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Movie Review: “Captain America: Civil War”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 5/6/2016

Theatrical Release: 5/6/2016

Synopsis

The Avengers proved to be victorious in their battle against Ultron, but the aftermath of that victory has not come without its challenges. The people of Sokovia were left with a destroyed city, and the leaders of the world see a problem with the unchecked power of the Avengers. Yes, the Avengers needed to stop Ultron, but the leaders of the world are not comfortable leaving the Avengers unsupervised. The U.N. has decided that all Avengers need to be listed on a registry. Their real names need to be known to the public, and they need to answer to a higher authority, one who will determine when and where the Avengers can act.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is entirely on board with this idea. He sees the flaw in letting the Avengers act entirely on their own accord, and he agrees that they need oversight and accountability. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), on the other hand, sees the flaw in letting someone else tell them when and where they can act. With Steve and Tony fundamentally disagreeing with one another on how to solve this problem, a line in the sand has been drawn between the various members of the Avengers. Unfortunately, there are those who seek to exploit this new rift within the team, and they could very well use it to tear the Avengers apart.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Captain America vs. Iron Man (+10pts)

The Teams (-3pts)

Black Panther & The Winter Soldier (+6pts)

Zemo (-4pts)

The Action & Airport Battle (+8pts)

The Stakes (-3pts)

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Pro: Captain America vs. Iron Man (+10pts)

The filmmakers of this movie did an excellent job of driving a wedge between these two characters. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark never really got along, but never were their moral differences more at odds with one another than they were in this movie. They each had completely opposing views on how to proceed, but each of their views made absolute sense, based on everything the characters went through in their respective stories. Tony was all about accountability, as he was left unchecked and created Ultron, which nearly wiped out humanity. Steve was all about being able to act freely, as he has fought to preserve freewill in his fight against Nazis and Hydra, and he saw first hand what the absence of freewill forced his friend Bucky to do.

What worked so well about this feud was that it had 8 movies behind it—3 movies for both Iron Man and Captain America, and another 2 for the Avengers movies—and really these characters’ stories in those 8 movies completely supported their views in this one. It made it so that we understood both sides, we understood their differences, we understood their convictions, and we understood their willingness to fight each other over what they felt was right. It was an interesting feud because we saw these characters start as reluctant allies, we saw them become a team, and now we were seeing them tear that team apart. Through all of that, we understood both sides, which it made this a compelling rivalry, and it made their exchanges—both physical and verbal—incredibly personal.

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Con: The Teams (-3pts)

While the filmmakers did a great job at driving a wedge between Iron Man and Captain America, I did not feel the heart of this feud in almost any of the other team members—maybe with the exception of two others, but I will get into that later. For the most part, the team assignments felt mostly arbitrary, and it felt like the other members of the teams were needlessly fighting when it really could have just been Captain America versus Iron Man. War Machine (Don Cheadle) was automatically on Iron Man’s side, and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) was automatically on Captain America’s. Beyond that, it felt like the rest of the characters were just randomly divided between the two sides so that there were even teams. The writers wrote in justifications for each character, but it all just felt arbitrary. This meant that the Captain America versus Iron Man stuff felt heated, but the other characters fighting one another felt somewhat pointless. It was not a huge deal, as these action sequences were pretty cool, but I thought the filmmakers could have done a better job of developing the side characters’ motivations.

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Pro: Black Panther & The Winter Soldier (+6pts)

These two were the exceptions when I said most of the side characters’ team assignments felt pointless and arbitrary. These two characters had deeply rooted personal connections to the fight between Captain America and Iron Man. Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) wanted revenge after someone close to him was killed by a superhuman individual. Thus, he agreed with the Sokovia Accords—the contract the governments of the world wanted superhuman and enhanced individuals to sign—and he also wanted to see the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) brought to justice.

