***Possible (?) spoilers. Beware***
Is Oscar Isaac a sex god? Does Rosario Dawson have cheekbones that could cut through marble? Does Chadwick Boseman possess a smile that is so dazzling that it could make the most annoying prude swoon?
The answer to all of these questions is “yes” and therefore, by the transitive property of awesomeness, the answer to the title of this review is “yes”.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR WAS LIT.
Captain America: Civil War serves to be our first entry into Marvel’s Phase Three and I am 250% here for it. After the very disappointing The Avengers: Age of Ultron, this cinematic juggernaut of a universe needed a breath of fresh air and Captain America: Civil War arrived right on time.
Still, before I delve into why Captain America: Civil War is, I’d argue, one of the best Marvel movies since (in no particular order) The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (its predecessor), here’s a brief summary:
After the events of Age of Ultron, in which Sokovia was blown to hell, The (recently updated) Avengers try to return to some semblance of normalcy by attempting to track down the villain Crossbones in Lagos (LAY-GOS), Nigeria.
However, when this latest superhero excursion leads to an unforeseen tragedy, national and international calls (chiefly lead by Wakanda) for the Avengers to “answer to someone” and take accountability for their actions increase exponentially.
This results in the creation of the Sovokia Accords. When asked to sign off it, the entire squad is split in half, some agreeing with the notion (Tony Stark/Iron Man) and others pointing out that they could fall prey to becoming tools for political agendas (Steve Rogers/Captain America).
As the debate continues to escalate and threatens to turn into an all-out—you guessed it—war, each of the Avengers will be required to make the tough decision of drawing a line and choosing a side.
This film was phenomenal. While many thought that it was impossible to top the awesomeness of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War somehow found a way.
However, as per usual, I once again have some reservations (good, bad, and “eh”) about the movie.
Characters (Growth, Development, and Screen Time)
– Steve/Captain America
Steve is his best self when he is under the guiding hands of the Russo brothers and this film falls in line with that pattern.
He’s back again in fearless and unapologetic form, but there’s a difference this time. What is that difference? Well, he may actually have to contend with the fact that he might be in the wrong this time.
In these past films, I’d argue that Steve was right on the money, so it’s an interesting change. It is fascinating to watch him struggle with that (and I mean, really STRUGGLE) and where that leaves him in regards to his teammates.
But of course, thing aren’t all sad and intense with him. In this film, I was pleased to see a more confident and even, at times, a cockier Steve Rogers. Obviously, that is gonna be a little off-putting to some, but not so much if you’re considering how this dude was once a “scrawny kid from Brooklyn”.
– Tony/Iron Man
I have to say that I am absolutely shocked with the amount of care and nuance that the Russo Brothers grant Tony. As a proud member of #TeamCap, I was actually kind of worried that Tony was going to be portrayed as the SOLE villain of the film because of his stance.
Putting it bluntly, I thought his already swollen hubris would be reduced to biting one-liners about Steve having to “get with the times”. And because of that, the “conflict” was gonna be one-sided.
However, what we get is someone who is clearly tortured and remorseful, but who is also committed to righting his wrongs and doing whatever it takes to keep the team together and keep them accountable.
I found this extremely compelling and was impressed that his side was given due diligence as well.
– Bucky/The Winter Soldier
Speaking of tortured, my God. When is my homieskilletbiscuit Bucky ever gonna get a sliver of peace in his life????
In all seriousness, Bucky returns once again and he is forced to confront the consequences of his actions over the last 7+ decades. The thing about him though is that not only does he confront them but he actually takes full responsibility for them, despite being a victim of the neo-Nazi organization known as Hydra.
I was floored by that if I’m being honest.
All that aside, it was great to see different sides of the unfrozen Bucky. While tortured, his sense of humor remains intact, as does his profound love for his friend Steve.
Supporting Characters (Growth, Development, and Screen Time)
Sam returns to not only aid Steve in his fight against what he believes to be the misguided Accords, but he also manages to be an interesting proxy for the petty at heart in that he is not afraid to say what everyone is thinking. I do not care for Anthony Mackie much, but I must say that I begrudgingly enjoyed Sam here.
