CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR review

Boy do I love me some superhero movies. These Avengers movies have been a blast and I love them- er… mostly love them all. The Iron Man sequels and ANT-MAN weren’t my favorites. Didn’t hate them, nor do I think they’re bad, they just seemed too similar to each other without much thought put into the stories.

But in the spirit of good ole’ Cap himself, I’ll just quickly gloss over his movies and my thoughts on them. I haven’t seen either of the 1979 TV movies, so no opinion. I’ve also not seen 1990 CAPTAIN AMERICA, except for Nostalgia Critic’s review, which was hilarious. But I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count as “watching” it… of course, considering how many people say it’s bad, I’d say I’ve done myself a favor.

But enough of the forgotten superhero movies. Time for the Avengers-related bunch. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER was among my favorites of “Phase One.” A great updated look for the super soldier with some great action and acting. It was a great deal of fun and a wonderful prelude to THE AVENGERS. WINTER SOLDIER is tied for my favorite Avengers-related film, next to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Again, some incredible action, a great story about a boy scout in a morally ambiguous world, and the introduction of Falcon (Anthony Mackie)? Too bad-ass.

Now for my impressions of CIVIL WAR. Once again, I don’t read many comics, but I did manage to make time to read this one. Not the entirety of it, but most of it, so I feel like I’ll have a pretty good idea of what the comic aficionados will complain about. But as for me, yeah, I’m pretty freakin’ excited for this one. I sure do think this storyline was brought out a bit early, as there’s not enough heroes to make it as epic as the comic, but I suppose that would be a cast that would get really crowded otherwise. I do also think it’s weird that that last movie Captain America was in was AGE OF ULTRON, to which at the end of the movie came a brand new Avengers line-up consisting of Cap, Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Vision (Paul Bettany), War Machine, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Falcon, while Bruce Banner went AWOL, Iron Man and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) retired, and Thor’s probably still busy making whoopie with Natalie Portman. In short, they didn’t get to be Avengers before everything went to shit (pardon my language, Cap). But it still looks awesome, and the intro of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and the new Spider-Man (Tom Holland) are the most talked about elements of the movie. So despite the semi-awkward timing of this particular story, hell I feel like it’d work better as another Avengers movie, but I won’t lie that I’m looking forward to this like everyone else.

No more time wasted. It’s time to give my honest opinion of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR.

 (SUMMARY)

After a disastrous outing against evil, the Avengers are called in by once-General-now-Secretary-of-State Ross (William Hurt) to have them sign the Sokovia Accord, a treaty that basically states that the Avengers work specifically for U.N. and will be deployed to conflicts if they deem it necessary due to the fear they’ve inspired thanks to the event in New York, D.C., and Sokovia, despite the good they’ve done. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) agreed to sign, but Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) can’t bring himself to follow suit, as he thinks the team should operate wherever trouble brews without red tape getting in the way. While some Avengers sign the accord, others do not. This division is only made worse when a terrorist attack against the Wakandan Government takes the life of Wakanda’s King T’Chaka (John Kani), angering the King’s son T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is implicated as the terrorist. Steve doesn’t want to believe it and sets out to find Bucky first. He does, but the government manages to capture them and chaos ensues. With the Avengers divided in half between those that want to follow the Accords and bring Bucky in to face justice for a crime that he didn’t commit, and those that want to protect him, an epic clash is inevitable.

(REVIEW)

It’s very good, I really really like it… but, I had a few problems with it.

First and foremost, why was this a Captain America movie? Minus Thor and Hulk, it’s got pretty much all of the OG Avengers. This didn’t strictly need to be a Captain America story. As it does affect many of the established superheroes, the story’s conflict doesn’t just affect Cap.

A lot of my smaller issues with the story were at the beginning of the movie. I may not remember too many details to point out, but I remember a ton of moments where I was calling out, “uh, no.” Cap took a tank missile to the shield, and not even so much as a broken arm being about the only one that comes to mind.

