Ten Short Thoughts on Captain America: Civil War

(Mild SPOILERS ahead)

I’m definitely going to see Captain America: Civil War again so I can dig into the story and themes more (and really, a compare/contrast with Batman vs Superman is probably inevitable), but I wanted to jot down a few quick thoughts:

1) I was happily satisfied with the movie overall. There was a decent balance of characterization, plot, and action, and 2+hr run time did not feel as if it were dragging on at any point.

2) The FEELS I got from seeing Superfriends Superfight is what should have resulted from BvS if it had been done right. I cared that all these people had deeply individual & understandable reasons for their choices (even though I disagreed vehemently withsome of them, particularly Tony — sorry friends, if I have to choose I’m with Cap on this one, if only because of how the Accords meant Wanda, who is Sokovian and lost her home, too, was going to be treated). It hurt seeing them fight because of those choices. By comparison, I felt nothing seeing Clark and Bruce at odds (well not nothing so much as boredom, which was almost worse). Both superfights are meant to set the stage for a larger coming together again of heroes because of a larger threat (Darkseid in the DCCU and Thanos in the MCU’s Infinity Wars), but CACW’s conflict felt far more earned, true to the characters, and heartwrenching.

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3) Similarly, Baron Zemo is the subtle scheming superfiend that Lex Luthor should’ve been in BvS. Also with much better characterization and he’s one of the better villains in the MCU (villains have been the MCU’s weakest point with a few standout exceptions like Loki, and I’m still not sure if that’s due to the actual script or Tom Hiddleston’s delivery).

4) I’m going to be grumpy forever that we’re back to Peter Parker again because I really, really wanted us to have Miles Morales as Spidey, but will admit this was the closest on screen I’ve seen to Peter Parker as I’ve imagined him in my head, down to the endless wisecracking and actually feeling like this Spider-Man is a teenager. His youth stands out clearly in relation to the rest of the characters (Wanda may be the closest to him in age) and he provided enough levity to the conflict without cheapening the actual stakes.

Additional note: I was thrown by Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. In my head, Aunt May looks like Jessica Tandy from Cocoon and it just feels weird to see an Aunt May who isn’t silver-haired old lady. But YMMV and I just hope the upcoming Spider-Man treats Aunt May (and Tomei) with proper respect. If Tomei’s May is still who gives Peter heart and provides him with that same grounding love and compassion, then that’ll be good enough for me.

5) That being said, I still cannot for the life of me understand why the hell Spidey is bumping the Black Panther so that the Spider-Man movie is coming out first. Because if there’s a star player in this film, it’s T’Challa. I was thrilled his part wasn’t short-changed and he was given a compelling arc, in which frankly he came out miles ahead of Tony and Steve in terms of moral and ethical character, and empathy. I completely buy T’Challa as both principled warrior and formidable king, and will happily toss that teenaged webslinger out of the way if it means getting more Chadwick Boseman as Wakanda’s king and champion right now.

EDIT: I should clarify that my “can’t understand why” statement here is more of a rhetorical question. Because I’m sure there are “business reasons” and licensing deals due to Spider-Man film rights still being in Sony’s clutches. However, it still reflects some very disappointing priorities in the MCU when it comes to finally giving characters of color some long-overdue time starring in their own MCU titles with brand new to the big screen stories. We’ve seen Spider-Man portrayed by three different actors in three different incarnations in less than 15 years. We could have afforded to wait an extra year for Spidey. The King and champion of Wakanda has waited long enough.

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6) Surprisingly, Paul Rudd stole every second he was on screen. However, where the hell was Hope Van Dyne in her Wasp suit?! Because we know she has one and it was pretty clear in Ant-Man that she’ll know how to use it with far less training that Scott Lang needed. Don’t tease us with the promise of Wasp and then not follow through, Marvel! It’s also possible that Marvel wants to give the Wasp’s debut more screen time, but it just rubbed me the wrong way that Scott gets to play with the Avengers while the just-as-capable (more so actually) Hope is no where to be seen and doesn’t even merit a reference. In short: CACW had just enough Ant-Man but not nearly enough Wasp.

7) Maybe Hope was having drinks with Pepper wondering WTF Scott and Tony were getting themselves into, because Pepper was also “on a break.” Sigh. But at least Pepper got name-checked, unlike poor Hope.

8) Seeing Rhodey, Sam Wilson, and T’Challa all in the same movie, three Black male characters who are different, complex individuals with their own motivations, who don’t automatically get along or agree with each other, was fan-freaking-tastic. Rhodey and Sam are both soldiers but have completely different views on the Accords. T’Challa’s objectives are shaped by his relationship with his father. Each of them contributed wonderful layers and resonance to the film. See what happens when you have more than one marginalized person as characters in your story and they’re given the same thought and consideration as your starring white dudes, Marvel? It makes your movie better. More of this, please (but perhaps less of the “best Black friend suffering the main brunt of consequences for their white bro’s choices” flavoring, ok?).

