Living abroad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I can’t wait to be back in the good old USA. But life outside the US does have one notable advantage–I get to watch Marvel movies a week before my friends back home. Right now my brother’s gnashing his teeth in frustration as I wave in his face the awesomeness of having seen Captain America: Civil War. Reviews are bound to start flooding in soon, but here’s mine ahead of the tide.
Like most of you guys, I’ve had this on my calendar since ten months ago (after Ant-Man). The first few months I was on IMDB everyday reading and sharing theories and expectations. It felt like the day of the movie would never come. Then, I managed to get over it and enjoyed life for six months. All of a sudden two weeks ago I passed by the movie theater, saw the posters, and was like “woah, Captain America’s coming out at the end of this month. I’d completely forgotten about it.”
Anyway, my preamble there is mainly to set-up the question of whether the movie was ultimately worth the wait and buildup. The short answer: Yes. Civil War is a great movie, definitely one of the best of the MCU. Is it is as good as The Winter Soldier? That’s a tough question and highly subjective. I would venture to say that this film doesn’t quite reach the level of its predecessor.
It certainly beats the second Captain America film in terms of epic scale and spectacle. But the Winter Soldier succeeds in creating a very tight plot that continually has you on the edge in suspense. The kind of experience you have watching The Dark Knight or Breaking Bad (well, the first four seasons).
Civil War doesn’t do as good a job at achieving that. The abundance of characters and things going on with each of them takes steam out of the cauldron to some degree, although that’s probably unavoidable in an ensemble film of this type. Audience members like me who are emotionally invested in the characters from movie to movie will be very captivated, but I think average movie goers might feel like this installment in the saga drags a bit. It isn’t that big an issue, though; overall Captain America 3 is very enjoyable.
Here’s what you should know about the plot: The movie starts off in 1991 with shots of Winter Solider being sent by HYDRA on a mission to retrieve super soldier serum. He’s seen killing the driver of the car transporting it. This scene is replayed various times throughout the film and its ramifications are critical for the climax.
In the present day, Avengers Captain America, Wanda, Black Widow, and Falcon are working in Nigeria to stop Crossbones from stealing a biological weapon. The situation goes awry and lots of innocent people, including Wakandans, are killed.
This leads the United Nations to push the Sokovia Accords, which would place the Avengers under the control of a United Nations-formed governing body. The Avengers are expected to sign or retire from crime-fighting. They debate among themselves; Cap is against signing, while Tony–who feels a lot of guilt over the destruction he causes in Age of Ultron–is for it. Tony argues that by cooperating early, they can retain some control in a measure that would eventually happen anyway.
Things become more complicated when a bomb goes off during the signing of the accords and Bucky is implicated. T’Challa, whose father is killed in the explosion, gets into the mix to take down the Winter Soldier.
Cap, however, believes Bucky is innocent and evades the law to protect him. They soon discover a plot by Colonel Zemo of Sokovia to wake-up several cryogenically frozen HYDRA super soldiers. Iron Man is pressured by the government to bring Bucky in or else Rogers and everyone on Team Cap will become targets to be shot on site. Cap’s either got to persuade Tony to help him.
Things take a really interesting turn in the final act of the film. I can’t give it away here (though I will below in the Spoiler Area), but I thought it was a very well-written turn of events. And it plays into the freedom vs. accountability question.
In fact, the twist resolves one of the concerns I had going into the film. Like a lot of people, I thought the presence of Zemo as a guy I assumed would be manipulating the Accords would undermine Tony’s position and make Cap obviously right–something I thought would cheapen the moral debate. I turned out to be wrong. In fact, in my opinion, Zemo’s role kind of strengthens Tony’s argument (more on that in the Spoiler Area).
Also, the movie is more than a Steve/Bucky bromance as many anticipated. The Bucky situation is very much tied into the Sokovia Accord dilemma.
And of course you want to know about Spider-man. I’d say he’s in the movie for about 15 minutes, maybe a little more (I wasn’t looking at my watch). Less than Black Panther (who has a very prominent role) but more than Ant-Man (who, by the way, does go Giant).
“I was wrong about you. The whole world was wrong about you.” Those lines from the trailer don’t actually appear in the movie (like most of the lines from the trailer, actually), but they definitely apply to Tom Holland as Spiderman. He’s a great Peter Parker. In the short amount of time he’s on-screen, he comes across as courageous, noble, smart, but still unsure of himself. He’s not as confident/cocky as Andrew Garfield, but also not cringeworthily dorky like Tobey Maguire. And the interplay between him and RDJ is great.
I have to say, though, that I like Holland a bit more as Peter Parker than as Spiderman. He’s a bit too childish and naive during the fight scenes, but I think that’s what they’re going for. I’m sure we’ll see Spiderman progress in subsequent movies.
Overall, I say Captain America: Civil War earns an 8/10. It does a great job balancing all the different characters and subplots. In my opinion, it’s better than both Avengers movies.
A quick list of high points and nitpicks before we get into the Spoiler Area and the question of “Who was right, Captain America or Iron Man?.”
- Crossbones, during his brief time on screen, was awesome.
- So was Black Panther.
- The relationship between Vision and Wanda.
- The bromance triangle between Cap, Bucky, & Falcon, with Falcon acting like a girl getting jealous when her guy’s ex shows up.
