Dara, Paul, and I went and saw Captain America: Civil War last night, and I can say without reservation: gracious, that was satisfying.
Now, Cap’s name is in the title of this thing (and Dara opined that its title should have been Captain America: Why Don’t Any of You Fuckers Listen to Steve?, or perhaps Captain America: He’s Not Perfect, Except For His Abs). But really, this is way more of an Avengers movie. Though granted, it also has a huge focus on Cap. I mention this though because if you go in expecting this to have the same focus on Cap that the previous movies did, you might be a bit disappointed. But if you think of this more as an Avengers movie with a focus on Cap, it works way better. Particularly given how so much of this movie’s plot draws from the events in Age of Ultron.
But of course, it’s also drawing on events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This is not a good movie to come in cold to the MCU, is what I’m sayin’ here. If you haven’t seen either of those movies yet, this one will make way less sense.
I’ve seen a lot of enthusing about the new kid playing Spidey. Of whom I mostly have this to say: I’m having a hard time mustering much giveadamn for yet another iteration of Spidey, particularly when pulling him into the MCU delayed Captain Marvel. Marf. Though, even given my crankiness about that, I’ll cheerfully grant this kid was charming and fun. Yesterday I put up a post on Here Be Magic about why I love Supergirl, and one of the things I call out there is how DC’s doing such a lovely job bringing a tone of brightness and optimism to that show. This iteration of Spidey is helping do that for the MCU, I feel, and I can’t help but appreciate that.
Still, though, I think I would have been way more on board with another Spidey if this one had been Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker. Which is why, when it comes to the new faces introduced in this movie, I was way more excited by Black Panther. His character was amazing, and I am 100% ON BOARD with his forthcoming movie.
Before I get into spoiler discussion, here are some other reviews from sites I regularly follow, which I just doublechecked now that I’ve seen the movie myself. I’m pretty much ON BOARD with everything these links have to say, too. Particularly the parts about the biceps. 😀
Captain America: Civil War is the Emotional Pinnacle of Superhero Movies on Tor.com
Review: Captain America: Civil War Is Good (but Too Stuffed to be Great) on The Mary Sue
Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
And now, for spoilers! ALL THE SPOILERS behind the fold!
A few quick remarks about things I wasn’t entirely on board with, first.
What was up with that font choice on the subtitles? And on the location and time tags to show us when we changed locales and timeframes? Surprisingly Large Font was surprisingly large. And not one that seemed to fit in stylistically with any of the previous MCU movies, either.
I also wasn’t a fan of how they shot Black Widow’s early fight scenes–and it was weird, because I only really noticed this in her fight scenes in the first action sequence, where she was going hand-to-hand with other single combatants. There was some sort of weird filter on those sequences that made all the motion look jerky and rapid-fire to me, as if they were under a strobe light or something. Did anybody else notice this?
Though really… that’s about all I can think of that I didn’t like. Now let’s talk about what I did!
The overall plot
The reviews I’ve linked off to above talk a lot about how this movie is trying very, very hard to set up the conflict here in a way that establishes high emotional stakes for everyone involved, and how nobody is entirely right or entirely wrong. Also how a plot that involves superheroes fighting each other has way more weight when these are all characters we’ve come to know and care about, and how on the one hand, half of you is all WOO FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT and the rest is all BUT BUT BUT I LIKE ALL OF YOU NO FIGHTING!
To which I say: yes. This. EXACTLY THIS. I’m totally in for the long haul on the MCU movies, and having grown invested in all of these characters through the previous films helped get me invested in the conflict between them in this one. But equally important is that this specific plot was so good about orchestrating events such that everyone acted in appropriate ways for their character arcs. Huge character development all over the damn place. It was a joy to behold.
See, I have very few fucks to give about a question like “who’d win in a fight, Captain America or Iron Man?” But if you put that into a plot like this one, and develop both the characters to a point where they do actually have to fight, and then show me how both of them struggle to deal with the consequences of that… then you have my attention.
*sniff* RIP Peggy
I saw a spoiler somewhere, probably on The Mary Sue, that warned me this movie was going to kill Peggy off. So I knew that was coming. And I’m a little sad that they did it off-camera. But still, it served an important plot purpose here–and like the SBTB reviewers, I was quite moved by seeing Steve as one of the pallbearers and how hard Peggy’s loss was hitting him.
And while I haven’t read much of Cap in the comics, I did recognize the echo of his own words coming out of Sharon during the funeral. So yeah, nice touch there! And I very much liked that this set up Steve’s chain of decisions.
