Thimblerig’s Spoilerific Thoughts on Captain America: Civil War

Captain-America-Civil-War-Divided-We-Fall-Poster-Robert-Downey-Jr

One of the benefits of living in China is that every now and then, the Hollywood studios decide to roll out their big films in our corner of the world, rather than in the United States, where you’d think they’d drop first. Of course, there’s quite a bit of irony in the fact that a Captain America movie would not premiere in America, but regardless, it’s still cool for us. And considering the movie has already made $84 million internationally [update: $200.2 mill], and has yet to open in the United States or even in my host country of China, I’d say it’s been cool for a whole lot of people.

So, yesterday my kids and I hopped a ferry from Shenzhen to Hong Kong with the express purpose of eating at McDonald’s Next, and taking in a viewing of Captain America: Civil War. It was a tiring day, but was it worth it?

civil warAbsolutely, it was.

As director Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) tweeted yesterday:

I agree wholeheartedly with Derrickson. This is a trilogy where nothing erodes or gets lost from episode to episode. In fact, if anything, each installment builds on and improves on the other. Even my beloved original Star Wars trilogy wasn’t able to accomplish this, with The Empire Strikes Back unarguably the high point of the trilogy.

With Captain America, the films just get better and better, and this last installment is – by far – the high point.

Before I get into my thoughts on the film, I want to discuss the biggest, most glaring lesson that I took from the film. And no, this doesn’t involve spoilers.

The Goodness of Steve Rogers

Captain-America-image-1Ever since Chris Evans and the Russo brothers first suited up, I have been constantly blown away by the unflinchingly goodness of Captain America. This is a character that lives for doing the right thing, even when the forces of the world are arrayed against him. As we saw in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he has a strong moral code, and he tries to elevate his comrades to live by that same code, even as they make fun of him. He would sacrifice everything for the sake of his friends, including friendship when need be. He has such a noble character that he could almost pick up Thor’s hammer, and if he had, we wouldn’t have been surprised.

And while most of the other superheroes we see are tortured about one thing or another, in the Captain America trilogy, Rogers is only tortured by two things: not being able to help is friends in need, and the fact that he is a man out of time, that he was ripped away from all that he knew when he was thawed out in the 21st century.

And yet, Captain America is one of the most popular superheroes to come out of modern superhero films.

chris-evans-shirtless-captain-americaYou could argue that one reason that Cap is so popular lies in the fact that Chris Evans is, as my friend Jasmine said, just so hot. (Yeah, I put that image there just for you, Jasmine. You’re welcome.)

And while that might be the draw for a certain demographic, I don’t think Evans’ hotness has anything to do with the fact that I see kids here in China running around wearing red, white, and blue Captain America t-shirts.

Then what is it? In my mind, it boils down to the truth that Cap is the hero we all wish we had in our lives: someone who will stand up for us, and who will refuse to stay down on our behalf, because it will always be the right thing to do. But not only that, thanks to the Dr. Stark’s Super Soldier Serum, he has the skills to back up the stands that he takes. He’s like the Boy Scout’s Boy Scout, All-American, apple pie, Brooklyn, and all that jazz. Cap proves time and again that in the right hands, our absolutely good characters can be portrayed as absolutely good, and it can work. They don’t always have to go through a dark night of the soul to get there. (Hear that, Zach Snyder?)

This all speaks volumes about the Russo brothers (read their thoughts on Cap here) and Joss Whedon, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and Chris Evans. They chose to handle this potentially irritating and absurdly good character with integrity and consistency. Directing, writing and acting tortured characters is not such a challenge. Directing, writing, and acting good characters that maintain their goodness throughout, and doing so in a compelling way is nearly impossible.

But these guys have pulled off the nearly impossible.

But enough Captain America pontification. If you have not seen Captain America: Civil War yet, and you are trying to steer clear of spoilers, then steer way clear of this blog post. Because here there be spoilers.

***SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS***

I’m not going to take the time to summarize the events of the movie, as you can find that just about anywhere, including Wikipedia. Rather, I just want to give my thoughts.

• As anyone would know from watching the trailers, Captain America: Civil War could actually be called Avengers: Civil War. While it focuses most of the attention on Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, the filmmakers would have been hard-pressed to stuff any more Avengers into this film. And the amazing thing is that each Avenger has their moment to shine, and so the film doesn’t come close to feeling overstuffed.

captain-america-civil-war-will-change-the-mcu-even-more-than-the-winter-soldier-say-866418• I loved how both Captain America and Tony Stark are right, in their own way. It’s an interesting metaphor of how wars can really start – with a small disagreement that eventually billows out of control. And in wars, people get hurt. Civil War is no exception. And the fight at the end between the two of them feels earned, as compared to that other big superhero v. superhero film that came out earlier in the year. And I loved that the big issue between them isn’t resolved in the end. It gives us somewhere to go with the characters in the upcoming Infinity War films.

