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10 May 2016 @ 12:50 am
Film Review: Captain America: Civil War  
Thus concludes the Captain America trilogy. The final installment, directed by the Russo Brothers stars literally everyone from the Marvel movies, minus Thor and Bruce Banner. Plus we get Black Panther and Spider-Man. Apologies for the long review. The movie itself was really, REALLY long.


I'm pretty convinced that the Russos wanted to make a very different movie to tie up Steve's story before Feige came in with the plans to do the Civil War storyline and shoved RDJ into their path. So instead of getting a story about Steve and Sam finding Bucky and taking down the remnants of Hydra, we get...something else.

To start, I never really thought the Avengers were very tight as a group. Every Avengers movie has them arguing over something. And this movie seemed to finally cash in on all those fractures by having one man destroy the Avengers from within by setting up a very small number of distractions. The action gets kicked off when during a mission in Nigera, Wanda accidentally blows up a building, killing several innocent citizens. This captures the eye of the public who call for there to be some sort of consequence for the Avengers. General Ross (William Hurt) with the full backing of Tony Stark, throws down the Sokovia Accords which basically puts the Avengers under the thumb of the UN. They cannot act without a panel voting yay or nay. Tony is all ready to sign up. Steve, predictably, says no.

Okay, so as an ideological argument, both Steve and Tony make good points. Tony argues that they cannot just act without some sort of oversight since their missions have often ended with casualties. While Steve makes the equally good argument that governing bodies have agendas and what would the Avengers do if they're forced onto a mission they don't agree with or are kept from helping people because of politics? The only problem with the way the movie presented these arguments is that Tony has no business being the poster child for Argument #1. Because the way the film positions him, it's absolutely clear that he's come to this decision out of not being able to handle the guilt and blame being heaped upon him and the Avengers for all the civilians who have died because of them. While I'm sure he's hoping a governing agency would mean less casualties, what it really boils down to is that he wants the blame and responsibility shifted off of him for whatever deaths that might happen. This is in diametric opposition to Steve who makes the hero's argument that basically with great power comes great responsibility and heavy burdens.

I don't necessarily think Steve is 100% correct on his stance because he is asking a lot of the people who choose to try and do the right thing and help: which is they weather all the guilt and hatred that might come down on them if something goes south. That's basically what happens to Wanda. But he's not shying away from taking responsibility for what happens under his watch which puts him at a higher moral ground than Tony. Granted, as someone who isn't Captain America, this can come across as pretty arrogant. And it is. But the difference between Steve and Tony which counts for so much is that Steve is willing to own up immediately when he makes a mistake while it takes Tony forever, if at all.

Anyway, as the UN meets to make the Sokovia Accords official, the building they're in gets blown up. Among the casualties is the King of Wakanda. Early footage shows that the bomber is the Winter Soldier and suddenly the entire world is being upturned to find Bucky who has managed to remain in hiding for two years. Predictably, General Ross orders to kill on sight while Steve and Sam race to find Bucky before anyone else does, including Prince T'Challa of Wakanda out of revenge for the death of his father. It's pretty clear that Bucky's been framed for the bombing but no one seems to entertain this notion other than Steve.

Somewhat shockingly, Bucky is doing pretty well for a guy who has spent 70 years being brainwashed. This movie introduces the fact that a very specific set of words needs to be said in order for the Winter Soldier programming to kick in. Without this code, Bucky seems more or less okay. Not great but certainly not a helpless mess as depicted in several Bucky recovery fics floating around. He's been living low key in Bucharest. What he's been doing for money, how he got an apartment, what he's been up to, we'll never know. The rest of the movie is basically Steve trying to protect Bucky, figuring out why and who is behind this while evading Tony and the government.

