Captain America: Civil War Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
It’s seems like the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been leading up to this moment for quite some time now, and here it is in all its glory. The clash between Captain America and Iron Man. Despite my liking of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I am well aware of the backlash of complaints the film has had, so naturally I wondered if Marvel would make the same mistakes. Luckily they didn’t and the third Captain America film ticks all the right boxes and stirs the franchise into some gritty territory.
The build-up to this conflict started way back in Avengers Assemble when Iron Man developed a new, scary perspective on life, whilst Captain America learnt that following orders doesn’t always bring about true justice. Fast forward to Avengers: Age of Ultron the perspectives of these two characters had grown further away from their original beliefs seen in their introductory films. Iron Man had become paranoid towards protecting the world, whilst Captain America was trying to find new ways of delivering protection outside of the corrupt government system.
All of these events have led to many consequences and that is what Captain America: Civil War concentrates on. We see Iron Man’s beliefs pushed to new grounds as his guilt over the creation of Ultron haunts him into making questionable choices in order to repay his sins. Similar to the graphic novel, Iron Man is confronted by the mother of one of his victims, a poor innocent civilian who happened to be caught in the crossfire of an Avenger operation. This makes him a very different character to what we have grown to love over the years. Iron Man is no longer a cheerful character with snappy one-liners, he’s now a serious and broken specimen out to try and fix the world by any means necessary. It is quickly apparent though that he may be making all the same mistakes he did in Age of Ultron, i.e. not fully thinking things through.
Then we have Captain America who wishes to avoid joining the government’s new legislation which takes away the Avengers right to act outside of the law. Having grown wary of working under superiors, especially after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America wanted to remain in control of his actions and not be told who his enemies are. This falls back onto the continued story of his relationship with Bucky Barnes. Due to the nature of him once being a Hydra assassin, despite being controlled, the government deem him an enemy. This doesn’t sit right with Captain America as he feels it is his job to apprehend him. By this point, however, Captain America is no longer an Avenger having refused to join the legislation and so is deemed to be operating outside of the law. Captain America is right in his actions but so is Iron Man in wanting the Avengers to be put in check.
The foundation of the film lays heavily on the idea that the Avengers aren’t fully deemed as heroes and instead vigilantes, or “dangerous” by Thaddeus Ross. Similar to the events in Dawn of Justice where Superman was questioned for his actions in Man of Steel, Marvel Studios decided to go down a similar route and have the Avengers questioned for placing civilians in danger during their so-called avenging. The beginning of the film showcases an incident during an operation where civilians are accidentally caught in the crossfire. Captain America understands the consequences but feels he cannot allow himself to be pressured by civilian causality as it will affect his overall moral of duty, affectively causing him to fail and cause even more death. Iron Man, on the other hand, is unable to deal with the burden of loss-of-life and grows further deluded by his ideas of protecting the planet at the cost of ideals.
The core of this entire film is heart-breaking. We have grown to love all of the characters onscreen and have watched as they forged the Avengers, working together to stop both Loki and Ultron. Now they are being pitted against each other due to political conflict which has them split down the middle due to indifference in opinion. It’s hard to say who is wrong in this battle but it is easier to say that Captain America’s heart is in a better place and more understands what he is fighting for. His determination to retain freedom of speech pushes him to all new boundaries which actually make you love his character even more because you understand his emotional stake in the entire film and how determined he is to achieve it. Alas, you have to question the outcome of his actions as, like Iron Man, aren’t fully justified.
It’s saddening that word-of-mouth didn’t work in this situation and instead resulted in a battle of fists. This leads the fight getting rather gritty towards the end and the emotional factor involved is almost unbearable to watch. Both Captain America and Iron Man have their reasons to fight over Bucky which ultimately breaks apart their friendship completely. You can understand why Captain America wants to protect Bucky because he is his friend and you can also see why Iron Man wants to apprehend Bucky because he wants to insure justice and maintain the Avengers positive image in the eyes of the general public.
Another key factor in this movie is the amount of references it holds. We have the long- awaited return of Ross from The Incredible Hulk, the first major piece of continuity connection since Bruce Banner mentioned him destroying Harlem in Assemble. Then we have the return of regulars Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, War Machine and Agent 13, as well as the return of newbies Scarlet Witch, Vision and Ant-man. We also had the introduction of Black Panther and Spider-Man.
My initial worry was that all of these characters wouldn’t get the screen-time they deserved, especially with the likes of Spider-Man who I thought would be reserved for a minor cameo. Rest assured this film does well at using all of these characters. Obviously certain characters have more screen-time than others, like Black Widow and Falcon, but the other characters have enough time to reflect their involvement within the film’s events.
