CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Further Inspection is a new column on my blog. Every few weeks, I will pick a new movie and create a spoiler-filled write up for it. Initially, when I write my reviews, I never want to spoil movies in order for my audience to see them. This will allow for a spoiler-filled conversation, because sometimes, movies require the audiences to really indulge in the text in order to understand them. I AM GOING TO USE THIS COLUMN TO REALLY DISCUSS SPOILERS, SO UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The Friday night before I saw "Captain America: Civil War," I rewatched "Captain America: The First Avenger" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." I also re-read Mark Millar's "Marvel Civil War," the comic story in which the film is based upon. The comic book "Civil War" is much different to its comic book counterpart, but that's been true with just about every superhero movie. The comic Civil War involved pretty much the entirety of the Marvel universe. Something that, despite what massive Marvel fans have argued, would be way too hard to do. Its easy for a comic writer to put fifty characters on the screen with their superpowers on display. Its much harder to pay for fifty actors and pay the special effects teams to conduct those powers, especially when you're on a budget. I remain blown away by the scope and the detail of the Civil War movie we got. I also love that we see the movie version play out before Captain's eyes.
I was a #TeamCap supporter before the movie, and I am still happily a supporter after the movie. Even after thinking about it over the passed few weeks. I have read that some believe that Captain is in the wrong here. I couldn't disagree more. There is a misguided argument that Captain puts people in harms way just for Bucky. First of all, nobody gets put in harm's way. Not intentionally and not by Cap or Bucky. There is a scene, built mostly for laughs, when Cap and Bucky are fighting the German police. There is a moment when Cap catches a falling policeman then quickly shoots Bucky a dirty look. Cap doesn't sign the Accords, the new government law giving the United Nations say over where The Avengers can and cannot go, because he feels he's above the law. He saw how HYDRA infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. He knows that the country he left in the 1940's is not the same country he returned to in the 21st Century. He's probably been keeping up with history and current events. When he discusses how people have agendas and those agendas can change, he can't follow that. Cap's goal is to protect all people across the globe, not just the people the UN wants him to protect. Cap as a character has always struggled with being "lawfully right" and "morally right," but he chooses morality every single time. He's also willing to argue for morality with anyone.
When Zemo, the films villain, infiltrates the governmental base and says the trigger words on Bucky, Bucky is fighting with everything in his mental power to overcome it. He can't though, and this doesn't make Bucky a villain. Cap sees how Bucky's power can fall into the wrong hands and how his best friend can be used. I don't think Cap's crusade to save his friend is a selfish impulse, but a yearning to keep the world safe. When Cap learns that Zemo is planning something with a small army of Winter Soldiers that trained with Bucky, he can't have something so dangerous and unstable threaten the world. Every decision Cap makes in this movie is for keeping people safe and saving the world. Sure, he's human and he makes mistakes. The biggest mistake is when Cap, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Falcon go after Crossbones (featuring Frank Grillo with some truly gnarly make-up) who is trying to steal a biological weapon. Cap and his Avengers save the day, but when Crossbones plans to blow himself up in the middle of a cramped village, Scarlet Witch uses her powers to obtain and remove the blast. She can't hold it, and people die. Its a tragedy, but sometimes police, firemen, doctors, our military...they sometimes fail. I think it means something when Cap says that he tries to save every life, but its almost impossible to complete that goal everyday. Does that automatically mean we put regulation on who Cap can save and when?
