BIG ASS SPOILER WARNING!!! Due to this review requiring the mention of the plot, characters and other things, consider this a BIG ASS SPOILER WARNING! Civil War has only been out less than 24 hours in Australia and is yet to be released in the USA (As of the time of writing). So once again, this is a BIG ASS SPOILER WARNING!! Do not complain about spoilers when I’m telling you NOW that I’m going to be talking about spoilers! BIG ASS SPOILER WARNING!!!
Title:Captain America: Civil War Production company:Marvel Studios Distributed by:Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Directed by: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo Produced by: Kevin Feige Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, & Daniel Brühl Release dates Australia: April 28, 2016 United States: May 6, 2016 Running time: 147 minutes Rating: Pg-13 (US) / M (Australia)
Captain America: Civil War is the official beginning of Marvel’s Phase 3 of their cinematic universe, which should conclude with Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 sometime in 2019. After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which wasn’t exactly one of the best Marvel films out there (Excluding Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy takes top spot in my opinion) and was looked down upon by critics and fans alike. So Marvel has to make up a lot of ground when it comes to keeping this cinematic universe which is now in it’s 8th year (Jeezus! It’s been that long since Iron Man kicked all this off!?) both engaging and exciting while setting up things for future movies.
The Plot Now I’m going to come right out and say this to all the comic book fans out there that were wondering how close this movie could be to the events of the Civil War event series that Marvel published in 2006. Captain America: Civil War takes some key moments from the series and either tweaks them to suit the cinematic universe or skips things completely. Spider-Man doesn’t unmask and the film does not end with the death of Captain America at the hand of Sharon Carter, aka Agent 13. Get over it!
Captain America: Civil War takes the fallout from Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Death of Tony Stark’s family, the “salvation” of Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, the idea of registration, themes of vengeance, and some very odd romantic “hinting” and tries to make some sort of coherent plot lines out of it all. There’s twists and turns all over the place, moments of “huh?”, characters appearing and disappearing, and an ending which makes zero sense at all wrapped up in a political style wrapping that get’s lost about halfway through the film.
The movie begins during 1991, where after being programmed by his Russian masters, The Winter Soldier attacks a car during the night and takes something from the back of the car… This is something that seems out of place but will only make sense in Civil War’s finale.
After an incident in Lagos, Nigeria; where Scarlett Witch allows the villain Crossbones to explode next to a building which housed several Wakandan citizens on a peaceful mission to the outside world, causing their death in a moment she was trying to save Captain America’s life. (Crossbones steals a biological weapon in the film’s second opening, leading to The Avengers chasing him through Lagos, ending in a one on one fight with Captain America and Crossbones which ends with Crossbones using a suicide vest to try and take Captain America out, again leading to the previous accident at the hand of Scarlett Witch). This bring’s King T’Chaka (Black Panther’s father) into the United Nations and begins the start of the Registration Act (Called the “Sokovia Accords” after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron). This accident is Civil War’s version of the “Stamford Incident” and it plays really well into having the Registration Act become a more international issue than it was in the comic books.
Meanwhile, in plot B, Tony Stark is giving a speech at MIT using a memory gizmo to show people a hologram of the final night he saw his parents (Don’t worry, it all comes together in the end). Afterwards he is confronted by the Mother of a child who was killed in Sokovia during the final battle of Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is where Tony Stark, along with the Secretary of Defence, to introduce the rest of The Avengers to the “Sokovia Accords” papers and kicking off the idealogical issues between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Steve has to leave the first debate amongst the team due to Peggy Carter passing away. This kicks off the super fast, love at first sight style romance between Steve and Sharon Carter.
Things then move somewhat medium paced to the signing of the “Sokovia Accords” at the UN. However as King T’Chaka is addressing the UN about the act, a bomb goes off killing King T’Chaka (And possibly more people, but the movie focuses on this one death due to T’Challa aka The Black Panther being there). Images quickly emerge of someone who looks like Bucky Barnes lurking around the van where the bomb was contained. Captain America and Falcon, who did not sign the Sokovia Accords, take off to find Bucky and bring him to justice against the advice from Black Widow. The two are able to track Bucky down and capture him after one of the most stupid chase scenes I’ve ever seen.