Black Panther certainly got plenty of screen-time, serving as a reoccurring character throughout the narrative. It was actually refreshing to see a major character have an introduction through being a side-character in another film. We got to know enough about the character to be totally invested in him, especially in how his introduction was affected by the legislation act, and want to see more in his upcoming solo film. Then there was Spider-Man who got his introduction through Iron Man recruiting him to join his team. It was brilliant to see him actually joining in in the fight against Captain America, instead of being there at the beginning as a cameo like the trailers suggested. We got to see the web-slinger in all his glory and witness whether this latest incarnation, portrayed by Tom Holland, was any good. He actually felt right at home and it was funny to see him feel sort of out of place because he is slightly different within his abilities and his innocent attitude.
Much has to be praised when talking about the infamous airport fight scene, which surprisingly, doesn’t happen at the end of the film like you would expect. It still lasts long enough to be satisfying and with all the characters onscreen fighting one another with their unique fighting styles it was a fanboys dream come true. We see Spider-Man goofing around, and being extremely badass; we have Hawkeye and Black Widow joking around about their friendship in the midst of battle; we have Ant-man reversing his shrinking ability and overall a fantastically choreographed scene that was worth every second.
I suppose my only gripe with the film was the lack of consequence. Despite the film titled “Civil War” we don’t actually have a massive amount of fighting, which is totally fine because when it does happen it is worth the wait. However, concerning the legislation side of the narrative I do feel like there wasn’t enough concentration on the affect of the new system. In the graphic novel the act caused a huge rift and a massive amount of tension due to the superheroes being stricken of their ability to save people. Here we more just concentrate on Captain America trying to act outside of the law to rescue Bucky rather than combatting the government. Which means the fight scenes in question lack a “Civil War” feel because it is simply a group of rebels fighting against the authority over a crime rather than a battle to determine who is right.
I also feel that the presence of villain Helmut Zemo wasn’t needed. It was similar to the problem within Dawn of Justice where Lex Luthor’s involvement within Batman and Superman’s confrontation wasn’t needed because enough reasons were already in play. Same goes here. The whole rift in the Avengers starts when Captain America decides not to sign the legislation which is then furthered by the presence of Bucky, with him essentially serving as the beacon of all the tension.
Including Zemo added little to the plot in the grand-scheme of things. If anything we had a pointless side-plot involving another group of Winter Soldiers which goes absolutely nowhere. They aren’t part of the plot because Zemo kills them as they weren’t part of his plan. His real plan involved him getting revenge for the death of his family, who died during the events of Age of Ultron, through causing further conflict between the Avengers. Though it did lead to some nasty revelations, which I predicted very early on, concerning Bucky which sent Iron Man into a state of rage, formulating the heart-breaking final fight between Captain America and Iron Man.
I do find though that this information could’ve easily have been delivered by some other means, thereby deleting a villain which wasn’t necessary within this particular film. The focus should’ve been entirely on the legislation act, the government’s interference and the conflict between the opposing Avengers. And for those wondering how much involvement Brock Rumlow/Crossbones has in the film, don’t get too excited because he merely serves as an introductory enemy to the film. Though his character, for the little screen-time he receives, has some nice conflicting scenes with Captain America as he tries getting his revenge after the events of The Winter Soldier.
Finally, the film doesn’t get the most satisfying conclusion. It’s a good ending, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the ending I expected. It was too light and without consequence. I assumed the ending would follow suit with the graphic novel and have Captain America defeated but this doesn’t happen. I even anticipated the worst case scenario that Iron Man would kill him in order to ensure the legislation is secured. The only nod towards Captain America’s defeat we have is him ultimately feeling no longer deserving of his iconic shield. And yet he still feels he can lead his own team of Avengers and leaves Iron Man a note saying he will fight again if he is needed. It does seem a little weak considering everything that happened in the film prior. Yes he is now outside of the law but he hasn’t been left with regret due to the extreme limits he went to in order to get his point across like in the graphic novel. Also the consequences of having Captain America’s team locked up in a specially built prison, thereby showcasing how far Iron Man has fallen in order to gain peace, was wiped clean by them being rescued at the end. The lack of consequence took away a lot of the real good points within the film and it’s a shame really.
Despite my minor qualms with this film, I really enjoyed it. It’s been one of, if not the best, MCU film to date. I suppose it is unfair marking such a film as one of my favourites because of its event status and all the neat elements it throws at you, like the awesome fight scene featuring Spider-Man, but it deserves its due credit. Captain America: Civil War ticks so many boxes that it is near enough impossible not to recommend it. The film is without a doubt a perfect example of how to make a superhero movie. It keeps you gripped from start to finish, leaves you emotionally attached, delivers tons of thrills, and even manages to make you laugh. This is the ultimate Marvel experience and it starts Phase Three of the MCU with flying colours, placing the future of the films within some interesting territories and I can’t wait to see how things expand further.