Last week, I went to see "Captain America: Civil War" in the theatres. I really liked it! It may be one of my favourite MCU movies to date!
I came out of the film with so much to talk about. How they did this, how they did that. What this meant, what that meant. This blog is mostly a way to brain-dump all that out. Its a little ramble-y, but if anything, that just shows how enthusiastic I am about it even now!
Just a quick warning beforehand. The rest of the blog contain spoilers for the movie. I wouldn't recommend reading past the embedded trailer (below) until after you've seen the film.
Okay, so I'll start with some of the problems I came out of the film with. There isn't many, but we may as well get them out of the way...
- I guess falling doesn't kill anyone, at least in a Captain America film. Sometimes, movie will make efforts, like providing awnings for characters to crash through to slow their falls with. Other times, it completely hand-waves it, letting a well-timed roll ignore any injury.
- In tunnel car-chase scene, the three main characters are shown running faster than all the cars around them. And I;m pretty sure they're not slow moving cars; at one point, Captain America jumps into an SUV to keep up with the other two.
- Black Panther is cool as all hell, but I would have preferred they not make him bullet-proof. I would have loved to see another agile, jumping-around character ala Black Widow and Spider-Man.
All right, that's out of the way. Onto the good stuff...
This movie is much, much better than comicbook series it is based on / named after. By miles.
- The original comicbook series only took a single issue to show the initial disaster, explain the premise of the new law (an American law in the book, as opposed to an international accord in the movie), and have the Marvel heroes choose sides. All in twenty-some pages. It felt rushed, it felt forced.
- The movie is also set up with an initial disaster, but its written as if that was the final-straw, the cumulation of all the major disasters of all the MCU movies before it. Nearly half the movie is set-up, with the tipping point (Captain America and Falcon getting to Bucky before the authorities do) not happening until almost an hour into the film. And even then, the full-on Captain-America-vs-Iron-Man line doesn't get crossed until Bucky breaks out of the German jail afterwards.
I like how all the characters have very clear motivations and goals. In a movie with so many characters, it really helped to keep track of everything that was going on.
- At every opportunity, when the characters speak, they're speaking right to the audience as much as to the scene. 'This is what I want', 'Here's what's going to happen next', 'You're done and won't be in the rest of the movie'.
- Major characters like Captain America and Iron Man are given most of the movie to lay down their reasoning. This is their movie. Minor characters aren't allowed to get in the way; they loudly state their side, their reasons for it, all in broad strokes, and then disappear until they're needed for a fight scene.
- And I really liked how both of the leaders waver. Both of them were open to reason, to consider the other side, to compromise! Captain America almost signs the accord after Bucky's caught and Iron Man goes against Ross when he learns everyone was tricked by the UN bombing. In both cases, the changing of their minds felt flimsy to the audience, but that's because they were supposed to feel flimsy; right on the next beat, something's revealed and it feels inevitable to us that they'd snap back to their initial positions, if anything more firmly entrenched.
- Even if we aren't told why Zemo is pursuing his goals, its clear that he has a plan. We always know it involves Bucky and the direct manipulation of everyone around him. Contrast this with "Avengers: Age of Ultron", where we barely understand what Ultron (or really, anyone) is trying to do at any time.
If I had to take a guess at what this film is about, I might say 'guilt'. At the very least, every character with an substaintial role in the film makes their decisions because of it.
- Bucky's done terrible things. He's ready to accept any punishment, he's ready to pursue any redemption.
- This movie brings back Iron Man's guilt for being a weapon manufacturer and how he's still the cause of so much death after becoming Iron Man. It's a good continuation after "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" and good continuation of his flaw of always trying too damn hard. Even during a fight, his quips are defensive, like how he and his company aren't actually that bad.
- Captain America's guilt is about Bucky. Naturally.
- Zemo's guilt is about not getting his family out of harm's way during the events of "Avengers: Age Of Ultron".
- Black Widow feels guilt for both bombings in the film, and then feels guilt for going against Captain America. Never mind her ongoing I-have-red-in-my-ledger thing.
- Peter Parker is at the very beginning of his career and therefore still guilty about not using his powers to save Uncle Ben. He all but says so to Tony.
- Even Sharon Carter feels guilty, for spying on Captain America without telling him. She constantly needs to remind him (and herself) that it was her job. But she goes against that same job to help Captain America out when he's hunting Bucky.
- Only Black Panther seems to recognize whats going on, how so many people are pursuing vengeance in response to guilt. Only after his conversation with Zemo, where he recognizes neither of them are truly responsible for deaths of their loved ones, is he able to overcome his guilt and move on (to literally better things).
The next Avengers movie(s?) are planned to be directed and written by the same team behind "Captain America: Civil War" and "Captain America: Winter Solider". They're doing great work, laying down great continuity, and putting some great characters moments on screen. I was really worried about the scope of doing an Infinity Gauntlet/War/whatever story, but "Captain America: Civil War" has put most of those worries at ease.
The only thing that concerns me about the MCU in general is how this movie is structured. It feels more like an episode in a TV miniseries than a standalone movie.
- There's very little introduction to most of the characters. Its assumed you know who they are through previous movies. And most 'introductions' are just single-sentence references or cursory status-updates (ala Peggy's death and Pepper's leaving).
- There's very little resolution to major plot elements. The UN accords are still in place, Captain America and Iron Man are still on opposite sides, etc. I fully expected to get a "next episode" synopsis after the credits. Oh wait... we did get one, didn't we?
- This film has the same feel the first Avengers film had; a cumulation of previous movies, building-up and finally coming-together of events in the MCU. "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" sorely missed that; as the sequel to the main Marvel team-up film, it didn't feel like a follow-up to all the stand-alone films before it. It didn't really feel like it was continuing from the original Avengers film. It barely felt like it was setting anything up. "Avengers" felt like it was pulling all the threads together. "Captain America: Civil War" feels like it's inherited that 'pulling together' that "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" lacked.
- Looking forward, I'm concerned that any non-origin films will start having too much of this 'episodic' feel. Films like the upcoming "Doctor Strange" are expected to be in its own bubble, but how many of the upcoming sequels will be written for the 'fans' of previous films? Like much of the current Marvel comicbook lines, will this inevitably make for good but inaccessible stories?
Man, now I really want to go watch this film again! :D