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Captain America: Civil War

"I could do this all day."

'Cause, baby, now we got bad blood. You know it used to be mad love. So take a look what you've done. 'Cause, baby, now we got bad blood. Hey!

Building on the events of both The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War asks some pretty big questions about the Avengers’ place in the world as the team is forced to confront the consequences of their actions. The Russo Brothers, returning to direct after blowing us all away with their sequel to The First Avenger, have delivered a superhero blockbuster that manages to be exciting, thought provoking and heartbreaking all at the same time. It doesn't quite top The Winter Soldier as Marvel's best movie, but it comes bloody close.

The crossover series that partially inspired this movie is not one I'm particularly fond of. It was an interesting idea that was poorly executed by a creative team more interested in seeing heroes fighting each other than providing a convincing rationale for why they were even fighting in the first place. Thankfully, this film shares very little with that comic besides the basic premise (heroes fracturing into opposing factions after being forced to accept government oversight) and the central image of Captain America and Iron Man beating the living shit out of each other.

The script, by Winter Soldier writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, manages to fix a lot of what was wrong with Mark Miller's original comic. Steven and Tony don’t suddenly turn into completely unrecognisable characters (both jerks) to further fan the flames of conflict. Said conflict is also allowed to develop more naturally, partly because the source of the fighting is not the team’s ideological differences regarding the Superhuman Registration Act Sokovia Accords, but Steve’s unwavering defence of Bucky, his childhood friend turned HYDRA assassin.

Putting Bucky at the centre of events makes this fight more personal than a disagreement over political oversight. It is not hard to understand why Steve is so protective of the former Winter Soldier. Not only is Bucky like a brother to him, he is also the last link Steve has to his old life, the life he lost when he went into the ice. Bucky is the only one who can really relate to Steve’s experience, the only one who can really understand what he’s been through. As such, Steve will do anything to protect Bucky, even if it means having to break the law and fight his new friends.

As this is Cap's film you would expect it to be completely sympathetic to his point of view and depict Tony as a villain. That's what happened in the comic, but that isn't what happens here. If anything, Tony is more sympathetic than Steve. Tony sees signing up as a way to make amends for creating Ultron and help the team win back the public trust they lost because of his actions. He understands that the Avengers cannot protect a world that sees them as being no different from the monsters they fight. Better they willingly agree to the Sokovia Accords now before they are forcefully subjugated by something far worse later.

As the duelling heroes, Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. have never been better, with RDJ delivering what is quite possibly his best ever performance to date as Tony Stark. With so much focus on Steve and Tony’s disintegrating friendship, the rest of the cast are left to scramble for what precious screentime they can get their hands on. Chadwick Boseman fares best as Black Panther while Tom Holland makes a good first impressions as the new Spider-Man, although I can't help but feel that his presence here is a little shoe-d in. Of the returning favourites, Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are given a few cute scenes as Wanda and the Vision start to bond, but Anthony Mackie and Scarlett Johansson are shockingly underused. Falcon is relegated to standard sidekick duties, while Natasha's motives for signing up with Team Iron Man are never explored in depth.

But what of the film's bad guy? Well, you'd be forgiven for thinking there wasn't one, what with Daniel Brühl's almost complete absence from any promotional material. Which is a shame, because his Zemo is the best Marvel movie villain since Loki. Not only does he have a understandable motivation for his actions, his scheme actually makes sense. Admittedly, it requires more than few contrivances for it to work, like all evil schemes, but it still makes a lot more sense than "I want to plunge the universe into darkness because why not?".

Notes and Quotes

— The big airport battle between teams Cap and Iron Man is as spectacular as you'd expect from a Marvel Studios film, but it's the final, soul crushing fight between Steve, Bucky and Tony that will probably stay with you.

— The technology to make actors look decades younger has come a long way since the dark days of X-Men: The Last Stand, but it is still far from perfect. You'll see what I mean.

— Jeremy Renner gets even less to do in this than he did in the first Avengers movie.

— Elisabeth Olsen's accent is just as bad in this film as it was in Age of Ultron.

— I hope Martin Freeman's role will be expanded in future films, otherwise this is a complete waste of a good actor.

