For months now we have seen the Civil War marketing ask us one question: whose side are you on? #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan has taken social media by storm and it allows fans to have a different sense of interaction before the film releases. It also brings about the inevitable “how does the film compare to one that was released not too long ago that also had a hero vs hero battle?” So let’s get that out of the way. Where Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice fails Captain America: Civil War succeeds. The story is deeper, the conflict more believable, and no one stops fighting because of Martha! Does that make this film a perfect film? Of course not! However, Civil War may just be the best superhero film to come out since The Dark Knight. And in my opinion, make no mistake about it, this is not Avengers 2.5; it is very much a centralized Captain America film.
So here we go . . .
But first I will warn you: this is a spoiler filled review. As I sit back and think of the film, I can’t do my review justice without going into great detail as to why the film is great and where it was also lacking. In other words….
***SPOILERS AHEAD, WATCH THE FILM FIRST OR BE SPOILED***
As I said in my preview, Civil War comes from the comics, but the details and story is completely different. The foundation is there, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe creates a new story that frankly has been building up for quite some time. In Avengers, New York suffered and lives were at stake and possibly lost. But the Avengers saved them and they were grateful. Then Winter Soldier brought about destruction in Washington D.C. and the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. More lives lost and in the middle of it, people with superpowers. Then Age of Ultron brought us Sokovia, and the devastation to a small country already hurting from years of wars takes the Avengers off American soil and into international borders. In all of this, there was always a conflict in terms of people’s ideologies, and it always came down to Steve Rogers and Tony Stark (the conservative vs the liberal). However, there was always something that brought them back together in an understanding that they are friends and on the same side. But what happens when they come to a fork in the road and they are forced to choose which road to take?
That is how Civil War starts. An Avengers mission led by Captain America with his new Avengers team (War Machine, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Vision) and the worst thing that can happen does. Innocent lives are lost and the world governments have had enough. But let’s be honest here: this isn’t about all the lives that were lost as if it is a humanitarian effort. This is about which lives were lost. Among the dead were missionaries from Wakanda, a small but powerful African nation that lives in seclusion. Missionaries that are rarely out since Wakanda keeps to itself are lost, and that driving force causes the world leaders to determine action needs to be done immediately in order to not have full backlash from the situation. This is a political agenda all the way through. I do wish, though, that what makes Wakanda so important to the United Nations would have been touched upon more. I guess that is for another film . . .
When presented with the Sokovia Accord that tells the Avengers to either be soldiers for the United Nations or quit, Steve Rogers is against it (no surprise here). His whole life as Captain America has dealt with nothing but corrupted governments and people with political (or worse) agendas. If he signs, his right to choose is gone. His moral obligation is put in check if the United Nations decides he can’t go and help somewhere. Meanwhile, Tony thinks the opposite. Too many lives have been lost because the Avengers are not put in check. Steve and some others decide that it is in their best interest to just quit. But when we are called for something greater, even when we want to walk away, we are pulled back in.
Friendships Gained; Friendships Lost
Enter the real conflict of the film–not a political stance of whether the conservative or liberal is correct. This is because Civil War does a great job in leaving you at 50/50 when it comes to #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan. The real conflict in the film is fueled by both friendship and vengeance. The King of Wakanda is killed at the UN signing of the Sokovia Accord. It is believed that Winter Soldier did it, and Steve can’t believe it. He is quickly back in gear in an attempt to find his childhood friend before General Ross and his soldiers find him first. This act now makes him a criminal since he is acting outside of the law, but he needs to know if it really was Bucky or if someone is controlling him again. On the flip side, Black Panther makes his appearance as he seeks vengeance for the death of his father. In the middle is Tony Stark trying to save his friend Steve while also doing his job and capturing Bucky. It brings about some great and intense chase scenes and battles between all the heroes. The conflict increases as Cap stops Panther from killing Bucky, and both (along with Falcon) are taken into custody.
