WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW
The highly anticipated new release from Marvel studios, Captain America: Civil War has made its way to cinema screens across the globe, and so far the critical reception and box office numbers are looking good. I do get annoyed when critics so clearly have a bias towards one brand name or the other, so in lieu of a standard review, I’m going to give you several good points, and several bad points from the movie. Because yes, believe it or not, for everything Civil War did right, they did some wrong, as well. Let’s start with the bad, and work our way through to the good, shall we?
- Character motivation – Whereas the movie seems to endorse one side over the other, the comic book crossover event penned by Mark Millar poses more of an ethical dilemma. In the movie version, though it happens in a somewhat similar way, what the government is asking the Avengers to do is basically be subsidised superheroes. This comes at the cost of not being able to decide which apocalyptic events will and will not be handled by the Avengers. This is basically what sets Captain America off, and makes it impossible for him to sign the papers. In the comic, it’s the “Superhero Registration Act” which forces all heroes to be registered and unmasked. Given the security risk that poses to members of the Avengers, who rely on anonymity to do what they do to keep those closest to them safe, you understand why it’s an impossible pill to swallow. Now, I know that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, most of these heroes and their real identities are known the world over, so the writers were tasked with the job of making that transition to film missing a key part. I get it. But I still feel like they didn’t do a good job presenting both sides. From the very start it feels like the movie itself is on Team Iron Man. It tugs at viewers’ heartstrings with some sad music, and a video montage of the collateral damage caused by each time the Avengers saved the world. As far as presenting Cap’s side of the thing, the entire motivation for the fight, he appears like he’s just being pig-headed. They tried to explain away a lot of this by putting the Avengers and the US government against Bucky, AKA The Winter Soldier, but it doesn’t elicit the same gut-punch reaction, especially after some of the horrendous shit that Bucky has done — brainwashed or not — comes to light. I realize that this is Civil War as told from within the MCU, but I feel like it loses some impact, and does a great disservice to Captain America, which is odd considering that Civil War is billed as a standalone Cap film.
2. Forced jokes – Yes, I know, this is a Marvel movie, and they are much more lighthearted than other comic book movies, but at some point it becomes grating. I don’t mind the occasional moment of comic relief, sometimes a movie needs that to give the viewers a chance to take a breath before the next bout of crazy comes along. But Civil War takes it to new heights. At one point it felt like every fifteen minutes we would come to a complete halt for oddly placed one-liners. And yes, the back-and-forth between Sam and Bucky was funny, but we didn’t need that much of it. One exchange between them in the first place seemed extraordinarily out of place, with heroes fighting, and the future looking so grim, we somehow still have time for record-scratching-music-stopping chuckles. This is basically what people are talking about when they say that DC movies need to be more like Marvel. They want them to inject several dozen humorous one-liners, and I’m sorry, but DC comics just isn’t like that. Now, if it were Justice League, and we have a back-and-forth between Green Lantern and Flash, then that’s totally acceptable. That’s basically their purpose. But in a movie about Batman and Superman trying to kill one another, and then saving the world together, it just wasn’t needed. Affleck’s ad-libbed “Well shit” moment cracked the entire theater up, and that was more than enough humor for that movie. I don’t dislike Marvel movies for having a bit of humor, I actually like almost every one of these Avengers-related movies, with The Winter Soldier still remaining what I feel is the best of the best. Can’t we just enjoy two different approaches to superhero storytelling? If you need that humor, you have an entire universe which caters to that need. Can’t fans of DC comics have their thing too? And I just want to point out that, some of the humor is actually very funny, but it just becomes a little ridiculous at some point. My arm felt sore from all the elbow-nudging, by the midway point.
3. Crossbones – What the fuck? I was actually pretty excited for Crossbones. The media made a big deal about his presence in the film, with early set photos leaking and being prominently featured on every geek culture website on the planet. Frank Grillo, who plays the character, was a fan favorite to take on Marvel’s Punisher role, but it was accepted that he couldn’t do so because he would be Crossbones in the Avengers-verse. So what happened that pissed me off? In the opening scene of the movie, Crossbones and his troops show up, he gets out to fight Cap all badass-like, he’s feeling it, he’s been hoping for it since Winter Soldier, he’s decked out and ready to fuck some shit up, so let’s kill him within the first two minutes of the movie? Don’t get me wrong, in the two minutes he is allowed to exist, Crossbones is lean, mean and badass. But basically, since they lacked so many characters from the comics, he became the thing that was thrown into a building to blow it up, and set off the Civil War. The way they treated this character was criminal, and I feel like if a review or reaction doesn’t point this fact out, it can’t be taken seriously. We’re already missing eighty five percent of the characters, wasting one of the characters that we do have doesn’t seem wise.