With Bucky captured, Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson & T’Challa are taken into custody (T’Challa, in Black Panther gear, was a third veritable during the Bucky chase & capture scene) and brought to a secure location where Bucky is “interrogated” by a Psychologist. This turns out to be Helmut Zemo, the main “villain” of the story. Zemo triggers Bucky’s Russian programming through the trigger words (REAL Trigger words, not the Tumblr version) and gets’s information about a specific mission The Winter Soldier undertook in 1991 (Connecting the dots yet?). This allows The Winter Soldier to escape and creates a further divide between Tony and Steve. We cut suddenly to the “I know a guy” post-credits scene from the Ant-Man movie where Captain America and Falcon have recaptured Bucky and the programming has worn off, giving Bucky a chance to explain where Zemo is headed and a possibility of why. We also get another really forced “romantic” moment between Vision and Scarlett Witch before Hawkeye comes in out of nowhere and convinces Scarlett Witch to join Captain America’s side.
It’s here that we get to see the two groups assemble. Tony goes to Queens and surprises Peter Parker. Stark practically blackmails Peter into coming along to join his side after outing him as Spider-Man. Honestly, this is one of the most awkward scenes in the movie as it comes out of nowhere and we’re just meant to believe that though a few videos on Youtube, Stark was able to work out Peter Parker was Spider-Man. I guess I’m just expecting a bit too much from a series where everything has been hinted at or set up ahead of time. Plus the extremely young looking Aunt May is just so very wrong. Hell, she looks more like Mary Jane than Aunt May! Anyway, we also see the reintroduction of Scott Lang into things, including a joke at the expense of the fight between him and Wilson in Ant-Man.
So as the “Secret Avengers” (aka Captain America’s team) are getting together, an alarm sounds to evacuate the airport. This is the big fight scene where all the new guys are introduced, we get a look at Spider-Man in the costume (He was still using a hoodie, jeans, and other stuff when Stark found him) and everyone faces off. Iron Man, War Machine, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Black Widow & Vision on one side, Captain America, Falcon, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Scarlett Witch & Winter Soldier on the other. You’ve seen bits of this in the trailers and it does not disappoint.
Captain America and Bucky escape during the battle via Quinjet to track down Zemo and stop him from awakening 5 other Russian Winter Soldier Agents while the rest are captured and sent to The Raft, a prison in the middle of the ocean. We also get a moment where Vision, distracted by his sudden affection with Scarlett Witch, shoots off a beam which hits War Machine instead of Falcon; leading to Rhodey becoming paralyzed. While on his way to get information about where Captain America and Bucky are headed, Stark learns the truth about the UN bombing, that it was Zemo behind it all. Stark has a change of heart and is able to learn where his former friends are headed and gives chase, with Black Panther following him via stealth.
This is where everything goes to shit. Not only does Zemo NOT awaken the 5 other Winter Soldier Agents, he kills them. Instead getting a videotape of the mission where Bucky, as The Winter Soldier, kills Tony Stark’s parents in order to get the formula that created the other 5 agents. This sends Tony into a rage and once again we get a fight between Iron Man, Captain America & Winter Soldier. While the three fight; Black Panther, who learns the bombing was Zemo’s idea, captures Zemo after a monologue about vengeance. The fight between Iron Man, Captain America & Winter Soldier ends when Captain America brings his shield down on Iron Man’s central repulsor energy source, disabling the suit. Captain America throws down his shield after Stark says something (I don’t know what, the audio cut out in the cinema at that moment) and leaves with Bucky.
