Spoiler Warnings On!
I was able to go out and see Captain America: Civil War twice this weekend. I had been anticipating it’s release as I have enjoyed both of the prior Captain America movies. Winter Soldier ranks as my second favorite Marvel movie. My only concern was about the storyline. I had not enjoyed Civil War in the comics and wondered how it would translate to the MCU.
My concerns were unfounded as I loved it!
There are many reasons to love Captain America: Civil War. The ones that stood out for me were how it deals with the big issues, great characterization, Black Panther, and all the nice flourishes throughout.
In Civil War, the audience gets to see how our heroes deal with the consequences of their actions, the ideas of friendships and loyalty, and staying true to themselves. The operation in Lagos going sideways is where it all begins. In an effort to stop a violent arms dealer, the team engages Crossbones as he tries to get a biological weapon out of the country. He was horrifically scarred during the incident at Sokovia and his hatred for Captain America overwhelms his sense of self preservation. In the middle of a busy market place in the middle of the city, Crossbones attempts to blow himself and Cap into little bits only to have Scarlet Witch whisk him into the air. Captain America and many others are spared but innocents still die and Wanda is devastated by her actions.
This destruction has international consequences as eleven of the victims were aid workers from the Kingdom of Wakanda. Tony arrives with Secretary of State Ross who comes bearing the Sokovia Accords. It is a treaty between 117 nations requiring the Avengers to subject themselves to UN oversight and control. Captain America can not see himself giving up the freedom to make the choices necessary in the cases where the Avengers are needed. He also doesn’t want to give up the responsibility that comes with the powers that each of them has. Iron Man sees the Avengers as weapons that have a devastating effect wherever they go. He sees this as a responsibility that shouldn’t be shoulder by the Avengers alone. These two viewpoints create the battle lines that arise in Civil War. There are those that see themselves as weapons that need to be monitored and those that would continue doing the work and taking the responsibility onto their own shoulders. Thus are friendships and loyalties tested.
Despite the weight of the material presented, the characters remain true to themselves. Captain America has been set up throughout the movies as both loyal and independent. He does the right thing without the need of orders to make it happen. Cap will also defy orders to do that which is right and that continues to play out in Civil War. Tony is still the egotistical man child but he is undergoing a growth spurt. This transition is leaving him vulnerable and emotionally stretched beyond his capacity. He is still the smartest man in any room that he walks into but his moral compass is clouded by emotional distress that he is under. This idea is particularly highlighted for me in the big tent pole fight between sides. Black Widow and Hawkeye are struggling with each other and Natasha takes the time to check in and ask that they are still friends. Hawkeye answers with a wink, “It depends on how hard you hit me?” The two most grounded members of the Avengers understand that this is just a moment in time that will pass and the important issue is that they still have each other.
I also loved how the movie handled all these issues while subtly siding with Captain America. The best example of how the movie does this is with Secretary Ross. Ross was the man who was tasked with hunting down the Hulk. While doing this, he put his daughter in danger, created a monster, and allowed things to get out of hand so that part of Harlem was destroyed. He waltzes into the Avengers to point out to them the destruction which has followed them with the air of self-righteousness despite being the architect of such destruction on his own. In his conversation about the Sokovia Accords he then asks the group about the whereabouts of Hulk and Thor. He then states that there would be repercussions if he lost a 30 megaton nuclear weapon. Ross completely ignores that these two are people and aren’t under arrest so don’t owe it to anyone to make their whereabout known. Ross illustrates Cap’s point eloquently.
Black Panther is another reason to love this movie. In the character of Black Panther we get are introduced to a hero without getting his origin. We get to meet T’chala as he accompanies his father, King T’chaka to the Sokovia accords. Despite skipping the origin, Black Panther gets a full story arc told in miniature in this movie. We get to watch as he takes up the mantle of king and vengeance after the death of his father. T’chala gets to show off his powers as he goes up against both Captain America and Winter Soldier in his quest for revenge. We watch as he sees the price of vengeance and power and makes the choice to not be consumed by either. It is a very powerful moment when we get to see him have the true mastermind of his father’s demise at his fingertips. He retracts his claws and refuses to allow Zemo to commit suicide to avoid the consequences of what he has done.
Finally, I love this movie for all the little bits that are so amazing that make the whole so good. We get to see every hero on the screen have their own moments. Hawkeye and Ant Man aren’t given as much screen time as the Cap and Iron Man but presence it felt and remembered. Then there is Spider-Man. He too, is given a limited amount of screen time but still shines. Tom Holland does an excellent job of capturing both Peter Parker and Spider-Man in his performance. I love how it blends the Bourne Identity with superheroes with such ease. The chase scene feels like an homage to the Bourne Identity and other spy movies. The transitions to the scene from December 1991 to present day keeps the tension building so that in the final reveal of the awful truth of what happened that day and who knew about it is both a relief and devastating at the same time. There is also the scene where Black widow is waiting to speak to T’chala at his car. One of his royal guards tells her to move or I will move you. This was awesome because Black Panther’s royal guards are the elite warriors of Wakanda and on par with Black Widow. It is a small easter egg that T’chala acknowledges when he says he would like to see that and then has his guard stand down.
Also, all the powers on display. Squee!
I give Captain America: Civil War four bear paws out four. The acting throughout the movie is top notch, the effects are awesome, and the story is good. It may lean a bit to the dark side with the material covered but this can be forgiven as it makes sure to keep the darkness from becoming overwhelming while keeping hope for a better day alive throughout. Definitely worth seeing at the theater. I know I plan on seeing it at least one more time.