This Friday was wonderful. It was the last day of classes, so my best friend and I went to the movies to celebrate… although, let’s be honest, we would have gone today even if it hadn’t been the last day of school, because we’ve been looking forward to Captain America: Civil War for ages.
I didn’t grow up reading comic books. I only started a few years ago, after watching The Winter Soldier. I had NO IDEA what was going on in that movie. I mean, I’d seen a bunch of Marvel movies before, but I wasn’t super into them until 2014. So it was really cool to go to the theater a few days ago and see the first new movie starring my favorite superhero – #TeamCap all the way! – since the movie that got me into comics came out. NOW I FINALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT’S HAPPENING.
And now I’d like to post a review of Civil War. I have a lot of thoughts and I’ll try to do my best to make sure they’re not too garbled. Also, the first part of this review will be spoiler-free and the rest of it will be in white font, so you can highlight that section to see what it says if you’ve already seen the movie or don’t mind seeing spoilers, and leave it alone if you want to avoid them.
First of all, I would like to congratulate the writers for handling the large cast so well. There were FAR more superheroes here than there were in either The Avengers or Age of Ultron, but unlike in those movies, each character’s subplot actually made sense and blended seamlessly with everyone else’s storylines.
That’s a tricky thing to do. There are a number of reasons why I dislike the Avengers movies and don’t think they represent Marvel Studios’ best work, and that is one of the BIG ones. It’s difficult to handle an ensemble cast because in order to give equal time to everyone, you can’t spend much time on anyone. And that can leave the audience feeling dissatisfied because the plot zipped around from character to character. It feels superficial.
I’m not opposed to liking movies (or any stories) with large casts. It’s just hard to find movies like that that actually give each character not only equal time, but adequate time for character development.
Ultimately, I think that some people are better at this than others. I don’t think Joss Whedon, who directed the Avengers movies, knows what he’s doing when it comes to ensemble casts. I was so excited when I heard that Anthony and Joe Russo had signed on to direct this movie after directing The Winter Soldier, because every scene in that movie felt like it had a purpose. Every scene in Civil War drove the story forward and the plot didn’t flop around in a disorganized manner.
Speaking of people who worked on both The Winter Soldier and Civil War, I’d like to congratulate Henry Jackman on composing yet another absolutely brilliant score. It had so many of the earlier themes I loved, as well as new ones for me to adore. I LOVE THE WINTER SOLDIER’S THEME.
Another thing I appreciated was the increase in diversity. This is something the MCU really struggles with – Doctor Strange, which is due to be released in November, looks like a whitewashed mess – and I do think there are ways that this movie could have included even more diversity, but it’s a start. We had two female Avengers, and three black superheroes. Again, this is something that is such a big change from Marvel Studios’ early movies such as The Avengers, where Nick Fury and Black Widow were the only minorities. I’m still annoyed that they cast yet ANOTHER white boy to play Spider-Man when we could have had the version that is Miles Morales, but WHATEVER.
I loved the choreography of this movie. THE FIGHT SCENES TOOK MY BREATH AWAY. Everyone had such different fighting styles and it was a joy to watch. Black Widow and the Falcon both spin a lot while they fight but the difference is that while Nat uses her legs more, Sam relies on his arms and wings. Cap relies on martial arts and grappling and going fast fast fast – and obviously there’s that shield. Spider-Man is a blur.
I loved seeing everyone’s fighting style, but I definitely have a favorite: Black Panther. True to his name, he moves like a cat. Very fluid and agile. He seemed to propel himself forward without even trying. I guess what really stood out to me was how light on his feet he was, because I estimate that he’s about the same height and weight as Cap, but carries himself in a completely different way.
Let’s be honest, I loved everything about Black Panther. I can’t wait for his solo movie in 2018 and I REALLY can’t wait for Ta-Nahisi Coates’ upcoming take on the character, which is due to be published in September.
I MEAN. SAME.
The final major thing I want to talk about in the non-spoilery section of this review is a concept that was discussed endlessly in my Superheroes Unleashed and Wonder Woman Unleashed classes from last fall and this spring. We talked a lot about vigilante justice and how people attempt to regulate it: Essentially, a lot of superheroes – as in, pretty much all of them at one point or another in their lives – operate outside the jurisdiction of the government.
They break laws in order to do what they know is right, and this is a major source of struggle in comic books because the government only loves superheroes as long as they do what they’re told. If they behave and use those shiny superpowers for the government’s bidding, then everything’s fine, but no one is happy if they put so much as a toe out of line. This is the plot of Civil War – Cap is trying to save Bucky and prove that his friend was coerced into becoming an assassin, but Iron Man and the government don’t approve – and it was so cool to see an entire movie about something I’ve been studying for the past few months.
