Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo
Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Marvel #13

Welcome to Avengers 3! All jokes aside, this is basically a return to the Avengers side of the franchise with just about every member reprising their roles here in a team up movie of sorts, they just have to pick sides. This “Civil War” has been brewing over the course of a few movies, and it has been interesting to track knowing this film was on the horizon, and I expect we’ll talk about that later in this review. My main question in this opening is in regards to where does Marvel go from here? Coming off the smallness of Ant-Man, we return to the bigger side of the franchise where the characters have become so interconnected that it will be near impossible for any individual to have their own solo movie anymore unless it’s a look back before the Avengers teamed up. So where does that leave the future of the franchise? These characters either need to retire or die, or we get more and more characters joining the fray, as we do here with both Black Panther and Spider-Man.

After the events of Sokovia and New York, the world is growing more and more weary of the power of the Avengers and the destruction they might accidentally incur during their heroics. As a result, the Sokovia Accords are proposed by the UN as a way to keep them in check. This decision divides the Avengers between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), whose conscious has been weighing on him and supports the constraints, and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who believes bureaucracy is no way to decide how the Avengers use their good. Things escalate even further when a rogue agent named Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) activates Bucky Barnes and has him carry out a bombing at the Accords signing ceremony in Vienna, killing the king of Wakanda and thereby bringing T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) out for revenge against Barnes, who is being protected by Captain America. As a result, Iron Man calls upon a young new talent from Queens (Tom Holland) to his side in a confrontation with Cap and his supporters.

This plot is not briefly described in detail, but essentially Cap and Iron Man disagree, always have, and their hands are forced when the UN wants to put a stop to their rogue policing of the world. And just like any disagreement that escalates to the point of war, there is little they can do or say to one another to make them change their stance, so they must fight. It’s honestly a little surprising of a twist, even if we have seen it coming for a few films at this point. That the great heroes in the world, our heroes who we root for to do good, would come to blows over a disagreement. But the issues addressed by this film are important for the franchise to address I think, so good on Marvel to throw this one out there without a true baddie to focus on (Daniel Bruhl is fine, and I’ve always liked him as an actor, but his villain is very forgettable, the friction between Cap and Iron Man is the true villain).

I figured I would spend some time reviewing where I stand here too. Am I team Cap, or team Iron Man? I can remember when this film came out the marketing was heavily surrounded by this “picking of teams”, which honestly you couldn’t do ahead of time not knowing their sides, so most people just picked their favorite. I think for both I’m team Cap, but the most important thing is to realize the validity of both sides. In a 2020 landscape, it may be easy to call Iron Man the left and Cap the right in terms of their view on government involvement, but that is largely an over-simplification. This issue is much more complex than that, mostly because, you know, superheroes aren’t real. But it’s still a fun theoretical exercise to analyze the situation and come to a decision. I largely say team Cap because of his character, who is the boy scout. His argument is he doesn’t want to be stopped from acting if he knows its right, or “deployed” if he knows its wrong. Having a more intimate knowledge of the Avengers, and with Cap as one of their leaders, I think I can trust his intentions are pure. And that is where the political comparison falls apart. No politician, on either side of the aisle has pure intentions. Would be interested to hear where others fall on this argument, and again, I want to reiterate that both sides have good arguments. I’m not anti-Iron Man.

So as a movie, this is an important, interesting entry, but the staging was a little underwhelming if I’m being honest. I think after the highs of Winter Soldier I was hoping for another action romp, but the action in this film falls into the pitfalls of many modern action movies: lots of quick cuts which muddies the landscape of the action scene. It can honestly be a little dizzying at times to follow the action. Even the airport scene, which is likely the most famous and notable experiences these issues. It’s a little easier to follow in such an open space, and has some good back and forth between characters. Definitely the height of the film, but still falls short of what the Russo Brothers were able to accomplish in Winter Soldier.

Another thing that slightly annoyed me was the films insistence on interconnecting and setting up for the future. I mention we get introduced to both Black Panther and Spider-Man, both characters I’ve come to love, but I’m conflicted because their introductions here, especially Spider-Man, feels forced and “other”. It’s a “Captain America” movie with essentially the whole Avengers team and yet here we are with two more characters. Where will it end? There are so many characters now, the producers had to make them fight each other. It’s perhaps a minor qualm in the grand scheme of things, and knowing how expertly the producers handle the series go forward, but in this individual movie, many of the characters feel shoe-horned in, Ant-Man included. So much of it feels like fan service and less storytelling brilliance. I’m ready for the series to be propelled forward with great storytelling again, great solo films again. Captain America: Civil War encapsulates everything about the Marvel Cinematic Universe: from afar, it brings together the whole team, fits neatly into the fabric of the series quilt, but when examined at a closer level, as its own individual entity, it wilts a little bit to criticism. Still a rollicking ride and time spent with characters I’ve come to love, which is always appreciated.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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