Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War 2016
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is back with its latest installment of their ongoing franchise. And even though I watched this movie on opening night, I feel like everyone and their mother has already voiced their adoration upon this film, probably just because it was released in many other countries a week early. As a whole, Marvel films have been pretty high on my radar starting off with Avengers as the first MCU that was released since starting this site and most of the Phase 2 sequels were much better than the originals until they hit a bit of a snag with Age of Ultron that felt like they were too focused on setting up future films to worry about focusing on the current one. On that front, I felt like Civil War was a success, while it greatly helped to have knowledge of past films, Civil War felt much more self-contained than Age of Ultron. It has the fun aspect that permeates all of the Marvel films as well as some incredible action and some thought provoking themes, but it just didn’t quite knock it out of the park for me this time. And fair warning since this has just opened in the US, there may be spoilers ahead.
Unlike previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Civil War really is about the threat from within rather than any external force. There is a lead villain Zemo played by Daniel Bruhl, but he spends most of the movie just putting the pieces into place so that others will do the fighting for him. And while the lines are drawn among nearly all of the still-living heroes across all the films to date, plus a couple newbies, the main point of contention lies between Captain America and Bucky vs. Iron Man and the United Nations, spokespersoned by Secretary of State Thunderbolt Ross.
One main point of contention against this film is that it does take a little while to really get to the crux of the situation. In the trailer, they list many of the climaxes of earlier movies as these giant disasters that have claimed hundreds of lives, but the instigating event in Civil War comes from a relatively small building explosion that claims eleven lives. Specifically from the fictional country of Wakanda, home of Black Panther. It is a fun action sequence, but for some reason it felt much more unrealistic than previous movies have. There was just something off in the way that Steve Rogers and Falcon specifically moved that just didn’t quite seem either natural or stylized where it fell between the line of natural fight choreography and stylized fantasy combat.
The same holds true when it came to the big action sequence in the airport, it just never quite felt like a truly natural fight between that many combatants. Especially the incredibly contrived moment where the twelve of them happen to arrive at just the right moment to create this red rover face off moment. There was a good enough job of splitting the combatants up so they didn’t intersect with each other too much, but the biggest issue was where the two heavy hitters were during the entire fight. Both Vision and Scarlet Witch have powers far above anyone else in the fight, but most of the melee has them just lending a brief helping hand to another combatant. In fact, they even have Wanda be the one to tell Hawkeye that he was pulling his punches against Black Widow and yet she herself seems to be pulling her punches during the entire fight. Not to mention that during this entire knock down, drag out fight, nobody ends up with more than a black eye and a nosebleed. It just stretches the line of incredulity a little far, even though it does do a good job of keeping things interesting with a variety of different match ups and the big reveal of Scott Lang’s Giant Man setting on his suit.
What the film does get right are the characters themselves, and it’s a tough job to juggle so many characters. But throughout the entire movie, it kept things pretty clear what each character’s motivation was during that moment in time and gave the right amount of screen time to each one. It does introduce two new characters, and they both come off quite well here. Chadwick Boseman as T’Chala aka Black Panther brings a great presence as a well rounded warrior prince who has an actual character arc despite being a relatively minor character. This is also the debut of Tom Holland as a much younger Spider-Man and he played it up very well. He didn’t quite have the quippy confidence of Andrew Garfield’s portrayal, but he comes close and also has a great nerdy presence as a junkpile scrounging Peter Parker struggling to keep his secret identity from his Aunt May.
There’s also the exploration of superheroism and responsibility. And not just in the main focus of essentially deciding whether superheroes should be considered like weapons or like people. The government side of things wants to treat them more like weapons where their actions are essentially controlled by the United Nations who will tell them what conflicts to get involved in. This is mirrored in Bucky’s story as the Winter Soldier which essentially is that exact same situation where he was in complete control of Hydra and had no say in his actions. There is also the question of the loss of lives and who really was accountable. When all is said and done, when the losing side of the battle is dead, then it becomes easier to blame the only other half of the equation which happens in many different places in Civil War. Whether it’s the random mother who lost her child in Age of Ultron’s Sokovian disaster, T’Chala himself who lost his father to Zemo posing as Bucky, or the big reveal when Tony Stark finds out that Bucky was the one who killed his parents under the control of Hydra. It’s all about emotional based decisions that cloud reason. The film doesn’t exactly settle on one clear side and does end on a middle ground where the Avengers are still split down the lines, but still willing to work together when necessary. There are plenty of nits to pick in this film, including the bizarre scene of digitally de-aged Robert Downey Jr. as teenage Tony, and the giant distracting location titles in big letters across the screen, but once things really start rolling it becomes a hell of a good time. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.