Matt Saw a Movie: Captain America Civil War

This is the best super hero movie I have seen. It will have a place on my Shelf of Awesome. It is deserving of the title “Civil War.” It did not get a 10 on my scale. Read on to find out why.

I did not see this opening night. I rarely see movies like that, but there is a certain category of movie where I have to psych myself up to a particular frame of mind to watch if I’m going to enjoy them. These are Adaptation movies. Ender’s Game. Star Trek: Into Darkness. And pretty much every comic book movie.

I think it comes from how vested I am in the story. If I know a work to the point where I can share the plot, not some simple explanation or recitation, but when I get into it, using story beats, reveals, foreshadowing, if I can tell the story as if I am Telling the Story, then I am vested to the point where a botched job is painful. And so doubt enters my mind and the movie that everyone is excited to see is one I can’t bear to watch, to see if they botch this job.

Yeah, I’m a weird guy and I somehow brought movies to the weird place with me. I’m working on it. I haven’t even seen “Star Wars 7: Not The Courtship of Princess Leia” yet. That one may take a while still. But that’s where I stand.

The Marvel Civil war is a storyline I am very vested in. In my sphere of influence, I have yet to meet a person whose understanding of events didn’t come from me. And I have recounted those events many, many times. I have most of the books for the Marvel: Civil War(MCW) event. I think there might be a few Iron Man TPBs and maybe a Spider-Man that I have yet to acquire. I haven’t done an inventory on it for a while, but I know I have most of them.

If you don’t know, the MCW had a stand alone run that told the core story, but the brilliance came from all the other comics, each running a take on the event. Spider-Man’s comic told events having to deal with him. Sure, there were references to the main line, but his comic runs held his stories. And Iron Man’s comics had new insights as to why he was doing what he was doing, showing how his friends were being ripped apart. Wolverine, X-Men, Fantastic Four, everyone had stories that tied in to the world, forming a tapestry what was far, far more, far larger look into this world, than what a single issue, a single series could get us.

Captain America: Civil War(CACW) takes that tapestry, unweaves it, separates the threads, removing characters they can’t have appear, whether that is due to ownership, obscurity, or the origins, add back to the threads the characters they do have, then weaves a NEW tapestry, that isn’t quite the same as the original, but is still a gorgeous piece of craftsmanship.

Spoilers from the comics start here.

I think the appreciation of this movie needs to begin at the source material. The Marvel Comic Universe is absolutely LOADED with meta-humans. Each big name hero probably has five sidekick characters you’ve never heard of and each big name villain probably has ten minor villians who pester the heroes while the big bad is recuperating.  And don’t get me started on the X-Men and mutants. And Marvel’s sliding continuity means characters don’t really age. Their origin gets brought up by a decade, their costume gets a redesign, and they’re back at it. So any character who has ever existed was available to participate in MCW.

A second tier team of superheroes bump into some villains, which they fight for footage for their TV show. One of the villains blows up an elementary school. Nationwide shock and outrage. And the complaints keep coming. And the majority of heroes are, correctly, identified as vigilantes. The government whips up the Superhuman Registration Act, which removes the secret identity from the heroes, for the government, at least. Heroes will be getting trained, properly, to deal with disasters and the like, instead of getting powers and hoping to do the right thing. It gets the public off our back, makes a unified front, and stops people like the Punisher, who need to be stopped.

But others, like Captain America, see differently.  Heroes are traditional and put their lives on the line, nightly, often for no reward, for American citizens. Those secret identities let them have jobs and lives and families, without worrying that some escaped villain is going to ruin that and come after you.

The lines are drawn. The Act is passed and heroes that didn’t sign are criminals and are hunted. The battle goes back and forth. Defections, spies, and traitors abound. Everybody in the fight has a reason to be there. And its less about principles, and starts getting personal. And, at the final moment, Captain America is at the center of a brawl in New York hundreds of meta humans going at it, when he realizes that they aren’t fighting for any particular reason anymore, they’re fighting just to fight. So he surrenders and stops the fight. And the War is over.