From here things wrap up. We see Tony working with Rhodey and his new walking device. We get a Stan Lee cameo, Captain America sends Stark a message about always being there if he is needed even though they don’t see eye to eye, and Hawkeye, Falcon, Ant-Man & Scarlett Witch all being broken out of The Raft by Captain America. Thus ends Civil War.
In the first post-credits scene, Bucky decides to go “back under” into suspended animation till someone is able to take the programming out of his head. It’s here that we learn that Captain America and his crew are located in Wakanda, protected by T’Challa and a giant Black Panther statue. The second post-credits scene features Peter Parker trying to explain the bruises he got from the airport fight to Aunt May, Peter then discovers a light in his web shooter that displays the classic Spider-Man logo, letting us know that “Spider-Man will return”.
Characters Now I’m going to skip a lot of the cast here. People like Chris Evans (Captain America), Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Sebastian Stan (Bucky/Winter Soldier), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) & Don Cheadle (War Machine) have played these roles enough now that they know them like the back of their hands, and it shows. Amazing performances as per usual. Even the mid-level cast members like Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Paul Bettany (Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlett Witch), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) & William Hurt (Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross); all of whom have only played their roles for one movie or so feel like they have things down pat too.
So that leaves the newbies: Tom Holland (Spider-Man), Frank Grillo (Crossbones), Daniel Brühl (Helmut Zemo) & I guess Emily VanCamp (Sharon Carter. Technicality as her previous role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier wasn’t anything of note). Holland was a very convincing Spider-Man. He was very talkative during the fight scenes and was more interested in the science behind his opponents rather than his opponents themselves, giving him a very nerdy outlook on things which was amusing and refreshing. I just wish that after all this time with Marvel trying to get Spider-Man back for the Marvel cinematic universe that they did more to establish Spider-Man and do more with him, instead he disappears to await his own sixth solo film.
Grillo was a waste as Crossbones. He was practically a throw away villain that was used to create a bigger plot point and I felt the only reason he was used was to give the comic book faithful something to think about while the plot progressed, a hope that the surprise ending to the Civil War comic event was going to somehow happen in the movie version.
Daniel Brühl was Zemo in name only. Baron Helmut Zemo is a mastermind, which the film got over by having him be the one who is manipulating everything from behind the scenes. The main difference here was that Zemo in the comics is immortal and usually has no issues facing his main foe, Captain America, one on one when the chips are down much like Red Skull could. In Civil War, he’s just a normal man driven mad by the death of his wife and son during the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Once he believes his plan is done, he tries to kill himself, only to be saved by Black Panther and locked away. However, Daniel Brühl did great with the role and I wish they do more with him down the line.
Emily VanCamp’s role as Sharon Carter was another one of those roles that felt placed into Civil War because it would appease the comic book faithful. Her sudden appearance and subsequent romance with Captain America just felt too forced. She appears during her Aunt’s funeral, has one conversation with Captain America and then they are in love. It just doesn’t feel right at all; however it leads into one of the films funniest moments. Overall, just like Crossbones, this felt like a wasted role.
What Worked A lot of things worked for Civil War. The main characters felt important and even the lower tier characters got some character development, something that you would think to be impossible during a movie of this scope. Everyone, wasted or not, felt perfectly cast for their part in the events and there is not a single casting choice that I would say needed to be changed. The action in Civil War is top notch. Fights feel quick, powerful and leave an impact with every punch, kick and blast that happens on screen.
The introduction of T’Challa into the Marvel Cinematic Universe was extremely well done and didn’t fell at all out of place. Even without his own movie to set things up, The Black Panther just felt like he belonged in that world.
Everything did connect by the end of Civil War without needing to leave us asking questions about the where and why, but instead just wanting to see what happens next. I walked away from Civil War happy and excited to see what’s coming up with things like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War. While this isn’t a one for one remake of the comic book event, what it did use worked extremely well and made sense, and what it left out worked well too. It’s a nice balance of reference for the original work while keeping it to the established universe that the movies have created.