• I’m fascinated that Captain America, who has headlined three movies and been featured prominently in two others, is a character with no arc. Like James Bond or Indiana Jones, Cap changes very little, but rather demands change from those around him. Conversely, Tony Stark has been forced to go through several radical changes since he premiered in the original Iron Man, but with Captain America, this lack of substantial change works.

• The film’s humor is spot on. Considering the destruction of both property and relationships, the film has several laugh out loud moments. The strained relationship between the Falcon and Bucky being a great example, another being the expected quips of Spider-Man (more on him later). But the best example of use of humor in this film was anything that came out of the mouth of Scott Lang, aka Ant Man. If this film accomplished anything, it made me look forward to the next Ant Man film to see more of Lang, who played a decidedly BIG role in one of the best scenes of this, and just about any superhero movie that has come down the pike.

Oh, and while Stan Lee’s cameo was not so impressive, Rhodes’ (War Machine) response to it was priceless and perfect.

• Spider-Man. What can I say? Spidey has always been my favorite superhero, and while I enjoyed Tobey and Andrew’s turns in the red and blue suit, Tom Holland looks to be the perfect choice to carry the mantle. I love that he is actually the age that Spider-Man would be after just receiving his powers, and his immaturity shows. He is skilled, but not as skilled as he will be. And he is immature, just wanting to please Tony Stark, and so starstruck by his new relationship with him that he is unable to think for himself or entertain the notion that Stark might be wrong.

This film (and the end credits scene) are a nice setup to the new Spider-Man franchise, and I look forward to seeing what the filmmakers do with it (especially since we blessedly won’t have to sit through another tired Spider-Man origin story).

My one beef with Spidey in this film was that the CGI wasn’t quite as fluid as I would hope. There were moments that he looked cartoonish, which I hope that they fix when they make the standalone film.

• The trailer bait and switch. As with the trailer for The Force Awakens, the Russos did a great job making a trailer that made you think you knew what would happen, while in actuality, something else entirely was going to happen. Some examples: the almost Luke Skywalkerian Spider-Man trailers made it seem like Spider-Man would play a much smaller role in this film than he actually ended up playing. Also, the trailer made it appear that Bucky shoots down War Machine, when someone else altogether is responsible for that incident. I love when trailers do this, rather than just giving away everything, or not giving enough.

I obviously loved this film, but as I rode the ferry home writing notes, I realized that I had several questions:

  1. How did Zemo know that blowing up Vienna would help him to achieve his actual goal of tearing apart the Avengers? I know that he had studied the Avengers, and he apparently knew that Cap would go off to help Bucky after he framed him for the destruction, but how did he know that Iron Man wouldn’t support his teammate?
  2. Also, Zemo kept referring to December 16, 1991, the night that Stark’s parents were killed. How did he know that the Winter Soldier had something to do with it? Why did he even suspect it?
  3. How did Cap know that the Winter Soldier killed Stark’s parents, and when did he find it out? I didn’t take any bathroom breaks, but I don’t remember this being explained.
  4. Where did the Black Panther get his powers? I know the comic books explain this, but I felt like the film just wanted you to accept that he had them. That wasn’t quite good enough for me.
  5. How did Stark know that Spider-Man was Peter Parker?

These are minor issues, and perhaps some intrepid reader can help explain the answers to me.

So, in conclusion, this film just continues to build on the fantastic MCU that is being developed with such incredible deftness and consistent balls-out-of-the-park by Marvel. It makes me that much more interested and even excited to see what Scott Derrickson and Benedict Cumberbatch do with Dr. Strange, where Guardians 2 takes us, and what will happen with Thor and Hulk in Thor 3. Not to mention Avengers: Infinity Wars.

Let me know your thoughts!

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9 thoughts on “Thimblerig’s Spoilerific Thoughts on Captain America: Civil War

  1. Totally agreed. I like the way you word things. And thank you for that pretty pretty picture.
    Besides the fact that he really is hot, it is really unique how good and noble he is and yet I don’t hate him for being annoyingly good.
    Also, your 3rd question was something I was wondering about during the film as well. I figured it had come up somehow in an earlier film and I’d forgotten.
    Thanks for a great review!
    Jasmine

  2. Cap finds out that Bucky was responsible for the death of Tony’s parents in Winter Soldier. The scene where Steve and Widow interact with Zola in the hidden base.