Also that first scene featuring Black Panther chasing Bucky, this scene was really distracting. Were they running faster than cars? Hey, if you told me that is a power that Panther has, then fine, cool, but how can both Cap and Bucky do that? Even if you told me, “no, Daniel, in the comics, he actually can run as fast as a car.” That may be an established power he has in the comics, but that isn’t established in any of these movies. Or if you told me, “no, Daniel, those cars are just moving really slow.” Well, shit, then the camera work and directing should be called into question because it looks like they’re running faster than cars. I doubt this is the case because both Bucky and Cap hijack vehicles, and I doubt either man is obeying basic traffic laws.

***SPOILERS***

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I also complain about this build-up with Zemo (Daniel Brühl). Throughout the final weeks prior to this film’s release, Zemo was being hailed as the enemy that breaks the lame slew of baddies the Marvel movies have been belting out. While I can’t deny that Zemo is a little more efficient in his goals, and how easily he can infiltrate the Avengers hide-out and start shit up, and he’s a slightly more fleshed out character than say Ronin the Accuser or Malekith, he’s… only slightly better than them and nowhere near as interesting as Loki. In THOR, we see how Loki can feel like garbage. He’s more mature than Thor and feels like he deserves the throne more than him, but because Thor is such a likable guy and an accomplished warrior, his childish mindset still manages to kick Loki to the curb. We see how even when Thor is banished that Loki is still not as respected. Coppled with the revelation that he was born a Frost Giant, a secret kept from him since birth, we understand the betrayal he felt against his own family and in many ways we sympathized with him. We didn’t agree with his methods, but we understood. Zemo… had a wife and child who died… off screen… in ULTRON. An event that was never alluded to the audience. Yeah, okay, he’s got better motivation than most villains we’ve been given, but how can we empathize with a character who’s only giving us his story through a five, ten minute scene at the end of this movie and some snippets of voices from his family before their deaths. Again, he is a better villain than we’ve been given in the past and probably the best since Loki, but where Loki was a “10” on the scale of awesome, Zemo is a “7.” Still a bit of a gap there.

And while the additions of Spider-Man and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) certainly add some of the most standout humor in the movie, I can’t help but feel like they were tacked on to make the cast bigger and more epic when they inevitably fight. Granted, Spider-Man is given a good scene with Tony, but… there wasn’t a whole lot of great motivation to recruit him into this blood feud. Hawkeye would have made more sense, but even he just sort of shows up. Oh, he got a call from Cap. That’s… thin. So what was the point of him “retiring” if he was just going to come back for this one?

I suppose that I give Panther a pass as vibranium was taken from Wakanda back in ULTRON. The events portrayed here are definitely a fine enough reason to show up, but I’m pretty sure there wasn’t much of a reason to kill the King. Please, call me out on my lack of knowledge of the Marvel universe, but if I remember correctly, Wakanda’s King was killed in a fight against a rival tribe that T’Challa is a part of. That warrior became the new king and T’Challa assumes the mantle of Black Panther in hopes to defeat this guy… I think I’m describing the plot to the second animated Ultimate Avengers movie, but again, let me know if I’m wrong on this, but the future movie could still have gone that route. In the end, what do I know?

I think the cardinal sin of the movie is toward the end. By this point, Tony’s figured out that Bucky isn’t responsible for the deaths of the Wakandan King. He meets up with Cap and Buck and they join up to find Zimo. They’ve set aside their differences to fight the bigger evil. But then Zimo decides to reveal that Tony’s parents were assassinated by Bucky. This almost immediately prompts another fight between Cap and Tony. What the hell? Five to ten minutes ago, they were friends! Where else do I begin with this? First of all, this is information that was revealed by the villain of the entire film. Why does Tony trust what he’s seeing at face value? Not even challenging by claiming that the video footage is fake, nothing. Second, clearly this was a shameless excuse to have these two characters fight again. I mean good god, that was one of the biggest problems with BATMAN V SUPERMAN! Yeah, they’re fighting, but the reason for their fighting is paper thin, so it doesn’t make for an emotionally charged scene. Third, Tony knows about Bucky, he has to. He should know that Bucky was a brainwashed agent, so why doesn’t it cross his mind that Bucky was doing this as a brainwashed agent and not, you know, himself? Why is there no acknowledgment of this? Okay, Tony was upset and he needed to let out his inner vengeance. Wouldn’t Hydra be the more pressing enemy to take his shit out on? Or focus on Cap since he kind of knew about Tony’s parents and never told him?