Hawkeye: "We haven’t met yet. I’m Clint."
Black Panther: "I don’t care."

Sam: (to T'Challa) "So you like cats?"
Steve: "Sam."
Sam: "What? Dude shows up just like a cat. You don’t want to know more?"

Steve: "He's my friend."
Tony: "So was I."

Three and half out of four absent Thor clones.
Mark Greig is Team Peggy Carter. More Mark Greig


  1. This film was Marvelous...
    Plenty of holes and small gaps you could nitpick but when you realize the scope and the amount of characters and fanservice they added while also making a coherent and at times intelligent film is truly remarkable.I think its a better spectacle and film than Winter Soldier. Although the latter had better structure and a more streamlined story.
    The characters here though are key...Everyone acts in accordance to their character or what we have learned about that character in previous movies...For example while Black widow sides with Tony she still lets Cap go...That is in character for her and her alone. The small character moments like Vision and Wanda or even Wanda and Hawkeye's bond over her brothers sacrifice for him are just as good AND important to the film as the action.
    Spiderman was shamelessly shoe horned in. Everyone knows that, yet they somehow make it work...and that again is the beauty of the film. Its weaknesses are its strength...When you compare how they introduced the new characters in this compared to BVS its night and day. Two new characters who not only kicked ass, but we CARED about them as people first and then the action. Thought they wove Black Panther into the story pretty well. Not only that, everyone, even if only in it for a scene or two had some kind of Arc.
    Loved the airport fight. Blatant fanservice, but excellent action and character driven fanservice. It made sense within the plot and i liked how it started out as team Iron man trying to restrain and team Cap trying to run and the escalation led to a terrible accident.

    The best ending and best climax fight in all Marvel movies...and Zemo i think will be appreciated in time..I thought he was understated but good...and he did 'win'. His plan was no more convoluted than any other villain in the history of time...At least they made it personal...You ended up sympathizing with him a bit as well as Cap, Bucky and Iron Man.

    Its weird how everyone comes out with different favourites...While you thought Falcon and Black widow where underused, i thought they were excellent.
    Winter Soldier was my fave, that stairwell scene and the Motorbike grab.

  2. "That thing does not obey the laws of physics at all!"

    Thank you, Spidey, THANK YOU. Someone had to point this out. Also, you're the first Spiderman who is not painful to watch.

    Not just Freeman was underused, but also Marisa Tomei. Which is borderline criminal offense.

    But you know, what I'm really SICK of is that "he killed my sibling/parent/significant-other/favourite-second-cousin, and I know he wasn't himself, but I'm gonna rip him apart anyway" bullshit. I would expect something like this from Steve, who'd never been the sharpest pencil, but from a bona fide genius?

    And when Steve was pulling the chopper down... Sorry, but I kept thinking, "OK, he is super-strong, but his MASS is still of a regular guy, so, how it is that the chopper doesn't lift him"?

    Also, I'm really curious, how does this "Sokovia accords" define superheroes. I mean, half of them aren't actually super by themselves. Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, War Machine, even Black Panther — they are just regular guys. Athletic, sometimes with expensive weaponry/prosthetics, but still. A genius, billionair, playboy and philantropist is definitely not a superhero.

    You can probably tell that I didn't like this movie. Well, it's not as bad as, say, first Spiderman, or Jessica Jones, but it's very... underwhelming. They've got a ton of good, well-groomed characters, and... the result is far from exciting.

    So. My favourite Marvel movie is still the first "Avengers" one. With "Deadpool" actually coming close.

  3. Forgot to add a Russian report.

    The general in the flashbacks was talking without an accent, and his phrases were grammatically correct. Only one thing stood out: he said (in Russian) "I have a mission for you", but a real Russian would say "I have a task for you". Russian word "mission" means something much less defined, like "make a world a better place".

    Documents, badges and stuff like that were mostly correct. The writing on this... snow truck or how is it called — was completely wrong.

    And "Bela" is definitely NOT a russian name, it's Hungarian.

