[review] Captain America: Civil War

[Spoilers from here on out]
The story picks up with the Avengers hunting down Crossbones who’s stealing a biological weapon from a laboratory in lagos. Crossbones is about to blow himself up once the gig goes tits up for him, but gets thrown into the air by Wanda Maximoff. He explodes in the proximity of a building, killing Wakandan social workers in the process.

This is the last nail in the coffin that is the Avengers since the proceedings in Sikovia from Age of Ultron, a UN panel will take control of the Avenger’s actions from now on.

Tony Stark, being reminded of his failure with Ultron by the mother of an engineer being killed in Sikovia, is eager to sign the Sikovia Accords while Steve Rogers sees himself being reduced to an instrument by a new organization (he just cast off his shackles in Captain America – The Winter Soldier).
Both men recruit supporters of their views on the future of the Avengers, and as if the situation isn’t already combustible enough, Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier a former ally of Captain America is the number one suspect of a bomb assassination at a UN conference, killing King T’Chaka of Wakanda in the process.

This movie was misbranded by being woven into Captain America’s cinematic single narrative. It should have been an Avengers movie. Look at the roster of characters that are in this one:

  • Tony Stark – Iron Man
  • James Rhodes – War Machine
  • Steve Rodgers – Captain America
  • Sharon Carter
  • Bucky Barnes – The Winter Soldier
  • Crossbones
  • The Falcon (& Redwing)
  • Natasha Romanova – Black Widow
  • Vision
  • T’Challa – Black Panther
  • Zemo
  • General “Thunderbolt” Ross
  • Clint Barton – Hawkeye
  • Scott Lang – Ant-Man
  • Wanda Maximoff
  • Peter Parker – Spider-Man
  • May Parker (which is two minutes in the movie but is essential for Spider-Man to work)
  • Everett K. Ross

While it is Steve Rodgers unshakeable worldview that builds the back of the conflict, so many pieces get add onto this base, making it much more than just one persons journey.

I am not that intimated when looking at all those names because i’ve read Marvel comics for fifteen+ years and have a basic idea what they are about.
But this movie had the treat of viewers falling of the train while it is running at full speed, if not jumping off it at their own volition. So i applaud all the people who said “yes” to trusting in the world building that has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the intelligence of the audience.

Almost everything these people do is part of a logical continuation of the events that shaped their narrative so far and in this case guides their trajectory on a collision course. But for now, keep it simple by positioning the magnifying glass over the two prominent faces on the poster:

• Tony realizes that he has, to a certain point reverted back to his beginnings: manufacturing weapons and being an egomaniac. Only this time, he did it despite knowing better, and what does he do to fix problems? Encase them in armor. But this time he’s about to encase the people around him. And handing the control of that armor to a group of people, therefore absolving him of every mistake made under their tenure, is an opportunity to have a scapegoat at hand if things go wrong in the future and take control back/bend it to his rules.[After the ending of Iron Man 3, with him getting rid of the arc reactor in his chest, i wish we would have seen a Tony Stark that abandons the armor. He could have worked through the trauma of abduction and being a source of a lot of pain (his weapons not only empowering the US but also their “enemies”, every person with a piece of sheet metal and a soldering iron trying to catch the lighting in a bottle that he did, learning that there are forces beyond the ones on earth that pose a treat) but still having his ego tell him that he has to do Iron Man’s job instead of a fleet of drones, thus creating Ultron.]

• Steve Rogers on the other hand knows firsthand what people will do for power and what the powerful do to cement their status. His duty is to the people, because his biggest asset and achilles heel is that he heeded Doctor Ereskine’s advice, and, like Tony Stark, uses his enhanced physique as a suit of armor steered by the frail but morally steadfast man from Brooklyn. And while Tony solves his interior conflict by projecting them onto his surroundings, Steve internalizes it. He goes rogue to get to Bucky, because he has to give his friend one more chance, but surely would bring him in if he’s convinced of Bucky’s guilt. At the end he is ok with Bucky being put in cryo stasis again because he is aware that his friend still is a loaded gun stored under a pillow in the living room until he is in full control of his actions. (My only complaint with his MCU story is that by this point he should be called Agent Rogers instead of Captain America.)

While both men realize that the their counterpart has a valid viewpoint on the matter, they hold onto their cemented views and behavior. Their issues gets further illustrated by their dealings with Wanda: Tony locks her up in a golden cage while Steve sees her as a kid with to much pressure on her shoulders. Sadly it is never addressed that she caused the death of innocent people while trying to save bystanders.

And this is where Black Panther and Spider-Man come in. Both start out on team Iron-Man, T’Chala because he wants the instigator of his fathers dead brought to justice in the guise of Wakanda’s protector, the Black Panther while Spider-Man is taken hostage like Tony Stark was as part of his origin story as Iron-Man.

These two characters could represent the changes the MCU could go through due to this movie:

• Peter realizes that there is no right or wrong side. Perhaps he is aware of the madness he is drafted into, all those people he looked up to trying to solve an argument by punching each other. And while the second post-credit sequence reveals him to still maintains contact with Tony, i’m not sure if at some point he will oppose his benefactor. While i see Peter as Tony’s hostage, he genuinely wants to help Peter achieve his full potential but again, tries to build something he can control rather than providing a helping hand. But with the Sikovia Accords in effect, being on Iron-Man’s payroll is the only thing keeping Spidey out of jail.

