Captain America: Civil War

Saturday was my day to finally see the latest Captain America movie though it really wasn’t a Cap movie.  It more of an Avengers movie.  I liked it — with reservations — and feel like I need to see it again.  One thing it did very nicely was start a passionate discussion among the folks with whom I’d seen the movie.  What did I like — the new Spiderman was adorable.  He really was a teenager.  It was fun to see Antman return.  The Black Panther — OMG what a gorgeous, interesting man.  My heart has belonged to the Captain ever since the first film, and I could look at Sebastian Stan all day.  One of my friends rather ironically said it was the best superhero/kung fu movies and he’s not wrong.  The fight sequences were gorgeous.  Here’s where I stand.  I think I need to watch this movie again, but here are my initial thoughts.

*********************************************************************AND NOW THERE ARE SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!!**********************************************************************************************



Where I ran into problems was with motivations and set ups.  What threw me was how Captain America, a man who reached adulthood during the Depression and WWII would suddenly turn into McArthur.  The one thing I thought would always be front and center for Steve Rogers is the idea that the military needs civilian oversight.  It’s been one of the founding principles of our country since the Constitution was drafted.  So now he thinks the heroes (who are like armies in terms of their powers) should make all the calls about when to fight and when to refrain?  Is it because it’s the UN and he’s an America First kind of guy?  It just seemed odd.

Then there was the cryptic exchange with Tony near the end of the film about how Bucky/Winter Soldier had killed Tony’s parents.  Tony asks Steve “Did you know?”, and the Captain says “Yes.”  Okay did I blink and miss something during the movie?  How did Steve know?  He was in the ice when Howard and Mrs. Stark were killed.  Did Bucky tell him?  Did he see the video?  And who shot that?  And why was Stark driving around with what appeared to be super soldier serum in the trunk of his car?  This guy knew the threats that existed but he just heads off to the airport with a powerful weapon in the trunk of the Impala?

Which brings me to Tony’s OTT reaction when he realizes Bucky was the killer and now Tony goes absolutely Biblical on the Cap’s ass.  Tony is smarter than this.  By this point in the film he knows he’s been manipulated, they have all been manipulated to fight each other.  So now he suddenly sees this footage and he doesn’t go — “Oh, okay, somebody is fucking with me.  Well, I’m not playing.”  It felt almost as contrived as the incredibly stupid throw down between Batman and Superman in Batman versus Superman (which was a terrible movie.  Don’t go see it.  See Civil War instead.)

Okay, I’m back.  Where was I?

My other question was “who is this movie about?”  Ostensibly Captain America, but you could argue it’s Tony’s movie, and then you’ve got Black Panther who ends up being the most mature of the supers along with Vision.  It sees like those guys should be put in charge with the authority to send people to their rooms and ground them from superhero play time for at least three weeks.

Ironically by the end of the movie I realized that in many ways this movie was about Zemo, and he was frankly more interesting then a lot of the bickering heroes.  He was clearly smarter then they were, but I kept wondering how did he find all these secret documents?  I wanted to know more about his journey, his search for the tools to exact vengeance on the people who had destroyed his life.

I think the film does raise really interesting issues and questions.  I think some of my disquiet is due to the fact it is just so busy.  I’ve found that for me I like these movies more when the are more focused, more about a single individual in emotional pain and conflict.  The first Iron Man movie, the first Captain America movie, the second Toby McGuire Spiderman movie, X-Men First Class and X-Men Days of Future Past.  I was also watching the movie with friends who aren’t as immersed in the Marvel cinematic universe as I am, and they were utterly baffled.    We face this problem with Wild Cards.  When have we become too self-referential?  When is backstory too much backstory?  It’s probably why people keep falling back on origin stories even though I am so sick of them.  You aren’t carrying around all this history.

Bottom line — I’m going to see it again, and see if it works better for me.  I didn’t dislike the movie.  I just found it not as strong as I’d hoped.