  4. I really enjoyed this. Especially that last fight scene (as you said, Mark).

    But my favorite part was the gag with Cap, Bucky, and Falcon in the VW Bug. I couldn't stop giggling.

  5. migmit, "But you know, what I'm really SICK of is that 'he killed my sibling/parent/significant-other/favourite-second-cousin, and I know he wasn't himself, but I'm gonna rip him apart anyway' bullshit. I would expect something like this from Steve, who'd never been the sharpest pencil, but from a bona fide genius?"

    You're misunderstanding the characters. Tony reacts to his emotions. Period. That's how the whole mess got started. Someone made him feel guilty about her son dying so he immediately accepted the first opportunity to react to that guilt, the Sokovia Accords, without thinking if it was the best solution available and became emotionally hostile toward anyone who tried to stop it. This movie was an amazing success in character development for our beloved Avengers (minus Hulk and Thor) with every character doing exactly what made sense for him or her, especially Tony and Steve.

    Side note: Sharon Carter is Peggy Carter's niece. So that would mean that she either has another sibling that for some reason never came up in flashbacks of Agent Carter or her brother, Michael, who died didn't really die. Let's hope Agent Carter doesn't get cancelled so we can find out!

  6. > Tony reacts to his emotions.

    Everybody always does. But this is not enough to justify everything. This is not enough to explain why a genius suddenly started to act stupid. Especially when he just dealt with his friend's near-death in a much more mature manner.

  7. Tony has always had parental issues. That's even what his first scene stated (does Marvel have a time machine? How did they get RDJ from 1991 to 2016?). He says it's his worse memory to his audience. He says later his parents never made it to the airport--and we know from earlier movies his parents died in a car wreck.

    If it was the car wreck that claimed their lives, Tony probably wouldn't have reacted as he did. As it was, his father and his mother were murdered, and he was watching it. So, it was happening in front of his eyes, and it probably took him back to 1991, deal with the loss of his parents (particularly his mother).

    Also, did you catch when Bucky said that he remembered doing it? Yeah, Bucky is a victim here, but there was also part of him that remembered doing it. That probably made Tony angrier.

    Finally, Tony has always acted passions first, brain second. Always. He jumps then deals with the consequences later. It's the same thought pattern that lead him to sign the accord before discussing it with the rest of the Avengers. In many ways, Tony is still a loose canon. While Tony is a genius, he is also pretty emotionally immature. Every single movie that's been depicting him indicates that. The overarching Marvel plot thread is Tony maturing. Just because he might be 51 years old doesn't mean that his emotional age is 51. In many ways, he is still that same kid who lost his parents.

    (Also, I found Tony's motivations to make a lot more sense than Steve's. I understand Steve's dilemma. Which is why I liked this movie: Tony isn't wrong in his feelings. He's not completely right either. Steven isn't wrong in his feelings. He's not right either. It's gray. Just like you can be a genius and do something completely stupid. Or you can be a squeaky clean boy scout and go off the reservation. This is what makes these characters so intriguing.)


  8. Oh, and also something that made Tony angrier--

    Remember when Tony asked Steve if he knew that Bucky had murdered his parents? I don't think Tony would have flown in a murderous rage if Steve would have been as horrified as he should have been...

    Instead, Steve said he knew that Bucky had killed Tony's parents.

    That's when Tony set about to try to kill Bucky.


  9. If Tony is such a child, why didn't he try to attack Vision after almost killing Rhodey? He was completely understanding and reasonable.

    Bucky did say he remembers everything, but, if I remember correctly, that was AFTER Tony attacked him.

    I do believe in a strong emotional reaction, but not on the level of face-heel turn.

  10. i agree with Kathy. Not everybody reacts his or her emotions the way Tony does, especially in the kind of "face-heel turn" you saw. Many of the Avengers do not react primarily to their emotions, including Steve Rogers, which is why I think you're wrong to say that you could expect this kind of reaction from Steve but not Tony. (Tony has a Blue-Red personality and Steve has a White personality.) Again, intelligence has nothing to do with it. And for the record, just because he didn't go to M.I.T. doesn't mean Steve isn't smart. There's a reason he was the one calling the shots in the first Avengers. He's a strategic genius.

