WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Captain America: Civil War.
Captain America: Civil War might be my favorite Marvel movie to date, and that’s saying something. There are just too many awesome things to mention without missing a few details, but I’m going to do my best.
All in all, this was a great combination of fan service and character focused story-telling, and makes me very excited that the Russo bothers are directing the Infinity War movies. First and foremost, this is a Captain America movie. I know, “duh,” it’s called Captain America: Civil War. But, after seeing all of the pre-release marketing, I was confused as to why this wasn’t just called Marvel: Civil War or even Avengers: Civil War, as it so clearly relied on the existing other characters and even introduced several of its own. But after seeing the movie, it’s obvious that this is a Captain America focused story, which is a good thing. Everything focused around primarily Cap and Bucky, with Sam Wilson and Sharon Carter playing significant roles, as well. I don’t want to downplay the Avengers aspect, because they definitely all have their parts to play, but it does make sense that this is considered a Captain America movie. A lot of the story is a direct result of the repercussions of Captain America: Winter Soldier.
First, let’s touch on some things that I didn’t love so much, because that’s a much shorter list. Most importantly, Baron Zemo was kind of a wasted character here. It’s not that he was particularly bad, but his ending motivations didn’t seem all that special. I enjoyed the red herring that he was trying to find the other super-soldiers to take down the establishment, when in fact he was trying to prevent any other Winter Soldiers from existing. However, there was nothing unique about the fact that he lost family during the Sokovia battle. It makes his motivations more personal and different than people like Loki, which I appreciate, but to be able to take everything down when he’s really just a dude doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. How was he able to do everything that he did? It was never properly explained, and could have easily been written off if he was being secretly funded by Hydra or something.
At times the movie did also suffer from too much going on, which was a problem of both Avengers movies, as well. There are just so many characters here, some of them being brand new, that not everyone got their due. That being said, the fan service nature and the large scale fights definitely outweighed some characters being short shrifted, so I can’t complain too much.
My biggest concern going into the movie was how they were going to manage the actual set up for the separation of the Avengers. In the comics, the disagreement is more about the implementation of a registration act for all super-powered people, where the real names of all heroes would be divulged to the government. It was a huge deal in the comics, and both sides were played to great effect. While everyone picked a side, you could definitely the gray in each argument. Knowing that the story would change for the movie, I wasn’t sure that both sides would be treated evenly, and I’m happy to say that my fears were mostly unfounded.
For the sake of being even-handed, I’ll say upfront that I’m Team Cap. I completely understand Iron Man’s perspective, especially the inevitability of government oversight. That being said, I have a problem with the implementation. Governments are made up of fallible men and women, so why should they have the final say as to when the Avengers are needed? They all have their own agendas, and politicians are some of the least trust-worthy people out there. All in all, though, I thought both sides were displayed very well, with Iron Man coming across as regretful of his involvement with Ultron, pragmatic and realistic in his trying to pass the accords to most benefit the Avengers, and also pretty abrasive in his dismissal of anyone that disagrees. Cap is overly idealistic in thinking that they can stave off government oversight, but also right in thinking that they do improve the lives and safety of the world, despite how people may react emotionally when things go bad.
However, the inclusion and behind the scenes manipulation of Zemo kind of undermines some of Tony’s argument, and the final reveal at the end definitely diminishes his objectivity. Part of what put the insanity into motion was his mistaken belief that Bucky bombed the accords meeting, and he refused to listen to Cap when told otherwise. At the end, everything seemed to have settled when Tony finally came to terms with the fact that Bucky wasn’t to blame for the terrible things that had happened, but that didn’t last long. Once he learned that Bucky killed his parents, all bets were off. You certainly can’t blame Tony for the way he reacted, but these heroes are supposed to be above personal vendettas. They’re supposed to be the best of us, and he certainly didn’t act like it. I love Iron Man in these movies, mostly because of Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal, but I always have a hard time rooting for his character. He’s charming and funny and brilliant, but he’s also egotistical, stubborn, and all around kind of a dick. That side definitely comes out in this movie, for better and for worse.
I will say that I love how things weren’t really resolved by the end. Cap and his Avengers will of course be there when the world needs them, but it’s not like Cap and Tony are best friends again. That makes me really curious to see how things play out in the upcoming Avengers and solo films.
So let’s talk about some highlights in this movie, because there are a lot. First of all, I love the new Spider-Man. He was in the movie more than I expected, and I was delighted by that. I like that he’s younger, and he definitely feels nerdy, with a hint of cockiness that a teenager would have upon finding out that he has super powers. His relationship with Tony is also cute, though it’s pretty messed up that Tony would recruit a teenager into fighting other super heroes when he hasn’t really proven himself. At least in the comics, Spider-Man had already been on the Avengers and fought his own super villains. In this movie, he’s only had his powers for six months. Like I said, pretty messed up on Tony’s part. Also, Aunt May is hot now, which is pretty cool.
Black Panther and Ant Man were also used to great effect, though in completely different ways. Ant Man is great comedic relief, and Black Panther is super badass. Panther also had a great moment at the end where he not only forgave Bucky, but decided not to seek physical revenge on Zemo. He’s most definitely a complex character, and Wakanda looks like a very interesting place. I’m super excited for the Black Panther solo movie, now.
I’m also glad that Black Widow played a significant role in the proceedings. She’s always been a great character, and it’s a shame that she hasn’t driven a story of her own. Her relationship with Cap has always been complicated, and she definitely serves as the audience perspective of this movie. She switches sides several times, and highlights how stupid and selfish the argument between Cap and Tony can be. She eventually makes the right choice in prioritizing stopping Zemo, thankfully. Marvel execs have said that they’re interested in a Black Widow movie, but I’d be just as happy with it being called “Black Widow and Hawkeye.” Their relationship is great, and both characters tend to not get as much attention as they should. It would be a cool spy movie.
Finally, let’s talk about the fight scenes, because all of them were freaking awesome. First, there’s the opening chase in Africa, where it was cool to see some Avengers B-Listers like Falcon and Scarlet Witch get some attention. Then there was Cap escaping with Bucky, and the ensuing car chase by Black Panther. Then, of course, there’s the amazing airport battle seen in the trailers, which might be one of the coolest fight scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie. And finally, there was the two on one fight with Cap, Bucky, and Iron Man. That one was completely brutal, and showed a different side to Cap and Iron Man that we hadn’t seen before. The great thing most of the great fights had in common was how they utilized the characters. The airport battle is especially great at this. Whether it’s Hawkeye launching Ant Man on his arrow or Iron Man and War Machine flying after Falcon, it’s always exciting to see the new team-ups between characters. Those are the moments that make me never get sick of watching the Avengers fight, even if it’s among themselves.
While Captain America: Civil War is definitely a Captain America focused movie, it will have significant repercussions for the greater Marvel universe. Things are not roses for the Avengers team, which I’m sure will affect Infinity War. The new inclusions of Black Panther and Spider-Man were well executed, and the movie also served as a great jumping off point for a solo Black Widow film. As an aside, I’m also curious to see how this will affect the Agents of SHIELD television show, as well as any Marvel Netflix properties. While Baron Zemo was a bit of a wasted opportunity, I loved the action, I loved the character moments, and I loved the shades of gray in both the story and in the resolution. Here’s hoping the Russo Brothers can keep up their hot streak with Infinity War.
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