17 Responses to Captain America: Civil War

  • Georgino ludwig says:

    Ok I’m gonna comment in more thought out detail later as I’m on a quick break from work. So here gors. Cap knew about bucky killing howard stark because of the events in Winter Soilder. He is show footage of it during his and black widows discussion with the computer formerly known as zholar (the red skulls scientist). He is told that when history wouldn’t cooperate with the plans of hydra history was altered, accidents were arranged

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I desperately needed a refresher because I have a life outside of Marvel movies and I didn’t remember that tiny plot point in Winter Soldier.

  • Pretty much in agreement. I think the troubles with this movie were because it was busy carrying water for other movies.

    The tasks as I saw them:

    1. Introduce Black Panther and Spiderman such that everyone wants to see their movies.

    2. Give Ant Man his power upgrade so it doesn’t have to happen in the middle of his next movie.

    3. Give Iron Man a graceful exit because Robert Downey Junior’s contract is up, but they still might be able to arrange for him to have cameos.

    4. Advance Wanda and the Vision’s relationship and both their characters, hopefully enough to maybe lead to a Scarlet Witch/Vision movie down the road after Dr. Strange introduces magic so having Agatha Harkness come in to teach her magic won’t come out of left field.

    5. Continue the redemption arc for Bucky, but separate him from Cap so people unable to relate to 1940s buddies will quit looking for slash fic angles.

    6. Get Cap a girlfriend in service to the former goal.

    7. Showcase Peggy Carter so people tune in for a third season of Agent Carter while letting Steve say his final goodbyes.

    8. Give Black Panther, who doesn’t have that much of a fan base, another popular character to buoy the property up without upstaging him. (Thus the Winter Soldier.)

    9. Have Tony Stark play Edna Mode to give Spiderman a better costume so we don’t have to believe in Peter getting mad sewing skills in his off hours. (Called this one months ago.)

    10. Have Cap set up to lead his own team of Avengers.

    With all that to deal with, the ended up bending Cap and Iron Man a bit character-wise to make it all fit.

    I also have to admit that Zemo was the most interesting character, and it will be interesting to see him come back later as Baron Zemo.

  • Personally, I found it to be the strongest of the MCU movies to date. I empathized with Tony’s explosion because I’ve blamed myself for things that happened to people I cared about, and I think… well, I’m relatively sure that if someone showed me proof that someone else was at fault, maybe someone who had been blackmailed into it, to put it in more “real world” terms, I wouldn’t care that they’d been blackmailed. I’d care that they were there, in front of me, and I had *someone else to blame besides myself.*

    I’d take advantage of the moment, because some part of me would know that I’d be back to blaming myself soon enough, and I needed to hurt this other person who bore some of the blame, and never mind anything else.

    I did love the heck out of Black Panther, am very much looking forward to his movie, and I think that Spider-man was brilliant in all ways– except that I don’t follow how tony knew Peter was Spider-man. He had pics of a guy in a costume, but never explained how he connected them to Peter Parker.

    Anyway, I loved it– and am looking forward to “Doctor Strange” in November.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I can’t agree that it was the strongest film. Action does not equate story. It’s once again a problem of frenzied plot and not near enough theme. A lot of shit happened, but there was no grounding in why it mattered. This should have been a deep analysis of the constraints of power on a super heroes ie a superpower nation, but it got buried by all the characters and CGI fight sequences. I’m getting really sick of CGI fight sequences.

      • My feeling that it’s the strongest MCU movie had somewhere between little and nothing to do with the action scenes. Why would you believe that was why I think it the strongest?

        No. What I saw was someone taking *the very story that made me COMPLETELY STOP reading Marvel Comics,* and make it into a wonderful, enjoyable movie about two friends who disagree deeply over an important, life-changing issue– and drag all of their friends into the argument, and some strangers, besides.

        I think that, all things considered, they could not have handled it any better in 2:27 than they did, not and keep *the majority of fans* happy. And since that last is their job?

        Dead bang on.

