts over at Warner and DC) have had the patience to develop all of these characters gradually over many films. The simple truth is, most superhero films eventually devolve into people in different colored tights fighting each other with different colored superpowers, thus causing peril and destruction to those around them. But this film works because the relationships between these characters are fully rendered and because you actually care about them. It also helps that the rift between Tony and Steve is complicated – this isn’t simply black or white, right or wrong. Both sides have valid arguments here – there’s nothing but shades of gray. The various Avengers take the positions they do reluctantly and because they’re trying to stay true to their own principles. That’s far more nuance than you typically find in a film like this.
It also helps that the screenplay is smart, and that directors Anthony and Joe Russo know exactly what they’re doing. They keep the story moving deftly along, maneuvering all of the various pieces into place with confidence, and they know how to direct a good action scene. Each of The Avengers gets their moment to shine here (as do many of the supporting characters), not just in the fury of battle but in quieter personal moments too. There are also several good laughs in this film and some nice surprises, including the long-awaited appearance of the new young Spider-Man (Tom Holland), as well as the inclusion of Ant Man (Paul Rudd) and The Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).
Captain America: Civil War was shot digitally in the ARRIRAW (2.8K and 6.5K) and Redcode RAW (6K) codecs using Arri Alexa IMAX, Arri Alexa XT Plus, and Red Epic Dragon cameras. The film was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate, which has been upsampled and graded for High Dynamic Range in HDR10 (though the Digital presentation features Dolby Vision), at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio (though the airport sequence was finished at 1.90:1 for IMAX theatrical presentations – more on this in a moment). The 4K presentation offers a definite improvement in detail, even for an upsample, particularly for those scenes and shots captured above 6K. It’s not a huge improvement, but it’s not trivial either. Clarity is excellent, with strong texturing in skin, stone, and metal surfaces. Color-wise, Civil War has a subdued look to its production design – the costumes in particular. But the HDR grade makes those subdued hues a measure bolder and richer, which really does add to the film’s look. Contrasts are deep, with inky blacks, while highlights are brighter too – not eye-reactive, but certainly more natural. The only strike here is that, like all Marvel 4K titles, this one doesn’t preserve the changing IMAX ratio (mentioned earlier) for the relevant scenes; it’s fixed at 2.39. But that’s a minor strike against an otherwise terrific looking presentation.
Sonically, Civil War in 4K finally gets the English Dolby Atmos mix the Blu-ray lacked. And while the previous Blu-ray’s 7.1 DTS-HD MA lossless track was very good, the height channels and slightly smoother panning are welcome enhancements, particularly in the airport sequence. As before, the staging is smooth, natural, and lively; big and wide up front, with excellent directional effects and panning. Overall dynamic range is excellent, dialogue is clean and clear, and there’s actually nice heft to the bass. But, as usual for Disney, you need to dial the volume up a hair to really appreciate this mix fully. Additional audio options are available in English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Japanese 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, and French (with Quebec dubbing) 5.1 Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French (with Quebec subtitles), standard French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, and Swedish.
There are no extras on the 4K disc itself, but the package contains the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray as well (identical to the previous release, though unfortunately not the Blu-ray 3D version). That disc offers the following extras (video in HD):
- Audio Commentary with directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
- United We Stand, Divided We Fall – The Making of Captain America: Civil War – Part 1 (22:25)
- United We Stand, Divided We Fall – The Making of Captain America: Civil War – Part 2 (23:18)
- Captain America: The Road to Civil War (4:11)
- Iron Man: The Road to Civil War (4:27)
- Open Your Mind: Doctor Strange Sneak Peek (4:02)
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (4 scenes – 7:52 in all)
- Gag Reel (2:53)
- Doctor Strange theatrical trailer (2:03)
The commentary is well worth a listen if you’re a fan of the film, as the participants offer lots of little MCU and character insights, as well as backstory and other information. The 2-part documentary isn’t particularly comprehensive, but it does touch upon some interesting issues and challenges in the making of this film. The disc also includes an Audi car promo and one for the Marvel Contest of Champions mobile game app, and there’s the usual Movies Anywhere Digital code in on a paper insert in the packaging.
The best comic books work because of the intangible analog quality of art and storytelling in that medium – the magic of ink and words on the page, as provided by the artist and writer. But in an era when literally anything that can be imagined is realized in digital CG and shown on screen, usually in excessive detail, the best comic book films work instead because of the humanity and depth of the characters, and the careful balance of character to action. Captain America: Civil War succeeds on both counts, and that’s to the credit of all involved. This is an exceedingly fun cinematic roller coaster ride. Like most such coasters, you might not think about it a lot after you step off… but you’ll enjoy the hell out of it while you’re strapped in, pulling Gs with the wind whipping through your hair. And this 4K presentation is – picture and sound-wise – a notable upgrade over the regular Blu-ray edition. We’ll call that a win.
- Bill Hunt