I must also point out the amazing de-aging job the special effects team did on Robert Downey Jr in the recreation of his last moments with his parent’s scene, really well done.
What didn’t Work Pacing. The plot jumps all over the place and at times feels like there is just too much happening at once. Hell, the whole Sokovia Accord Registration Act plot just drops off halfway through Civil War, replaced with the salvation of Bucky plot that leads into the Zemo reveal and the tie into the death of Tony Stark’s parents. The whole point of Civil War was the clashing of ideologies between someone who is still mentally stuck in his 1950’s Golden Era and a futurist trying to stop things from becoming the worst outcome possible, but again it gets to throw to the side in favour of Tony Stark’s sudden need for vengeance over his parents death.
The whole inclusion of Spider-Man just felt awkward, like the writers just didn’t know how to fit him into the already established world. This is a stark contrast to The Black Panther, who just felt right. Seeing Tony Stark walking into Peter’s room, finding the costume, outing Peter as Spider-Man (only to himself and Peter) and practically blackmailing Peter into joining his group just didn’t even feel like Tony Stark either. I know people could call Tony out on being desperate for people and all that, but at that point, it just felt wrong. Now Spider-Man was handled well in the fight, but we didn’t need the “where are you from” bonding moment between Spider-Man and Captain America; it just felt like the “Martha” moment from Batman v Superman.
Romance subplots! We don’t need them and they just felt awkward and forced, especially Vision & Wanda. I know they get together in the comics and all that, but we’re not getting Avengers Disassembled, no House of M, no “no more mutants” (Since that would happen in the FOX X-Men universe if it did happen), so we did not need it here. Same with Steve & Sharon, it was just not required for Civil War to progress.
Special mentions go out to the first scene of Bucky being found and captured which involved a foot chase down a highway where Bucky, Captain America, and Black Panther were all outrunning the cars on the road. I’m sorry, I know they are meant to be superheroes and all that, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. Captain America being as fast as most cars I could believe, but Black Panther & Bucky are not on that level. This was just pushing the boundaries of what can be believed in a superhero movie. The other mention is to the speech in the image below, a classic statement of following your beliefs made by Captain America to Spider-Man in the comics, but regulated to a throwaway summary by Sharon Carter during the Peggy Carter funeral scene. A true waste of a great moment.
Final Thoughts While I’ve probably bitched more about the bad moments in Civil War than praised the good moments, I still enjoyed the movie from opening credits to final post-credits scene. Civil War was a giant step up from Avengers: Age of Ultron and is right up there with Captain America: The Winter Soldier & The Avengers (my 2 & 3 picks respectively) in terms of enjoyment. Civil War was a great popcorn flick and well worth the money to see, especially after sitting through Batman v Superman.
If you’re going to go into Civil War with an open mind and remembering that the cinematic universe is not the same as the comic book events, then you’re going to not even notice the plot holes, editing mistakes, and other stupid moments I’ve mentioned. If you’re going into this thinking you’re about to see a 100% faithful recreation of one of the more political Marvel moments, then you’ll be disappointed… Till the big fight happens, then you won’t care.
The Marvel movie we wanted and deserved
Captain America: Civil War is a good popcorn flick. It delivers action while building the mythos of the entire universe. While this does come close to being Avengers 2.5, there is enough focus on Captain America and his ongoing story with Bucky to warrant the Captain America at the beginning of the title. The problems though are many many plot holes and moments that just do not make sense. Some characters, like Ant-Man & Spider-Man are just in Civil War to expand the rosters during the big face off and never seen again. It feels like a waste to expand what has happened since the Ant-Man movie and give a decent introduction to Spider-Man.
Considering that this is meant to be action with a bit of drama, Civil War works and is a very enjoyable experience. This feels like the movie we should have gotten instead of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Marvel has redeemed itself and shows that building a universe can be done with the right contractual agreements and the best casting they can find. I hope DC was taking notes.