– T’Challa/Black Panther
I don’t know how I’m supposed to summarize my love and adoration for Black Panther in less than a 30-page paper (yes, ya favorite zookeeper did, in fact, do their thesis on the Wakanda King) but I’ma try.
FIRST OF ALL, let me just say that there was IMMENSE pressure on Marvel to get. him. right. Black Panther has a rich history that dates all the way back to 1966 and there was going to be hell to pay if the Russos botched his first on-screen appearance.
That said, they NAILED IT.
In the comics, T’Challa is someone who oozes regal swagger from his very Black pores. He is someone can not only THINK circles around the likes of people like Tony Stark but also RUN circles around the likes of people like Steve Rogers. He is humbled, but he is not fooled. He is a pragmatist who is conscientious but has no problems whooping your ass if he deems it necessary. He is one of THE premier Black superheroes in fiction.
And somehow, the Russos manage to get ALL of that across in a film that features a myriad of other characters. That is commendable. That should not be taken lightly.
If you are a T’Challa/Black Panther fan, you will be extremely proud of what you see on-screen. If you are not a T’Challa/Black Panther fan, you will be.
– Natasha/Black Widow
Natasha is back in all her badass glory and for that, I am eternally grateful.
There’s so much to say about Natasha, but in the interest of time, I will say that Natasha is very much the heart of the Avengers in this film, trying to put in the extra work to keep them together while Steve and Tony are threatening to tear them apart.
My mom has always said that “when elephants fight, the ground suffers”. This is applicable here. Steve and Tony’s ceaseless fighting sends many a rift into the squad and because they are too prideful to admit that they may be wrong, Natasha spends a lot of time trying to make sure people aren’t caught in the crossfire.
That said, don’t think that makes her soft, though, because she also spends a great deal of time in this movie doing so many about-face turns that it will leave your head spinning. Which, you know, is classic Natasha. And which, you know, is something I find AWESOME.
– Wanda /Scarlet Witch
Wanda is back (sans Quicksilver—yes I’m still mad) and while I was pretty “meh” about her in Age of Ultron, the film manages to make me empathize with her. Wanda has never had it easy, but in this film especially, she does NOT let that stop her at all. And it is so great to see that tenacious spirit considering what we saw of her the last time.
– Rhodey/War Machine
I have long been saying that they should put some respeck on my boy Rhodey’s name. He was underutilized in Iron Man 2. He was meh in Iron Man 3. I could have done without his glorified cameo in Age of Ultron. But here? In this film? He’s finally utilized pretty well.
He is still no-nonsense Rhodey, but he also gets to be funny, and upset, and sad and just generally multifaceted. It was great to witness.
J.A.R.V.I.S’s final form returns to serve some Android realness and I was mostly here for it. Mostly (again, spoilers).
In addition to being the primary voice of reason for the Avengers, he operates with an openness and a curiosity that no one else on the squad does (I mean, it could be because he is barely like year old. That’ll do it.) And he is also funny and dresses like a J.Crew model in his downtime.
It’ll be interesting to see where they take his character.
Clint’s re-introduction to the squad is as cool and as humorous as he is as a character. Back with his caustic wit and self-deprecating humor, Clint once again brings his everyman status to the squad to remind Tony that “superpowered freaks” (as the World Council once referred to them) aren’t the only ones who will be vastly affected by the Accords.
I was suffering from Spidey burnout, but Tom Holland manages to somewhat real me back in with his performance as Spider-Man. Spidey returns in his full-on, goofy, kindhearted, and resilient ass nature. And get this: he actually looks like a teenager?????????
I look forward to seeing more of him in future films (still #TeamMiles tho).
Scott doesn’t appear for that long but for the time he does have onscreen, he is an absolute riot. I don’t much care for Ant-Man, but it definitely helps (and not hurts) that Paul Rudd manages to somehow make it work with a touch of bashful charm.