Movie spoilers are woven into this next bit. You have been warned.

The biggest difference between the comics universe and the cinematic universe is the number of meta humans. This has been the main point that had me worried for the film. How can you turn a law that says everybody needs to sign up and line up to you few need to sign up and line up?

Brilliantly, apparently. CACW takes a cast of hundreds and boils it down to 15 key players: 12 super-‘heroes’ and like, 3 key NPCs. And, except for the 4 introduced in this movie, each had character motivations that began in previous movies.

That’s the amazing thing about what Marvel has done. They have bridged the gap between movies and comics. Sure, the ‘issues’ are longer, but as all of the cinematic universe resides in the same place, seeing the other pieces of the puzzle deepens your understanding, but is not entirely required to enjoy the current performance. This makes the film accessible to the layman, while giving Easter eggs and tidbit to people like me.

This film, more so than most, is about character motivation and interaction more than plot and setting. Each character possesses their own motivations that compel them. And these aren’t motivations taken from the comics. If these characters made the same decisions, it is because the core of their character is the same and no matter what the circumstances, they would make the same choice time and time again. The best part of the writing of the movie is the understanding of character motivations the writers have, and then using the main moving and shaking characters to drive story and create compelling action and believable dialogue.

The first of these shakers is King T’chaka, father of T’challa, aka Black Panther. This guy had all of 2 scenes and maybe 6 lines of dialogue. And in that short time, he sold it. All of it. His beliefs, his country’s stance, all of his son’s motivation and character growth. Better than any Uncle Ben, his short time on screen solidified the +1 for side characters on my review. I hope, in a future Black Panther movie, John Rani reprises his role, if only in flash backs or similar.
The second is Tony Stark. We’re introduced to the character in an amazing scene. This opening scene at MIT looks like is just a way to show that Stark is still rich and prone to incredible generosity, while willing to fund crazy cool tech that we’d love to have in real life. It also shows us his breakup with Pepper, then transitions into the guilt of the Avenger’s actions. Oh, and the MIT grant he gives out is also used as a way to bring in Spider-Man. And the memory he chooses to display is of a pivotal event that is the macguffin for the villain’s plot. All in one brilliant opening scene.
I’m going to have to go and do the research, but I have memories of Stark not wanting any oversight back in Iron Man 2 and Avengers. Now that he’s created a super-villain that tried to destroy the earth and killed a country, he seems to have changed his tune. I think the characters in the cinematic Universe have solid development that no longer syncs with the comics. This is doing it right.
He almost gets Steve to sign. I think that’s a crucial point in the movie. If Captain America signs his name to a document, he’d stick with it, no matter what happens, or he’d legally break off. I don’t think he’d go rogue, if he had signed his name to it.
Captain America has an interesting place in this movie. He spends it reacting to things, letting the decisions of other characters drive the story, as much as it all revolves around him. Steve just has to stand there and be himself. Which brings up some interesting questions about his character. Is he really more concerned about friendship than justice? I get that later on in the film, he learns that Bucky wasn’t behind it, but why was he trying to help in the first place? Friendship? Something about not wanting Bucky to kill his pursuers? Cap’s motivations are a bit murky early on, but that happens to the best of us, really.
Bucky, aka The Winter Soldier is the third of the movers and shakers. I can’t seem to find a TV trope where a character is the villian’s plot, but Bucky is a living macguffin, none the less. He needs to be captured, he needs to be freed, he has the information, he did the thing. I didn’t recognize him in his first scene. I probably ought to have seen the lead ups first and may do for the next avengers movie. We’ll see.
Bucky does have some interesting abilities. He’s Captain America, with less morals and a big metal arm. That he can do things with when it ought to be ripped from the socket. Unless he’s got a lot of metal inside his chest doing some reinforcing.