Of course, the other wrinkle to the story is added in, and Bucky escapes (as do Cap and Falcon)–but not before Cap discovers that someone else is responsible for everything. He finds Bucky, finally in his right mind, and puts together his team (Winter Soldier, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Ant-Man) to go after the real villain. They understand that by doing so, they are outside of the law. What makes Rogers such a great leader is that there is a confidence and understanding that he wouldn’t go outside of the law if not for good reason. It is why Hawkeye comes out of retirement. It is why Ant-Man is willing to fight by his side. And it’s also why Scarlet Witch is willing to put away her fears and follow him. They all have reasons not to help Bucky, and those would all be good reasons. However, if Cap vouches for him, then a new friend is gained and they are willing to fight by his side.
Meanwhile, Tony is given 36 hours to bring Cap and his team in or a shoot to kill man hunt will follow. He discovers where they are and brings his team (War Machine, Vision, Black Widow, Black Panther, and Spider-Man). This brings about probably the best on screen superhero battle in a while. It was simply amazing how they were able to centralize some of the fights. One on one battles between Black Panther and Captain America, Spidey and “insert whoever,” and best of all, watching Ant-Man go all Giant Man (YES!) was simply amazing. Of course, for me, Spidey stole the scenes as his young banter was Spider-Man to a T. It’s possibly the best representation that showed his strength, humor, agility, and weaknesses all in one. He’s a teenager that had no business in the fight, but held his own against them all (oh, and his intelligence really helped as well). The airport scene was simply a joy to watch even though the heroes are on two different ends of the spectrum. In the end, Cap and Bucky get away as the rest of the team is left to sacrifice themselves for the greater good (i.e they are captured and put in a supermax prison). What was once the mighty Avengers, for now, is over. Conflict has brought about catastrophe.
Vengeance Destroys All
So here we are, the final act of the film. Friendships have been torn, but over what? Captain’s whole mission is to save his best friend, even if it meant separating from his other friends. His cause is righteous even if it means going outside the law to prove it. The others only see a man trying to save his best friend from his crimes. They think Bucky is guilty until Tony finally uncovers the truth. Bucky is innocent (of at least this incident), so he goes on his own as a friend. You see, friendship is a strong rope that many can cling on to. Sometimes it can get slippery, but it’s there. However, there is always someone who prefers to cut the rope than to see a strong bond remain strong. And in this final act, a survivor from Sokovia from the Zemo family has been doing exactly that. They cut the rope until in the final act, it finally goes through. The truth of how Howard Stark and his wife died is shown to Bucky, Cap, and Tony. Of course, Tony finds out that Cap already knew: Winter Soldier killed Tony’s parents. The cord of friendship is cut. Vengeance now fuels Tony, and frankly, watching two different super soldiers fight a man in a suit of armor is pretty great to see. It is an extremely bloody fight that in the end no one really wins. Sure, Cap beat Tony, but he didn’t win. Nothing was gained from it, and that is sad. It is my gripe with the film in that there was no redemption for either Tony or Cap. Both accepted the outcome, but their friendship is never going to be the same. Cap chose Bucky, he then breaks his team out of prison, and although Tony may have visually come to a point of acceptance, there is no doubt that forgiveness is still far away.
It is in the midst of this fight that my favorite character of the film truly shines (and he’s truly great throughout the whole film). Black Panther followed Tony to the compound. Vengeance still fueling his mission, until the truth is discovered, he captures Zemo, but not before an outstanding monologue on the very dangers of that vengeance. It fueled Zemo, it fueled Black Panther, and it fueled Iron Man in the end. This brought about great catastrophe as it spiraled around. Here was the message of redemption. Here we find the truth and parallel of sin. Left unchecked, it devours not just the person, but much more. There is a reason why God tells us to leave vengeance to Him: man is not equipped to handle it. Our decision process is thrown off course and until the truth is presented to us, we destroy things in our path. The truth is the cure to all evil and is a hard pill to swallow sometimes, but life in the truth ultimately is more peaceful and better than life filled with lies. Jesus said He is the way, the TRUTH, and the life…because life in Him makes life easier to handle (note: not easy, just easier).
Civil War is an action packed blockbuster with an outstanding story. I think that’s what made it so great. It took what was already there, then expanded on it. The conflict was not forced but very real and very believable. So much went on that I couldn’t even touch on the Vision and Scarlet Witch relationship! With all the characters in it, it was still very much a Captain America film with a centralized story that revolved around him and his virtue; the others were just bonus.
Like all Marvel films, I hope you stayed for the credits. I can’t wait to see those two have their solo films!
So what did you think of Civil War?