Summed up for my other problems, Crossbones is relegated to a throwaway henchman, the build-up to multiple Winter Soldiers making trouble amounted to nothing, and I think that’s about it for that.

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***END SPOILERS***

Jesus, it must look like I actually hate the movie. I assure you, that’s not the case at all. As many problems as I had, it’s still a very enjoyable and well-done film.

While it may not be the humorous powerhouse that GUARDIANS or the two Avengers films may have been, the humor in this is definitely a standout.

In one scene, after Cap and the crew are on the run from the government, Cap meets up with Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) while Falcon and Bucky stay in the car. As you can imagine, the tension is so thick, a chainsaw would have trouble cutting through it.

Bucky: Could you pull your seat up?
Falcon: (cold and nonchalant) Nope.
*Bucky scoots over*

In the same scene, Cap and Sharon share a kiss and she leaves. Cap looks back at the two men who just quietly nod and give that “yeah, git it, boi” smile. My entire theatre was laughing.

Again, while I still feel like Ant-Man was just put in the movie to make the cast bigger, he’s still got one of the funniest scenes in the movie as well. He wakes up from a nap as he’s being introduced to Team Cap, and he naturally gets excited to meet the man himself.

Ant-Man: (with great enthusiasm) Oh wow, Captain America! You’re a real hero.
*takes one look at Scarlet Witch*
Ant-Man: (with forced enthusiasm) I know you. You’re great too.

And of course, all the banter with Spider-Man and Tony, all that’s really funny. Especially the acknowledgement that Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is ridiculously attractive. Tony calling Bucky “Manchurian Candidate,” Vision trying to cook or forgetting the basic concept of using doors.

As much crap as I gave the movie initially about how the new line-up didn’t get to have their own Avengers movie before the team getting split up, I am really happy that one of the first scenes, the Avengers taking on Crossbones (Frank Grillo) and his men, there is actually a fair amount of teamwork being shown. Hell, even when the team is fighting against each other, they still manage to squeeze in some creative fighting. Spidey swinging with War Machine (Don Cheadle), Scarlet Witch using her hex powers to vent a building of gas, Ant-Man going small to screw with Tony’s suit, there is a surprising sense of teamwork no matter what team is which.

I also want to say that this is probably one of the smarter Avengers-related films. I say this because both sides of the argument, sign the Sokovia Accords or not, are argued very well. I may not be able to quote anything in particular, but everyone’s given a lot of different perspectives and each one makes sense in their own way.

The movie also never forgets to build a connection between not just the audience to characters, but the characters to the characters as well. When Scarlet Witch accidentally kills people when Crossbones goes all kamikaze on everyone, you feel the weight of that accident and feel her guilt. Cap, Vision, and Hawkeye all make time to try to console her. Sometimes a bad situation is just a bad situation. Cap and Tony get a lot of screen time together, Cap and Bucky, it’s not always a clean cut partnership with any of them. Even on the respective teams, there’s a lot of internal disagreements. Falcon definitely hates Bucky, Widow definitely doesn’t like Tony, so it’s great that these characters aren’t hive-minded.

I may not have a lot of specific good things to talk about, but they are there and, in my mind, they do outweigh the many problems. It’s definitely a fun and action-packed movie that delivers exactly what it promises. The new additions were great and got me excited for the next installments. If you’re a superhero fan, I probably don’t need to recommend it to anyone because you’ve already made plans to see this movie more than once. Despite my many issues with it, I plan to see it again as well.

My honest rating: 4/5

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