- Tony Stark–we got to see a deeper, more complex Tony than we’re used to.
- The final confrontation between Iron Man and Cap/Buck–more so the emotional aspect than the fighting itself.
- Paul Rudd–brought some of the best comic relief in the movie as Ant-Man.
- Tony knocking out Falcon with his phaser.
- RDJ looking 21 again in a hologram scene. Makes me wonder whether they can’t keep the Iron Man movies going even when Downey’s in his 60s.
- “That shield doesn’t belong to you. You don’t deserve it. My father made it.” In its context, maybe the most powerful line in the movie.
- Are we ever going to get a great Marvel movie score? Just listen to Corynorinhus from the Batman Begins soundtracks-can we get something like than in the next Avengers?
- Spiderman’s costume–he looked entirely CGI. For the next movie, let’s hope they put Holland in the suit.
- Iron Man taking hits from Cap/Bucky–I thought Tony’s armor was going to be compromised in some way, but no. Somehow a suit that can take heavy artillery fire and and blows from Iron Monger, Whiplash, and Thor gets phased by punches and kicks from two guys just a bit stronger than the average human.
- Shaky cam fight scenes. Please, Russos, we want to enjoy the fighting. We can’t if we’re not even able to tell what’s going on.
- I didn’t think it was possible for Thundebolt Ross to be a bigger douche. He proved me wrong in this movie. Plus, how did he become Secretary of State after the whole Hulk fiasco?
And now for the million dollar question: who was right, Tony Stark or Steve Rogers? The short answer: Iron Man. To learn why, check out the Spoiler Area below.
Who Was Right? (Here be Spoilers)
Okay, so in the end we learn that Zemo was never on a quest for world domination or anything. He ends up killing the HYDRA super soldiers in their sleep. It was all just a plan to get Cap, Bucky, and Iron Man in one place so they could kill each other after revealing to Tony that the Winter Soldier murdered his parents.
Zemo was just a guy who lost his family in Sokovia and wanted revenge against the Avengers. There was no infiltration of the government in the vein of HYDRA controlling SHIELD in the last movie. If that had happened, it would have made it too easy to say that Cap is in the right. So that was a brilliant move by the writers.
In Civil War, you have Tony arguing that the Avengers should be held accountable to the government. Steve Rogers is saying governments can’t be trusted and that they should have the freedom to go around fighting evil as they please.
In my judgement, in considering these two positions, the default side to take is Stark’s. The whole reason we create governments is to give it a monopoly on the use of force for justice. It’s what prevents the chaos that ensues when every person takes justice into his or her own hands.
We don’t give anyone the right to be a vigilante, no matter how smart, popular, or strong they are. Why should we allow these guys to do so simply because they have superpowers (well, really only a few of them–the rest use high-tech technology)? The fact that they’re ultra-powerful doesn’t mean they’re any more wise, virtuous, or disinterested than everyone else.
Yeah, the Avengers are good guys. But even someone like Cap is still a man with human passions and moral weaknesses. If he goes on a personal vandetta, or starts torturing innocents to get information, or needlessly destroys private property–who’s going to stop him? He obviously won’t step down himself.
The fallibility of human nature is why we have representative government. It’s true that our government can become corrupt. But ultimately it’s accountable to the people. We have the ability to vote out bad politicians and elect (hopefully) honest people who will fix the system.
But if Captain America or Falcon or Hawkeye go rogue, who’s going to vote them out? The case for superhero regulation is pretty clear. The burden of disproving it is on Captain America. But he doesn’t do a good job of doing it.
Throughout Civil War, Steve Rogers expresses his distrust of the government. But given the final revelation of Zemo’s real motivation, there really wasn’t cause for the distrust. It turns out the Avengers and their lack of oversight are what created Zemo the bad guy. And even though Cap wants to resolve the Bucky situation on his own, in striving to do it on his own he plays right into Zemo’s trap.
In fact, if Steve had simply signed the accords from the beginning and all the Avengers had worked together on the situation, they would probably have caught on to Zemo sooner. It was only their division that let Zemo get as far as he did. Hence the phrase “divided we fall.”
When you think about it, the case for distrusting the government isn’t that strong in the Marvel universe. Tony Stark wanted to keep his technology out of government hands in Iron Man 2. But they eventually got it via War Machine. Did anything bad happen? No. On the contrary, War Machine served many important missions for the military for several years.
The Avengers were originally brought together by the government–SHIELD. And Captain America did a lot of great work fighting terrorism, etc. during his time with SHIELD. Everything was working great, for the most part. The only problem was that HYDRA infiltrated the organization. But that doesn’t mean they have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The unsupervised Avengers created Ultron and all the ensuing destruction. The unsupervised Avengers inadvertently killed a bunch of civilians in Nigeria. And how many innocent Austrian police officers did Captain America send to the hospital acting on his own to protect Bucky?
Plus, Tony is right. The government would take action eventually. By cooperating and working with the established institutions rather than against them, they maintain some autonomy and influence rather than risk losing it all. Tony’s a realist while Steve’s an idealist. But we live in the real world where achieving good means you often have to compromise.
That’s why Tony wins the moral argument. But the real winners are the fans and audience members who got a great movie that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Marvel Studios, you’ve done it again.