Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

I know its been a couple of weeks since Captain America: Civil War was released, I thought I'd start the relaunch of the blog with a movie review of this film. I had tweeted several tweeted with a summary of my thoughts, but never felt I got to say everything I wanted to say.

Before I begin, THIS REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS in case you still haven't seen it.

When I first heard they were adapting the comic book event Civil War to film, my heart dropped. While many find the comic book event to be one of the greatest in Marvel history, I absolutely hated it. I hated it so much that I stopped reading Marvel books entirely. I hated Tony Stark so much, I almost boycotted Marvel Studios's first film Iron Man (2008) because I hated the character so much due to Civil War.

In the comic book event, the characters had such absolutist motivations. Everything was black and white. And, suddenly, characters were making strange decisions. Soon enough, Tony Stark was creating prisons in another dimension stripping people of all their civil rights because they refused to make their identities public. And, in some instances, there was a tacit approval of killing to bring the heroes in. For those who complied, young heroes were removed from their homes and forced into attend a boot camp of which several dangerous villains were given status to train the kids. Yes, its okay to kill Captain America and it's also okay to bring your arch enemies into your inner circle. Like I said, it didn't make any sense to me.

Thankfully, Marvel Studios took the essence of the comic book event and distilled it into a very meaningful and quite emotional story. And, they would not have been able to do any of this without the culmination of 8 years of films leading to this point. It is, perhaps, the greatest comic book movie of all time.

Instead of revolving around a Superhero Registration Act forcing superheroes to reveal their identities to the public and to be placed into a government controlled initiative, the film version starts off with a well seasoned group of team members trying to apprehend the villain Crossbones (Frank Grillo) who had stolen a biological weapon. Amidst the chaos of the extraction, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is unable to control her powers and sends an explosive into the side of a building. The next thing the Avengers find themselves confronting is the Secretary of State who's basically told them that the world's governments have grown wary of the collateral damage caused in their missions. And, thus, the Sokovia Accords are born. Named after the country that Ultron destroyed in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Sokovia Accords would put the Avengers activities under the control of the United Nations.

This is where it pays to have paid attention during the last eight year as you can see through the Iron Man films and the Avengers films that Tony (Robert Downey, Jr.) has started to feel great guilt for the collateral damage. On the flip side, in the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron, you see Captain America (Chris Evans) distrusting governmental power structures. He sees it important that the Avengers have a level of autonomy as not to get entangled in a Hydra like situation. So, right off the bat, you have two of the major characters with much stronger motivations to take the sides that they do. The story gets more complex when Cap's best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who was brainwashed into becoming the assassin known as the Winter Soldier, is accused of a crime.

From there, you see the rest of the team fall in line with Iron Man and Cap. But, it isn't about good soldiers (at least in most cases) falling neatly on to teams. This is now a team that has worked together for awhile and have, in many ways, become family. You have some obvious team ups in the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Cap's strongest ally, and War Machine (Don Cheadle), Iron Man's strongest ally. 

The most interesting one is Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) as she chooses Team Iron Man despite her very close relationship with Cap. Both she and Captain America discovered the Hydra inflitration of S.H.I.E.L.D. and even released thousands of records on both Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. to prevent such a situation from happening again. So,you would think she would easily fall into Team Cap. Even Falcon calls her on it. But, in the best writing of this character yet, we see her as a pragmatist who feels the best course of action is to get the public to trust them again by working under the Sokovia Accords. But, what makes it so great is that it's not a situation where she pounds her fist and suddenly calls Cap her enemy. She still genuinely cares for him and even comforts him at Peggy Carter's funeral. She believes in the Sokovia Accords, but she's not about to sell Cap out, either.

Speaking of relationships, I loved Marvel Studios's nod to Scarlet Witch's and The Vision's (Paul Bettany) relationship in the comics. For those not in the know, Scarlet Witch and The Vision had a romantic relationship and were married in the comics. Of course, the relationship is different in the films. They are both connected to the Mind Gem that gives The Vision life and Scarlet Witch her powers.

Another relationship that is fun is between the Falcon and The Winter Soldier. It's sort of this love/hate relationship. Both recognize that Captain America means something to them, so they can't help have a rivalry like two sons trying to get their father's attentions. There's a lot of humor between them which especially helps to humanize The Winter Solider.

Captain America: Civil War also introduces a couple new characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). One of them was Black Panther (Chad Boseman) who was announced with the presentation of the MCU's Phase 3. I cannot imagine a better Black Panther than Chad Boseman who is amazing both as the new King of Wakanda T'Challa and his warrior hero counterpart Black Panther. While the action sequences with Black Panther were just amazing, particularly the chase of the Winter Soldier through the streets of Berlin, the best moment, for me, was watching the interaction with his father at the United Nations session. And when his father dies, the way T'Challa cradles him in his arms. The transformation from grief to the need revenge all expressed within the matter of seconds. His motivation unfolded so beautifully.

Also in this film was the most highly anticipated introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe - Spider-Man (Tom Holland). In a historic deal with Sony Pictures who owns the movie rights to this character, Marvel Studios is now able to bring him into the MCU. Spider-Man has both been played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, but, in the limited time Spider-Man appears in this film, it's clear that Holland's portrayal of the character is the best. Taking the character back to its roots, including a costume inspired by the classic Steve Ditko suit, we have a younger, less assured, nerdy Peter Parker. This is the way the character is supposed to be and I cannot wait for his upcoming solo film Spider-Man: Homecoming next year.

One of the characters to steal the show, though, is one not new to the MCU, but to the Avengers. And that would be Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). Rudd brings the same awkward charm he brought Ant-Man's Scott Lang. When he meets Captain America for the first time, he is star struck and he wants to make a good impression. But, the best part for comic book fans was when Ant-Man used the Pym Particles to becoming Giant Man in what is the greatest fight sequence and comic book evocative scene at the Berlin airport. It opens such doors to his upcoming sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp in 2018.

The two characters I felt got the least amount of attention were War Machine and, once again, Hawkeye. I'm not quite sure why these particular characters have been a challenge for writers. War Machine does get a moment when he becomes a bit of a casualty of the airport sequence that ends the battle there. There is a great moment where Iron Man and the Falcon rush to his rescue. The Falcon's presence was needed to show, again, that these are enemies fighting each other. They are people who are family and who do care for each other at the end. But, Downey Jr.'s expression as he cradles War Machine is his arms shows how much he realizes the dangers of collateral damage in an even more personal way.

In the end, the MacGuffin turns out to be the Winter Soldier's relationship with Iron Man and not with Captain America. Through the machinations of the films villain Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) motivated to destroy the Avengers from within by revealing that the Winter Soldier was the one to kill Iron Man's father, an event that has haunted him. And, to top it off, Captain America knew that the Winter Soldier did it. Zemo then gets his revenge for his family killed in Sokovia as a battle ensues among Iron Man, Captain America and the Winter Soldier. Unlike the airport battle, the events of this battle fractured the Avengers and changed the landscape forever.

It was just amazing to me how Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely managed to write all these characters without making the film feel crowded. Everybody plays their part and you understand the motivation of every character. I am so glad to see Anthony and Joe Russo charged with the direction of the Avengers moving forward through Phase 3 as they have proven to really understand the characters. I'm looking forward to how the events of this film will reverberate into the MCU and the upcoming Infinity War. Until then, Make Mine Marvel!


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