Disclaimer: this post will contain a great deal of spoilers for Captain America: Civil War. While I have tried to keep things relatively neutral, there are spoilers in there, so if you haven’t seen the movie … maybe go and read this post about Captain America: Civil War to get you in the mood instead?
Captain America’s Civil War
Captain America: Civil War is everything you’d expect from a Marvel blockbuster; it is consumed with tremendously fleshed out characters and heart-wrenchingly emotional narrative, coupled with excellently executed and choreographed action scenes in an overall structure that encapsulates that audience’s experience and concludes the Captain America story with effortlessly gracious aplomb.
The Civil War plot
As explored in previous blog posts, Civil War is loosely based on the comic book series of the same name. As the movie is introduced, audiences witness titular character, Steve Rogers, working with his Avengers teammates to put an end to a terrorist plot, which unfolds before our eyes in these first moments. Following some spectacularly choreographed action scenes, coupled with the somewhat standard subtle humour expected of our caped crusaders, there is an extreme amount of collateral damage and Captain America and his team find themselves under intense, world-wide scrutiny.
In the scenes that follow, there is an active call to put The Avengers in check. Executed by the Secretary of State, he gives the team an opportunity to sign a document known as the Sokovia records (named after the destroyed city in Age of Ultron). This document would force The Avengers to work under the rule of a United Nations panel, and it would be this panel who would determine when and where The Avengers would be required to take action – if at all.
While the idea of the Sokovia records is supported by some of The Avengers, namely Tony Stark, Vision, Black Widow and War Machine, other members – Captain America, Falcon and Scarlet Witch are resentful, and against the idea as a whole.
Captain America: Civil War’s characters
Civil War features the largest superhero ensemble that Marvel studios have to offer, and all are introduced to audiences in Captain America’s third instalment. While it would be assumed that the movie’s overall narrative would suffer as a result of so many heroes being cast simultaneously, it’s refreshing to see that Captain America: Civil War negates that assumption completely.
While there are fundamental Avengers characters that have been seen and explored before, it is interesting to witness their dynamics shift slightly to make way for new characters, as well as how their own previously established relationships shift, depending on which team they have chosen. While undoubtedly intense, the audience are given a more fundamental insight into who these comic book heroes are: why they are important and how their influence on both pop culture and comic book culture throughout Marvel’s history has made Captain America: Civil War an undoubted blockbuster classic that surpasses both The Avengers and Age of Ultron – as well as perhaps Guardians of the Galaxy – and sets the standard for future superhero movies, after one viewing alone.
While the screen time of each character isn’t necessarily fairly distributed, it hardly seems to matter, given that each moment of screen time for each superhero is impactful and engaging enough to leave a lasting impression of cinema goers.
A perfect example of this would be Black Panther, the newly appointed T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman. Black Panther’s intelligence and passion, coupled with his ingrained regal stature, is hugely memorable to audiences, and every moment he appears on screen, he does his origin story justice; from when he first meets Black Widow at the UN panel, to the moment he reveals himself to Captain America and solidifies Steve’s fate as a criminal in the eyes of the new law – his performance in Civil War sets him up brilliantly for the standalone Black Panther movie in 2018.
Seeing Ant-Man return was also not as painful as expected, placing Paul Rudd in a slightly star struck and more supporting role than we’ve seen him in before, his character is fleshed out and comes to life in a far more sympathetic and impressive manner in the few moments audiences see him in Captain America: Civil War than his entire performance in the 2015 standalone movie.
The pièce de résistance
Speaking of returns and introductions, the cherry on top of the Civil War cake – for me – had to be the introduction of Spider-Man into the Avengers fray. While I have made my feelings on Peter Parker abundantly clear in the past, I was unashamedly caught up in the pre-Civil War hype, and gleefully not disappointed when he first appeared on the big screen alongside Tony Stark and Aunt May.