My favorite scene in this movie is Falcon and Bucky in the car, nodding as Cap makes out with the one chick. And then it struck me: That little car held Steve’s best friends in the whole world. That’s why he’s so willing to fight for them.

That brings us to the airport. I think the comics may have had a different purpose, but in the movie world, this film exists for this sequence. I wonder at what point in production they acquired the rights to Spider-Man. They may have been able to work the fight without the webhead, but I think they’d have to bring in someone else to balance the fight a little better. Maybe if Spidey wasn’t there, they would have conspired to cut Hawkeye or Scarlett Witch from the fight. Probably Wanda. Then they could use Black Widow to tie up Winter Soldier and Falcon…
That’s all pointless. While it would be fun to figure out how to rework the fight to include different characters, we’re talking about this fight here, right in front of us. So let’s get back to that.
There is a LOT of damage done to the airport. Like, “Get those Avengers under an oversight committee” level of damage. Oh, wait, half of them are. So why wasn’t Stark brought to a committee to justify the damages? Where was that debriefing?
Antman/Giantman was one of the better parts of that fight. we’ve seen everyone else in superfights. Cap and Bucky, Iron Man and War MAchine, nothing new there. Arrows and punches bring nothing new, but in a big melee like that, Antman is able to go under the radar and do sneak attacks and that’s a place where he excels. And the Giantman bit was good. It made me forget how inconsistent his physics were, for just a bit. And speaking of inconsistent physics, I love how he used the growth disk on the fuel truck, without having to really explain what the device was. It reminds me a little bit of this clip, but that’s not quite true. We had a whole 2 hours explaining that tech. It was in Antman. Props to the MCU once again, for using continuity to cut out an explanation that we didn’t need.
Shame about Rhoddey. I wish they had caught him. I think there could have been a good scene with Falcon catching him and Stark getting mad. It could have been worse. A big turning point in the comics was when Clone-Thor kills Giantman(or Black Giant. Not exactly sure of his alias) and a lot of people get somber. And death would have been believable after that fight and fall.
I do have one criticism of this fight and that has to do with a writing philosophy that I learned recently in regards to D&D. Every character in a fight has some motivation for that fight that then determines their choices for that fight. For Bucky and Cap, their motivation should have been “He’s getting away!” and kept their focus on acquiring a ride with which to chase the villain. The Pro-Accords side then have the twin purpose of “You’re under arrest” and “Don’t leave town”, trying to capture Cap’s team as highest priority, and restricting their departure options as second highest. The rest of Cap’s teams motivation then turns to screening and distraction aka “Go on, Cap, I’ve got this” and “Go without me!” And by the end of the combat, that’s where we end up. But right before the big line up poster moment, motivations were on point. Then they fought for a while, until the producers are satisfied and we can get back to story.
Of course, D&D combat tends to be a slugfest until only one side is standing. We haven’t figured it out entirely yet.
The Raft prison was even cooler in the movie than it is in the comics. At first, I had thought they had gotten tired of the helicarrier falling from the sky so they put it under water, but the raft is normally a stationary under water/ground facility. It being mobile is just really really cool.
People had their gear taken away a lot this movie. It feels like a thing I ought to have been counting and will do next time, I’m sure. The angry prison banter is on certainly on point. Not only what they’d say, but how they’d say it.
Black Widow has an interesting place in this movie, as she takes the role of Spider-Man, while Spidey is in the fight next to her. In the comics, there was a lot of back and forth between sides. Spies and plants and infiltrators, and, most relevantly, defectors. Spider-Man was one of those. He started strong on the Iron Man side, but the more he saw, the more he felt he was compromising his morals for a steady paycheck. And, eventually, he left and joined Cap. I promise it was a more involved story that my summation and one that is worth reading.
