Lee ponders objectivity much too much, Shane takes issue with Marvel’s Vision and Maria wonder why all the Avengers are assholes now in these Captain America: Civil War reviews.
The thirteenth ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ film. I suppose at this point it’s fair to say that context and expectations are all fair game. To remotely critique as a willing recipient of these films is to admit bias on some level. And while a critic can shake off some of this bias and give occasional glimpses of autonomy, very few dare to reach that fabled stronghold of ‘objective criticism’ that usually biased people usually demand.
Cards on the table; I’m very much in Marvel’s camp at this point. Out of the twelve films I’ve seen in this ‘universe’, I’ve loved four, enjoyed five, felt nonplussed over Captain America: The First Avenger and more or less hated the Iron Man sequels. So there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy this next quasi-Avengers film, because not only is it a follow-on to my second favourite Marvel-universe film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but also features quite a number of characters I’ve just grown to love over the course of this series.
Take all that as you will. Objectively, or as far as I can offer objective-wise, this film is a chaotic labyrinth of references, product placement, in-jokes and subtle nods surrounded on all sides by bombastic, surreal action where magic people seemingly get sad for reasons that couldn’t possibly be explained by the simple fact that a bad thing just happened.
Everybody else onboard? Cool.
Captain America: Civil War, all objectivity aside, is still a difficult movie to critique because it falls under so many interpretations from those already following the series; but, as far as I can tell, the two most important ways to read this are: as a Marvel film in the long line of Marvel films, and as a Captain America film.
As a Marvel film, it holds up great. Story-wise, we’ve hit ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ territory. The characters have never been more involved: the interplay between them has never been sharper, their motivations have never been clearer (or muddier, depending on the intention of the writers); the scale has never been bigger and the set-up for the future has never been more exciting.
The writers are clearly having a ball positioning their chess pieces just right, and suffice it to say the series has never looked so good mid-positioning. The infighting that sparked in 2012’s The Avengers finally feels like it has purpose and tension.
Beyond story, we’ve seen better direction and better small-scale action in the series, but the much-touted showdown between the heroes is such a high for the cinematic realisation of nerd fantasy that it deserves its own objective pedestal for being the most objectively good thing ever.
And as far as ensemble pieces go, Marvel will be holding that crown for a long time yet.
It also helps that Spider-Man was perfectly realised in this movie at long last, Black Panther was a stone-cold bad-ass even if his arc was mediocre and he was relegated to background material for half the movie, and the film didn’t even bother too hard to make us care about the overall villain because, as this critic has always held, Tony Stark will always be the biggest villain of the cinematic universe and the more time we spend dedicated to teaching this man why he’s the worst, the better.
As a Captain America film, however, Civil War is something of a disappointment. While the first Captain America was a lukewarm introduction to the character, the second film did everything it could to prove there was a reason why this character is so enduring in the world of comic books.
Basically a super agent badass with a ‘man lost in time’ complex, Captain America: The Winter Soldier somehow managed to blend seamlessly the superhero melodrama (let alone one thoroughly tied to the always-pervasive Marvel universe) with Cold-War level espionage, modern-day spy thriller and good old-fashioned run-n-gun action. There were twists, suspense, platonic love stories; we even started to care a little about Steve Rodgers himself after two previous films had failed to elevate him past ‘Jingoistic Leader with Cool Shield, sometimes uses guns poorly’ credits.
Captain America: Civil War takes a lot of beats from the messaging of Winter Soldier, and does do a good job of trying to bring that harsh depth to The Avengers. Ideas like autonomy of military and mercenary outfits, Altruism vs. Egoism, the extent to which the greater good can be defined and by what measures, a little McCarthyism; all that Watchmen shit. If you like reading into your material, Civil War does a good job bringing philosophy into the fore of the conflict. Whether it does a good job making stances or addressing the flaws of any of these modes of thinking; well that’s someone else’s essay.
As far as telling a sharp, crisp action story goes however, Civil War falls well behind its predecessor, lost in the waves of working in character upon character in order to drive its own universe forward. Sure, Winter Soldier had moments like that too, but it sure tried to make it work within the narrative it presented. SHIELD’s fall was felt because we spent a lot of time in SHIELD with Nick Fury and Cap, working out how the place worked and who would be affected if the place were to be somewhat crumbled by Robert Redford. In Civil War, the main villain’s motivation genuinely cannot be explained within the context of the movie that presents him or even in the movie preceding this one, and even then it seems a little convenient.