9) Holy shit does Alfre Woodard pack a hell of a punch with less than 5 minutes of screen time. The woman’s a goddamn treasure and I really want to see her back in the MCU in some capacity.

10) The Russo brothers have come a long way since directing Community‘s very first (and strongest) paintball wars episode, “Modern Warfare.” Again, this is a lesson to take in what happens when you give a chance to relative unknowns helming big franchise properties. In different hands, CACW could very easily have gotten the same shallow treatment as BvS.

Overall, I’m really looking forward to seeing CACW again. In many ways, the emotional payoff of CACW depended highly on the consequences of Avengers: Age of Ultron. So as much of a mess as that movie was, CACW made the lack of focus and missed opportunities in AAoU worth it for me. I feel as if there were several nods to character moments in previous movies that I missed (and there were already plenty I caught in this viewing), and something I’ve really appreciated about the MCU is how they mostly manage to reference previous films without being too heavy-handed. The long character arcs for Tony and Steve in particular are really fascinating, because at any point, either of them could’ve gone off the rails, but CACW managed to contrast them without making either a dupe or an outright villain. Note to DC: The MCU’s handling of Captain America how you take a character who could easily have been hokey in a modern setting, and make them relevant again, as well as fallible, without sacrificing the essence of who they are.

I’m impressed that the MCU has managed to create a film that’s injected more nuance and complexity into the franchise, keeping characters and stories fresh enough to stave off feelings of burnout. I’d say I was looking forward to what comes next… but the next MCU film is Doctor Strange and if you follow me on Twitter, it won’t come as a surprise when I say that Stephen Strange deserves better than a whitewashed retreading of the Mighty Whitey goes to the Mystic East trope (so does Danny Rand for that matter). But that’s another story for another time.

But really, I want Infinity War to get here so the Avengers can make up and be Superfriends again.

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7 thoughts on “Ten Short Thoughts on Captain America: Civil War

  1. Am I only the one who felt that Bucky referenced Elliott Spencer with outfit choice & just plain old characterization? Spencer definitely has more agency, but they both share a world weary take responsibility for one’s own past on an existential, emotional level.

  2. Perhaps the reason for Spider-Man before Black Panther is that they’re worried about Tom Holland ageing out of the role. Yes, I know he’s 20, but by 30 he might not be able to pull it off.

  3. I found it to be enjoyable, especially Black Panther’s introduction. What a great way to premiere the character in the MCU! My biggest issue with the film: boy, were Tony and Steve’s arguments flimsy, especially Steve’s. They did not give him many logical or eloquent moments, possibly because it may have proven difficult to write Tony’s rebuttal (and talking it out before escalation would not have made for a super exciting film). Like, “Hey, remember when SHIELD was the one pointing out the bad guys for us and they ended up being run by an evil shadow organization, Tony?” OR “Hey Tony, what if I had been captured and turned into the Winter Solider instead of Bucky, would you support shooting me on sight?” OR “We’ve made some mistakes, but this UN initiative seems a bit rushed and reactionary, let’s consider our options before signing?” OR “Tony, I know I am totally biased when it comes to Bucky, but don’t you think your decisions are being driven by your guilt more than reason?” And so forth. It also would’ve been nice to see either Tony or Steve break emotionally, or at least showing emotions / conflicted feelings while punching.

    And I’m still very confused by Wanda’s age. Is she 16? 32? I can’t tell. The joke about being locked in her room, (and the budding relationship with Vision) made me a bit uncomfortable without knowing! Steve says she’s “just a kid” but, you know. Everyone is just a kid to Old Man Steve.

    • I am now referring to Cap as “Old Man Steve.” Thank you.

      I kinda got the impression Wanda is supposed to be in her early 20s? At least an adult. But yes, the nebulous interpretation of her age makes her interactions with Vision a little weird. I do wish she’d called Tony out more directly on how his claim that he was protecting her by keeping her locked up was utter horse manure and completely ignoring her capability as a person. Which made all the references to her as a “weapon” of some kind even more degrading and dehumanizing. The Accords being named after her lost home seemed like extra salt in the wound that no one ever acknowledges, either.

  4. My expectations were unrealistically high for this movie that I would be disappointed even if the movie was good. However, I am happy to say that I was wrong. This movie really delivered for me. There were intense, serious, darker moments mixed in with hilarious moments. Not to mention the action was top notch. The fight was amazing, on par with the winter soldier, and the airport battle has to be one of the best action scenes of all times. It was honestly incredible. Spider-man and Black Panther were awesome additions to the MCU and I’m so excited for their solo movies that will come in future.

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