Friday, May 20, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

It's no secret that Superhero mash-ups are a big thing. Ever since six of Marvel's greatest had to band together to fight villains from another world in The Avengers, audiences have been craving more alliances between Superheroes. This year, it seems, Superheroes aren't getting along so well. We've had Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice which pitted two of DC's best known heroes against one another. Now Marvel's heroes, The Avengers, are being split down the middle and are fighting amongst each other in Captain America: Civil War (2016). The result is a highly enjoyable and, holding true to Captain America form, makes some interesting political commentary.
With many people fearing the actions of super heroes, the government decides to push for the Hero Registration Act, a law that limits a hero's actions. This results in a division in The Avengers. Iron Man stands with this Act, claiming that their actions must be kept in check otherwise cities will continue to be destroyed, but Captain America feels that saving the world is daring enough and that they cannot rely on the government to protect the world. This escalates into an all-out war between Team Iron Man; Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Spider-Man (Tom Holland); and Team Captain America: Captain America (Chris Evans), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) while a new villain emerges (Daniel Brühl).
While overall I liked The Avengers: Age of Ultron, it could have been better. Civil War was much more along the lines of what I had hoped for. Tons of Superhero action, incredible fight scenes, intermingling between super powered characters, clashes of personalities, interesting themes, etc. Civil War is first and foremost a sequel to Captian America: The Winter Soldier. It's a continuation of the story of Captain America and his old friend who was brainwashed and controlled by Hydra. The second story is the governments of the world putting a system of accountability on the Superheroes and the resulting conflict between our heroes. This second story is a natural side effect of the Captain America/Bucky Barnes story, so they are intertwined in very logical ways.
The hard part is to know who to cheer for. In The Avengers there was a really great, but short, fight scene early on between Thor and Iron-Man. It was amazing because these were both characters I loved and the fight was incredible, and I simply did not know who to root for. It wasn't until Captain America intervenes to breaks up the fight, which itself was amazing, that the two lowered their arms. The fight was creative, took advantage of and displayed each hero's respective powers and abilities, and was edge-of-your-seat exciting. You wanted to see them really lay into each other, but you didn't want either one to lose because you already like these characters. Civil War is pretty much a whole movie with fight scenes like that one. But it's so well written that you still don't know which team to side with. The conflict that arises from the Hero Registration Act makes a lot of sense. Neither side is wholly wrong, and if you, yourself, aren't flip-flopping between which team you'd be aligned with, you're just being unreasonably stubborn. Civil War is that well written. The major fight between sides is absolutely amazing, and again you don't want anyone to really get hurt, but you just can't help but get caught up in the action and see the very different personalities and superpowers clash in the most epic ways. Most of the heroes are in it for a short while, but they are just so fantastic. I love how Ant-Man keeps forgetting less super powered hero's names; he refers to Hawkeye as "arrow guy."
Holding true to Captain America tradition, Civil War makes some social and political commentary. It explores topics of the morality and justification of revenge, how much control the government should have over its citizens, the idea that law is not an indicator of morality and how many horrible things have been done to people that were perfectly legal, and the traumatic effects that war has on innocent bystanders and those who get caught in the crossfire. There were lots of people who died in the epic fight scenes we love so much in previous Marvel movies, and the natural consequences of those fight scenes are coming to fruition here. Normal people are becoming fearful of superheroes and what they are able to do, so a Hero Registration Act makes sense. But at the same time, Civil War explores the idea that while war is absolutely a terrible reality, it is sometimes necessary. Having people who are able to stop the evil actions of others is good. They save as many people as possible but often are not able to save everyone, which is truly regrettable. But are the rescuers at fault for not saving everyone? Would it have been better to let the enemy have its way and save no one at all? The human cost of "Collateral Damage" is explored respectfully here. It's a complicated set of topics that can be touchy issues. Civil War explores these topics without getting preachy or telling you what you should think, and does it with a safe Superhero metaphor over the top so as not to potentially offend. The themes explored in this movie are fascinating and make for a rich story.
Two new heroes are introduced in Civil War, we were teased with these new characters in the trailer. The first of which was Black Panther. Wow, this character was fantastic. He was complicated, compelling, interesting, and a fun addition to the movie. I truly have limited knowledge of this character from the Marvel comics, but I couldn't help but love him. He's scheduled to have his own movie early in 2018 and I am psyched about it now that I've seen Black Panther in action. The other is my all time personal favorite superhero, Spider-Man. This is the third actor to play Spider-Man and he's quite possibly my favorite. That's saying something because Tobey Maguire was pretty great and Andrew Garfield did a solid job as well. We don't get an origin story for Spider-Man this time, which is good. It would have taken too much time and we've already had the origin of Spider-Man, possibly one of the best known original stories in the Marvel universe depicted on the big screen twice in a relatively short amount of time between two Spider-Man film series. This Spider-Man is still in high school, is reluctant to join the fray because he's got a big math test to study for, he's a hilariously talkative and cracks jokes during fights (a signature component of the character), he's not yet confident in himself and is still mastering his newfound abilities, acts like a fanboy in front of all the established heroes, and comes up with ideas for taking down opponents from "old movies" like Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Sony owned the movie rights to Spider-Man and since the character was an important component to Marvel's Civil War storyline, Disney had to negotiate rights to the character back from Sony so Spidey could be in the Civil War movie. I don't know that we'll have another Spider-Man movie from Sony (probably not), but Disney has one starring Tom Holland as the infamous web-slinger due out in summer of 2017, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of this Spider-Man in action as well. We came to Civil War to watch Captain America and Iron-Man throw down, but frankly Black Panther and Spider-Man pretty much stole the show in every scene they were in.
So, we've got this new villain that gets much of the two storylines rolling. Helmut Zemo plays such a small role in everything that I often forgot he was there orchestrating events so far behind the scenes that he was often overlooked. He's not powerful, he has no superhuman abilities, he's working alone, he was dangerous only because of knowledge and convictions he held. He wasn't even much of a villain, but more of a weasel who would sneak around and push buttons in just the right way to get a small reaction that would escalate exponentially into big conflicts while almost entirely avoiding attention. I'm not even familiar enough with Marvel comics to know if this was ever a major villain; I've never heard of him before. He's a pretty good weasel, and his subtlety is a refreshing change of pace from the over-the-top flashy villains we've had in the past.
Captain America: Civil War begins the next wave of Marvel movies with an action-packed blockbuster boasting a decidedly non-cartoonish plot and the courage to explore some thought-provoking themes. It's thematically heavy, and indeed doesn't end on as positive a note as we usually get from Superhero movies. The writing is excellent, the large cast of heroes all get their due screen time and moments to shine, and their clashing personalities are positively delightful. The action is creative and riveting to say the least. Civil War is fun, smart, and coherent. Most importantly, it allows its heart to beat strongly amid the chaos, with character moments and set pieces working together to create one of Marvel's best films so far. I loved Captain America: Civil War. It is worth the ticket price to see in theaters, and worth getting a copy of when it's available on home video. Just make sure you're all caught up on previous Marvel movies before you see it; like The Avengers movies, it's important to know where each character is before they all come together again.

So, which side were you on while seeing this movie, Team Captain America or Team Iron Man? Comment below and tell me why, but please be careful to avoid spoilers.

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