Review - Captain America: Civil War

Well well well well well. Where the hell do I begin. Long story short, it's good. Very very good.

Review Over.

But not really. Oh, and spoilers are ahead.

I don't even know where to begin. I want to just talk about the whole movie beat by beat, but that's not much of a review. So, let's start with the highs.

I'm not even going to bury the lead here. Immediate reaction coming out of this movie, the highest of the high comes down to Spider-Man and Ant-Man, by a mile. They get introduced going into the big airport fight at the end of the second act and in a movie that is generally very serious with some typical Marvel humor thrown in, the balance gets thrown up to 11 once the duo are brought into the fold. They each get their own fantastic intro scenes before going into the big fight which is just paced beautifully going back and forth between serious battling between friends to hilarious asides with them both.

You guys remember that old movie? The Empire Strikes Back?
— Spider-Man

Not only do we get Spidey jumping around battle to battle making quips as the best looking Spidey we've ever seen, but we get Scott Lang sneaking around being tiny until the big "surprise," he goes Giant-Man.

Along with the duo themselves, this movie was full of fantastic character moments. Basically any scene between Cap and Tony can't be looked away from. Hawkeye's limited appearances are all awesome and some of the best scenes we've had from the character. Scarlet Witch gets some real chances to chew the scenery this time around by being something of an important plot character in the first half, and along with Wanda, we get some really great development (and funny shenanigans) from Vision.

What Ben Riddick Has To Say

Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is easily the best on screen performance of our friendly neighborhood Peter Parker. Holland breaths new life into the hero and makes it the hero I remember from the original comics. Every interaction he has with any hero, whether they are on his side or not, is portrayed as a sincere star struck young hero.

While Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of the Black Panther was phenomenal, his role in Civil War seemed somewhat forced. Re-watching the movie, it seemed that it would have been perfectly fine with or without him in these scenes. Regardless, Civil War is definitely building the hype for the Black Panther movie next year.

Once again Marvel shows that they really cannot do wrong with the casting of their heroes and villains. This is made especially true when we finally see characters like Ant-Man interact with a hero he has never met, Captain America. Even when brought together they do a fantastic job of letting each personality shine.

Colonel Zemo, or Baron Zemo in the comics, is really the villain that Captain America Civil War needed when the main focus was heroes fighting heroes. His meddling behind the scenes only makes it the story move on and allows him to be introduced for a role in future Marvel movies.

 

 

 

And more seriously, this is technically a Captain America movie and the movie does fall squarely on Cap's shoulders, and while I wouldn't call his arc weak, it's kind of the smallest actual arc. Character development falls more onto Bucky and Tony Stark. With Bucky dealing with the guilt over his Winter Soldier transgressions and Tony (still?) dealing with his past mistakes/Avengers death vision/breakup with Pepper(?).

You can probably tell, but this is sort of where the movie starts to have some issues for me. Even so, it's all very followable and forgivable! As with any of the Marvel movies nowadays, the weaknesses in judging them as standalone movies comes from them being part of a much larger and ever expanding universe where knowing what has happened is getting more and more important.

Compared to the Civil War comic storyline (look forward to Ben's Comparison Article soon for much more detail), the movie version is much simpler in it's premise, for better or worse. We knew going in that New York, DC, and Sokovia would be the new inciting incidents for the movie, but they gave us the final straw with a grabber set piece in Lagos where the New Avengers take down Crossbones, but not without some collateral loss of life damage.

After that we get Tony's intro where we get all of his motivations, all at once; starting with a hologram memory of his parents and his regrets, his reaction to Pepper being gone, and then a mother who blames the loss of her son on Tony's antics in Sokovia.
In what is done a little too quickly, they catch us up on Tony's life since Age of Ultron, intro the Stark parents plotline which connects to Bucky, AND gives Tony his guilt complex leading him to spearhead the Sokovia Accords (without any mention of his Thanos visions seemingly being a part of his motivations). It's a bit too much in a small amount of time, and sort of out of balance with Cap's side where his motivation comes almost purely from his experience; a distrust in a guiding hand after SHIELD's fall and World Council/Government's historically misguided or nefarious decisions. Bucky's importance to Cap's story doesn't even start until after he refuses to sign the Accord and the UN is attacked.

His final motivator that stretches and morphs through the movie is the need to protect his own (starting with Scarlet Witch and later Bucky, ending with breaking everybody from the Raft before going into hiding). 

They solidify Cap's side of things with a speech from Sharon Carter at Peggy's funeral. When Cap is questioning himself the most and it's time to either sign or not, Steve gets some choice words, nearly straight from the mouth of comic book Captain America.

And she said “Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say ‘No, YOU move’.”
— Sharon Carter about Peggy Carter

What Ben Riddick Has To Say

This is the quote that sets the entire tone for Captain America: Civil War, a quote pulled directly from Mark Millar’s Civil War comics. The quote that tells fans of comic books “Listen, as much as this movie is for those who have committed to seeing the 12 movies we have made, it’s also for the people who have immersed themselves into comics for many years more.”

What makes Civil War succeed is Marvel finally deciding that viewers of their movies no longer need their hands held. The plot of this movie has been building up since the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie nearly 8 years ago. We are finally seeing all of the built up tension on the team reach its breaking point.