Bucky Barnes—the Winter Soldier—knew first hand what it was like for someone to control him and to force him to do things he did not want to do. He was therefore passionately against the Sokovia Accords and everything it stood for. On top of that, he was also just fighting for his own freedom. Most of the side characters felt like they were arbitrarily thrown onto one team or the other, and it felt like they were needlessly fighting someone else’s battle. Black Panther and the Winter Soldier, however, had deep, passionate, and personal stakes in this battle, and it made these characters’ presence in this story far more compelling than the rest of the side characters.

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Con: Zemo (-4pts)

I liked the idea of a villain who was not very powerful, but who simply took advantage of an opportunity, and drove deeper the wedge that already existed between Tony and Steve. Thus, rather than take on the Avengers directly, his plan was to pit them against each other. It was an interesting idea, but I did not think the filmmakers handled it properly. They made Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) out to be this evil mastermind who was outsmarting the Avengers, but really his plan relied way too heavily on an insane amount of luck. He had his plan, but it could only have worked if things that were entirely outside his control went a very specific way.

I liked his reason for hating the Avengers, as it tied into the Sokovia Accords and the main debate of this movie. I also like the concept of having a villain whose plan was to outsmart the Avengers rather than fight them directly. Unfortunately, the filmmakers did not come up with a believable plan for this villain to have, and it made a lot of his story come across as ridiculous. He should have been a character whose intelligence made him feel like a real threat, but instead his reliance on luck made him feel like the opposite, as it felt like only a matter of time before things would not go his way.

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Pro: The Action & Airport Battle (+8pts)

This was a Marvel movie, so you should expect plenty of superhero action from it. Despite this being a Captain America movie, the filmmakers also had the benefit of being able to utilize all of the members of the Avengers—except for the off-world members, such as Thor and the Hulk. This meant there was plenty of great Avengers action, and plenty of Avengers to keep the action exciting. There was the explosive Avengers mission in the beginning of the movie, the bombing, the chase between Black Panther and the Winter Soldier, the awesome airport battle, and the incredibly climactic and emotionally intense fight between the main characters toward the end of the movie. It was yet another movie in the MCU with plenty of exciting and awesome superhero action to keep audiences entertained.

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Con: The Stakes (-3pts)

I was not really invested in any of the side-character’s involvement in the airport battle, so I was never really worried about that battle’s outcome. Additionally, while I knew each team disagreed with the other and I knew both teams believed in their side’s view, I never thought any of them would fight their fellow Avengers with lethal force, so I was never worried about any of their fates. Then there was the feud between Steve and Tony. I was totally invested in this story, as I understood both sides and I was rooting for both characters. However, I never felt like any of the Avengers were in any real danger. I always thought one side would end up being victorious, but I always thought everyone would survive, and I always thought everything would end up being okay in the end. Thus, as heated as this feud was, the stakes of this movie never felt very high.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (89pts)

It might seem like adding all of the Avengers to a Captain America movie was just to get Avengers Box Office numbers out of a Captain America sequel. However, this was really a natural progression for Steve Roger's story. The first movie was about establishing Steve’s character. The second movie was about taking away S.H.I.E.L.D. and thrusting him in a new time. This movie was about potentially taking away the Avengers, one of the last things Steve trusted. While many of the Avengers were in this movie, this story was really all about taking more away from Steve Rogers and seeing how he dealt with that.

What this movie did really well was establish the feud between Tony and Steve—two Avengers who never really saw eye-to-eye to begin with. Both character's opinions on the Sokovia Accords were supported by all the movies that came before this one. This made the feud feel personal, which made it compelling. Black Panther and the Winter Soldier also had deep personal reasons for joining the fight, which had me hooked in their stories as well. Unfortunately, the same was not true for the rest of the teams, as it felt like they were needlessly fighting someone else's battle. I also never thought the Avengers would seriously hurt each other, so the stakes never felt very high, and I thought the villain's reliance on luck was disappointing. The movie came with its flaws, but it was a strong MCU movie with plenty of exciting, superhero action, and interesting character stories from its primary protagonists.

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