by Michael B. Hock
Captain America. Iron Man. These two iconic heroes face off over matters of honor, friendship, and loyalty in the new movie Captain America: Civil War. And while they’re at it, they might as well bring along a bunch of other superheroes, because we have bunch of people under contract so why not?
Actually, a more apt title might be The Avengers 3: With Scenes of Captain America Making Questionable Decisions.
Civil War picks up about a year later after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron with Captain America training his new Avenger recruits to take down Crossbones, a feared super villain in the comics who once killed Captain America, but here has been reduced to an arms dealer/mercenary/guy slightly angry about what happened to his face when a building was dropped on in Captain America 2: Winter Soldier. After an explosion accidentally kills some aid workers, but far less people who would have been killed with the biological weapon that Crossbones was stealing, the Avengers are put on alert: start acting in accordance with some new Accords, or… not be super? Get arrested?
Naturally, since the Sokovia Accords are introduced around the same time that there’s a sighting of Bucky Barnes the Winter Soldier, has been filmed leaving the scene of another bombing, Captain America can’t sign the accords and goes rogue, recruiting a new team to go up against Iron Man and his recruited team.
Hilarity and superhero on superhero violence ensures.
If it sounds like I don’t like this movie, it’s actually the opposite. I did find it to be an interesting look at the political implications of a Superhero team as they run into other countries, do some derring-do, save some days, and then leave. Especially ones based out of New York and feature a guy named “Captain America” and a woman from Eastern Europe that was under “house arrest” for a good portion of the movie. I did have some problems with it, but we’re going to get to that in a minute.
Once again Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr do a fantastic job portraying these to characters who often don’t seen eye to eye, but work together for the mutual good of the world really. I’m enjoying the “Tony Stark slowly unraveling” arc that has persisted since Iron Man 2, when realized that being Iron Man was killing him. There’s even an interesting parallel as that movie was heavily based in the idea that Tony Stark should have the ability to work unchecked, all while dealing with a foreign threat (and one cool suitcase scene in another country.) So the flip now to watching him defend more oversight is an interesting one. I’d really like to see Iron Man 4 tackle this head on, and a take on Demon in a Bottle, only with his unraveling instead of alcohol.
I do want to point out that the newcomers really do steal the show, especially Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Black Panther is a character who always fascinated me as he was both a king and a protector… he is someone who very much wishes to defend his homeland, and someone that would work with Stark. He’s an interesting contrast to Captain America, particularly as the movie becomes more geared toward the fight for Bucky… I found myself siding with Black Panther even after all the twists were revealed But Boseman brings a gravity to the performance I don’t know many other actors could have. The movie is going to be epic.
And, of course, Tom Holland does his thing as a younger Spider-Man, swinging his way into the action and cracking jokes. While I did enjoy this addition, and the return of Spider-Man to his younger days, I found his role in the movie kind of tacked on. I get what happened behind the scenes, but his role in the Civil War comics was so iconic, it’s hard not to feel that they went with “Hey… we have him now get the movie into rewrites.”
The special effects are special effects, used to their max without really overwhelming the character performances. The fight scene in the abandoned airport is beautifully shot, and showcases each character in some of their best lights. It’s an interesting contrast to even Age of Ultron, which featured a lot of Superhero Team-up powers, like Captain America and Thor using their weapons together. It’s interesting to see them go against each other. Plus, it’s just cool watching Ant-Man fly through the air on an arrow.
However, there are a couple of moments I feel were once again squandered as we talk about these Marvel movies in general. Spoilers do follow, so if you’re not one of the billions of people headed to the theater to see this, look away and read it later, when my opinion means nothing.
I felt the end fight between Tony and Steve to be forced – Captain America and Iron Man are allies, and even if they disagreed with each other, deadly force seems a bit far for Captain America to protect a murderer. Tony had a good arc in this movie where he started to rethink his position on the accords. He went to the Captain “as a friend.” The big reveal that set off the Iron Man/Captain America Fight was set up beautifully, but by that point the fight was over. I get the twist in the fight… thinking they’d fight four super soldiers but they’re going to fight each other… but the reasoning lost that emotional beat for me.
This is further called into question by the end credits moment of Bucky going back into hibernation because he can’t control his brainwashing… I felt this moment negated every moment beforehand because it says that Iron Man is right, Bucky can’t be controlled and something needed to be done about it. Particularly after it’s revealed (also spoilers) that Bucky killed Tony Stark’s parents, who just happened to be driving around with some cool new tech in their car. Tech he needed.
Basically it boiled this political thriller into “You killed my parents” vs. “he’s my best friend.” Then “yeah I guess you’re bad let me put you in here.”
Marvel also has to realize that it has a villain problem … it has some of the strongest villains in the business but relegates them to thugs, murderers, and cannon fodder, unless they’re Loki. And even then, they’re not certain. The death of Crossbones is inexcusable. The man ended the Civil War Comic by killing Captain America… something that changed the landscape of the Marvel Universe and the idea of the war. Here we have… well, nothing. The other main villain, Zemo, has a good motivation, but once again ignores the overall picture, and his role is to “break up the Avengers.” That’s literally his role. He needed more. And his role was a sad one, not as tied to Captain America as we’ve seen in the past. I just felt it was a waste of two wonderful characters.
Spoilers end here.
Overall, this is a pretty interesting adaptation of the material, and it’s got some excellent fight scenes, and some tense moments between people that could rip a nice chunk out of the planet if the really felt like it. The light moments don’t feel forced, they feel like natural extensions of the characters. Some of the darker moments do… it’s cool that that woman knew that Tony was going to duck out of his presentation so she could confront him, I guess. And I’m glad that we’re getting rid of the Phase 2 attitude that mentioning of featuring more than one hero at a time would be a terrible thing.
Great start to the summer!