        • Melinda Snodgrass says:

          I think there was a fascinating conflict and conversation. I just wanted more time spent on that debate and less time on fights at airports, and fights in apartments, and fights in hidden Siberian villain lairs. It wasn’t as bad as Ultron which had so many pointless fights, but I wanted more interaction that didn’t involve punching each other.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    I finally figured out what really bothered me about this film while replying to some comments. The plot buried and crushed the theme. And it was a really interesting theme but there was no time to take a breath and reflect on why this mattered and what’s at stake. There weren’t enough pianissimo moments. It was forte all the time. (to put it in musical terms and for me writing is like music.)

  • With the business with Tony Stark not giving up on vengeance at the end and playing it smart with Bucky, I think what was going on–or at least what we were supposed to see going on–is that Tony is still emotionally the super-smart sarcastic fifteen year old who never got to kiss his mom goodbye. And his scene with hot Aunt May and then Peter worked into that. Tony saw Peter as him–the super smart teenager but one who still had someone there who loved him. And it’s that loss that powered his rage at the end, combined with the knowledge that Steve and Bucky’s friendship was another thing he didn’t have and envied, especially in the aftermath of getting dumped by Pepper who was the one person helping him keep sane by filling the hole left by the loss of his mom all those years ago.

    Meanwhile we have T’Challa, who was much older when he lost his father, find not the puppet who was used to kill his father, but the man who actually did it. But Zemo apologizes and that’s enough. T’Challa moves from loyal son and warrior to king in his own right, realizing that letting Zemo face justice and trial would be a far better thing. Also because Zemo’s public confession will also bare the terrible wrong that was done to him, rather than paper it over as yet another nameless tragedy.

    I’ll also have to admit that the final scene with T’Challa was masterful because with his introduction, he seemed a bit too much of a Mary Sueish privileged prat, but seeing him step into his father’s shoes and actually be the wise and merciful king wins you a lot of sympathy. And even more when he agrees to take Bucky and help keep him in stasis and off the world radar until he can be cured.

    And with Tony wanting Steve to leave his shield? It was petty, but it was also in character. As much as I might like Tony to play it smart, he’s also still the broken sarcastic kid we saw in the CGI youth flashback hologram. And he needs that flaw to be sympathetic. Without it he’d be insufferable. With it he stays human.

    And thinking on Steve, I don’t think the distrust of the UN was what motivated him. I think that was just a smokescreen over what’s always motivated him. Not that he will always do the right thing or always stand up for the little guy and not like bullies, but that he’ll never desert a friend. And Bucky, being his oldest friend, is the one Steve will go to save every time.

  • Tom Painter says:

    I personally found this outing to be one of the strongest in the MCU and felt that it juggled its various characters and plot threads remarkably well. As far as some of your specific issues go the answer to the ‘how did Steve know’ question, as mentioned above, was inferred in The Winter Soldier. Zola outright states that Hydra had the Starks killed with the intimation that it was possibly Bucky that did it. Steve isn’t told outright but I think he had a reasonable inkling that this was the case. He didn’t tell Stark, because he knew that if he told him HYDRA did it then he’d stop at nothing to uncover the truth and thus put his friend in jeopardy.

    As far as Stark’s reaction to the news goes I think its totally within character given the way the information is revealed. He isn’t handed a dossier he’s shown CCTV footage of his father brutally beaten to death and his mother’s windpipe crushed. He had to watch it in all its uncaring, cold and violent ‘glory’. Their deaths and subsequent absence from his life is a monumental shaper for the man he became. The overwhelming guilt he has felt since that day in 1991 when he said goodbye to them with apathy and disdain without the foreknowledge that it would be the last time has haunted him for two and a half decades. He rewrites this portion of history in the MIT presentation. Now to find out that it wasn’t just an accident, that his parents died in fear, begging for their lives, pleading for mercy from the man standing to his right its all too much. The agony is plain to see on Downey’s face, the pain of trying to batten down the overwhelming impulse towards vengeance. He looks to Cap for help, for a reason not to do what he’s thinking of doing, to find an answer in the ‘living legend that kind of lives up to the legend’ and finds deceit. That Cap chose to withhold his suspicions, proffers the reason of protecting Stark when really it was to protect Bucky. He doesn’t try to kill Cap, all he wants is Bucky, Cap just keeps putting himself in the way. Given the nature of the Winter Soldier is it the logical thing to do? No. Is it an understandable human response? Absolutely.