My biggest complaint about this movie is really Tony Stark and what I had to sit through with regard to his behavior. Tony dangerously veers toward being the worst kind of character: the hypocritical cowardly one. After the events in Nigeria, he literally locks up Wanda at the Avengers compound and tries to justify it by saying he's protecting the world from her and hey, he gave her a nice room. He manages to bring in everyone on Steve's side, minus Steve and Bucky where they are all promptly thrown into a maximum security, under the ocean prison system by General Ross' orders, which Tony refuses to take any responsibility for. His tactics when faced with someone pointing out that his alliance with Ross is going rapidly pear-shaped is to throw out personal insults, rather than have an adult discussion. He justifies every overreaction as being okay because he's experiencing a Feeling. At the nth hour when Tony finally gets confirmation that Bucky was framed and the real mastermind is someone else, he tries to adult up and help Steve and Bucky find Zemo (the main villain). Unfortunately, this is when Zemo unleashes the truth: that Bucky was the assassin who killed Tony's parents.

Ultimately, Zemo's plan had nothing to do with world dominance or destruction. He just wanted the Avengers gone and knew he had to work it so that they killed each other. He hinged his entire plan on Tony imploding once he found out about his parents. Normally I would say this was a bold move. But after seeing Tony in this movie, it was clearly the smart move. I was really disappointed that the real civil war here is not about ideologies but a personal revenge story. Tony wants to kill Bucky for what he did and flat out does not care that there was brainwashing involved. Steve can't let that happen. And so they fight. I wish I could have mustered up some sympathy for Tony because losing your parents is awful. But somehow in the context of everyone else's tragic backstory, his doesn't quite register at the level the movie is telling me it needs to register at. When he shuts down Steve's attempts to reason with him with, "I don't care. He killed my mom." I actually felt my last threads of goodwill toward Tony snap. He comes across as a child who cannot handle his feelings which might be accurate characterization for Tony but by this film it's no longer charming or cute. He's a middle aged man who has lived a much better life than some but cannot seem to make one mature, adult decision. And if he's all onboard killing Bucky for something Bucky couldn't ultimately help, then Tony better line up for the several Sokovians citizens who are waiting to murder Ironman for what happened in Ultron.

There are moments in this movie that are pretty good and feel like a part of the original movie the Russos had in mind to conclude Steve's story. It's a shame that the last Cap outing got hijacked by this mess which really belongs in an Avengers movie. The quieter moments in this movie are really what stand out as the best. Steve and Chris Evans are both at their most shining when having thoughtful scenes designed to illustrate what Steve fights for and what he values. Steve values morals and doing the right thing. He doesn't value being a Hero as a title which is why he was able to leave the shield behind like it was nothing. This again, sets him up as someone just very different than Tony who at the core, needs love possibly more than doing the right thing. Again, makes sense. But I'm just no longer interested in anything Tony wants anymore.

So to try and wrap up, some Likes and Dislikes.

Likes:
1) T'challa aka Black Panther was possibly my favorite new character. I genuinely liked his character arc as going from a man bent on revenge to realizing all the damage he had done and will do if he kept on with it. I liked that he did not kill Zemo and did not allow Zemo to kill himself. And I very much appreciated him giving Steve and Bucky sanctuary in Wakanda at the end.

2) Natasha was great in this. She was technically Team Ironman but eventually let Steve and Bucky go to do their thing once she saw how horrific the full on fight between the two sides was going. Also, her ultimate shutdown of Tony when he threw in a cheap dig about her being a double agent was really wonderful. And on a superficial note, she had some of the BEST fight sequences.

3) I'm not glad that they had Peggy die (in her sleep at least!). But her funeral was really a very touching scene and the eulogy was like her leaving final wise words to Steve from beyond the veil. I loved how in the end, she was still the person he could count on to remind him where his feet had to be planted. I actually teared up during that whole sequence because all I could think about was scenes from Agent Carter. You were magnificent, Peggy. RIP.

4) Sam Wilson continued to be the best bro and the best person who was always 100% done with whatever nonsense around him. His reaction to seeing Black Panther the first time was kind of perfect. "So, you like cats?" "Enough, Sam." "Guy shows up dressed like a big cat and you don't want to ask more questions??" Also, he and Bucky had an interesting dynamic going on which so felt like a hilarious echo of how Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan seem to be together in interviews.