It’s great to have familiar faces from this universe pop their head in and say hi for fans, but if the general public has an expectation from the previous Captain America film that the sequel would be Winter Soldier + Higher Stakes, I don’t think anyone could genuinely predict we would also have to consider things like whether Scarlet Witch will get over her accidental murderer guilt. The soap opera element of big Avengers movies detracts harshly from the more focussed movies, and while that statement is almost entirely based on context and expectations (two things a film can’t solely be judged by or should at least be judged separately for) it still seems important that people know full well that this film cannot live to anyone’s expectations, and that we have to somehow attempt a state of objectivity in a series now dependant on a lack of objectivity.
Favourite part was Ant-Man giving Captain America his shield back. What a goof.
[SPOILERS FOR CIVIL WAR FOLLOW. NOTHING YOU COULDN’T PROBABLY GUESS IF YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO IT, BUT IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO THAT SORT OF THING DO NOT READ ON]
First off, I loved Age of Ultron. That film was just great, bar three slight issues.
- Too much time spent on developing weak character relationships (I’m looking at you Hulk & co.)
- Elizabeth Olsen-o-vich’s terrible ‘Eastern-European’ (Californian) accent.
- The Avengers that assembled in preparation for Civil War sucked.
It starts out as typical Captain America fare. Good guy Captain America mows down man after man before eventually killing Last-Movie Guy (a guy we were supposed to remember from the last movie with a big “I’m Last-Movie Guy” reveal), who then introduces us to the (nice) prevailing theme that The Avengers keep saving humanity at the cost of human lives.
An accident occurs that tips public opinion of the Avengers into the red, or as Olsenovich might say, “into the red”. And so we are introduced to our first main issue of the entire movie: The Avengers split up due to a disagreement over whether or not they need to be regulated.
The divide is, itself, fantastic. I really enjoyed seeing the heroes fight each other, as should any nerd worth their Sodium Chloride. The problems lies not in the division but that the reason for dividing isn’t something solid like a line to cross but more a grey-ish region that everyone is already standing on, just in different places.
One “side” believes that only the morally sound and intelligent superheroes can judge when is and isn’t the right time to intervene. The other “side” believes that perhaps the elected leaders of 117 different countries might deserve a say in what that ‘right time to intervene’ is.
For all intents and purposes the team is choosing between aristocracy and democracy, and for SOME GOD-FORSAKEN REASON Captain AMERICA personifies the aristocratic view while the billionaire genius symbolizes the idiotic will of the majority no matter what that will is (i.e. democracy).
Another problem is Vision.
Don’t get me wrong; I love Vision. I think he is an incredibly cool and likable character. He just should have been ‘coincidentally’ whisked away somewhere else like all the other über-powerful Avengers. I loved his story in Civil War too! His desire to build a connection with Olsenovich was the kind of touching and relatable character development that this franchise has been striving for.
So why get rid of him? Because he is an ever-present deus ex-machina waiting to be unleashed. Wanting to stop Last-Movie Guy from getting the evil thing? Send in demi-god Vision. Want to know if it’s morally right to leave all of the decision making in the hands of a few intelligent beings with immeasurable power? Why not ask the only intelligent being in the room with immeasurable power. What’s that? He picks democracy too? Nah better stick with Captain America’s opinion, at least he’s using his gut. And the way Olsenovich treats him after he made her an adorable Paprika meal? Unforgiveable.
If you want proof that the Vision was not intended to be in this movie, take a look at the scene where the two Avenger sides fight. You see the supremely powerful android fly into the battle but not one scene of him fighting (read: obliterating) another Avenger. Cool, a bow and arrow. LASER-CANNON. Super-human strength and metal Frisbee!? MATERIAL DISENTEGRATION AND LASER CANNON. Sure, he let Hawkeye toss a few punches, but he doesn’t fight back, and after that all he does is float around and blow stuff up harmlessly. It just doesn’t make for a very tense showdown, probably best to just pretend he sneezed and missed the entire ‘Civil War’.
