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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Captain America: Civil War is the third Captain America installment and the 13th movie in the Marvel cinematic universe. It focuses on the growing tension between Steve Rogers/Cap (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), which ultimately ramps up into an internal "war" between Avengers factions. It's about as violent as Winter Soldier: There's a lot of fighting, and it's all even more fraught because many of the big battle scenes are between Avengers. Although even young viewers might believe none of the main characters is going to die, characters do get injured (one so seriously he seems dead for a moment), and there's a lot of anguish as old friends find themselves on opposing sides. Language is infrequent but includes "s--t" and "son of a bitch"; romance is limited to a quick kiss and a few longing looks and tender moments.
What's the story?
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR opens with a fight between a crew of Avengers led by Steve Rogers -- aka Captain America (Chris Evans) -- and heavily armed mercenaries in Lagos, Nigeria, that ends up causing unexpected civilian deaths. Back home, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) calls upon Cap, Natasha/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Sam/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Vision (Paul Bettany), and Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) to sign an international accord that would limit the Avengers' authority and allow them only to act at the behest of the Secretary of State and a global task force. Tony thinks it's the right thing to do, as do Rhodey and Vision, but Cap disagrees. When an assassin detonates a bomb at the United Nations, where the accords were to be signed, the culprit seems to be Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) -- Cap's dear old friend. One of the casualties was the King of Wakanda; his son, Prince T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), believes it's his duty to seek vengeance and emerges as the Black Panther. Unwilling to turn Bucky over to be arrested without learning more about what happened, Cap enlists his side to go against the accords and protect Bucky. Ultimately, Cap and Tony engage in an Avengers civil war, with old friends taking sides, and new allies -- like Ant Man (Paul Rudd) and (possible spoiler alert!) Spider-Man (Tom Holland) -- joining the fray.
Is it any good?
With its death-defying action sequences, charismatic additional superheroes, and emotional character development, this Captain America threequel is both intense and entertaining. The Russo Brothers certainly know what they're doing. They once again prove that it's Captain America who's the Avengers' emotional core, with his immovable sense of loyalty and responsibility. It's unnecessary to choose sides, because -- as reasonable as Tony might seem when he goes on about the need of government oversight and accountability -- Captain America: Civil War is obviously Cap's movie, and therefore his is the more compelling argument. Evans goes through the entire emotional range as he deals with his complicated feelings for former-best-friend-turned-robotic-killer Bucky, as well as the knowledge that Tony believes he's betraying him and the grief of an unexpected but unsurprising death.
As for the new additions, Boseman and Holland are fabulous as the Black Panther (the closest thing the Marvel universe has to Batman) and Spider-Man respectively. Peter Parker is for once played by an actual teen -- funny, nerdy, and in awe of his much more experienced fellow superheroes. In the big "civil war" fight scene, Peter prattles on, asking questions about everyone's suits and shield and abilities in a hilarious way. Meanwhile, Boseman is cool and fierce, believably a prince and a protector at the same time. There are small touches that reveal the deep bonds between this crew, like when Vision sweetly tells Wanda that he wants the world to see her as he does, not as a threat, or when Natasha asks Clint (Jeremy Renner), "we're still friends right?" We all know, no matter what side they might take in a particular argument, they're clearly still besties. Marvel might be churning these movies out at an incredible pace, but the quality and the depth in the Captain America movies in particular shows what's best about this superhero saga.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence Captain America: Civil War. How does it compare to the other Avengers movies? Is there a difference in the impact between hand-to-hand combat versus catastrophic, buildings-collapsing type of explosions?
How does the movie explore the issue of revenge? Is it understandable how it affects the characters? What role does it play in the movie?
- In theaters: May 6, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: September 13, 2016
- Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
- Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Character strengths: Courage, Integrity, Teamwork
- Run time: 146 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem
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