I think Cap makes one other huge mistake, but we will get to that in a minute. I want to talk about Tony Stark a little bit. I appreciated how Tony Stark was handled as a character here. In the comic book Civil War, I think Millar goes a little out of his way to vilify Tony. In the movie, while I may not agree with Tony, I understand him. Tony has really been put through the wringer, moreso than his comic book counterpart arguably. He's been kidnapped by terrorists, he's discovered his business has sold weapons illegally, he suffers from PTSD after saving the world with the Avengers, that PTSD leads to creating Ultron. Ultron leads Tony to Miriam Sharpe, whose son was in Sokovia when Ultron attacked it. Miriam's son died in Sokovia that day, and Miriam blames Tony and The Avengers for that. There is a moment very reminiscent from the comic book of Tony getting blamed for Sokovia. Tony did indeed invent Ultron and its tearing him apart. This is the most guilt-ridden Stark I have ever seen in an piece of Marvel media, and I completely understand his need to sign the Sokovia Accords. This is not the same Tony Stark we saw in 2008 in his first "Iron Man" outting. He can't take anymore guilt or anymore blood on his hands, so its heartbreaking for him when Cap doesn't also sign the Sokovia Accords. He figured it would be an automatic yes for Captain America. Tony Stark is also clearly still haunted by his family's death. There is a mesmerizing scene of Tony teaching an MIT class and he's using a special piece of tech used to make his memories livable. The de-aging special effects are on miraculous display as we see a young Robert Downey Jr interact with John Slattery's Howard Stark. But we are not really in awe of the de-aging special effects, we are reminded of just how much Tony has lost.
Did I mention that Tony and Pepper are no longer dating?
Did I also mention that Tony finds out Bucky killed his parents?
That is the big reveal at the end of the movie, that's the next big punch into the ground for Tony. Zemo leads Tony, Bucky and Cap into a chamber in Siberia. We think its because Zemo is going to use the other Winter Soldiers like Bucky for some world domination scheme, but really its to show Tony who his parents' killer is. I already had an idea that this would happen, and if you've seen "Captain America: Winter Soldier," its heavily eluded to the idea that Bucky killed Tony's parents for HYDRA. Tony's father was in fact a founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it makes sense that Bucky would be the killer. Check out this scene below:
So its true, Bucky did kill Tony's parents and Cap knew about it. I figured Cap would tell Tony when the timing was right, but he never did. He does feel bad about this, and at the end of the movie, Cap does write Tony a letter of apology. Something Tony never did for the people of Africa, Sokovia and South Korea for inventing Ultron. Again, Cap is heroic even when he makes mistakes.
I think Bucky shows his true colors of heroism in this movie. He gets into grave detail of what he's been up to since he mistakenly died in World War II and how HYDRA used him over the years. We learn he was kept in a base in Siberia, the same place Zemo eventually makes his way to. We learn that HYDRA used certain trigger words to get Bucky to do their bidding. We learn that HYDRA made a small group of other Winter Soldiers just like him and when Bucky killed Tony's parents in 1991, the super-soldier serum he steals after their murder may have been a link to that. Its heartbreaking because Bucky feels the weight of what he's done and he is going to try and correct it. When Tony asks Bucky if he remembers his parents during a fight, Bucky solemnly admits that he remembers them all. He's starting to be lifted from HYDRA's hypnosis and its abundantly clear that Bucky wishes he could take his actions back. During the mid-credit scene, Bucky is in Wakanda, the home country to Black Panther, and he chooses to be frozen again until a cure for the hypnosis can be found. Its a major heroic gesture on Bucky's part and a promise that he will be a pure hero soon.
In my initial review of "Captain America: Civil War," I discussed how Spider-man was perfect for the first time on screen. I still stand by that statement, I think Tom Holland nailed it. He's nineteen-years-old and I love that he finally feels like a being picked right out of the comic books. Holland really takes advantage of the Spider-taunting in the movie, into perfect effect. At one point, Falcon says that there usually isn't that much talking in a fight, and it fits the bill. I never thought I'd ever see an image of Spider-Man crawling and swinging on Giant Man, but it was something I needed. I love that its Stark that introduces Spidey to this world. I love that Stark has had his eye on Spider-Man for an undisclosed amount of time. I love the conversation Peter Parker has with Tony Stark before Stark recruits him. Its the perfect way to handle why Parker became Spider-Man and just do an Spider-Man origin for the third time. Very well done.