5) While not exactly a retcon, it felt like a slight cheat that they threw in the code system for activating the Winter Soldier. Without that, Bucky seems quite functional as a person. I felt like they did this to streamline the action plot since this movie wasn't going to center around Bucky's recovery. But poor Bucky. He just wanted to live in Bucharest, eat some plums, and not murder anyone anymore. I liked that he was the one in the third act who basically said the thing that Steve had been actively trying to excuse: that Bucky did kill people and while he didn't have a choice, he still did do those things. And while sad, I did like it was his decision to go back into cryo until something could be figured out to remove Hydra's conditioning. Bucky did not get to make too many decisions during this movie but I was glad that going into cryo was actually his and Steve did not try to argue otherwise.

6) It feels weird to say that I liked Hydra in this because 1) they are evil and 2) they're not really in this movie. Zemo is not a member of Hydra and has no political loyalties to the group. However, we do see a retired and living in hiding General Karpov which was a nice comic book reference as he was the one in charge of the Winter Soldier project through Department X. And whatever you might say about Hydra, they do create some very loyal members. I really wished that the movie had focused in on this group as the main villain because the 2nd Cap movie made it pretty clear that despite their evil agenda, Hydra is a much more organized and tight knit than SHIELD. And it's also pretty clear based on Karpov's decision to die without giving away a single bit of info that Hydra is more unified than the Avengers.

Dislikes:
1) I already talked about Tony at length so I won't retread that ground. But as a question, did Bruce not tell him about General Ross? I seriously hope he didn't because if Tony signed up with the guy knowing full well it's been Ross' personal mission to take down the Hulk, Tony just dropped even lower in my eyes.

2) I wish Steve had gotten an actual character arc, given that this was his movie and all. He spends so much of this movie reacting to things rather than being able to take 3 seconds to be a character. He had such a great character story in Captain America 2, this felt like a bit of a letdown.

3) For anyone who was hoping for some sort of friendship reunion or resolution or discussion of some sort between Steve and Bucky, you best keep moving. So much of their dialogue was devoted to advancing the plot that they never got a chance to say anything along the lines of, "I missed you" or "Hi, how have you been?" By the time we get to the third act, they're kind of back to the dynamic they had in the first Cap movie which felt weirdly too soon.

4) As much as I liked Spider-Man and Ant-Man, they really did not need to be in this movie. They served zero purpose other than to be product placements. Especially Spider-Man since he's about to get his own movie very soon.
 
 
 
ericadawn16: Curiousericadawn16 on May 10th, 2016 05:13 am (UTC)
I'm not the biggest Stucky fan but it still felt weird that they went from saying goodbye to Bucky in the chamber. I had to wonder what was in between...like did they kiss or what?

P.S. I was totally okay with them achieving that dynamic because they spent the first 20+ years of their lives together. At that point, it's almost instinct to trust each other and know what the other one's thinking/going to do. I know they were frozen for most of 70 years but that just means that most of their lives would have still been that first 20+ where they were inseparable BFFs.

I was a little annoyed that they seemed to confirm/spoil a fan theory from season 2 that M. Carter on the file was Michael Carter who didn't actually die the way Peggy thought he did.

Edited at 2016-05-10 05:17 am (UTC)
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on May 10th, 2016 01:20 pm (UTC)
I'm not the biggest Stucky fan but it still felt weird that they went from saying goodbye to Bucky in the chamber. I had to wonder what was in between...like did they kiss or what?

The placement of their last moment as the mid-credits scene felt weird. They could have just ended the movie with this.

P.S. I was totally okay with them achieving that dynamic because they spent the first 20+ years of their lives together.

I think I was just thrown by this because I kept forgetting that timeline wise, Bucky's been out of cryo for two years and had some time to piece together his brain again. Every time he seemed normal, I kept thinking, "Wow, I guess the brainwashing wasn't as bad as- oh wait, it's been two years. Right."
X-parrotxparrot on May 11th, 2016 05:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I enjoyed the movie overall, but it was rather on the long side, and Tony especially was a one-man argument for why people shouldn't have superpowers, because it makes them reduce all problems and personal issues to solving with fists and punching. Which for a middle-aged guy is absurd to the point of farcical. (It made me realize that a lot of the silliness I can accept in fight shounen anime is because the heroes tend to be either teenagers or non-human or both. In comics and cartoons I think I mentally age down the characters, but in a live-action movie you can't...)

