Full Disclosure: I’ve never read the Civil War storyline, so all of my opinions here are based only on the movie as it stands on its own.
Captain America: Civil War is something you really have to see in theaters to fully appreciate. The sets are huge, the fights are huge, almost everything about the movie is huge. While I’m not going to be going heavily into spoiler territory, I am going to mention some extraneous characters that appear by name so avoid this if you’re trying to go into the theater completely blind.
The story revolves around the Sokovia Accords, a set of documents named after the country where everything went down in Age of Ultron. They’ve been created and signed by a large group of countries’ governments with the intent of slowing the whole “major cities get destroyed by costumed demi-gods” thing down a little bit. The Accords state that the Avengers will no longer work on their own, and will be used solely at the discretion of the United Nations. This causes the main rift in the story as Tony Stark says “Yeah, this sounds like a good idea” and Captain America says “Nah bro”. The Avengers (and others, who I’ll get to in a minute) then split into Pro-Accord and Anti-Accord sides and start to squabble a bit before everything culminates in a huge battle with lots of punching and lasers and stuff.
Captain America’s reasons for not wanting to sign seem pretty clear at first: He knows there will be times that what is right and what the government wants him to do won’t align, and nobody puts baby in a corner. What seems to be a totally noble cause at first starts to become a lot more muddied when it becomes obvious his reasons are way more self-centered and personal than what he’s letting on. And this is where my issues with him as a character come into play. I’ve never been a fan of the “constant do-gooder” type, Superman and Captain America being good examples. They’re typically written as one-dimensional and confrontational for no other reason than “JUSTICE!”, and to me that’s boring. In Civil War, Captain America is most concerned with helping out his old friend Bucky (The Winter Soldier) than with any sort of greater good viewpoint.
Maybe it’s hypocritical to be bothered by a fleshing out of his character, an attempt to make him less two-dimensional in the Cinematic Universe. But it falls very close to the recent Superman movies and the idea studios love showing now that “Nothing is ever black and white and everyone is selfish”, and that doesn’t really sit right with me. We all realize this, right? Life isn’t so great sometimes. Bringing the superhero genre into a world where we can relate to the stories is important to keep the franchises alive, but making all of our heroes flawed sort of dilutes the intent of the character, doesn’t it? There’s plenty of room for torn characters, but there’s also room for those characters who do what’s right no matter what. It’s what makes the genre so fun to read. There’s a character everyone can relate to, whether you always wait for the light on the cross-walk to turn into the little walking man or you like punching people on the subway to make your fists stronger. When you start to add in a grittiness to every character, you risk the whole mixture turning from this wonderful rainbow color to a dull brown and making everyone exactly the same.
All of that out of the way, I loved Civil War. As the in-fighting worsens, both sides start recruiting more heroes to their cause and the looming excitement that we’re about to see all of these guys and gals punching each other a bunch starts building to the climax. We get Black Widow, Falcon, War Machine, Ant Man, Scarlet Witch, The Vision, Black Panther, and Spider-Man. Sweet, sweet Spider-Man. There’s a plot going on in the background with Helmut Zemo, who is the villain in a sense, but he’s really only there to be a framework for everything that goes down in the third act.
Did you ever see Pacific Rim? If not, go watch it. Not because my next point particularly rides on you having seen it, but it’s a pretty cool movie and I’m looking out for you. Civil War is exactly what Pacific Rim is, and that’s fantastic. “Hey, you want to see Thing A beat the hell out of Thing B for two hours? Here ya go!”. Yes, screenwriters. Yes I do.
- Fight scenes are amazing and well choreographed.
- The build-up is done well and doesn’t feel like it’s padding before the main event (Looking at you, Batman V Superman).
- Spider-Man is the closest to the Spider-Man I grew up with than any other iteration.
- The dialogue could be snappier. Maybe the writing on the original Avengers spoiled me, but it feels a little dry in comparison.
- Captain America feels pretty boring through most of it. Probably my personal bias though.
- Spider-Man isn’t in the movie all the time, web-slinging through Wakanda and unnaturally bending in Bucharest.
He was bitten by a radioactive leg.
He likes long walks off of short piers (usually tricking some lust-ridden damsel to her watery demise while he surreptitiously activates his ring of water walking), and drinking copious amounts of coffee out of his most favoritest kitty mug (may it rest in peace). When he's not showboating his arcane prowess, he spends an inordinate amount of time cataloging and researching tirelessly for each and every episode of Dueling Ogres. Really. No, he really does. I promise.