It Always Ends in a Fight
At around my third giggling fit while watching Captain America: Civil War, I finally realized that this movie was something, different. I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of the MCU films to this point. Some more than others, but only a handful of the now thirteen flick deep universe have fully captured that inner child who spent lazy afternoons turning the pages of MARVEL comics. The first Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy spring to mind. I had an expectation going into Civil War; a story of conflicting ideals, and fractured friendships. What I wasn’t expecting was unbridled fun, and almost flawless storytelling.
At its core, Captain America: Civil War is that film about a fractured friendship, several of them actually. After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Steve Rogers and the rest of the Avengers aren’t exactly on the best of terms with a lot of people. Seen as a threat to civil liberties and safety due to the use of the power and the amount of collateral damage left in their wake, tension comes to a head when Scarlet Witch accidentally kills several people while trying to divert an explosion. This, being used as one of several events that illustrate the point that super humans need to be regulated. Adding to matters is the re-appearance of the Winter Soldier at United Nations bombing, killing many, including the Wakandan King, T’Chaka.
This is the center of the fundamental split among The Avengers. Half wanting to go along with the Sokovia Accords, and sign on as a government backed entity, while the others would like to operate as usual. Their thinking being that if the government can takes the blame, eventually, they’ll stop taking the risks needed to effectively operate. While Civil War may be a Captain America film, it doesn’t force you to take one side over the other.
If the spectacle is the MVP in this movie, the runner up would have to be the storytelling. Although Tony Stark and Steve Rogers may have fallen on opposite sides of this issue, neither of their stances come from nowhere. In fact, they’ve been built over 12 other films. Slowly framing the narrative of the two “lead” Avengers. Tony Stark, after everything, just wants to protect his friends, even from themselves. He finds himself responsible for their failures, and how the changing world views them. It’s the reason he became an Avenger to begin with, something he plainly states to Rogers during an argument. Yes, agendas change, but sometimes that can be for the better. Rogers on the other hand see’s himself, and those that choose to protect the world as singularly virtuous, and any bureaucratic involvement could change that. There’s also the selfish need to redeem his former best friend. In the end, they’re both right, and that’s what makes the movie so compelling. The battling ideals of two men who have no real reason to back down other than to compromise.
Which brings me to the weakest element of the movie; the villain. The MCU hasn’t had much in the way of great villains. Loki being the only exception on the movie front. Captain America: Civil War is no different. While Zemo’s motivations make sense, he has little to no presence other than to slightly push the plot along at certain points. Even to the point of contrivance. Other than a few reveals, he could have been taken out altogether and not really altered the movie much. He ultimately came off as the figurehead for what the Sakovia Accords stood for, just pushed to the brink by tragedy and loss. But the shift back to him as the antagonist in the third act does bring the movie to a sputtering stop instead of a grand finale. Which, after the airport fight scene, would have been a daunting task no matter the villain.
It’s amazing to think that with so much taking place, Civil War only stumbled with one section. Some may find the lack of a compelling villain as more of a knock, but with so much crowd pleasing action, and the play between existing characters, you hardly notice. There are 12 costumed heroes in this movie, and each of them gets their time to shine. Even the ones that only show up for brief periods. You get enough of their story to know why they chose which side, and there is either a satisfying end or the need to see more, in the best way possible. I almost wish Spider-Man wasn’t shown in any of the promos as he steals every scene he’s in, and if the audiences I saw the movie with are any indication, many of them weren’t even aware that he’d be in the movie.
Captain America: Civil War may be another entry in Cap’s saga, but it is also a culmination. More so than even Ultron was. The airport battle is basically a comic splash page come to life. It serviced the bigger picture in such a way that it didn’t feel distracting or trite. Black Panther has been established as a character all his own, bringing his regal demeanor to the group. A nice juxtaposition to the quippiness of Stark or the earnest heroics of Cap. His interactions with the rest of the established characters acted almost as his “origin” story, meaning we’ll likely jump into his solo film without the need to rehash anything. Again, a feat only possible because we’ve seen 12 other MCU films and the characters are so fully informed by the world already established.
There’s more to this movie than many may be expecting. The level of heart, and personal tragedy that paint our perceptions. We feel it when the friends eventually fight, because we fully empathize with them. We know the people under the masks, so their pain is ours to share. The moments of levity sprinkled throughout, a staple of the MCU also work to break the very real emotional hold. We need the reminders that certain characters are holding back to preserve their friendships, or that this won’t truly tear them apart, even if we, in the moment, aren’t entirely sure if that’s true. Those are the moments that stuck with me after my first viewing of Captain America: Civil War. Those moments that simultaneously pull back the curtain, while at the same time making us look in another direction. Cinema crafting at its finest, and all of the major players were wearing spandex. You need to see this movie.