Then there is Black Panther who introduced in this movie. When we meet Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa, its at a summit meeting in Vienna for the signing of the Sokovia Accords. T'Challa is there with his father T'Chaka, the king of the fictional African nation Wakanda. Suddenly, the summit meeting is bombed, and T'Challa father dies. The news says that the bombing was orchestrated by Bucky, which puts T'Challa on Bucky's trail. Black Panther never really allies with Iron Man simply because he believes in the Accords, he uses the alliance to get to Bucky. He plans to kill him out of revenge of losing his father. Black Panther is a badass in this movie. His Black Panther suit is made out of vibranium, leaving him pretty much indestructible. He's got high speed, he knows some kind of wicked kung-fu, and he's just vicious. What I love is that he's never looses himself in his revenge. When he learns the truth, that Zemo was behind the Vienna bombing and not Bucky, he talks about the need for revenge and how we can never let it consume us. I think it was oddly poetic how he didn't allow Zemo to commit suicide and for him to be accountable for his actions. Then he chooses to allow Bucky to stay in Wakanda, even though he could be put in prison for it. Already, Black Panther is a dynamic and complex character, I am so ready for his solo film.
But why would Zemo kill himself? Well, I loved Zemo as a villain because he isn't like the rest of the MCU villains. He isn't trying to grab control of the world, or some kind of domination. When Ultron attacked Sokovia and The Avengers stepped into stop them, Zemo lost his entire family in the aftermath. He is left with one purpose, to tear The Avengers apart. Why? Because he wants The Avengers to truly pay for what they did in Sokovia, and Zemo knows he can't defeat The Avengers himself. So he makes sure they destroy themselves. Black Widow dumping all the S.H.I.E.L.D. intel on the internet at the end of "Captain America: Winter Soldier" allowed Zemo the tools he needed to tear The Avengers apart. I can see how Zemo can barely constitute as a villain, he is a man reacting in a bad way to tragedy. While Loki and Ultron both tried to tear The Avengers apart, it was Zemo who was truly succeeded in that goal. With Cap's friends in prison, Black Widow on the run, and Captain America and Iron Man literally almost killing each other, its clear how successful Zemo truly was. After he completes this task, he has no other reason to live. He wants to be back with the family he lost in Sokovia. While unlikely, I'd be very interested in seeing Zemo again.
There are so many perfect character moments in this movie, that its rather hard to keep track of them all. I figured one day, we'd see Ant-Man turn into Giant Man, I just didn't know this early. He can turn himself small, he can also turn himself big and it was one of the best moments of the movie. Vision turned out to have some highlights in the film, with his sweater and his need to cook from cooking books. I was also a big fan of the way Vision discusses with Scarlet Witch about how he still doesn't completely understand the power his infinity stone provides him, but how he's willing to try. Falcon and Winter Soldier are funny together, and their how they collide was good for laughs. I love that Black Widow is never really on either side, she is very much about her own side. When she helps Cap and Bucky escape the airport battle, it seems very much in sync with what we've seen of her. She will look out for herself. The big airport battle between Team Cap and Team Iron Man is big and built for laughs. But I love that they close the movie out with a very personal fight between Cap and Bucky versus Iron Man, right after Iron Man finds out the truth of his parents demise. Tony telling Cap he's not worthy of carrying the shield was particularly powerful, also as Cap drops it and leaves it with Iron Man.
This kind of makes me wish that "Civil War" was its own thing and that Captain America three was titled "Captain America: Secret Avengers." Right before the credits roll, Captain America breaks his team out the prison Tony puts them in after the airport battle. I'd love to see some underground Captain America and company fights! I also loved that Captain America got some romance in this movie. Peggy Carter dies of old age int his movie, and its fitting that Cap is one of her paul bearers. We learn that Sharon Carter was Peggy's niece. While I wasn't a fan that they gave Sharon one of Cap's most popular lines in all of his comic books, I loved that they acknowledged she was on his side. I hope that romance between Sharon and Cap blossoms once more in the future.
We don't know if Tony and Cap will come to terms with each other again until at least 2018. I have a feeling in "Avengers: Infinity War," we will see Tony delivering Cap's shield back to him, as Thanos begins his attack on Earth. But how will they get there? What will be their journey? There is absolutely no way it will be an easy road. The Russo brothers left us with an uneasy hook and I can't wait to see how this new status quo plays out in their two Avengers movies.