2010s, 3/4, Action, Marvel, Review

Captain America: Civil War

Image result for captain america civil war banner

#7 in my Ranking of The MCU Phases 1-3.

Out of all the Marvel movies, this is the one that I want to love the most, but I can’t quite do it. There’s so much going on that goes so well, that the fact that it doesn’t land as well as it should and has a couple of large distractions undermines the affair enough to disappoint me, but not enough to take it from goodness.

The Avengers are causing collateral damage. They’re doing good work, but they’re also hurting people along the way. The governments of the world appreciate the fact that the world isn’t being run by Loki, but they feel like a line needs to be drawn and the Avengers need to be reined in. Some Avengers agree, and others do not. This provides the political reason for the split within the Avengers, but the movie doesn’t turn it personal early enough, in my opinion. An esoteric fight about the relative limits on Avengers power is a great place to start the conflict of the film, but it hangs on that for too long before it gives us the gut punch change that turns the conflict personal and what drives the final twenty minutes of the film.

The Winter Soldier is still on the loose after the events in The Winter Soldier, and it looks like he’s bombed a UN complex in Vienna when the Sokovia Accords are being signed that will limit the Avengers’ authority. This explosion also kills the King of Wakanda, who is there to sign the Accords. A chase ensues after Cap gets a heads up on where Bucky, the Winter Soldier, is, and he helps him escape temporarily until they end up captured and arrested. It is here that Zemo, the actual antagonist of the film, inserts himself, setting off an EMP that kills power in Berlin and gives the secret command codes to Bucky that turns him into the Winter Soldier. Cap gets Bucky away and finds out where Zemo is going next. In order to get to Siberia, Cap and Bucky need to get an aircraft.

It is at the airport that the big battle between the heroes breaks out. It’s big, inventive, fun, and ultimately pretty pointless (the physical stakes in these movies have gotten laughably low), leading Cap Bucky to getting an airplane, chased by Iron Man and the Black Panther. In Siberia, two hours into the movie, we finally learn Zemo’s plan and have the movie move from an political argument to a personal one. Zemo wants to tear apart the Avengers from the inside, knowing he’s not physically strong enough to take them on, so he uses the truth that Bucky, as the Winter Soldier, killed Tony Stark’s parents to splinter them completely. It’s such a great and brutal fight between three people in an enclosed space.

Ultimately, as I said earlier, I wanted to love this movie. It’s got strong themes of liberty versus regulation that echo through so much of what’s going on. It eventually distills that beginning intellectual conflict into a personal one between two heroes we’ve grown attached to over the years. It looks really good and the action is better filmed than it was in The Winter Soldier. However, the big airport fight, while fun, is pretty pointless. We do get one injury, but that’s it, keeping the stakes of these fights really low. There are too many characters that have their moments that don’t feed into the larger narrative (Spider-Man being the most egregious example). And Zemo is underdeveloped. I love the idea of Zemo, but the execution is so relegated to the back end of the film that it ends up losing its impact.

I’d love to see this movie with a smaller cast that allows for greater focus on the central conflict between Stark and Rogers. I’d love for Zemo to have a strong narrative presence early, and I’d love for the information on Bucky’s involvement with Tony’s parent’s death to come out earlier and define Tony’s motives well before the final act. I can imagine scenes where people confront Tony with his opposition ‘ to Rogers’s side because he’s driven by revenge, and he needs to balance his ideals with his personal emotions before ultimately giving in to his emotional side.

Still, there’s so much that’s so good here. It has some of the same issues as Age of Ultron, but it does a better job of holding it all together. It also feels like it gets closer to something special, even if it still falls short. It coulda been great.

Netflix Rating: 4/5

Quality Rating: 3/4

4 thoughts on “Captain America: Civil War”

  1. This is another movie my best friend hates but I rank pretty high.
    The theme of liberty and freedom vs control is strong, as you mentioned. And once again, Captain America is right.

    What bothered me the most about that argument is that they put Tony Stark, this Tony Stark, on the other side of that equation. The same Tony Stark who told the US government LOLGF when they demanded his suit. It’s a character derailment that Robert Downey Jr does his best to sell. And I can kinda see it. Tony is increasingly obsessive as the MCU goes on and I do get that he’s trying to protect his friends as much as possible before the harsh government controls are imposed externally.

    That’s actually why the airport fight does work for me. Because it’s a fight, not combat. These guys are not going all out. Not even in the end fight between Cap and Iron Man are they going all out. Because they ARE friends. You don’t go for killshots on your buddy. Which is why the Civil War title doesn’t quite work. (also, I hate the Civil War Marvel comic plotline) But when Rhodey gets hurt for real, crippled in fact, it is sobering.

    I like the bad guy. I like that he has a plot and a plan. And he’s much more believable than anything in the shitshow that is The Boys. (Fuck you, Warren Ellis) I like his pain, good performances. It also shows just what assholes the Russians are. (I know, it’s supposed to be Hydra but…fuck that)
    Honestly, I would have liked to have seen more with the Russian super soldiers. But instead, they were just a head fake. Too bad.

    The final fight worked for me, too. Though my buddy dislikes it because he feels Iron Man should have flat out won the fight. But I think it was scripted and ‘shown’ well enough, I bought it all.

    The only real weak point is the whole ‘you knew’ accusation that Iron Man throws at Cap. That wasn’t brought up or out enough for that revelation to work. And it’s not a strong enough revelation to make the fight work. But I still get chills when Cap says that it’s not Bucky’s fault, that he was mind controlled and Tony says, “I don’t care. He killed my Mom”. Yeah, I get that. Vengeance isn’t about the fine details. Chills, in a good way.

    It works because it’s a character based story and all the characters are developed enough for me to care about them.

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    1. Though Tony is very different here than he was at the beginning of Iron Man 2, I think this is a representation of the best of Marvel’s overall arc. It’s hard to say where he was at the end of 2, but he was in a definite place at the end of 3 and at the end of Ultron. Wanting to walk away and then having his creation nearly destroy the world is the sort of place to take him so that he would accept the Sokovia Accords. And the movie establishes that idea within him early (making his outlook work within the movie itself instead of merely being an extension from other movies).

      Where the movie suffers is, I think, in the fact that it seems to want to prioritize new heroes over the basic plot and conflict of the film. Black Panther isn’t nothing in this film, but he’s more of a tangent than actually part of the central conflict. If they had been able to clear out the middle of the film of its extra stuff and move the actual conflict there instead, I think it could have been great.

      And the reason that the reveal of Bucky’s involvement not working, I think, is largely tied to its late placement. We’ve been invested for almost 2 hours in one fight, and then it morphs into another completely. We get little time between Tony and his parents (though his first scene with their digital constructs is what makes the moment work at all), and the large gap between the little we see of Tony and his parents and the revelation prevents us from connecting emotionally to the moment as well as we should.

      And yeah, that final fight is really good. Maybe great. Even if I think the emotional justification for it is weaker than it should be, it’s still focused and intimate in such a great way.

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