  11. I'm not calling Steve stupid. He has a more or less average IQ. And I don't want it to sound like I don't like this character; if anything, I'm rather surprised how much I like him. But I won't call him genius; yes, he is a natural leader, and he picked up quite a lot of group tactics. I won't give him an army to lead however (not that I have one to give).

    As for Tony: again, Vision just shot (or whatever he/it does) Rhodey, his close friend. And Tony was completely understanding. What's more, we know that Tony is at least capable of understanding others: his analysis of Loki's intentions in the first Avengers movie was superb. So no, I don't buy it.

  12. Recently, we have seen a fight over electronic security. The government wants a backdoor created in electronic security that will allow them to access the information on the phones recovered from alleged terrorists and other criminals. The argument for this boils down to "if you don't, the bad guys get away and people get hurt or killed." The arguments against are myriad, from the potential for abuse and the vulnerability that this would create to the fact that it wouldn't actually work.

    This movie expertly points out the biggest flaw in creating overwatch for a group like the Avengers. The Avengers act as a first response unit to extreme threats. Just like you cannot have firefighters waiting on the city council for permission to go into a neighborhood to put out a fire, it seems insane to bind these heroes' pursuit of threats to the speed of politics and the decisions of a committee.

    The potential for disaster is highlighted when at least three of the four incidents cited as proof overwatch is necessary are ones where the collateral casualties are not the heroes' fault. The death and destruction in these events are solely the responsibility of the villains. The heroes can only be blamed for making the death toll far less that it would have otherwise been, if perhaps not optimally minimal.

    But ultimately, that argument comes down to insisting that heroes must be allowed to operate without oversight, accountability or the influence of the people they are protecting because "if you don't, the bad guys get away and people get hurt or killed."

    And while that seems like a solid and heroic argument, my confidence in it erodes with every instance of "we need to waterboard or the bad guys will get away" and "we can't wait for a warrant, the bad guys will get away" and "we need you to compromise everyone's security or the bad guys will get away".

    Police, firefighters and other first responders are still government branches. When a police officer fires his or her gun, even in the most righteous of shoots, there is going to be an official conversation later. This is a good thing. And as much as we may call into question the actions of some members of these services, I think there is little question that they are preferable to groups like Blackwater and the abuses that appear inherent in privatization of public safety.

    So while I can see both sides of the argument, I find myself tentatively siding with "Team Iron Man" in this Civil War, even if I don't think the Sokovia Accords were the right solution.

  13. migmit,

    Tony has ALWAYS acted impulsively with regards to his emotions. Iron Man I -- finds out some of his weapons are falling into the wrong hands -- does he do an investigation to find out how? No, he shutters the weapons manufacturing side of Stark Industries instead. Iron Man II -- your best friend tries to stage an intervention while you are depressed? Hey it was time to remodel the house anyways. Iron Man III -- A little upset about a terrorist's activities? Hey, guy, here's my home address, because even though you've shown you have a massive resources, you won't actually come visit. Age of Ultron -- A little concerned you might not always be there to save the day? Let's mess around with an infinity stone and create a global-threatening super-villain. His over-reacting to Sokovia, capitulation to Ross, and subsequent reaction to his parent's death are just more examples of the same knee-jerk response he has shown throughout the series.

  14. Finally saw this movie, and in general, I thought it was very good. They made it believable that two superheroes would turn against each other, which is no small thing. Yes, it was Cap's movie, but I love Downey's Iron Man more than any of the other Marvel movie leads.

    But I also thought this movie would have benefited if they'd cut down the other superhero line-up and limited it to, say, three on each side, and focused on the ones we knew and their motivations. I Why introduce Spider-man now? Yes, he was cute and funny, but I kept wishing they'd focus more on Natasha, a character I cared about and who was seriously underutilized. Ditto Hawkeye. Since this one was about how they all felt, couldn't they have done one less big action piece and more about the character interaction?

    The de-ageing of Downey was creepy. I didn't like it. And Josie, I loved the VW bit, too.

  15. Excellent review of an excellent movie.

    I’ve never cared much for Cap though.


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