My point, in all of that, is that Black Widow was nominated for the role of middle ground, level head, and eventually, willing to trade sides. I think she and T’challa had nice chemistry and I wouldn’t be surprised if the end of Infinity War left her fully healed and able to pursue a relationship with this African Prince. Or maybe not. Storm and T’challa are the true couple. Get on it, Fox and Disney!
Speaking of Spider-Man, what can I say that hasn’t been said to death by faster typers? Howaar Taylor. But, beyond that, I hope the Spidey movie has him never give a straight answer to the “where did you get your powers?” question. Kind of like the joker and his scars. I want a Spider-Man film with no origin story, just new content.
 Scarlett Witch ends up in a niche that a lot of female super heroes get in the comics I’ve seen. Some male wants to protect them, but they don’t want to be protected. Sue Storm aka Invisible Woman normally gets this the worst, but I’ve seen misguided chivalry before. And it was in character for Stark and Vision. I didn’t think much of Vision in this movie. Maybe awkward love hits home too hard for me? Idk.
Hawkeye came in and rescued Scarlett Witch from not needing rescued. That’s an interesting trope inversion there. But it brings up that I like what they’ve done with the relationships in this movie. Normally, if you have a cast of male and female characters on a team, there’s some sort of sexual tension between any given members. And the avengers comics had a lot of that. But Hawkeye seems to treat Scarlett Witch like she was his daughter or niece or something. As a parental type unit helping someone achieve their potential. And Black Widow seems more like a sister to Cap. than any love interest. It was an interesting direction to take it, but I liked it.
Falcon was interesting again, as he seems to have a place on the team that could easily be replaced by any other character. But I liked the fact that he had a drone instead of an actual bird. That felt right for the character.
The final fight threw me for a bit of a loop. I was expecting the heroes to find the guy, the 5 new villains, and then Bucky gets mind controlled again, and now it’s 3 on 7, which sounds like exciting odds. I did figure Cap would be trying to save Bucky, even with everyone coming down on him like a ton of bricks. What we got instead had been foreshadowed through the WHOLE movie, even going back to the scene that introduced Iron man to the story. All of it tied together and when Stark went ballistic, it was believable. I would love to make a plot like that work for D&D, but you’d need the exact perfect group of players who’d play perfectly to their characters. I ought to at least make a feat or something that lets people get flung around when they block with a shield. That was my favorite part of any Cap fight.
Once again, Jon Rani’s performance made Black Panthers choices and interactions with Zemo absolutely perfect. Beautiful.
So, if you can recall about 3,000 words ago, I mentioned that CACW did not get a 10/10 from me. I have an awesome way to fairly score movies and it keeps me from bumping this up to a 10 by giving 2 points to the writing. So what lost a point? My disbelief took many hits this movie. Many, many hits.
Let’s start with like every explosion in the movie. Everything was so destructive. Like fist size bombs destroying entire rooms and such. We even killed a building, I think? I’m no munitions expert and its possible that they were in fact, accurate. But Its easier for me to think the FX guys padded the explosions for drama, because that’s just what you do.
Speaking of special FX, I have a hard time buying into IronMan’s gauntlet from a watch thing. And a lot of his other suits that seem to come from nowhere. I’m 100% in favor of Iron Man actually wearing armor and the little robot bits with fiddily arms putting pieces into place just doesn’t do it for me. Transformers is (are?) allowed to get away with it as its part of their core conceit.
Finally, the one scene that really had me rolling my eyes is right before the final fight, when everyone is watching the reveal, and we see a security camera in the middle of nowhere, that suddenly is at the most dramatic positions available, so we can see all of what’s happening, clearly. Now, my brother is of the opinion that Bucky and Tony were filling things in with imaginations and stuff. But I don’t buy it. I think Markus and McFeely have been good enough at the writing to know people would get lost and would have done something to smooth it over. I don’t know, I’d have to watch it again. Which is a thing that will be happening.
So there we go! That’s what I thought of Civil War. Really good, and you don’t need to read the comics, but you’re life would be better for it.
See you next time! Cheers!

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