“This doesn’t have to end in a fight,” says Captain America, unironically.
“It always does,” replies Bucky, right before the 2nd of about 30 different fights in the new Captain America adventure. Clearly, this is a film that knows what it is. A fun, vast, audience pleaser. But just because it’s a pleaser, doesn’t mean it’s not a thinker.
Taking place almost immediately after the end of Age of Ultron, Civil War kicks off with the new Avengers team (Falcon, Cap, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch) hunting a mercenary group in Nigeria. Where’s Vision, you ask? At home, trying on the entire Land’s End catalog.
The team stops the bad guys but Scarlet Witch, using her vague power set, accidentally blows up a building trying to keep a suicide vest from killing Cap. In all fairness to her, she actually saved a lot more people. Unfortunately for her, everyone’s pretty pissed 11 innocent Wakandans died instead.
Enter the U.N. which is startlingly slow to get tired of the Avengers running around without supervision. They enact the Sokovian accords, a blanket proposition that restricts all superpowered action until governments give their say so. Tony Stark, still reeling from his responsibility in the destruction of an entire country because of his Ultron creation, quickly agrees. Captain America, suddenly becoming a fierce libertarian, says no.
This could have been a shallow enough reason to have superheroes fight each other and we all may have been okay with it. But directors Anthony and Joe Russo throw in another layer. Cap’s best friend, brainwashed assassin Bucky Barnes A.K.A. The Winter Soldier, is framed for blowing up the U.N. right as the accords are about to be signed.
The stakes are fairly low. There’s no world ending baddie here. No doomsday device. But the motivations for the major players are all extremely personal. As a result, the film rises above almost all other Marvel properties as one of the best in the series. Take the addition of Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman of 42 fame. He jumps right into the action with a clear motivation: the bomb Bucky was framed for killed his father. Simple, but the character’s regal poise and justified revenge plot make him one compelling character. Of all future Marvel movies, I’m most excited to see his solo outing.
Most of the minor characters are here just because they exist. Some are just following the leader (Falcon, looking at you.) Others are slightly more fleshed out but they could have gone either way (Scarlet Witch, Black Widow.) But in general the main players are on the side they are for a reason.
Thank the Lord for the additions of Spiderman and Ant-Man though. Why are they here? Who cares? They bring a much-needed comic relief to the center of the film, giving us the push we need to conquer the emotionally draining ending.
There’s a real villain in this film whose quest is just as personal as the hero’s. And it’s his doing that brings Captain America, Bucky, and Iron Man into a dirty Siberian bunker to beat the absolute duck sauce out of each other.
The real hero, though? Robert Downey Jr. Calling this a Captain America movie is a bit of a misnomer. Captain America’s arc began and ended in The First Avenger. Now he’s just a mass of muscle that uses brute force and vaguely American morals to push through situations. He insists that his right to free will trumps the Sokovian Accords, instead of constantly reminding everyone that at one point the entire government was Nazi’s like two years ago.
Downey Jr.’s Stark is clearly suffering from PTSD. He’s still thinking about all the lives he’s destroyed or ruined through his actions. While he gets his occasional quip in, his character is the mature center we can all root for. We’ve all felt bad. We’ve all felt like we could’ve done more. We’ve all wanted revenge. Watch the last twenty minutes again and try to tell me that Downey is not the greatest actor in this hodge podge of great actors. Iron Man: Civil War just didn’t have the same ring to it, I guess.
While Marvel skipped on making some potentially bold choices for their heroes (seriously, please kill a character), what we got is still pretty amazing. The story is fluid and exciting, despite being well over two hours. The action is well shot, the surprises well hidden, and it’s much, much better than the comic it’s based on. The question is simple, what happens when friends disagree? The answer is surprisingly complex and makes for one goddamn great movie.
3 ½ out of 4 stars.
Nit picks: The fuck is Hawkeye doing here? They literally say he retired and then he shows up again on Cap’s side for no reason.
Does Bucky have superpowers besides the arm? Because he outruns both Black Panther and Captain America at one point. If he got super soldier serum let us know, otherwise he should be dead ten times over.
Hello, Martin Freeman. Why are you here? No reason? Okay, fine.
Cap, you can’t bang your old girlfriend’s grandniece. That’s weird, dude.
EDIT 5/17: This makes THREE movies with Iron Man IN A ROW THAT DON’T HAVE ANY AC/DC. WTF?