– Sharon Carter
Sharon also doesn’t spend all that much time onscreen, but whenever she appears, she proves brilliant as well as instrumental to whatever is happening at the moment.
– Steve and Tony
What can I even say here? While I am a little sad that there was not more time invested in building their friendship (I’m not gonna lie, whenever someone calls them friends, I always go “where?” Colleagues? Sure. Compatriots? Maybe. But friends? It’s a bit too soon to tell, fam), their relationship and subsequent interactions in this film are GUT-WRENCHING.
Fam, I clutched my pearls every time they interacted in this movie. It was that intense! And you know, even though they (violently) disagreed with each other, the respect is still so thick between them that I wanted to cry and be like “STOP FIGHTTTTINGGGGG”
– Steve and Bucky
Real talk: If one of these motherfuckers doesn’t tell the other motherfucker that they love the other motherfucker by the end(?) of this franchise, I’m gonna have some questions.
Jokes aside, their friendship is perhaps THE strongest relationship in this cinematic universe (next to Tony’s love for, well, himself) and that is the case in this film as well. Despite the very separate paths that their lives took, they are both staunchly committed to protecting and defending each other even if, yes, they are wrong in doing so.
There’s nothing like it in the MCU, man. Nothing at all.
– Steve, Tony, AND Bucky
So, this I can’t REALLY delve into because of potential spoilers, but man. It is tense. There are high stakes. Aside from the awkwardness of Bucky coming back into the picture and basically being portrayed as the other friend/woman (or, you know, Bucky with the Good Hair) in regards to Steve and Tony’s (budding?) relationship, all three of their pasts threaten to collide in the most explosive way.
Basically: it’s about to go down.
– Steve and Natasha
I thought we lost this beautiful bromantic relationship in Age of Ultron, but a las! It resurfaces here and it is glorious. I need more of it if I’m being honest.
– Steve and Sam
We get more of the same rapport here that we got in Winter Soldier, only Sam functions more here as Steve’s voice of reason. He makes sure that Steve considers all his options before deciding on how he will handle the Accords and then he points out when Bucky resurfaces that he may not be the same person. That was interesting.
– Bucky and T’Challa
There’s a story here that I once again can’t parse because it would give so much away, but the difference between where these two start in the film and where they end in the film is so vast and so shocking (but very well-executed) that I was left flabbergasted. I respect these two, man. I respect them so much.
– T’Challa and Steve
And speaking of respect! Yo. Regardless of the fact that these two venerable men are on opposing sides in this conflict, the mutual respect between the two of them is so strong that I would honestly watch them both face-off about anything.
Hell, I would watch them fight about PC vs Mac. I would watch them fight about Pepsi vs Coca Cola. I would watch them fight about Google and Bing. I would watch them fight about M & Ms and Skittles. I would even watch them fight about Doritos (#TeamNachoCheese #TeamCoolRanchIsNastyAsHell).
– Wanda and Vision
Many find their relationship strange. I am mostly ambivalent, especially since it’s canon. That said, even though I thought Age of Ultron was a dumpster fire, I did enjoy their brief scene in that film and Civil War builds on this established relationship with new rapport and new banter. This is what an earned relationship looks like.
– Wanda and Hawkeye
This was another relationship I really liked because it also builds on one of the few good things to come out of Age of Ultron. These two respect each other as budding friends and aren’t afraid to call each other out when they’re on some BS. I love it!
– Steve and Wanda
I loved all of Steve and Wanda’s exchanges because they came off very sibling-y. It was a welcome relationship since, you know, Quicksilver was *unavailable* (thanks Whedon. Thanks a lot).
– Tony and Rhodey
I have always said that I do not ever believe that a “Rhodey” played by Don Motherfucking Cheadle would ever be friends with Tony. Tony is on #TeamTooMuch and I just always that that combination was weird.
Yet, they finally find a way to make it work in this film. They get more time to talk and shoot jabs at each other and even have heart-to-hearts like all good friends do. This side of the relationship was long overdue and I’m glad we got more of it in this film
– Peter and Tony
While their scenes brief, I particularly loved their exchanges because it is so very clear that Tony sees a lot of himself in Peter—which of course, always makes for a worthwhile story when discussing foils.
