‘Civil War’ is a More-Than-Solid Action Film–and Has More Heart than I Expected

[SPOILERS AHEAD.]

If my pre-Civil War rant was any indication, I decided a while ago to go warily into Captain America: Civil War. This approach was based on my knowledge that (a) the film could never match  Iron Man and Captain America’s intense dynamic as it stood before and during the comics’ Civil War arc, and (b) no Marvel film could live up to Captain America: The Winter Soldier in my opinion (this still stands). Plus, the last time we saw our favorite Marvel squad, they were inconsistent and messy characters in an inconsistent and messy Avengers: Age of Ultron.

But I’ll say one thing about the Russo brothers: They bring the magic. Consistently. I left this film totally energized, emotional, and, frankly, satisfied–because I reminded myself that the Marvel Cinematic Universe tells a different story. And the Russo brothers, in tandem with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, did a damn good job telling it.

Here’s My Consensus…

Action and Effects
Civil War does not want for action. Each sequence was meticulously laid out and executed like a choreographed dance. Black Widow’s fight sequences were my favorite in particular; their detail emphasized the kind of fighter she is–quick, slick, operating as if multi-legged–like a spider. The climactic confrontation between Team Cap and Team Iron Man was phenomenal, showcasing each character’s personality, motivations, and style with every move. Overall, the film was paced very well (despite its whopping 146-minute runtime), and, of course, shot brilliantly. I can’t wait until everyone on Tumblr screencaps the daylights out of this film after its DVD release. Every frame has something to say.

As usual, the SFX are off the charts, with the exception of Spider-Man’s costume animation–what is that? I’m no CGI expert, but if there’s little to no observable detail of his suit despite its redness, there might be an issue there. Otherwise, the film is visually stunning. There is a particular iconic shot of Cap and Iron Man in their final fight; comics fans will know to what I’m referring, but even if you haven’t read them, it’s an amazing shot of a well-crafted scene.

Characterization
The film isn’t just an action movie. Bringing together more superheroes than ever is not an easy feat, but Markus and McFeely pull off effective characterization really well (an aspect which faltered significantly in the last Avengers film). Indeed, this movie is a Cap film in name but really is an ensemble effort. And the great thing is, the writers manage to do justice to each character’s motivations and choices throughout the film. They expand upon previous relationships and dynamics (i.e., Natasha’s conflicted loyalty to Steve and empathy for Tony, the Vision’s gradually humanizing nature when it comes to Wanda) while forging new ones–I think my favorite part of the entire film was Bucky and Sam sitting in Steve’s poor excuse for a getaway car, emphasizing their newfound friend-hate-ship:

BUCKY, in the back seat: Can you move your seat up?
SAM: [deadpan] No.

Plusthey flesh out new characters who will get their own movies soon. I’m looking at you, Black Panther. Each character serves a purpose–isn’t just thrown in to say (s)he’s there–with the exception of Spider-Man and Ant-Man who exist essentially for comic relief. They did get their big moments, though, and contributed significantly to the fight. It was interesting–and slightly jarring–to see a Peter Parker who looked and talked his age. (Tobey Maguire, where art thou? Miss you, boo.) Even in the case of these two, though, the writers are unafraid to be self-referential–the amount of times other Avengers and Scott Lang himself question his relevance to the story are enough to breach subtlety: “Thinks for thanking of me!”

Overall Adaptation
Ultimately, yes–the details surrounding the cause for “civil war” in this film differ from those in the original comics. After all, the comics took a whole book and a ton of world-building and at least twice the characters to tell the story. But the film writers both take from and create a cinematic universe where these changes make sense.

Perhaps most important to me are the alterations to Cap and Iron Man’s motivations for the sake of continuity with the rest of the films. As I said in my last entry about this storyline, the “Civil War” comic arc is so effective mainly because Steve and Tony’s strong bond comes crashing down around them. In this film, that bond is different–it’s newer with a touch of a resentment, and frankly, that resentment only grows. They don’t want to fight, necessarily, but they do. Their opposing views on the Superhero Registration Act are based on Steve’s passion for his ideals (and for Bucky, the only remaining connection to his past) and Tony’s wracking guilt, respectively. The film does a great job building up this conflict.

Because there are consistencies. For example, in both instances, I am glad to say, Tony Stark is not portrayed as the villain some fans paint him to be. His position, given all that he’s lost and all the guilt he’s built up over the last near decade, makes sense for his character. There is no real “right” or “wrong” side to this war–yes, Cap physically “beats” Tony in the end, but that doesn’t change the fact that they ultimately strive for the same goal–to keep the world safe. And Cap recognizes that. Both men truly believe they are right and are blinded by these beliefs. And the gaps and ambiguities in both their arguments lead not only other Avengers but Steve and Tony themselves to question their beliefs. If college ethics class taught me anything, it’s that right and wrong are pretty damn subjective. The film does not shy away from this idea. Civil War isn’t just a fight for the sake of fighting–there is emotion and passion and heart behind every decision each man makes, whether or not those come from a good or bad place.

But if you’re like me, waving my Steve/Tony flag in the air for all eternity, the resolution to their conflict in the film–or lack thereof–isn’t exactly neat and pretty. It’s more like a “you go your way, I’ll go mine” kind of break-up. I think that’s exactly what I expected. And it’s okay. Plus, we all know they’ll hook back up for the next Avengers film. I hope by that point they can put aside their differences or at least find a compromise. But that compromise, that forgiveness, will inevitably be attained differently than it is in the comics:

I’m not half as good at–at anything as I am when I’m doing it next to you. And that’s the truth. (Avengers Prime #5. God, just get married already.)
I just hope that reconciliation, whatever it is, at the very least does justice to the characters the MCU has created. Movie-Steve-and-Tony deserve at least that consistency.

Etc
I’ll say that plot wise, there was a lot happening. The film jumped to and from many locations. The ending in which Zemo’s motives are revealed seemed a bit rushed, but I enjoyed that this film very much focused on the civilian perspective (which superhero films rarely do). That said, the film did try to accomplish quite a bit–and while it didn’t fall into chaos as did Age of Ultron, I would’ve appreciated more of a focus on the title protagonist. When Robert Downey Jr is signed onto a film, though, there’s bound to be a battle for screen time. (I love him, so I’m not actively complaining.) I also would’ve appreciated a more consolidated film, one that was less overwhelming to keep up with–but again, the comics were no picnic read. All things considered, the film adapted a complex story and made it unique.

Consensus
Captain America: Civil War definitely entertains, providing a well-stirred combination of action and humor. It also effectively maintained and forged character dynamics that shaped the tone of the film. It could have stuck more closely to a consistent storyline and setting to avoid confusing or overwhelming its audience, but overall, it does a great job executing a new take on a rising classic Marvel story.

Rating: 3.5/5

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