    • Thanks, Chris. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Winter Soldier, but poking around on the ‘net, I’ve read that Zola told them that Hydra killed the Starks, but not that the WS was directly responsible. Are they wrong? I need to rewatch it and see.

      But anyway, I appreciate the answer!
      Nate

    • I still don’t see it… I can see that that’s where the idea that Cap knew came from, but it would have been better if he had said something like, “I had my suspicions” instead of just saying that he knew.

      But it’s a minor nitpick, and I still loved the movie.

      • That scene is where he finds out that HYDRA was responsible for Howard and Maria’s deaths; my guess is he found out it was the Winter Soldier sometime between then and this movie.

  3. Loved reading your thoughts on this movie. It came out here last week so I’ve already gotten to see it too and I think I enjoyed it as much as you did. I think The First Avenger is still my favorite of the Captain America trilogy, but this is one I will definitely be watching again.

    Re: your questions…
    1. Not quite sure. I’ll probably have to watch the movie again, but it could very well have been a gamble on Zemo’s part.
    2. I think he knew HYDRA was behind the hit but not all of the details. He probably stumbled across something while researching Tony and/or Steve that pointed him in the direction of HYDRA and the Winter Soldier program and he was just trying to get confirmation (and potentially ammo to use against the Avengers).
    3. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, my guess is Steve found out about that sometime between The Winter Soldier and now (either thanks to Natasha’s SHIELD infodump onto the Internet or possibly Bucky confessing once he became lucid).
    4. My guess is we’ll find out in the Black Panther movie.
    5. Tony’s probably been keeping an eye peeled for people with powers/abilities. Assuming Peter’s spider bite incident was mentioned anywhere online, it probably wasn’t that hard to put two and two together.

    Now I want to watch it again… in English this time. 😛

  4. I saw this with a political junkie who talked politics all night, which may explain why I came away with a strong impression that Captain America represents American conservatism and Iron Man represented American liberalism. Captain America is fiercely loyal, starkly (ha ha) moral, resolutely independent and sure that he and his team should be trusted to make the right call more often than not without oversight. Stark is self-doubting, critical of his team, and willing to turn over authority to bureaucratic bodies in order to try and get the world to like them again. (Sorry, its late and I don’t have it in me to express that with any more than a shred of tact.) I actually thought it might be a fun exercise to identify major world players with the other avengers.

    Other than that, I thought it was a very good balance of story and action. As you noted, the multitude of players were brought in quite nicely, with each of them making a strong, distinct impression. (Very unlike Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of Awakens.) The humor was perfect – they had Black Widow ask Hawkeye if they were still friends exactly as I began to question what that fight must mean for all those friends. It’s really hard to decide whether I liked Ant Man’s “conscience” bit in Iron Man’s suit or Spider Man’s fight dialogue better!

  5. Really enjoyed this film. Lots of pros, and very few cons. I thought the action scenes were great, especially Black Panther’s chase of Bucky, so badass. I didn’t realize they were supposed to be able to run that fast. Also, Bucky and Cap vs. Iron Man. I’m glad that there wasn’t much ruined by what was in the trailers, unlike a certain other recent DC movie which shall not be named. Spiderman was in the movie a lot more than I was expecting, which was great. And I thought Tom Holland did a great job, I can see why they were so excited about him when they chose him. The funny moments were outstanding too, like when Bucky and Sam are in the VW bug. Hilarious. And most of them just came out of nowhere, which isn’t easy to do.

    As for the cons, the biggest one is that the underlying conflict between both sides doesn’t have the same weight to it as the one in the comic books has. That’s somewhat unavoidable, as the cinematic movies have already deviated from the books too much for that to be the case. It’s unfortunate. In the books, the conflict comes after a school and town are blown up as a result of some super-kids doing a reality show, and the registration act requires everyone else to give up their identities. None of that’s really possible here, although they did try to lay the groundwork for that atmosphere of fear, but it’s just not the same. Also, while I thought Black Panther’s action scenes were badass, his accent was not, and was inconsistent at best. I don’t know why they couldn’t have just cast an actual African actor to play the role. I think Marvel really dropped the ball on that one. So frustrating to hear him try to do a fake African accent. On the other hand, I think Tom Holland’s American accent was much better than Boseman’s African accent. And what was the deal with Vision’s cape during that scene where Rhodes is getting an MRI? It looks like they just attached some old curtain on his back. That had to be a mistake, it just looks horrible.

    Overall, a great film though, very enjoyable.

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