All of this drama just because an old pal of Captain America has a habit of uncontrollable murdering from time to time. Yes, in the end Stark was wrong about trusting a menacing commander to act out the will of humanity in a non-menacing manner, but does that make the initial idea wrong? No.
Was Captain America wrong to trust his gut, split up the Avengers and follow a self-identified homicidal maniac on another no-human-life-expense-spared goose chase, just to find out that the only evil plan the bad guy had was to make Captain America split up the Avengers and go on another no-human-life-expense-spared goose chase? Yes, he most certainly was. Does that make the initial idea of trusting his gut as a moral compass for an entire planet wrong? Yes. Yes it does.
My thoughts on Civil War are the same as my thoughts on the rest of the Marvel movies (bar Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man): Great action, cool nerd moments, weak character relationships and poor logic. Don’t let the scale fool you.
I had two predictions. One was that this film would be weak, which was correct. The other was that Spider-Man and Ant-Man might bump it up to mediocre. Unfortunately, Spider-Man seemed more wide-eyed-annoying-pest than quirky humour guy. Maybe they just didn’t want him stepping on Ant-Man’s turf though; once again, another great performance from Paul Rudd.
The true surmising sentence is this: Civil War is almost greater than weak, thanks to Ant-Man.
I guess I can’t give a great review on this because I love and trust the Marvel movies to entertain me 3 times a year and not expect me to think too hard about that.
I was happy to be back in the living room of the Avengers, nodding along in agreement, reacting when told to. Unfortunately, it is starting to feel a little like a soap opera. I am starting to realise that I no longer care for characters in this universe. So many characters leave little screen time, and I found myself hoping that one of them would die. When War Machine fell, I got sickly excited that finally the consequences of The Avengers blatant disregard for life might actually impact THEM for once.
I felt for Stark in this film, he of all of them seemed to be the only one really realising the cost of ‘saving the world.’ I immediately agreed with him on containing their destruction. Take one look at the Leipzig airport scene – the entire airport was destroyed, then on they went on their travels. For the first time in a Marvel film, it hit me that I don’t actually like any of these people. Yes, I find them entertaining, but the Avengers are ruthless, selfish, narcissistic and undeniably stupid. They are terrible people.
Funnily enough, the one Avenger who seems to suffer the guilt and weight of his actions is Bruce Banner – the only one who has no choice over the damage he leaves. His conspicuous absence lent only to the idea that between Hulk and Vision supporting Stark, there would be no match in this fight.
Civil War began as a tentative solution to a viable problem, and quickly turned into another self-obsessed catfight between the children who didn’t want to go on time-out.
Naturally, this got boring fast. I got to halfway through Leipzig before I wasn’t being entertained anymore. The purpose and need for the Sokovia Accords was seen in the rubble around them, but still we watched the squabbling. I didn’t care. Giant Ant-man isn’t furthering the plot.
Ignoring the Civil War aspect, I thought the Zemo storyline was confusing and clearly took a backseat. His intention was to cause a rift between Cap and Stark, and yet this was already happening with the Accords. He quite easily could’ve sat back and watched as the Avengers were controlled and those who disagreed made criminal. I don’t get the need for this at all. This storyline was Captain America 3. Civil War was Avengers 3. Two different movies.
Despite all of this, and despite myself, I still enjoyed this film massively.
- Vision was adorable in his jumper and jeans, trying to cook for Wanda. His moments of doubt and need were fantastic to watch, as he struggled to become human. I’d love to see more of him.
- Hawkeye seemed like a bit of a dick. Don’t know why.
- I thought Spiderman was fantastic. Tom Holland had the accent down perfect and his teenage awkwardness was a brilliant new dynamic to introduce to the Avengers.
- Absence of Thor was not missed.
- Bucky going under at the end made his entire storyline pointless. We could’ve just left him lurking in Romania or wherever he was, then called on him for when he’s inevitably needed in a coming film.
- CGI was top-notch as always.
- RDJ should be noted for his performance, you could tell he truly was conflicted by every decision he made and seemed affected by the killings. Cap on the other hand didn’t seem to give a fuck who died. #freedom
- Black Panther was fine. Nothing to report on him.
- Heil Hydra.
Lee’s review was originally posted 01/05/2016. Shane’s review was originally posted 02/05/2016.