In the snippets in which audiences saw him, Tom Holland’s performance as Spider-Man did not disappoint, and he managed to encapsulate exactly what audiences have long desired form Peter Parker’s Spider-Man on the big screen: his spectacular web-slinging, alongside his youthful and playful commentary, as well as his genuine excitement being palpable when fighting alongside and against superheroes is as adorable as it is thrilling. I actually found myself feeling somewhat overwhelmed with excitement at Marvel’s iteration of Spider-Man, and wholeheartedly look forward to seeing his cinematic development in the near future.
Oh, I also have to point out that I was totally right when I stated that Tony Stark was behind the new and improved Spidey suit, and can only give Marvel an enormous pat on the back for the creative direction they’ve gone in with the suit – as well as the manner in which Tony’s relationship with Peter Parker was established in Civil War… Roll on Homecoming!
Civil War’s character development: best bits
While it was incredibly exciting to see new characters battle alongside Avenger veterans, these introductions and new additions to the Avengers squad did not detract from the character development of somewhat more established characters within the Civil War plot.
Tony Stark and Steve Rogers
Seeing Iron Man and Captain America at odds on screen, wasn’t as gleeful as I thought it would be. In fact, the manner in which it is portrayed in Civil War is wonderfully tender and overwhelmingly emotional. It undoubtedly tore at my heartstrings as it progressed on screen and it cultivated in a manner of execution that deviated from the basic superhero movie structure. This unconventional approach offered something far more intimate and personal, exploring the relationship dynamic in a far more painful manner that has more than a smidgen of finality to it.
Bucky and Falcon
Captain America’s best friends and team mates offer a truly complex relationship in Civil War – while fundamentally fighting for the same team; the two are perpetually at odds. While Bucky has time on his side, Falcon has established himself as an unwaveringly loyal ally and friend, within nothing but the Cap’s best interests at heart – which contradicts Bucky’s murderous intentions previously. However, their character progression – in terms of how they perform together during Civil War, proffers some truly tender and genuinely laugh out loud moments – namely during the scene in which they battle Spider-Man and indeed, when they witness Captain America lock lips with Peggy’s niece.
Scarlett Witch and Vision
The relationship between Wanda and Vision is wonderfully captured, and I am really glad that their relationship has been given proper exploration and that the comic book canon has been respected. Their bond is portrayed as seemingly more than Avengers team mates and friends, as well as more than simply watching two relative newcomers navigate the world around them, as well as their own powers simultaneously; there is something else there, and I do hope that this trajectory in Infinity Wars.
What I loved most about Captain America: Civil War was the absence, yet overwhelming presence of an overall antagonist. As mentioned further up the post, when I discussed the relationship dynamic between Tony Stark’s Iron Man and Captain America’s Steve Rogers, the deviation from the basic superhero movie structure here, is key and it is this that propels Captain America: Civil War from pre-teen Disney spectacle, to a relatively gritty and adult thriller.
Marvel has seemingly made an incredibly bold move with Civil War – taking a relatively enormous leap of faith in assuming that audiences would support a blatant deviation from normative superhero movie structures, here. By refusing to pander to basic logic that would dictate that a superhero movie needs an overarching super villain, instead it becomes far more intricate and intimate than that, which is truly excellent cinematography and narrative storytelling, in my opinion.
If you hadn’t already guessed, Captain America: Civil War places both Captain America and Iron Man as the antagonist – as well as the established hero. The introduction of Zumo being used as a force to promote a side plot that ultimately progresses and exposes a much rawer core conflict during the final moments of Civil War and it’s executed in a brilliantly subtle, and truly heart wrenching manner and creates an engaging, adult thriller element to the movie that has never been seen previously.
Admittedly, I’ve never been a true fan of the Captain America standalone movies and I’ve always hated the dynamic established between Steve Rogers and his best friend Bucky. However, I feel that Captain America: Civil War is arguably the greatest superhero movie audiences have seen so far.
It’s an extravagant movie affair that offers superb action and wonderful narrative, as well as a maturity and grit to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has not been previously explored. The deviation from the somewhat infantile narratives expected of superhero movies may have gone above some audience members’ heads – but it doesn’t detract from how tremendously spectacular it was, to tell you the truth.
10/10 for me.