In what is surprisingly similar to that other superheroes fighting movie, a breaking point for the antagonistic one comes late in the film to get things headed to a climax. In Batman V Superman, Batman's assault is ended by the discovery that Bruce and Clark's mothers share the same first name...Martha. Instant friends.

Ok..

In Civil War (Captain America: Civil War, mind you), Cap and Iron-Man get friendly after Tony starts to discover the truth behind the recent attacks, that is until he makes a discovery closer to home. Due to Zemo's tampering Tony learns that his parents were murdered, that it was Hydra, and the Winter Soldier carried it out. And Steve Rodgers knew it. Boom, he snaps. 

He Killed my mother!
— Tony Stark

The movie goes from the massive (and outstanding) airport action piece in the middle, typically reserved for a climax, into a very personal emotion filled battle between two partners and the manifestation of the rift between them. And it is brutal.

The fight scenes in this movie, like The Winter Soldier before it, are some of the best in the Marvel Universe. Saying that, I think there was a bit of a mismatch in places. For the second half, I stand by that above statement, scenes are incredible, paced excellently, injected with comedy when appropriate, and perfectly acted. Circling back to the first half, I felt like the camera was staying extra close to the fights, which is not a style my memory gives me of other Marvel movies. It could be because of how close to the screen I was, but the early fights, specifically Lagos and the Bucky/Panther chase, it was feeling a bit like a Bourne movie. It didn't ruin anything for me, just a little jarring. I'm just happy I didn't think the same when it came to the airport or the Hydra base in Siberia.

Let's start wrapping this up and talk about the ending.

I've talked a lot about ways I expected (or hoped) Civil War was going to play out and affect the MCU, the least of which is following through the on assassination of Captain America.

Needless to say, that's not what they did in the movie, and while I'm not saying that I'm always right and they ruined it, I think the ending could've been a bit stronger then it was.

After the climax with Cap disabling Tony's suit and escaping Siberia with an arm-less Bucky, Cap sends the olive-branch out to Iron Man and gifts him a bat-signal while also breaking everybody else out of the Raft and going into hiding. And....essentially that's it.

The movie takes a really big premise, hero registration, and closes it down to turning just the Avengers (along with non-current Avengers members like Iron Man and Hawkeye, I guess?) into a hand of the government. This makes sense in theory, making it more directly meaningful to just our central characters, but it ignores and potentially erases what is going on in the expanded MCU, with Netflix and Agents of SHIELD with the Inhumans as they aren't even worthy of being mentioned. The closest they get is Tony picking up Spider-Man as a street level hero, because the kid from Queens showing up as a flash on YouTube would be more help in the fight then the publically named devil of Hell's Kitchen.

Keeping things going, Tony goes from learning the truth about his parents and actually fighting to kill for the first time in the whole movie, declaring Steve doesn't deserve to be Captain America or to own the shield his father built, to seemingly forgiving and forgetting after cooling off (for a couple of days/weeks?) and reading a letter.
I don't really have a problem with it because I honestly felt like Tony was reacting out of emotion (because he was) and just needed to cool down and think it through, but the way it plays out in the movie is a little unearned.

The movie ends with another seeming reset team of Avengers, now under the control of Tony and playing nice under the Accords, I guess? They don't really bring up the Accords again after Siberia.

The global implications of what would be a hero registration don't have a clear effect on future movies or the rest of the Marvel universe, and as the movies will start setting their sights on the cosmos toward Thanos, it seems like it'll just be written off.

For more on these thoughts and why Cap's death may have been a better and more interesting route to take the MCU, check out the Civil War Spoilercast on NK Radio.

All in all, the movie a freaking fantastic. Don't let my knocking it down a couple of pegs deter you even one iota. If you're even the slightest Marvel movie fan, this is a MUST SEE. It easily breaches the Top-3 and for many maybe even the new #1.

BONUS:

While I saw the movie in 2D, which was all totally fine, Nerdy Knight Sam 'DJFLuFFKiNS' Chen saw the movie in IMAX 3D and decided to write out what he thought about it. Check it out.

What Sam Chen Has to Say

Likewise, IMAX has also found a unique place in the theaters of moviegoers right between REALLY BIG SCREEN and booming sound. Neither of which is really pronounced in this latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There aren’t a lot of big explosions or heart thumping action (after all, the words Fast and Furious aren’t anywhere in the title. And sorry to say, the 15 minutes of footage shot on the brand new 2D digital cameras just didn’t seem all that special.

Gone are the days where a 3D means an obligatory rock comes hurtling your direction every 20 minutes. Filmmakers have adapted to the point where they are truly tools for adding additional depth to a scene whether it behind the counter or over a vast landscape. The same held true in Civil War. While you do get an inevitable shield to the face from the Captain, the balance of the 3D in most scenes is spot on, except for the action scenes (which is why you’re going to the movie anyways, right?). Between a few fast paced chase scene and some purely disorienting handheld action, the 3D in this movie does take you out of action in a few key moments.

So save your money and forgo the IMAX and/or 3D experience, get a larger popcorn, or better yet a cheap matinee ticket, since you know you’re seeing this one more than once.

What are your thoughts on Captain America: Civil War? Did you like the movie as much as the masses are so far? Did you read the comic and think it measures up to the legacy? Let us know in the comments and check out the Nerdy Knights' Civil War Spoilercast, and all of our other video content.