I find myself struggling to classify what Captain America: Civil War is. It’s a great movie, with some of the best action scenes I’ve ever seen. It also has several powerful character arcs, some that even steal the show away from it’s “main” stars. However, under all of that is a story that while powerful in nature, kind of fizzles out in its execution.
Now, if there is anyone here who didn’t read my Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice review, I would encourage you to read the first few paragraphs where I outline how I am a Marvel and DC Comics fan, and that I value character stories and impact more than flash and action. It is because of this that I note what I do, and score this film as I do. So, let’s begin.
WARNING: Major Spoilers Below!
At its core, Captain America: Civil War is about responsibility. Both to our friends, and to those we claim to want to protect. After an incident involving the Avengers causes the world to reconsider its views on the team, Secretary of state Thunderbolt Ross (making his MCU return after being in The Incredible Hulk film in Phase 1) reveals to them the Sorkovia Accords. Basically saying that the Avengers need oversight, and that if they sign the documents, they’ll be allowed to stay a team, but with guidance from most of the countries of the world. Advising where to go, and when. No more “rogue” operations like in Age of Ultron or The Winter Soldier.
Naturally, there is division amongst them. Steve Rogers believes in the freedom to choose when to intervene, as “agendas” can cloud a mind, let alone over 117. Then there’s Tony Stark, who has his world shaken and sees that they need oversight or they aren’t better than the bad guys.
Which lends to the other problem. Tony. When we left Tony after Age of Ultron, he wanted to step away with Pepper and build a better life. Here, we find out they’re “taking a break”. And after being confronted by a mother who lost her child during the events of AOU, he feels the need to sign the Accords. This would be great…except, he shouldn’t feel like this over the loss of one person he didn’t know. The Avengers lost Coulson right in front of them basically (remember, they don’t know he’s alive) and they banded together to save the world. Though they may not show it, they remember that sacrifice. Or even Quicksilver, who’s memory is the reason one cast member returns to fight. These deaths mean something, and proven to mean something. It comes off as odd for Tony to feel this way, even in his vulnerable state.
Then we get to the conflict of the film, Bucky. Who gets framed, and has both the Avengers and the world thinking he blew up a major UN meeting. Because of the Accords, Cap and Iron fight on different sides to try and get Bucky for different reasons. When the “truth” about who’s really behind the bombing, things break down further as Tony doesn’t believe Steve. And because of the Accords has a countdown to capture him and his rogue team until the UN and Ross send their men after them.
I cannot speak enough about the friendship Steve and Bucky show in this film. Once Bucky returns, we see the tortured character within, moreso than we ever did in TWS. Steve’s loyalty to him is what drives most of the movie and its key scenes, and that’s not a bad thing. As is the “rivalry” between Bucky and Sam, who basically bicker with one another cause they both consider Cap their best friend. More on that later.
But, the all-star, the MVP, the breakout star of the film…is Black Panther. Expecting someone else? Sorry. Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa as if he was ripped straight from the comic pages, and thank goodness! For any other kind of portrayal would be disingenuous to the warrior king. His story is truly the third branch of the conflict, as his path is vengeance and not justice. Panther is a beast, but not without a heart. Several of his scenes were incredibly powerful both physically and emotionally. This should get everyone excited for his solo movie.
And yes…Spider-Man is great too. Tom Holland does a wonderful job of playing the “down on his money and luck” Peter Parker. And double yes, he is as quippy as you expect from the Web Slinger. With easily some of the best jokes and one-liners as is his nature. But…
Was he really necessary? I ask you to honestly think about this. In the Civil War comic, the loyalty of Spider-Man was a quintessential aspect of the plot. So much so that he switched sides after learning about what Tony Star and Reed Richards were doing to those not on their side. Here though, he’s a simple recruit, who is literally “dismissed” after the major fight scene. It almost begs the question of “was this added just for fun?” And don’t get me wrong, you could say the same thing for Ant-Man. Who has very little dialogue, and appears to have a new power (straight from the comics) that just happens to have been tested off screen. Also, he sounded different when suited up in this movie versus his solo film. Just a note.
One last weird thing. The “relationship” with Scarlet Witch and Vision, who had some great moments himself, was odd. While true to the comics, it felt odd that they’re “that close” despite only having a few scenes together in Age of Ultron. Yes, time has passed since then, but, with no buildup, it felt much like Widow/Hulk. You could also say that about another relationship that formed here.
Now let’s get to the action. Yes, Civil War has some of the greatest action scenes in the history of comic book movies, period. Yes, that airport scene was better than the clash between Batman and Superman, by far even due to the scope. Everyone got a chance to shine, and it was truly a back-and-forth tug of (Civil) war that showed just how amazing these characters are with their abilities and powers.
Even early on, as a chase scene occurs we see Bucky on the run from Captain America and Black Panther. I don’t think this scene will get enough credit for how fun and high-octane it was. And yes, when Captain and Iron Man go toe-to-toe in the final battle, it’s epic…but…
Was it necessary? Again, think about this honestly and objectively. Tony had realized that Steve was right. Bucky wasn’t behind the murders at the UN, and they were all being played. He even apologized to Bucky. They tracked the villain (about to talk about him) to a secret base, where he reveals that Bucky was the cause of the deaths of Howard and Maria Stark. This sends Tony into a rage, in which he tries to kill Bucky, and even Cap. Why? “He killed my mother.”
This rang hollow to me. A) Because Tony rarely talked about his mother in the movies, his father was more of a focus. And B) Because he basically stated he didn’t care about all the other tragedies Bucky had done under his brainwashing, just that he killed his parents.
Now I won’t fully dismiss the storyline because of this, as it was truly the villain who made this kind of pointless. The MCU arrival of Helmut Zemo (aka Baron Zemo in the comics) was anything but true to the character. And even worse, as many have noted, he’s the latest in the long line of “standard Marvel movie villains”. While his motivations were understandable to an extent. How he went about his plan, and the reasoning behind part of what he did, took leaps in logic at points, and were pointless backstory in others.
On the bright side, this film does have the classic Marvel humor you expect from the films. It really adds light and life to the situation. My personal favorite coming from Bucky and Sam, who made the whole theater I was in laugh without saying a single word between them. Spider-man, Ant-Man, even Tony and Steve some great one-liners to the affair.
You may have reached this point and thought, “Man, this guy is going to give Civil War a low score!” I’m not. I know that may be surprising, but I’m not. This was a great film. However, certain characters didn’t add anything to this, storylines that were meant to be important just didn’t feel as such. And unlike Winter Solider, I don’t see how the ending will affect the larger MCU until Infinity War comes out.
I liked Civil War, I truly did. But it wasn’t the best Marvel movie, and not the “greatest comic book movie of all time” like I’ve heard many say. Not to me anyway. I’d give the same advice here as I did for Batman V Superman. If you want to see it, go see it. That’s the power you have, to choose whether to see it or not. But go into it with an open mind. That way it’s you deciding what’s good and what’s not, and not someone else.
Captain America: Civil War will be known for a lot of things I think. The inclusion of Spider-Man, some great action scenes, and some magnificent debuts. But, I’ll remember it also for a story that had a bunch of potential and power, that didn’t hold up throughout.