WARNING: Contains some spoilers. All conclusions/opinions are my own
One film series that has really taken me by surprise is the Captain America films. Sure, The First Avenger was a really enjoyable film with some fun spy film elements (and it even gave rise to the Agent Carter series, which is probably my favourite MCU series), but Winter Soldier has some pretty gritty and realistic elements to it. Unlike a lot of the Marvel films, it feels grounded in somewhat of a reality and actually has some pretty hard hitting themes. Not to mention the Bucky/Cap storyline was actually really well done and has some pretty heart rending moments. It’s amazing how far Cap has come since the seventies movies!
Now despite this film being called Captain America, it’s pretty much an Avengers movie – let’s not kid ourselves there. Pretty much every Avenger, with the exception of Thor and Hulk are in here, ready to throw down. And we even have two new additions – Black Panther and (Squeal!) Spider-Man – in his first appearance in the MCU continuity.
Civil War is based off the Civil War storyline from Marvel Comics. In the comics, it involved a Superhero Registration Act being passed, meaning that superheroes had to be monitored and have their identities public. This was headed by Iron Man – who through no fault of his own became somewhat of a villain in this arc. But Cap believed that this infringed on civil liberties – and so the superheroes and villains were split down the middle and a war broke out. It resulted in many devastating consequences, such as the death of Captain America and (sigh) One More Day. God I hate that comic so much!
Anyhoo… I was wondering how they would pull it off, considering how expansive the Civil War comic was. And luckily I was not disappointed.
In THIS version, Thunderbolt Ross (remember him from The Incredible Hulk?), now Secretary of State, has decided that the Avengers need to be monitored after their recent actions in previous films. He creates a plan whereby the Avengers will be monitored under Government supervision – which divides the team. Tony Stark (Iron Man) agrees to this, having been suffering from guilt over what Ultron did in Sokovia (Avengers Age of Ultron), but Cap outright refuses this, believing it is an insult to everything they stand for. He takes his beliefs a lot more strongly when the love of his life, Peggy Carter, dies and her daughter gives a speech about how she fought for what she believed in – even when others told her she was wrong.
Things come to a head when Winter Soldier supposedly sets off a bomb in Vienna, killing the King of Wakanda, T’Chaka. This sets his son T’Challa to take up the mantel of Black Panther and hunt down Winter Soldier in revenge. But Cap isn’t prepared to give up on his old pal Bucky (remember in Winter Soldier Cap thought Bucky was dead – but he had actually been brainwashed by Hydra and became a killing machine for the Soviets) and so Cap becomes a criminal, hunted down by his old teammates. In an effort to help his friend, he becomes the very thing he hunted down.
If this all sounds dark to you – it’s because it is. Seriously, there are times when the film was on par with The Dark Knight in terms of bleakness and mature themes – but this is one of the strengths of the film. It shows a very real outlook at what the Avengers have achieved so far – and the damage they have done. It really makes you think about whether the Avengers are actually HELPING the world instead of ruining it. No more is this prevalent than with Tony Stark – of which Robert Downey Jr gives by far his best performance of Iron Man to date, portraying him as a haunted man that believes he is doing the right thing and will redeem himself for his past sins. This eventually puts him at odds with Cap – his former friend.
The story does have its fair share of humour though – and thank goodness for that! Because too dark and it would have probably been considered overly depressing, so it’s nice to break up the story a bit. This is thanks in turn to Ant-Man and Spider-Man (I’ll get to him in a minute) who provide a lot of much needed comedy to calm the tension in the big fight.
That in itself is the highlight of the movie – showing the two Avenger teams, once former allies, square off against each other. It’s a fight that, ultimately, no one will win whatever the outcome – and blood WILL be spilt before it’s over. As awesome as it is to see them fight, it’s also really harrowing. If you’re like me, you would have followed the MCU films from the beginning, you would have come to grow and love these characters – so when you watch them fight, you have no idea who to cheer for. Everyone has their reasons for fighting and it makes this battle really difficult to choose a side.
Come to think of it, there are actually NO real heroes or villains to speak of. Even Helmut Zemo, who is the antagonist of the film, has his reasons for doing what he did. And he is quite honestly one of the BEST villains to appear in the MCU in my opinion. He’s a totally different enemy for the Avengers. Unlike Loki (who just saw them as insignificant insects) and Ultron (who viewed them as an obstacle for his new world order) Zemo has a legitimate reason for hating the Avengers. And once you learn what it is, you understand why he’s so cold in his actions and why he goes to such lengths to destroy them. It further demonstrates how the Avengers are affecting the lives of the common people.
Captain America and Tony Stark are definitely the centre point of this film. They play their roles with such tortured precision that you hope it will all come right for them in the end. But the film throws in a final twist that will no doubt break a lot of hearts. It certainly did for me. Not since The Dark Knight have I felt a superhero film has such a bleak outlook, even with a somewhat happy ending.
Moving onto the new additions – Black Panther and Spider-Man (Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland respectably). I must admit I don’t know too much about the Black Panther (other than he was married to Storm from the X-Men at some point), but I REALLY enjoyed his character. From the moment his father died, I was behind him from the very beginning and knew exactly why he did what he did. He was brilliantly played and I can’t wait to see more of him in the future.
I was also REALLY excited to see Spider-Man in this film. Spider-Man is probably my favourite superhero of all time and I was really hoping they do him well. Admittedly, it took me a while to get into Tom Holland playing him – but once he put on that Spider-Man costume I was behind him 100%. He played him PERFECTLY… probably even better than Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield if I’m being honest. I have to say I wasn’t too fond of the “MILF” way they played Aunt May though. That is sure to upset some Spider-Man fans. But I’m definitely looking forward to see how they go with Spider-Man from here on now – considering how often they’ve rebooted the character!
If I had ONE complaint about the film it was the lack of Crossbones. Considering he plays a pretty important role in the Civil War comic, he doesn’t really do much in this film – it felt more like he was in there just to advance the plot. Would have been nice if they included him a lot more. But that’s just my view. Also, I should just warn you that the story DOES kinda rely on you having seen the previous MCU stuff, so if you’re behind on the overall story, you might lose track in this one.
Much like the comic it’s based on, Civil War raises some pretty mature and damming questions. Is it right that the Avengers save the world, but at the cost of so many lives. Do the ends justify the means? And do people with powers need to be put in check when they have good intentions? In the end, the film doesn’t answer these questions – relying on YOU to make your own choice. It’s ambiguous, dark – but with moments of light – and gives you some of the best performances of any Marvel film so far. Some bits may upset fans of the comic, but the overall result is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a film that toys with your emotions and takes you on a roller coaster of a ride. It may not be the best of the MCU films (depending on your view) but it’s certainly the most intelligent, thought provoking and dramatic entry in the series.
Captain America: Civil War gets a solid 5 out of 5 from me!