4. Tony Stark’s Parents and The Winter Soldier – One of the weirdest parts of the movie was the inclusion of Bucky/The Winter Soldier assassinating Tony Stark’s parents. How many movies has it been since Stark has even mentioned his parents’ deaths? It felt weird and unnecessary to tack that onto the laundry list of reasons the Avengers are warring with one another. Several times we see a flashback to The Winter Soldier causing a car crash, and eventually it’s revealed that the people inside of said car are Tony Stark’s parents. And that basically they were still alive after the crash, but Bucky — in his forced-fugue state — decided to smash their faces in with his metal arm to complete the job. My problems with this is that, like I said, we haven’t heard anything about Tony’s parents for like, seven movies now. And, at the point when this is revealed, it’s already kind of accepted knowledge that Bucky isn’t responsible for the things that he’s done, because he has no control. Somebody says a list of magic words, and he turns into the Terminator. They waited too long to show this tidbit. And Tony’s reaction to the news makes sense, but not really at this point in the game. Had it been revealed earlier, it could have worked, but the way it’s structured now strips his reaction of legitimacy. Yes he has a right to be pissed off that technically the person who murdered his parents is sitting in the same room with him. But, he’s the smartest human alive, he should be able to process this information in a better way. It’s unlike Stark to fall for such manipulation. I don’t feel like the revelation adds enough to the story to permit its inclusion.
5. Skimpy on the Characters – This is a little unfair, because Marvel studios and Disney can’t use characters they don’t have the rights to. But I feel like maybe they should have held off on this particular story until maybe they had acquired a few more of them. The characters I missed the most were Reed Richards, and pretty much the entirety of the Thunderbolts. Reed Richards is important in the comics, because he’s basically Stark’s mad scientist. Stark has turned into a politician more than anything else, much like he is at the beginning of the movie. In the comics, however, he has Reed Richards to handle all the mad scientist stuff, producing a Thor clone, and a super-powered army for the purpose of global protection. It’s sorta what Tony was trying to do already when he unleashed Ultron upon the world, and caused all the chaos that got them into trouble in the first place.
The Bad: Summing Up
There are threads of things from the comics woven into the plot that just feel out-of-place in this context. In the comics, when Stark is approached by the parent of a child who was killed in the school explosion caused by a young group of inexperienced heroes filming a reality TV show, he is at least taken aback. He still feels like, though chaos seems to follow them wherever they go, the ends justified the means, because, you know, they just saved the fucking planet from extinction, and stuff. But here, he kind of just accepts blame right off the bat and goes into full-on politician mode. Sorta the key point of the fight in the movie, and the comic as well, is that both Stark and Cap think that they are right, and refuse to even consider the other’s point of view. But with more at stake in the comics, it made sense. Actually, both sides made sense, and they did a good job explaining to readers why people who feel one way or the other should feel the way that they do. I feel like a lot of that was totally lost in the movie, and especially when they present one side as “right” and the other as “wrong.” But does any of this make Civil War a bad movie? Of course not. It’s actually a very good movie. And while I feel like Winter Soldier is still the best MCU movie, Civil War got a lot of things right, as well.
The Good – Okay, now that we got all that out of the way, let’s tear our way through some of the good/great/awesome things about captain America: Civil War
- Ant-Man – Holy shit, Ant-Man. Though some would argue that his standalone movie was one of the weaker Avengers character movies, the MCU adaption of the character, and Paul Rudd portraying him are highly entertaining. I am and have always been a fan of Rudd. I love his dry sense of humor and sarcasm, and I think that he fits the role perfectly. His part in Civil War, while small, remains my favorite part of the entire movie. He shows up, he geeks out about all the famous superheroes, he kicks some serious ass, and does so while being highly entertaining. Also, he turns into fucking Giant Man, guys! I didn’t know if they would do it, but I am so glad that they did. At one point during the iconic airport fight/pickup game, Ant-Man does something to turn the tides. He turns into a fucking giant, known in the comics world, and in various animated series as Giant Man. It’s really cool to see, and it creates a pretty hilarious scene based entirely on a pop culture reference. A young Spider-Man — as he’s swinging around in circles trying to find a way to take Giant Man down, recalls the scene from Empire Strikes Back where they use tow cables to wrap around the feet of the ATAT to bring it to its knees. It’s a great scene, probably one of the best that CA: Civil War has to offer.
2. Fight Scenes – The fight scenes have always been exciting in the MCU, but the Russo Brothers took it to the extreme in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Inspired very obviously by The Raid movies, the fighting within the MCU has become less spectacular, and more gritty, brutal close quarters hand-to-hand combat. It adds a layer of realism to these films that didn’t exist before their involvement. Yeah, the Iron Man movies — and especially the first Iron man — were pretty gritty, but it was still a little fantastical, as far as the combat goes. At the very least, it pales in comparison to what the Russo Bros have brought to the table. To see that they are the next two-part Avengers movies means great things for Superhero Movie fans. And yes, that gritty and brutal tone, as well as the badass CQC battles are all very present in Civil War. So if like me, your favorite film of the bunch is Winter Soldier, you have a lot more of that to look forward to.
