"Captain America: Civil War" Review – No Spoilers!
Cap. vs. Iron Man
On opening weekend, I joined the mass of viewers who flocked to the theaters to see Captain America: Civil War. Not only had I been looking forward to seeing this film for over a year leading up to its release, but I also wanted to see it before it was ruined by clicking on a spoiler-filled link or overhearing someone’s verbal review in the mall parking lot. Below is my spoiler-free review of the film. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Hero against hero. "Civil War" poster.
When a mission in Nigeria turns deadly, the Avengers are brought in to answer for all of their past mistakes. Secretary of State Ross calls back to previous Avengers missions that resulted in catastrophic damage and loss of life. He then presents the team with the Sokovia Accords, a document ratified by 117 countries that calls for all superheroes to answer to a higher authority and be held accountable for their actions. No longer will they be free to carry out missions on their own but will instead be supervised to ensure that things don’t get out of hand.
This ultimatum divides the team in half with Tony Stark leading the heroes who willingly sign the accords, feeling the guilt that has resulted from his own past mistakes. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers and the other half of the Avengers refuse to sign, citing that the purpose of the Avengers is to have a team that can go anywhere at the drop of a hat when necessary without waiting for orders. Rogers demands trust and the continuation of this freedom while Stark is looking for order amid the chaos. Like most difficult issues, it’s tough to decide who is right.
This verbal struggle turns violent when an attack in Vienna causes the death of King T’Chaka of Wakanda. His son, T’Challa, sets out to avenge his father's death only to find that the attacker is none other than Bucky Barnes, Cap’s best friend and outlaw assassin, also known as The Winter Soldier. Rogers and fellow Avenger Sam Wilson (Falcon), go after him before T’Challa, taking on his father's mantle of the Black Panther, can reach him first. Tensions grow more and more heated as the Avengers choose their side, each for a different reason, culminating in an epic fight at a German airport, causing only more pain and compromised allegiances. The final battle boils down to Cap and The Winter Soldier versus Iron Man in the most explosive and heart breaking climactic fight which ends well for no one.
Captain America: Civil War Trailer 1
Whose side are you on?
This film, while it has its share of laughs, is perhaps one of the darkest in tone of any in the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only do we learn that the battle of Sokovia was not without its casualties despite the Avengers' best efforts, but we are forced to realize that when you see an explosion or a crumbling piece of architecture, it has a lasting effect on the people who live and work there. Different perspectives are at play. However, what we learn by the movie’s end is that the world governments were not the issue to worry about. While the team was divided, they still resisted that division, trying to respect each other’s viewpoints while still maintaining their own. It’s not until a twist makes the fighting personal at the end do you feel that there is actually something at stake in terms of the future of the Avengers.
Nothing about this story seems to further the direction where the films are heading in terms of the impending Infinity War. Instead, this story is about tearing the team in half to see how they will piece back together for the next battle in a brutal, superhero makeover. We all know that they will have to get back together in order to have future movies. So, this movie doesn’t take things as far as it could have. While the trailers showed the two sides running full steam at each other, the battle at the airport feels more like a sparring match between most of the warriors. Luckily, this lack of trying is saved by some of the biggest laughs and surprises in the movie, especially by the newer cast members, and it's still the highlight of the film and surpasses fans' expectations.
That being said, many have been gushing about the introduction of Black Panther and Spider-man as well as the return of Ant Man, Scarlet Witch, and Vision, and they would be right. There is no denying that the new guys steal the show. Black Panther, whether in costume or not, is the kind of character that you would feel the need to kneel before with his wise, controlled presence and underlying rage.
Spidey is just a kid who’s just happy to be picked for a team, any team. It was refreshing to dive right into the character without having to hear about his origin story for the millionth time. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker says everything that needs to be said to catch us up to what kind of Spider-Man he is without reiterating what we already know. Also, for the first time, we have a true wise-cracking youth as Spider-Man with his inability to keep quiet or control his excitement during a fight.
Ant Man delivers some of the biggest laughs and unique powers in his small (no pun intended) but crucial role, and Scarlet Witch is the perfect wild card and a true example of the kind of power that inspired the accords in the first place. Vision, too, is coming into his own as a more fleshed-out character with a lot to learn about humanity.
The original team members don’t come with their old bag of tricks either. Tony Stark is at his most intense and serious from the get go. You have never seen him so driven and emotional. Steve Rogers, for a trained soldier, is at his most resistant, intent on not only keeping things as they are but righting the past wrongs of his friend, Barnes. Sam Wilson and James Rhodes are their loyal friends with really nothing to gain but everything to lose from this fight. Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Vision are torn by the necessity of their beliefs but hate how it’s destroying the team.
With all of these characters, side plots, and even a minor but effective villain thrown in, it barely registers as a Captain America story. His reluctance and later resistance to sign the accords sets the story in motion and brings to light a lot of the internal issues that the team has always carried with them. From there, the movie is a perfectly executed balancing act that keeps all of the plates spinning while they circle around Cap and his own personal mission.
The Avengers have always been a bit shaky as a team, but they always fight for the same goal. When politics come into play, it morphs into a personal struggle that doesn’t go quite far enough. Knowing ahead of time what movies are to follow can sometimes spoil the surprise and can limit the writers as to how far they can take things. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t take more risks and ensure that this damage lasts. However, the great thing about this franchise is that every movie leaves you wanting more and gets you excited for what’s to follow. Between the new characters, the differing viewpoints, and past events brought to light, there is a lot to build on and repair.
Civil War Trailer 2
Civil War did not hit the ball out of the park for me, but it did make it to the bleachers, and that’s all I could ask for as the summer movie season takes off. While I hate watching friends fight, I was glad that they did for my amusement and for the amusement of the other fans who come to the theater to be thrilled, engaged, and enlightened by decades-old characters who have jumped out of their hand drawn illustrations and onto the silver screen and seamlessly transitioned from one art form to another, bringing them closer to reality and mirroring our own political strife.