– Peter and Steve
Like with Tony, Steve’s scenes with Peter are also short in duration, but you can also see where Peter and Steve could be foils of each other and I’m kind of really hoping we get to see them interact again.
The Villain (And All Related Villany)
You know, while it is accurate to say that Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo is in fact the villain of the film, it’s also kind of a cop-out.
You know why? Because both Steve and Tony can be seen as villains as well, depending on where you are standing. Depending on what side you are on. They are complex. They believe themselves to be in the right. They are both loud, occasionally wrong, and loud with that wrongness.
And that, ladies, gents, and everyone else in between, makes them dangerous (kudos to Tony for that line).
Of course, this I will expound on more when we get to themes. But for now, I’ll stick to Helmut/Baron Zemo, the film’s go-to villain.
I must say. I pretty much to denounce each and every person that is calling Zemo a “bad villain”. A “bad villain” according to whom? According to what?
Listen. A villain is supposed to make life hard for our heroes. Their unwholesome and unsavory actions should have adverse effects on our heroes and the story at-large. Their presence in the narrative is supposed to spell out doom for everyone else. Automatically. And they usually always have a clear and plausible goal (something that Marvel has struggled to render on screen, but actually succeed at here) that they set out to complete and that goal usually knocks our heroes down some notches in any way, shape or form.
And I would argue that Zemo hits each and every one of those (bench)marks I mentioned.
I believe the problem that most people are having when attempting to accept and/or reconcile Zemo as the villain of the film is the fact that he’s probably not as “imposing” as, say, “Doomsday The Abandoned Ninja Turtle™” or as maniacal and self-possessed as Ultron was in Age of Ultron (in that Zemo is definitely not making robots rain terror down from the sky).
Sure. Zemo is definitely affecting things on a smaller scale, if I am to put it plainly. His only goal really is to hurt The Avengers like they have hurt him. Some might call that simple. But it’s not.
What fans and non-fans alike are failing to realize is that Zemo is not simply a villain for villain’s sake. This ain’t for shiggles. Nah. Zemo is literally a stand-in for each and every civilian who has ever been fucked over by The Avengers and really, superheroes at-large. He is a stand-in for every civilian who has lost someone or suffered harm because the heroes are all about kicking ass, but suddenly “go ghost” like Danny Phantom when it’s time to clean up and repair the damage that they have done.
That is extremely compelling. And I don’t think that should be downplayed because homie “didn’t punch hard enough” or “wasn’t cool enough” for your liking.
A more “comic book accurate” version of Baron Zemo will probably come. But for now, this version of Baron Zemo was more than sufficient. Kudos for Daniel Brühl for bringing him to life.
– The Importance of Choice
This is such a HUGE theme in the film that I frankly think that it needs its own post. But because I do not have that kind of time (aka, this zookeeper is still in school), I will settle on as brief a summation as I can.
This theme right here—as executed in the film—illustrates why many have always believed that Tony and Steve are essentially two sides of the same coin. Both want to take responsibility for the harm that they have wrought on the world and both want to ensure that they have the choice to do so. However, the ways in which they both pursue this goal end up taking choice away from others. Their friends. Their family members. Their teammates. Everybody. Everyone is affected and this ultimately leads to the not-at-all happy-go-lucking ending of the film.
Still, whichever side you are on, be prepared. Because choice, or rather, the freedom to choose (AND the lack thereof) is such an important aspect of this film that it is worth fighting for. It is worth going to war for. It is worth becoming a fugitive for.
And rightfully so.
– Consequences are a Byproduct of Choice
I started to get into this a little bit while talking about Zemo, but I felt it was necessary to expound upon here.
Civil War is the first Marvel film to really sit down and ponder the consequences of all the events that have happened in its cinematic universe thus far. And it shows, and shows, and shows again.