3. Spider-Man – Yes, I am still angry that we had to stop everything go back to the drawing board with Spider-Man yet again. I am apparently one of the few who thought that both Amazing Spider-Man films were fantastic. I was so hyped for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, but it remains as one of my most disappointing days at a movie theater. I moaned and groaned when they announced that they would be giving it another shit, with different actors, and taking the character back to high school. But then I saw that first movie. The opening moments of the first Amazing Spider-Man, you see that, and you think “Man, THIS is what a Spider-Man movie looks like!” I loved it. I loved Garfield as both Parker, and as Spider-Man, the story was fun, the fighting and the bad guys were good. This was the best big-screen adaptation of the character to date, in my estimation. Granted, the sequel is almost as divisive as Batman v Superman, but I loved it as well. I feel like it has a similar issue — speaking of Batman v Superman. They crammed too much stuff into that movie, some of which on the assumption that there would be future movies. But it didn’t bother me. Holland plays the character for Marvel/Sony’s joint adventure, and what I’ll say is that, in-costume as Spider-Man, he’s really good. I could have gone without the long scene between Stark and Parker, in exchange for more of him swinging around in costume. I think I’m going to have to see more of him before I warm up to the Parker side of his character, but he was really good in this movie anyway.
4. Black Widow – Either the internet tends to get all worked up over nothing sometimes, or Black Widow is some fans’ favorite character. Either way, I could take or leave her up until this point, but I think she was used in a better way in Civil War. Sure, she’s still a badass super-assassin, but she also plays the movie version’s Spider-Man, and it totally makes sense in this context. See, in the comics, Spidey starts to see the error in Stark’s logic, and jumps ship over to Cap and his underground Avengers. Actually, at that point he’s attacked by a few villains working under the authority of Stark and his crew, which causes the Underground Avengers to team up with The Punisher, and a couple of bad guys of their own. It comes to a bloody street brawl, and when people begin to die, that’s when Cap decides that it’s just not worth it and turns himself in to be imprisoned in an anti-super power prison. But in the movie, it’s a surprise to most viewers that Black Widow agrees with Stark in the first place. She’s the wild card, and she helps to give Cap and his crew an advantage in a fight that they would be losing otherwise.
5. Black Panther – Yeah, he’s on the wrong side, and in the fight for the wrong reasons, but goddamn if it wasn’t an awesome character introduction. I don’t know much about Black Panther beyond his involvement in the Avengers-related comics, but I knew enough to know that he would be a welcome addition to the action. The costume, the way it functions, the way it looks, and the way the character fights were all better than I expected. I still question, why bother to wear the mask in the first place if you’re just going to stroll around in public carrying it around in your hands, but there’s no denying the cool imagery it creates when he’s wearing it. Chadwick Boseman was a good fit for the character, and even though I’ve seen precisely zero of the movies he has appeared in prior to this, I’d say we’ll start to hear a lot more of him after his go as T’Challa / Black Panther.
So now, I address the elephant in the room. I’ve tried my hardest to mention and/or compare Civil War to Batman v Superman as little as humanly possible. I know the comparisons are instantly going to be made, and people are going to be choosing sides on that front, so I just want to quickly give my opinion on the comparison, and then propose as a Batman lifer, and megafan of BvS that we be the better people this time. Starting as early as 9 PM on Thursday Nights, I started seeing comments such as “Civil War is the movie that Batman v Superman should have been” and other similar sentiments. And to that, I say you are wrong. Civil War is exactly what DC fans don’t want in their movies. I mean, yeah it works in Justice League, and especially if there’s going to be a back-and-forth between Green Lantern and Flash, but in a standalone Batman movie, or in a movie like BvS, the nonstop humor breaks will feel disjointed, I promise you. You may think that you want that, because you love Marvel movies and everything has to follow that formula now for some reason, but it works for Marvel because Marvel lends itself to that type of filmmaking. As I said, you can make a Justice League movie with plenty of comedic relief, but please don’t do it to the extent that they did in Civil War. This is one of the main things that took me out of the story. It became so frequent at one point that I leaned over to Paul who went with me to the Thursday night screening, and nudged him with my elbow a few times, in the event that he too did not pick up on the constant nagging suggestion that we were watching a funny movie.