I still have some sympathy for Tony because he has been set up for several movies to have some pretty serious mental issues - PTSD on top of whatever problems he had before. It kind of feels unfair to say that he's gone through less than many others have, so he has no excuse - it's true that others have suffered more, but some people are more emotionally resilient than others, and Tony was always pretty unstable. His immaturity felt like him struggling and failing to hold it together through a breakdown, in which he seems to have very little support - Pepper's left him, Bruce isn't around, Steve's got too many of his own things to deal with. Rhodey is still there for him...and then he's taken out, and Tony loses whatever control he's got left. He really badly needs a good counselor. And fewer metal suits. But I'd like to see him take some responsibility for the damage he's doing, whatever its cause, and it doesn't look like he will, so...

Anyway! In conclusion, Sam Wilson is the best - he and Bucky's interactions were about my favorite thing in the movie (having just seen Ant-Man, Sam was about my favorite thing in that, too. They should just put him in all MCU movies, I'd watch...)
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on May 11th, 2016 06:00 pm (UTC)
He really badly needs a good counselor.

I fully admit that being a therapist in training sets me up to hate Tony the most. He's the kind of patient we all hate to work with because he will absolutely devalue the work while you're doing it and act out in ways that force you to be concerned for him. If he were my actual patient, it would be my job to work with my feelings toward him. But since he's fictional and on a screen, I feel fine to hate away.

In conclusion, Sam Wilson is the best - he and Bucky's interactions were about my favorite thing in the movie (having just seen Ant-Man, Sam was about my favorite thing in that, too. They should just put him in all MCU movies, I'd watch...)

I'm rather sad that he's so far not getting his own franchise. Although I wonder if they're waiting to see if maybe they'll have Sam pick up the Shield if they can't get Chris Evans back after the Infinity Wars thing.
X-parrotxparrot on May 11th, 2016 06:39 pm (UTC)
Ahahah yeah I was thinking you'd have a particular perspective on Tony's issues. It can't be easy either to deal with someone with an intelligence-based ego who thinks that because they are smarter than you in some areas that they automatically know more...(never been a therapist but I have taught a bit, I think you see some similar dynamics...)

I've been assuming Bucky would take up the Shield since he did in comics, but Captain Sam would be epic!!
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on May 11th, 2016 07:03 pm (UTC)
Ahahah yeah I was thinking you'd have a particular perspective on Tony's issues.

The friend I saw the movie with was surprised that I hated Tony's character so much, given how much I got where he was coming from. I always tell people that just because I understand your problems doesn't mean I have to like you. And by people, I mean people in my non-work life. The patients I work with obviously get different treatment.

I've been assuming Bucky would take up the Shield since he did in comics, but Captain Sam would be epic!!

I almost feel like Marvel and Feige is waiting to see who will win the popularity game to figure out Chris Evans' eventual replacement. Sam did also become Captain America in the comics so the canon supports both options.
X-parrotxparrot on May 11th, 2016 07:08 pm (UTC)
Right, I forgot Sam became CA as well! (haven't read those comics, I don't think - in my reading of previous Thor runs I did see some Captain Bucky, but that was before we met Sam in the MCU so if he turned up in the comics I missed him...)

That's a tough popularity call though, Sam vs Bucky...*starts sewing Team Sam flag*
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on May 11th, 2016 07:11 pm (UTC)
I realized that even the Punisher got to be Captain America at one point so that title is going around.

That's a tough popularity call though, Sam vs Bucky...*starts sewing Team Sam flag*

Yeah, I don't know where I'd fall on this. I love both Sam and Bucky for different reasons. I kind of lean toward Sam because I think he'd do a better job ultimately. Bucky is great but at this point, I wish him a nice retirement where he can eat some plums in peace. Maybe get called out to help every once in awhile but mostly just retirement.
X-parrotxparrot on May 11th, 2016 07:15 pm (UTC)
They're letting anyone be Captain these days! (for certain political landscapes the Punisher is actually pretty appropriate, symbolically speaking... :/ )

Yeah, I really like Bucky, but I don't feel like I quite know who he is right now, and I'm not sure he does either. And the Captain's mantle is such a heavy one, he's got enough else to deal with. Sam would be reluctant but he'd be able to do it (...though without the superpowers? Or does he get serum'd?)
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on May 11th, 2016 07:20 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I really like Bucky, but I don't feel like I quite know who he is right now, and I'm not sure he does either.