Zemo is certainly one of those consequences. So are Bucky, Vision, and even Wanda. And those are only people. The list grows when we start talking about events and body counts that have occurred thus far.
Basically, what I am saying here is that these heroes (and villains) certainly have the right to choose (you know, if the Accords allow them to do so, of course), but they have to be prepared to deal with the consequences that result because of those choices and who or what those consequences impact.
I think this was handled beautifully in the film and I am looking forward to it being addressed in future films.
– What Does Vengeance Accomplish?
This is an age-old theme in both literature and superhero stories and it once again makes an appearance via T’Challa and one other character in the film.
T’Challa’s relationship with vengeance is created because of the Avengers, because of their choices in prior films, and because they have gone unchecked for so long. While he can choose to enact vengeance and slide real smooth to the dark side like Kylo Ren, should he? Is that a line he wants to cross? Or does it not matter, because, you know VENGEANCE?
As for the latter character, I can’t give too much away because of spoilers (A DAMN good and compelling ass spoiler), but I will say that the question that comes to mind when I think of this character is, what is the goal of vengeance, really? Is it simply payback? Is it supposed to make you feel better about the wrong that has been done to you? Does it ever actually right that wrong or undo the actions that cause that wrong?
I’m not entirely sure and better folx across history have tried to answer all these questions.But these are the questions that this film silently asks over and over again and every time they are brought up, they are executed so, so well.
– Regret and Guilt as Motivation
This was yet another theme that manifested itself in a myriad of ways, but mainly through the films two figureheads—Steve and Tony.
Much like fear was a tragic and ultimately destructive force as well as a source of motivation in Age of Ultron, regret and guilt serve that purpose here. Tony regrets his past carelessness. He carries immense guilt with him and it resurfaces whenever someone even so much as whispers the word “Ultron”. And all of this ends up bleeding into his interpersonal relationships with everyone else.
And yet, instead of moping about it (or drinking it all away like his comic book counterpart might), Tony takes a more pragmatic approach and channels it all into trying to pass the Accords. Of course, because these two things (regret and guilt) are his chief motivators, he becomes blinded to the potential consequences and downfalls of this new resolution and spends most of the movie paying for that and trying to make amends for that.
The same arguably goes for Steve. While I am staunchly #TeamCap and believe that he is doing the right thing, it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that he too is not motivated by regret and guilt. And it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that these things do not ALSO cloud his judgment.
In fact, we should look no further than his best friend Bucky. Bucky is the personification of regret and guilt for Steve. And because Steve is convinced that he did not do all that he could have done to prevent what happened to Bucky (and the damage that Bucky has caused as a result), he is fixated on making sure that that does not happen to anyone else ever again…even if that has adverse consequences on everyone else (yes, it is very circular). Which, yes, is selfish.
In short: this theme shows time and time again that we are dealing with two very, deeply flawed men who have the best intentions at heart. Unfortunately, as my friends say, intentions do not matter. Impact does. And the impact of their actions during this film is huge…and not always good.
Since we’re dealing with a Captain America movie, you bet your ass that the film did a BEYOND amazing job of portraying every respective hero in their element, in their style, and in their native habitat of KICKING ASS.
In all seriousness, this films builds on the epic moves we saw in Winter Soldier by not only adding more bodies but also adding different styles. T’Challa, Spider-Man, and Ant-Man in particular are put on display and I have to say that they are all extremely fucking awesome.
T’Challa in particular wipes the floor with most of the Avengers roster with his wicked speed, his masterful agility, a sense of balance, a style that effortlessly incorporates a lot of powerful kicks (I don’t think you all understand how thrilling it was to watch Bucky take T’Challa’s boot to the face) and a style that incorporates his powerful claws and body armor.
Full disclosure: I cried every time he was onscreen. No joke.
On the flip-side, we get some familiar things when Spidey comes on the scene, but there is one big moment in the film where Spidey busts a move that is a comic book favorite and IT. IS. GLORIOUS. In addition to this, the way in which he fights—with reckless and, dare I say, youthful abandon—definitely does bring a unique perspective to the Avengers.