    As far as where Zemo got his info goes, my assumption was that he trawled through the SHIELD files Black Widow dumped on to the net for anything he could use to tear The Avengers apart and made the connection between the death of the Starks and The Winter Soldier. He found the ex-guard’s safehouse and many of the pertinent files but not the location of the WS operation where their failed ‘successful’ soldiers were still on ice and the archive footage pertinent to missions of the time were stored. His initial plan was to torture the location and further information from the guard and head there immediately. The guard wouldn’t talk so plan B was to force Bucky out of hiding and get the information from him personally the ‘bloodier path’ that he as reticent to tread but would if he had to.

    Cap being anti Sokovia accords fits with the trajectory set in motion from the moment SHIELD revealed itself to be rotten to the core. He lost faith in governmental and bureaucratic structures after that. On the one hand The Accords represent accountability but on the other they’re a hand tied behind their back. I feel he articulates his issues with it well in that there will be times when the right thing to do is counter to the agendas of the people they report to and it will not get done. That they will either fail to act in time due to red tape or a catastrophe will go unchecked completely due to internecine politics or in the worst case scenario they are ordered to do something that they do not agree with.

    I think the film asks a number of questions and ruminates on them but leaves the viewer to come to a decision regarding an answer. Ultimately I feel there isn’t one and that was the point. That by the end of the film all we want the protagonists to do is stop fighting, not through spectacle fatigue, but because they’re both right.

    Really enjoyed reading your take on the film.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Believe me. I didn’t hate the movie. I think I just expected more Cap and less Avengers lite. I’m going to see it again and see how I feel after a second viewing. I just get very tired of this need for the movies to always up the stakes or the number of people. It gets very hard to give the viewer/reader any emotional content when you are trying to service so many characters and have yet another CGI fight sequence.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I had one more realization about why the Tony/Cap throw down bugged me so much. I think I’m just getting really tired of man-babies (cough/Trump/cough). Tony is actually showing real thought, consideration and analysis with his support of the Sokovia Accords. He knows they are functionally WMD’s especially Hulk. Whether you agree with the solution or not he is at last considering the realities and looking for a solution. He seemed like a more mature man. He had allowed fear to lead him to create Ultron. He’s looking for a way to prevent another him from making another hash of things. I liked the fact the character was showing a change and I wanted him to be better than this.

      One last question — how the heck did Ant Man know to show up? Did Falcon like have his number? Was it like West Side Story where the Jets and the Sharks all met at the sock hop to plan the rumble?

      • Tom Painter says:

        Sam Wilson knew him from the events of Ant Man, Clint ‘retrieved’ him to help them defeat the squad of super soldiers they expected to meet when they caught up with Zemo.

        • Melinda Snodgrass says:

          Thanks. I knew Falcon had a run in with him, but it does seem like these guys are all in each other address books.

          • Tom Painter says:

            I imagine they keep track of people that could operate in their wheelhouse. Looking forward to Hank Pym berating Lang for turning into Giant Man and getting involved.

  • Wolf Lahti says:

    For the most part, the movie for me just sailed. Yes, there was too much going on at times, but it carried me through the potential confusion. Three things, however, bothered me:

    – I didn’t care for all the collateral damage during the fight scenes. It wasn’t as ridiculous as in Man of Steel, but still…
    – Giant Ant Man move wouldn’t be slow and lumbering; he’d be mondo fast.
    – How did Stark identify that Peter Parker was Spider-man? If he could do so that easily, couldn’t anybody?

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