It annoyed me that Bucky really didn't get a chance to make any real choices in this movie, other than to go back into cryo at the end. Because it felt like he basically did not want to involve himself in any kind of conflict anymore or possibly ever again and just got dragged into a situation. So all that is to say, I don't really know what he wants from Life other than to maybe not murder people.

Sam would be reluctant but he'd be able to do it (...though without the superpowers? Or does he get serum'd?)

Yeah, I don't remember if he got any enhancements along with the title. I'm sort of assuming not but I could be wrong.
aelfgyfu_mead: Winter Soldieraelfgyfu_mead on May 22nd, 2016 10:01 pm (UTC)
Wait—how could the Punisher ever be Captain America? Doesn't he kill everyone? Isn't that diametrically opposed to what Captain America does?
—written by someone who has no desire ever to read or see Punisher
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on May 22nd, 2016 10:48 pm (UTC)
Wait—how could the Punisher ever be Captain America? Doesn't he kill everyone? Isn't that diametrically opposed to what Captain America does?

Like Captain America, the Punisher has a rather long history so depending on when in his history you find him, I can kind of see why he might have gotten the job. However, I was only told he became Cap at one point. I don't actually know the details.

However, what Captain America does, changes a bit depending on who's holding the shield. When Bucky took over for awhile, he used a gun on his missions, unlike Steve which was a notable change.
aelfgyfu_mead: Falconaelfgyfu_mead on May 22nd, 2016 10:05 pm (UTC)
So many people enjoyed this movie so much that my efforts to keep my expectations very low didn't fully work.

I loved Peter Parker, actually—he provided the comic relief I needed badly in this movie, and I had total sympathy for him! He had no reason to think that he was doing anything other than what was right. Tony had lots of reason to rethink his actions. And my gosh, Peter is about my daughter's age! I couldn't get over that!

Sam was also great. Sam made choices that cost him a lot, but he stuck with them.

Tony made choices that had very high costs, and—I think I'd blame him more if he weren't so obviously a mess. I just feel like I don't need to see any more of Tony, and I think that's what will happen in the movies, so fine.

I hope I get to see more of Bucky than him running and fighting. I liked the scene with the plums—and showing how gentle he could be with the arm (which in some fics isn't possible).

I really like T'Challa—again, I wanted to see more of him. Which I will, because he'll get his own movie!

I liked that Nat decided that the time had come to cut everyone's losses, and Tony had no right to say to her what he did. I wish the others had been more thoughtful, like Nat—but I could believe she was the one who would stop and say it's just too much, and do whatever it took to end the battle.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on May 22nd, 2016 10:46 pm (UTC)
I loved Peter Parker, actually—he provided the comic relief I needed badly in this movie, and I had total sympathy for him!

No, I liked Peter a lot. I just wish we could have maybe not have him be stuffed into this movie as it was just overflowing with place holders for future movies.

I just feel like I don't need to see any more of Tony, and I think that's what will happen in the movies, so fine.

I think Tony is slated to appear in the Spiderman movies so there's that. It just never ends.

I hope I get to see more of Bucky than him running and fighting. I liked the scene with the plums—and showing how gentle he could be with the arm (which in some fics isn't possible).

You were definitely not alone in enjoying the plums scene. That scene has become a focal point for many.

I really like T'Challa—again, I wanted to see more of him. Which I will, because he'll get his own movie!

I'm really looking forward to this movie. He was my absolute favorite new character.

I wish the others had been more thoughtful, like Nat

NO KIDDING. Nat to me was the sanest of the entire lot who actually tried to weigh in her mind the consequences of her actions and work with a difficult situation. I found her negotiating for herself what the Accords would mean and trying to do the right thing so much more compelling than the actual civil war stuff between Steve and Tony.