Before I move on to more spoilery observations, here are a few quick thoughts that didn’t fit anywhere else in this part of the review:
- Vision is adorable and dresses like a modern-day version of Jarvis and I approve.
- There was an excellent balance of humor and seriousness in this movie. They didn’t sacrifice the plot for jokes.
- I found myself liking Ant-Man so much more than I thought I would. I’m still not sure if I want to watch his solo movie because I heard its depiction of women left a lot to be desired, and I don’t know if I want to spend two hours of my life on that. But I’m considering it, because I did like his sense of humor. Also, his reaction to meeting Cap is exactly how I would react.
- Wanda is so pretty and basically THE GREATEST and I have such a crush. And I want her outfits because damn.
And now, without further ado, the spoilery section of this review. As promised.
OK FIRST OF ALL WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT MY WIFE AKA PEGGY CARTER. There were rumors circulating that they’d filmed a funeral scene with a Union Jack on the coffin, so I went into this movie basically already knowing what was going to happen to her? THAT DOESN’T MEAN I WAS PREPARED FOR IT THOUGH OMG. I cried a little towards the end of the movie, but mostly I cried when she died.
Also, Sharon’s eulogy. I love it… because it was so obviously Peggy. Everything she said sounded exactly like something Peggy would have told Steve, both during the war and after he came back, in order to encourage him not to give up. It honestly gave me chills because it was a sort of “speaking from beyond the grave” moment.
I was happy to see that we finally found out exactly how Howard & Maria Stark died. I know that sounds like a horrible thing to say, but it’s a big part of Iron Man’s character arc and I’d been hoping that we’d get a scene depicting it. I’m impressed that none of this made its way into the trailer – so much of this movie felt fresh and unexpected, not just rehashed from the trailer.
For some reason I’d always thought they died in the fifties, which is one of (many) reasons I really really want Agent Carter to be renewed. Apparently they died in the nineties, though? So that meant I had to readjust my mental timeline of MCU events.
Also, and this is REALLY nitpicky, but I kind of hate how the guy who plays elderly!Howard looks nothing like his younger self. I googled it and apparently the same actor played him in, like, Iron Man 2, which I’d completely forgotten. (I try to forget that I wasted my time on those movies.) I can understand why they’d use the same actor, but it made all his scenes feel less believable. I don’t know why they didn’t just use makeup and CGI on his younger actor as they did with Hayley Atwell for her scene as elderly!Peggy in The Winter Soldier.
The true villain of this film is Zemo, and I’m so happy that he was finally included in the MCU as well. He’s been in a LOT of the Captain America comics I’ve read so far, and it seems as though they changed his storyline quite a bit, but I’m still happy. Also, you should google for pictures of his original costume because it is, like, #3 on my list of “favorite silliest Marvel Comics costumes of all time.” (#1 and #2 are Hawkeye and Wolverine, of course.)
The last thing I want to say is that I love the ending. I’ve talked to a lot of people who thought it was going to end differently. I thought it would end differently. In the comics, either Bucky or Sam take up the mantle of Captain America after Cap is killed, and so that was one of the prevailing fan theories about this movie. The other, which I thought was less likely to happen, was that Cap and Bucky beat Iron Man to death.
Instead, none of that happened. They DID beat each other nearly to death, but they also ended up walking away from that battle – and, if I understood correctly, although the Avengers are now split in two and estranged from one another, Cap offered to fight on Tony’s side once again if he ever needed help? So, yeah. That offer made the ending of this movie incredibly complex and did a good job of setting up for the upcoming Infinity Wars movies – where we’ll see all of the current Avengers, as well as some new ones we haven’t seen before (CAPTAIN MARVEL!).
I’ll add, too, that the complexity of this movie was helped by the fact that the plot ended up being decidedly NOT #TeamCap vs. #TeamIronMan. Before the movie, when we had only the trailers to go by, everyone was like, “OK, Black Panther is gonna fight Bucky, so he’s on Iron Man’s side.” And while it’s true that he does fight Bucky, he doesn’t really agree completely with Iron Man either. He was sort of the moral compass of this movie, the first to realize what was happening – that Zemo was trying to drive the Avengers apart. There were so many more forces at work here than just “Cap and Iron Man are fighting,” which I honestly hadn’t expected.
In short, I loved this movie. It wasn’t perfect, but it was still pretty amazing. The more comic books I read, the less I like the MCU, because it screws up so much. Watching the Captain America movies helps to restore my love of Marvel, though. THIS is what a Marvel movie should be. I’ve heard Captain America: Civil War described as “a better Avengers movie than the actual Avengers movies,” and I couldn’t agree more. I’m so happy that we got not only a great, well-written movie focusing on my favorite superhero, but a great, well-written movie featuring so many other well-known characters from the comics.