Sharon’s presence in the movie was pretty minimal, but it was nonetheless lovely to see her supporting Steve’s efforts–AND to get some advancement on the romance front. Particularly when that kiss she shares with Steve led to the funniest one-shot moment in the flick, the cut over to Sam and Bucky grinning ear to ear in the car in reaction. 😀
I knew he was going to be in this film, and that he wasn’t going to be a bad guy, either. And I know all the Sherlock fans have been squeeing that both Sherlock and Watson are now in the MCU–but for my money, Freeman’s way more Bilbo now than he ever was Watson. And I kept having a bit of mental disconnect every time he was on screen, wondering why the hobbit showed up.
Doublechecking his character name, I see that he’s playing Everett Ross, who apparently was a major ally of Black Panther’s in the comics. Which suggests he’s likely to show up in the Black Panther movie.
I mentioned Black Panther above, but I need to talk more about him because damn son. I was hugely impressed that T’Challa was the one to step back from being Vengeance Boy, and I found interesting inverse narrative symmetry in comparing his arc specifically to Tony’s. With T’Challa, we get a man who thinks the Winter Soldier has killed his father, but who backs off when he realizes he was going after the wrong man. With Tony, we get a man who has no particular fucks to give about the Winter Soldier specifically, but who gets REAL invested once he finds out Bucky killed his mother.
I also really liked that his claws were made out of vibranium, so they could actually damage Cap’s shield.
And man, I loved his lines of “I am done letting it consume me” (re: vengeance), and how he stopped our bad guy from killing himself with the taut assertion that “The living are not done with you yet.”
Reviews I’ve read are describing Chadwick Boseman’s performance as one of “incredible poise and grace”. I cosign these reviews!
(And now I am going to be very, very curious about who Lupita Nyong’o might be playing in his movie–because his Wikipedia bio says he’s had two love interests in the comics, Monica Lynne and Ororo Munroe, a.k.a. Storm! I knew he married Storm from when I read the recent solo Storm comic, and BOY HOWDY would I love to see Lupita Nyong’o playing Storm. But getting rights to her from Sony, who still owns the X-Men, would be difficult. So I’m suspecting she’ll be playing Monica Lynne.)
I ADORED that he was ready, willing, and able to give asylum to Bucky, even at the risk of other world powers invading Wakanda to get him back.
Scarlet Witch and Vision
I knew from reading up on these characters that they eventually became romantically involved in the comics, so I wasn’t terribly surprised to see signs of it in this movie. And Vision’s attempt to cook for Wanda really was kind of adorable.
Wanda’s arc in this movie was a lesser one but still important. I liked that her misjudging her aim during the fight in Lagos–and the consequent deaths of the Wakandan delegation there–is what provokes the creation of the Sokovian Accords. And I liked the points the other reviews raised about how she is scarily powerful, and that if she really wanted to break out of house arrest, she could. Which is why she was more under emotional house arrest than physical.
And I also really liked that she clued in on what was going on as soon as Vision tried to keep her from going to the store. Wanda is sharp.
Oh man, did I really appreciate Natasha’s participation in this plot, particularly given her being so important in Winter Soldier. I came into this film really curious as to how they’d play her being on the side of signing the Accords, but did not anticipate that she’d also let Tony and Bucky go during the big fight at the airport.
Of which, nice snark from Tony about that too, about how she just couldn’t stop being a double agent.
And, by the time we got to the end of the movie, I was very curious as to Natasha’s status. Last we see her, she’s at Tony’s side while Rhodey’s condition is being evaluated. She was not locked up in the Raft, which suggests that her actions during the fight at the airport were not made known outside the Avengers’ own circle. And she did sign the Accords. So this’ll be interesting for the next Avengers movie, I’m sure.
I was prepared to be annoyed that it was one of the black dudes who wound up being a casualty of this conflict–but then, they didn’t actually kill him off. And it did help some that Rhodes wasn’t the only black man in the cast, either!
And he did have a good little speech to Tony at the end, about how he was at peace with what happened to him. The man has a clear moral compass, and so even though he’s a supporting character here, he brings a lot of strength to his part in the story. Well done there sir.
I will be very curious to see whether the MCU will proceed with having him link up romantically with Captain Marvel. They were involved in the comics, as I saw reading Captain Marvel myself!
How adorable is it that Sam has a falcon drone that he named Redwing? 😀 And his prickly exchanges with Bucky were some of the best bits of the movie.
REALLY nice to see Bucky’s advancement as a character here, and how he managed to shake most of his conditioning enough to go off the grid until Zemo’s actions forced the Avengers to go after him. I think my favorite bits with him (aside from the aforementioned grinning at Cap smooching Sharon) were how he reacted to Zemo flinging the trigger words at him–because he knew damn well what was about to happen, and Sebastian Stan does a great job portraying his fear and panic as he tries to fight that off.
