The Captain America movies have really impressed me. They went from being my least favorite of the Marvel mini-franchises to my favorite in the space of two movies (even though Cap is still not my favorite Avenger), and they’ve done it primarily through the incorporation of much more adult themes.
The Winter Soldier tackled the problems with secret organizations, power and surveillance; Civil War takes a step beyond that to look at what happens after the earth-threatening events are passed. Once the world is saved, how do you deal with these superbeings? Who watches the Watchmen?
Yeah, it’s not a new theme. (The Incredibles did it too, actually). But Civil War does it really really well and frames it around the relationship and emotional turmoil of Cap and Bucky. Bucky is fighting to regain the identity and memories that were stripped from him by Hydra. After struggling with the loss of personal freedom inherent in the Sokovia Accords (supported by Iron Man), Cap defies them to strike out on his own and save a framed Bucky.
All of this is great, but the movie really shone in three subplots:
- Everything around Black Panther. This movie served as his introduction, and it was a doozy. He was my favorite part of the film, every time he came on screen. He didn’t bother to hide his identity, and he spends most of the film trying to take down Bucky as revenge for his father. His suit is simply badass, and he has a quiet power that doesn’t need to be shouted from the rooftops like that of Iron Man and many of the other heros. His words serve as the framework for the climax of the film, and it’s in his words that we see hope for the resolution of the Civil War.
- The interactions between Vision and Wanda. I’m a HUGE fan of Vision and his dedication to peace. In my opinion, he is the most godlike Avenger (and I said that to mean not only in his power level, which is on par with Thor and Hulk, but also in his demeanor). His strong desire to help and protect Wanda, especially after she accidentally kills several people in the opening scene, makes for a beautiful subplot – especially when the movie spends a lot of time vilifying her. It’s almost reminiscent of Doctor Manhattan and Silk Specter in Watchman, except with the relationship going in the reverse direction.
- Spiderman. We got 30 minutes of Spiderman, and they were better than all the previous Spiderman movies put together. This Spiderman is an awkward, gawky teenage boy who just wants to do some good. He’s starstruck by the other Avengers, but he’s doing his best. And I SO cannot wait to see him return in another Marvel film.
The film’s not perfect. There are some obvious plotholes (like why didn’t Vision shut down Wanda during the big hero v. hero confrontation?) but this is definitely top three Marvel film material. The fight sequences are beautifully executed, particularly the climactic battle between all the superheroes. Each Avenger is paired with the perfect opposite number (e.g., Hawkeye & Black Widow), and there are several excellent team-up moments, not least of which was everything involving Ant Man. Between new Spiderman and Ant Man, you ought to be falling out of your seat laughing.
The final beautiful thing about this film is how well it gives you both sides of the story. Regardless of whose side you’re on, the film will give you a lens to view the other side with sympathy. No one is wholly wrong, no one is wholly right. Iron Man is haunted by the people who have died as collateral damage and wants to protect those people in the future, while Cap, spurred by Peggy Carter’s death and the possibility of rescuing Bucky, stands firm against the loss of freedom the Sokovia Accords necessitate.
I initially thought this felt more like an Avengers film than a Captain America film, but the core of it really does center on Cap. The final confrontation between Cap and Iron Man is brutal and gutwrenching, and even though I was fairly certain I knew the outcome, I still flinched at one moment.
You need to see this one. It’s a 5/5 star Marvel film, and you can make an argument for it being the best one they’ve produced to date. Oh, and obviously – don’t leave after the credits.