Fresh on our screens, already a critical and commercial success, one of the highest-grossing Marvel movies to date, with a wave of franchise and PR that resembles a veritable tsunami… And with admittedly great posters :). Who hasn’t seen, or at least heard, about Captain America: Civil War?
Ola: Yeah. And that’s why we’ll take a look at it from a bit different angle: not only the fabled “continuity” within Marvel movies, but also from the perspective of the comic books that Civil War was inspired by.
The movie contents are hopefully known to everyone by this point, but if not – BIG SPOILER ALERT: we’ll unabashedly write about events and characters appearing in the movie.
Piotrek: Yes. Here be spoilers. Seriously, go, see the movie, and get back here after that. By now, you know what the MCU is about, so there is no point in reading tonnes of reviews to make up your mind about going to the cinema.
Ola: All right. Having said this, let’s dig into Captain America: Civil War. What is it like? Where does it stand in the Cap movies trilogy? In the MCU? In the Marvel comic books universe?
Piotrek: The movie is awesome. A perfect superhero movie. For a MCU fan who had seen all the previous installments – great payoff. For the rest – who cares, although it is universally praised by almost everybody, so you probably don’t need to be a huge fan to enjoy it.
Ola: Well, I guess the “everybody” you talk about already watched previous movies :P. I think that to really enjoy it you need to have seen not only Cap movies but also at least a few of the recent flicks – starting with The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Captain America new movie deals directly with the outcome of the Age of Ultron, and the continuity there is very strong. As for its awesomeness – I’ll be frank. I appreciate Captain America: The Winter Soldier much more, on many levels. Starting with its fidelity to the comic book origins…
Piotrek: I’m sure the plot of comic book plot was simplified in adaptation, but that’s rather obvious for all the MCU movies. My opinion is – it was not oversimplified. There is a real story here, tension, drama, a sense of house divided. In a world where they defeated all the major external threats (or so they think 😉 ) we have internal conflict where both sides have valid points. Because sure, I root for Cap, but in reality, as a voter in modern (semi) democracy, I’d want a measure of control over supernatural beings capable of destroying my city, even if they were mostly benevolent. And the battles between our heroes were, for me, not only fun to watch, but also emotionally moving.
Ola: OK, see, that’s where I don’t agree. I think it was oversimplified, a great deal, and not only the plot, but the subject matter itself. The comic book we’re talking about was a milestone in Marvel’s universe development. It went very deep (many comics did and still do, to be fair, but not many affect almost the whole universe, as Civil War did) and, leaving out the plot details, it concentrated on a very important problem of our times: the dilemma between security and freedom. Which is more important? How much of one are you willing to sacrifice in order to have the other? What responsibility are you willing to take for your actions and for the actions of others? How do you define those values? And how far are you willing to go to protect and uphold them?
Those are the questions that the movie lacks. Yes, I know: the comic books cater now to a more mature audience, whereas the movies try to lower the age bar as much they can. But still – I see it as a chance (mostly) lost. Captain America: The Winter Soldier used its chance for a serious conversation with its audience so much better; and I think it comes from its greater fidelity to its comic book roots, even though the plot has been severely changed as well. Why? Because it still kept to the comic book themes, it didn’t oversimplify them, it didn’t change the motivations or the values of the main characters. And Captain America: Civil War did.
Piotrek: That’s harsh. I’m only halfway through The Road to Civil War, so maybe the comic will blow my mind and I’ll find the movie lacking in comparison. But I really like what we got and I think it was more than sophisticated enough for a comic book movie. The roles of two main protagonists are sort of reversed from their origins. Cap is rebelling against a government he doesn’t trust, whereas Stark, tormented by guilt and doubt, agrees to submit himself to political control. And both are imperfect, with Rogers willing to go uncomfortably far to defend his homicidal friend, and Tony arrogantly deciding he knows best how to defend his friends, against their will if necessary.
At the end of the movie, I still respect both heroes, because both defended their integrity. On personal level, Tony probably lost more, in friends and self-respect. Steve gave up his shield, but not his honor and sort-of made up with his friend (or at least started the process of wound healing…)
Ola: Agreed. Psychologically, the characters remained close to their origins. They are well defined by not only their talk, but their walk as well. Still, their talk – especially Iron Man’s and Spidey’s – is very good.
Spider-Man: Hey guys, you ever see that really old movie, Empire Strikes Back?
War Machine: Jesus, Tony, how old is this guy?
Iron Man: I don’t know, I didn’t carbon date him. He’s on the young side.
Ola: What I’m trying to say is that the movie is more about mommy and daddy and lost friends issues than it is about freedom vs. security. At some point it becomes all about vengeance – the weird, aborted efforts at creating a subplot concerning other Winter Soldiers were completely unconvincing. As for the villain…
Piotrek: Yeah. Zemo… in many ways, is just another weak villain. In terms of firepower, maybe MCU’s weakest. But… in a way, I agree with Angry Joe, he wins a bit.
Ola: He is weak, true. Still, I liked the fact that Captain America: Civil War clearly shows the link between the emergence of Avengers and the emergence of their foes. Vision states in nicely, saying that basically Avengers create their own enemies. Zemo is a proof of that reasoning.
Piotrek: Civil War consist of many sub-plots, tied together by jokes and action scenes. But they all fit together well and I won’t hesitate to call it the best superhero team movie. Better than the Avengers, and sure as hell better than Batmans vs Superman. That’s a nice pair of movies to compare, two long pictures with ambition to show a complex story about a large set of characters. To tell an epic story and lay grounds for future plots. Marvel is better on every level. The movie’s pacing, its self-irony, balance between all the elements… it clicks here, in B. vs S. everything constantly clashed. We are reminded what we need to know about old heroes, new ones are introduced in a way that doesn’t break the flow of the story (Black Panther and Spider Man introduced before they got their origin stories, or rather we have a ultra-short origin stories in here… with this out of the way, their movies might be really interesting).
Ola: Oh well, I think I liked Avengers Assemble more ;). But here we have Spidey, and he’s really, really great! I like the fact that he’s just a kid having fun, still unsure of his own powers and of his own concept of life, and screw the continuity :P. But I do wonder what the MCU moguls will do with the fact that in the comic book he reveals his name…
Piotrek: Chris Evans is great Cap, Robert Downey Jr. is superb Iron Man, everybody is at least very good, two first-timers are especially worth mentioning – Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Black Panther is a powerful new character and I can’t wait to see his movie, new Spider-Man is an experiment. Young again (and raised by way younger than usual Aunt May), naive and very excited about his chance to work with established heroes, he’s joy to watch. And so is Ant-Man, comic relief guy of the Cap’s team.
Ola: A bit of comic relief is quite a relief indeed among all that fighting, airport crashing, explosions and sad faces – and here I need to say that Stan Lee’s cameo was cute :). Marvel’s doing a great job of juggling their multitude of characters, giving each a bit of screen time, spinning the complex tale of relations and decisions and deeds with utmost care.
Steve Rogers: I’m sorry, Nat. I can’t sign it.
Natasha Romanoff: I know.
Steve Rogers: Then why did you come here?
Natasha Romanoff: Because I didn’t want you to be alone
And one last quote, one nicely showing the deep cracks and divisions that set up the stage for the next slew of movies:
Captain America: [about Bucky] He’s my friend.
Iron Man: So was I.
Score: Ola 6/10, Piotrek 9/10