I realize that it’s easy to draw a comparison. You have two movies pitting heroes against each other, and all the fallout that it creates. But these two movies couldn’t be any more different than they already are. Civil War is an event movie, while BvS is the setup for a future set of events. Batman v Superman, while it combines several different comic storylines in one big story, remains a little more comics-accurate, while Civil War takes the foundation of the series that it is adapting, but changes pretty much everything else about it. The main difference I noticed is a suggestion that people will not like. That stuff you like in the Marvel movies, the comic relief as we’ve come to refer to it as, it’s more like pandering. They add obvious corny jokes into those movies to attract the normies, as some of us would rudely refer to them as. They have no dog in this fight, they’ve never read a single comic book, so they don’t give a fuck that such and such is not in the movie, and that who’s-his-face did blahblah instead of What’s-her-name from the comics. Every fifteen minutes like clockwork, there’s something cheesy and easily approachable to ease their tension and bewilderment at whatever it is that’s unfolding in front of them. I’m sorry if that seems harsh, but I saw it in action on Thursday night. Do you legitimately think that if DC/WB were to suddenly following that formula that their output would be better, or do you just think, since that’s what you’re comfortable with, since that’s what Marvel has established should be the formula for a post-Iron Man comic book movie? Frankly, I love Marvel for doing what they do, but on the flip side of that, I love DC for doing it their own way as well. Are there some things that they could do better? Sure, but the same could be said about Marvel. If your suggestion for making a divisive movie more suitable to you and others who feel like you do, is to make it something that its fans don’t want it to be, maybe this type of movie just isn’t for you?
Look, I know even those of you who haven’t read any comics are just as attached to these characters as those of us who do so obsessively are. They’ve been ingrained in our pop culture for, well, what, a hundred years give or take? When Frank Miller released The Dark Knight Returns in the 80s, comic books changed forever. No longer did writers and artists feel the need to find ways to take stories intended for children, and make them appealing to adults as well. Now the people who grew up reading this books were in their teens, twenties, thirties and beyond, and they started writing stories that targeted that demographic. Yeah, it took the movies a little longer to start reflecting that, but once it happened, it changed comic book movies forever as well. Marvel and DC are two totally different universes. And though they’ve borrowed heavily from one another throughout the years, they’ve continued to do mostly their own things, in their own styles, and many like me are huge fans of both. I will absolutely admit that I lean more towards the DC side of things. I can’t help it, it’s Batman. I love all things Batman. I play the Lego Batman games, I watch the Lego Batman movies and the awesome WB/DC animated movies. Even the terrible Batman movies, I love them. But what I’m seeing now from the DC universe is basically the entire reason that I read those comics before I pick anything new from Marvel up. So when I get defensive when I see someone bad-mouthing BvS, it’s because it’s not just your opinion of the movie that troubles me. It’s that you feel like, to make it a better movie, they need to strip it completely of everything that I loved about it. The future you want for the DCEU is not the one that I wish to see. If every fifteen minutes Batman has to break the fourth wall and blurt some comical one-liner in the middle of fucking a roomful of dudes up, then I’m going to lose interest. Don’t take my stuff away, man!
THOSE OF YOU WHO LOVED BATMAN V SUPERMAN: If you’re as big of a fan of Batman v Superman as I am, you’re also going to love Civil War. This isn’t a competition. We don’t have to trash this movie simply because we had to put up with people being obnoxious and trying to shit in our cheerios upon BvS’ initial release, and quite honestly, still to this day. We should take the high road here, and illustrate to this type of fanboy that we’re the true fans we claim to be. We can put shit like that on pause, and enjoy a badass movie for being a badass movie. Who cares which brand name it represents? Captain America: Civil War is an awesome movie, albeit not without its flaws. And look, I’m not even saying that you shouldn’t point those flaws out. I think I did a pretty good job of explaining my position here, even though we’re over four thousand words in and I’m just now wrapping up. Do so in a constructive way. Don’t try to poop on the parade of all the Marvel fans who will undoubtedly enjoy a monumental opening week for this movie that they’ve been waiting for a long time to. Talk about it with them, tell them what you loved, what you didn’t love, what you would have done different. Interact in a productive way, so we can all find some middle ground here. We know how it feels to have our parades shat upon. It feels shitty to feel so good about something you just saw and enjoyed, only to find it impossible to discuss it online without someone being obnoxious towards you for the purpose of putting you down, as a fan of said movie. With comic books bigger than ever, the DC stuff hitting CW and the Marvel happening on Netflix, it has never been a better time to be a fan of comics. Did you ever think as a kid that our pastime would ever be brought out into the mainstream? Suddenly it’s cool to be into comics. So much so that some people dedicate large portions of their days to hanging out on the internet, googling and wiki’ing a bit of info so that they can pretend to read comics. It’s cute, ya know? Let’s not waste the good years fighting about unimportant shit. Go see Civil War, and spark up a conversation with a friend. I promise there are good times to be had well outside the online persona you portray on the internet.