And this is all coming from someone who was not even hype about having to see Peter again (#Miles5Eva y’all).
Other than that, more of the same ‘ol, same ‘ol happens with Ant-Man, but he too has one particularly huge moment that should wow comic book fans and comic book moviegoers alike.
The Russos proved that they understood humor in their last film—Winter Soldier—and this film is no exception.
The comedic beats here are perfect, well-delivered, and almost always earned. Which is great because it definitely prevents the film from nose-diving into grotesquely dark territory because if I am to be honest, a handful of events and scenes in the film are just that heavy and definitely need to be balanced by humor.
Cameos and After-Credit Scenes
– “Welcome To Wakanda”
I mean. Y’all know that anything about Black Panther and Wakanda will get me hype, so you know I stuck around for this scene. You could literally point at a map of Wakanda in an after-credit scene and I would catch the Holy Ghost of Bast.
That said, I’m not the type who spoils these things, so all I will say is that you get your first, really cool look at Wakanda and it is not at all disappointing in the slightest.
I NEED THAT BLACK PANTHER FILM YESTERDAY.
– “Livin’ In Queens”
All I am allowed to say (without Marvel busting my dorm down and dragging me and my raggedy laptop away) is that this scene definitely involves your friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man and is a welcome collection to Marvel’s already vast vault of after-credit scenes.
Alright. Now onto dragging the hell out of this movie.
I kid, I kid. For the SECOND time in the Captain America franchise, I have nothing overwhelmingly bad to say about Civil War. It was intense. It was poignant. It was humorous. It was vibrant. And it was such a wild and enjoyable ride.
Bravo, Marvel. Bravo.
On The Use of Black Bodies, Black Pain, And Black Death
While I’m iffy about whether or not I will actually elaborate on the topic of choice in this film, I definitely DO plan to elaborate how Captain America: Civil War makes use of Black bodies, Black pain, and Black death in the film.
Newsflash: it ain’t pretty. Or particularly subtle either.
Without spoiling anything major, Black bodies are put in peril and utilized at various “poignant” points in the film. I assume these moments exist to grant a sense of urgency to the signing of the Accords and to be a sort of call-to-action to everyone else in the film. Black bodies bring the “pathos” so to speak.
That’s a little troubling, especially in the era of #BlackLivesMatter and in a time where technology has progressed at such an astounding rate that you need not look very far to see dead Black bodies. It is unfortunate to encounter this in real life and doubly as unfortunate to encounter it in fiction as well.
Steve and Sharon
Y’all know how much I don’t jive with unearned relationships and this one certainly is no exception to that strict ass rule.
First of all, let me preface this by saying that Sharon is smart, cool, capable, and pretty. In a world where more time spent developing her and Steve’s relationship, they’d probably be perfect matches.
That time does not get spent here. In fact, I do not think it would be far-fetched to say that the two of them have BARELY spent 30 minutes together across two movies (this one and Winter Soldier). So, it seems a bit weird for anything to be happening between them when none of the emotional work has been put in. And when that happens, the result is always gonna come off as forced and that is exactly how it felt watching this “romance” bloom.
Before I close, here’s some food for thought:
You don’t want to miss the upcoming Black Panther movie.
– Both sides do in fact have compelling arguments. I’m not even gonna front. I almost switched over to #TeamTony.
– General Ross is in this movie and involved in the Sokovia Accords and frankly, if that does not tell you everything you need to know about this movie, I don’t know what will.
– THE DORA MILAJE APPEAR AND BY THE PANTHER GOD BAST, THEY NEED THEIR OWN SPINOFF.
In closing, I must say that Captain America: Civil War is a wildly brilliant and enthralling addition to the Captain America franchise as well as an explosive start to Phase 3. Marvel has managed to outdo themselves. Again. And here’s to hoping they can pull it off. Again.
If we get any more Captain America movies, I will be hype. If we don’t, this definitely would have been a succinct, sufficient, and more than satisfactory conclusion to the franchise.
I am looking forward to the next time I will see Steve and his squad in action.
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