Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War released in theaters world-wide on May 6, 2016.
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The comic book world has always been an intriguing one. On the surface, they’re fanciful tales about super-powered characters playing heroes against insurmountable odds and outlandish villains. At their best, on a deeper level, they’re wonderful forms of literature that battle with serious themes and ethical dilemmas. This is the type of storytelling that brought comic-book geeks stories like Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke (New York Time’s Best-Seller), Alan Moore’s The Watchmen (New York Time’s Best-Seller and on their list of 100 most notable novels), Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Mark Millar’s 2006 limited series, Civil War. These are all stories that delve deeper than the usual “superhero saves the day” plot and are psychologically complex and deal with, albeit exaggerated, conflicts which have a familiar feel or, at the very least, understandable.
Marvel’s cinematic adaptation of Civil War brings the political themes from the comics to life in a two and a half hour blockbuster that tries to give us more than the usual explosions and falling cities gimmicks. “The Sokovia Accords” presented in the movie is a direct response to the destruction caused at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron. 117 nations have come together demanding that the merry band of super-powered beings be placed under the control of a United Nations council. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), playboy flyboy, agrees with this legislation largely due to guilt, which is reinforced by conveniently placed Alfre Woodard, who plays the mother of a son who lost his life during the destruction of Sokovia. Captain America (Chris Evans), on the other hand, believes that signing the Accords is signing away their freedom to help the people who need them the most. It also opens the Avengers up to the possibility of being exploited by government agencies (remember S.H.I.E.L.D. was revealed to be controlled by the Nazi organization, HYDRA). Both sides make compelling arguments for their cases during the movie. Vision (played by Paul Bettany) makes the case for the Accords discussing how new evil challenges rise against humanity because of the existence of the Avengers. But like Peter Parker said in what I thought was the line of the movie, “when you can do the things that I can and you don’t, the bad things happen because of you” which makes the case for Captain America.
The themes in this movie are nothing new and has been something that I’ve discussed before in what is going to be the over-saturation of the superhero movie genre. The idea of “who will watch the watchmen” was touched on in the recent DC/Warner Bros. movie, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and was the whole premise of The Watchmen graphic novel and movie. One could argue that the Machiavellian machinations of Heinrich Zemo (played by Daniel Bruhl) is fairly similar to the ones laid out by Lex Luthor in BvS, which was to sow seeds of conflict between the superheroes and have them kill each other. Even the basic idea of foregoing the super villain and having the good guys duke it out against each other is something that we’ve seen recently. The main difference is that the MCU and Civil War made it more fun. From the introductions of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to the Ant-Man and Hawkeye cameos, this movie was a more pleasurable experience from top to bottom.
Now I had mentioned before that they tried to hit us hard with these themes but ultimately they become hidden in the background. This wasn’t a movie about politics or Accords or legislation. It was one fueled completely by emotions and feelings. Guilt, regret, rage and sadness (and the overwhelming giddiness exhibited by Spidey and Ant-Man about being able to play with the big boys) were all over this movie. From Tony Stark’s guilt and anger to Cap’s unwavering and confusing virtues of loyalty to Zemo’s sadness and desire for revenge- all held together by everyone choosing to stand firmly for what they truly believe is right. Except Bucky. Bucky’s just weird. And he needs to visit a barber.
All those things aside, Disney has put together another summer blockbuster that’s going to reel in so much money that it will make you consider changing your career. It suffered from the same problems that Batman vs Superman did: trying to fit in too many plots into 146 minutes of screen-time, but it worked much better because of the dozen of movies that had laid the groundwork before this. Even the introduction of Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe didn’t need an origin because they were smart enough to realize that at this point, the movie-watchers all know “what comes with great power”. 8 years later, there’s no need to delve too deep into backstories and history. Just give us the movie plot and that what Civil War did. This was the closest any Marvel movie has come to capturing its source material and the epitome of this can be seen in the climax of the movie that shows an extended fight scene in an evacuated airport between both sets of Team Iron-Man and Team Cap. It just feels like so much fun, despite the weight of the objectives sitting on their shoulders. We get a true live-action comic book and for this scene, all the background origin movies and spin-offs over the last few years feel like they’re worth it. Not because each hero’s have already been explained, but because we’ve gotten to know these characters and their personalities and what they stand for (some more than others).
Marvel has set themselves apart. Civil War is a good comic-book movie. While BvS or The Watchmen (both directed by Zak Snyder) had ambition but fell short of expectations, Civil War is able to meet theirs because of the work that had been done before leading up to this. Proper preparation prevents piss-poor performance and that’s been the motto of the MCU since the first Iron Man movie in 2008 and with everything leading up to this moment.
- Seriously Bucky needs to go visit a barber. It’s been 70 years. Get a haircut. See a stylist. Do something.
- MCU has a well-documented villain problem. Apart from Loki (Thor, Avengers) and Purple Man (Jessica Jones) and Kingpin (Daredevil) none of the bad guys in the movies tend to stand out. Even with Bruhl’s good performance, Zemo (who is a GREAT comic villain) is ultimately forgettable.
- When you start to pull the random stray threads, the movie’s plot unravels a little bit. So Zemo’s whole plan hinged on Iron Man showing up to the HYDRA fortress? How did he know Falcon would give Tony the information that would allow him to show up there just in time so that Zemo could reveal the true murderer of Howard Stark and his wife? And I know that Tony was mad, but it all felt like something that could be resolved with a conversation. Even Cap’s letter at the end made it seem like Tony could be reasoned with time.
- I cannot wait for the Black Panther movie. Chadwick Boseman was absolutely phenomenal in his role as BP.
- I mean just look at how cool this suit is.
- I’m glad that they left Ant-Man going giant out of the trailers because that was a pleasant surprise during the movie. Also it felt like Paul Rudd had a little more freedom with his role in this installment as opposed to his standalone movie last year.
- Spider-Man was perfect. Tom Holland captured the youthful exuberance of Peter Parker in his limited screen-time.