And oh man, his conscience and self-doubt. I loved his line to Steve as well about not being sure he’s worth all their effort, and how Steve didn’t even find that worth trying to argue about because duh, of course he’s going to save him.
And we get to see that Bucky has his own moral compass, and how he gets to decide to put himself back into cold sleep until a cure for his Hydra conditioning can be found.
I didn’t expect to see this character again! During the fight in Lagos, I didn’t catch him being mentioned by name, and hadn’t really managed to register the character’s name before. I kept expecting him to be Bucky, honestly–until he was finally unmasked, at which point I went OH HE’S THAT GUY. By which I meant, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was really a Hydra operative, who we saw prominently in Winter Soldier.
And, reading about him on Wikipedia, I see that he apparently actually killed Cap in the Civil War storyline in the comics. I’m glad they didn’t actually do that here.
And now, the bad guy. After Age of Ultron, which certainly had some world-shattering stakes, I was actually pretty surprised and pleased to see that the primary bad guy of this movie had a much narrower focus. He didn’t want to destroy the world. He didn’t want to conquer the world. He wasn’t trying to find some super-powerful artifact.
He just wanted to destroy the Avengers. And he was smart enough to realize that he wouldn’t be able to destroy them himself, so he’d have to get them to destroy each other.
I gotta respect that. And I especially must respect that even though he was captured at the end, he didn’t exactly lose. Because now the Avengers have been fractured. Half of them are going to be on the run as fugitives, and of the ones who actually did sign the Accords, it’s not like they’re on especially good standing as it is. Stark’s got some level of freedom given how rich and powerful he is, but I’m expecting the others to be under very, very close watch.
Tony. Tony Tony Tony. This was almost as much his movie as it was Steve’s, even though it was Cap’s name in the title. And he had some great wrenching reactions to events all throughout this story. I winced for him when it was revealed that he and Pepper had separated. And RDJ is wonderful when the angry mother confronts him about her son being killed in Sokovia, when he goes to recruit young Peter Parker, when he orders Peter to stand down from the battle (“you are DONE!”), and when he finally learns that Bucky killed his parents. Killed his mother–and how interesting is it that he freaks out over Bucky killing his mom, specifically, as opposed to his parents? Nice little underscore of Tony’s fractious relationship with his father, there.
And oh my, that exchange he has with Steve: “He’s my friend.” “So was I.” WAUGH.
I don’t have much experience with Tony in the comics–I’ve only seen him when he’s appeared in the solo Black Widow issues I’ve read. But MCU Tony, I know. And after seeing several movies’ worth of this version of the character, I am long familiar with his trying to throw ALL THE MONEY at all the problems in the world, and how he just wants to fix everything for everybody, and how it rips him up when things just get worse. Oooof.
Dara told me, as we were talking about the movie, that what played really interestingly for her is Tony’s progression from “I’ve privatized peace!” in Ultron to his being willing to submit to UN authority here. All part of Tony’s complex character development, all throughout the MCU’s films.
Last but not least, our boy Steve. <3
I loved every moment he has in this film. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people often complain about not liking Cap or Superman because they’re “Boy Scout” heroes, but give me a heroic character with a clear moral compass any day of the week. Steve’s arc, particularly playing off against Tony’s, is fascinating. This is the character whose origins have him being perfectly happy to fight for his country–and now he’s not, so much. This is the character who now has a huge mistrust of powerful authority, particularly after discovering that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been infiltrated by Hydra. No small wonder that the only powers he really trusts are his teammates.
I just wanted to hug the man during the scene at Peggy’s funeral. And I particularly appreciated that Natasha was there to hug him for us all.
I loved that at the end, when he reached out to Tony, he did it via a hand-written letter. Not a phone call or an email–a letter. Because of course he did.
And then he went and got Bucky safely to Wakanda. And broke everybody on his side out of the Raft. 😀
And like Elyse on the Smart Bitches review, I was VERY impressed by the biceps porn because DEAR SWEET GODS THOSE ARMS.
All in All
There is a LOT going on in this film, and there are a lot of characters to keep track of. But unlike the other reviews I’ve read, I didn’t find this movie overstuffed. Every single character had an important part to play, large or small. That went a long way for me in making the story cohesive. Ultimately, I found it a far more cohesive Avengers flick than Ultron, in fact.
I’ve seen a lot of commentary going around about “superhero fatigue” in movies. Not for me! If Marvel can continue to hand us movies as tightly character-driven as this one, I am very much in for the long haul.
Highly recommended. Go see it!