• Black Panther’s story is intertwined with the movies villian’s story, one of the bad parts of the film. He starts out as a man driven by the need to avenge his father’s murder. But not by demanding blood for blood, but by the perpetrator to be brought to justice. And that is already very progressive for a mainstream movie made in the USA. Also, he is willing to listen to Black Widow’s advice about Steve having a valid reason for protecting Bucky. Granting Team Cap refuge in Wakanda is a very progressive step. It seems like T’Chala is aware that the whole Avenger’s Initiative needs a new business plan, imprisoning the people that are against the Zikovia Accords is not the right way. It seems like an act of generosity but he’s actually keeping them on a short leash in a Wakanda shaped prison while he can take influence on Team Iron-Man through his liaison in the UN.

And how awesome where the few sequences that featured the two? Black Panther oozes royalty through the suit, making the action feel like a ceremonial proceeding.

Spider-Man’s introduction was handled very well. Like mentioned earlier, the movie trusts the audience with knowing a bit about the figure, allowing the story to breathe instead of holding it in for time the introduction needs. This Spider-Man feels genuine. A teenager in over his head but giving it his best shot compensating with constant talking.

Sadly, no female members of the cast are in any more influential positions than they started out with. Black Widow gets another teaser of what we could see in a movie that features the character but ends up as Steve’s backup.

Wanda sadly also is only a vehicle to put a light on Vision’s evolution and have somebody show cleavage.

And then there is Sharon Carter, the niece of Steve Rogers former love interest Peggy Carter (sounds strange, but due to some cryogeni shenanigans coupled with the super soldier serum Captain America ends up not aging from the 50s to today while his old companions aged in real time) who is just there so Cap has a love interest and an eye in the enemy camp. When the priest introduces her at the funeral he could have said “here’s Steves brand new squeeze”.

Which brings me to the surprise that is Daniel Brühls Helmut Zemo. Former Sirkovia intelligence officer bent on vengeance after his child and wife died during the Ultron event. He frames Bucky for the bombing that kills King T’Chaka and with that initiates the events that tip off the goodwill the world had towards the Avengers.

But his endgame isn’t that solid. Uncovering a Hydra super-soldier program whose successes have been put in cryo stasis in syberia, Bucky and Cap rush there to try and stop him from defrosting the five person army stored there. Luckily, at this point even Iron-Man figured out that there’s more to his former partner’s actions than saving a friend and Black Panther is following him which on one hand makes the final part of his plan come into fruition: revealing that the Winter Soldier killed Tony Stark’s parents to Tony Stark via an oddly good locking surveillance tape from a camera in the middle of nowhere and on the other hand places Zemo into Wakandan costudy. If Tony had not show up the whole thing would have been a dud because Zemo killed the Hydra super-soldiers and needed Iron-Man to face off with Cap and Bucky to escape the scene. Also, the attempted suicide afterwards could have already happened somewhere in the location.

A very important piece of the movie are the action sequences. It is quite a task to film and edit together a cohesive fight between so many characters that are visually striking, which makes it easier to comprehend for the viewer, but also each have a unique set of offensive capabilities that should be utilized in creative ways to keep the viewer engaged. For me it worked. Oftentimes its small things like Bucky using his adamantium coated artificial arm as a shield and the means to escape in a very narrow stairway.

And as if all the above mentioned things aren’t enough here are a few thoughts about the other characters:

• James Rhodes – War Machine: Rhodey has to bring Tony “back to earth” again. This time by loosing his legs when Vision accidentally cutting the War Machine-armor’s power. But he stays with his friend and i hope that this new phase in their friendship is used to develop Tony more. Perhaps the therpeutic hologram technology is of use for them both.

• Sam Wilson – The Falcon (& Redwing): Making a drone out of Redwing made me smile. I’d prefer a falcon that has a telepathic link to Sam. His motivation is “i trust Cap” and hopefully he’ll get more time in future movies. Perhaps with Black Widow?

• Vision: Powerful stuff. Until he shot down War Machine he was thought of as a being not able of failure. But trough the care he shows for Wanda while acting as her “warden” as Tony kept her locked up in the Avengers tower it seems like emotions made their way into his being. His final scene, holding a chess piece, does illustrate perfectly how frail he must feel. A day ago i assume nobody was able to win a game of chess against him, and now he can’t even trust his own judgement anymore, making his study of the infinity gem more dangerous for him and the people around him.

• General “Thunderbolt” Ross: With his super prison compromised and him showing up outside of a Hulk movie he surely will cook up some way to get to the renegade Avengers.

• Clint Barton – Hawkeye: He seems a bit more like the Fraction/Aja-run Clint Barton. Wonder if his family gets flown to Wakanda or if the US puts them in house arrest and how he will react to that.

• Scott Lang – Ant-Man: No idea. I can imagine him getting the Pyms down to Wakanda and improve the Giant, i mean Ant-Man suit.

I enjoyed this movie. It has flaws and a few holes but even with all of those combined, it is a how-to for the DC movie department. It honors the audience and the characters and that is a thing that many big budget movies lack these days.

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