!!!!FULL SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!
In contrast to my views on BvS, Captain America: Civil War was a fantastic, fun and emotional ride that had me locked in from start to finish. The 13th entry into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe may very well be its best with so many characters balanced perfectly, new heroes introduced, additional villains for future conflicts and an overall seismic shift in hero dynamics moving forward. While I did enjoy Avengers: Age of Ultron, I didn’t love it like I thought I was going to heading into the film. But to be fair, it’s almost impossible for any MCU movie to recapture the awesome feeling of the original Avengers, when we saw all our favorite heroes team up for the very first time like we’ve never seen any other super hero movie do before. Civil War felt like a make-up for the underwhelming Age of Ultron. And for me, it took the concept of The Avengers and turned it on its head. These characters that we’ve built up so much emotion for and have seen squabble in the past now get to full on brawl with each other like we’ve never seen in a super hero movie before. Even smaller characters who aren’t as well fleshed out in the MCU like Scarlett Witch, Falcon or Vision get their time to shine, really coming into their own as established heroes. After Civil War, there’s no hero I’m bored with and no hero, I believe, couldn’t use their own solo film. I certainly can’t discuss every single awesome thing in Civil War, because I thought it was all awesome, but I will discuss a few specific points that vastly captured my attention.
- Uncharacteristic Stark
The appeal of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark has always been his quick, witty and overall playful attitude throughout the MCU. The genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist set the precedent of what a Marvel movie should be, but in Civil War that comical spirit is only a glimmer, replaced with a darker, morose Stark. I’m not saying it’s not for good reason, I mean he’s been accused of murder, Pepper left him and he’s trying to arrest his own friends, but it’s a turn that we’ve never seen the character take, even in Iron Man 3 when things seemed the most dire for him. At first I couldn’t tell if I liked it, but on further reflection, I do like that the events of the MCU have weathered Stark, that the eight years since he’s become a hero are affecting him mentally. It gives the world context. This isn’t just another adventure for our heroes to partake in – it’s a story informed by consequential, Earth-shattering events that can’t be ignored any more. Stark’s sullen attitude personifies that destruction that the Avengers have left in their wake.
- Bucky-Falcon relationshit
Sam Wilson (Falcon) doesn’t like Bucky (Winter Soldier) all the much, that’s clear. He sees Bucky as the crazy master assassin that he was brainwashed into being for sixty plus years. But, because of his faith and friendship with Cap, Wilson puts up with Bucky, going to great lengths to help Cap find Bucky, becoming a criminal in the process. It’s clearly awkward in scenes where it’s just the two of them – Bucky being the old best friend and Sam, the new blood, trying to replace Bucky in Cap’s heart. But, they don’t hate each other, and their scenes of animosity are playful rather than bitter – examples being the car scene and when Spider-Man webs them up real good. I’m happy we get to see a funny side of the Winter Soldier in Civil War because it shows he’s not just a one-dimensional character. I have confidence that he could stand on his own without Cap or other Avengers for his own solo film or possibly replacing a current beloved MCU hero.
For the amount of moodiness Stark brings to Civil War, Scott Lang carries the same amount of levity to every scene he’s in. Whether he’s geeking out over Captain America or tossing out quips in between throwing punches, he perfectly balances his humor with the overall brutality of the whole movie. But beyond his personality, it’s awesome seeing him as Giant-Man! Going from the smallest super hero ever to one of the largest is a hilarious juxtaposition, one that Paul Rudd handles just as you think he would. Honestly, that’s my only gripe about Ant-Man and Scott Lang – the actor comes through more than the character. Paul Rudd is great as a super hero, but he’s still unmistakably Paul Rudd.
It was a long time coming, but Spider-Man is finally back where he belongs. Many reviewers are saying he’s the best part of the movie, and that’s because he genuinely is. Tom Holland brings a whimsicality to Peter Parker and Spider-Man that we haven’t ever seen on-screen. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were both simply too old to do right by the hero’s teenaged roots. Both their Peter Parkers grew up to fast and never touched the struggle of going out to fight crime and save the day while worrying about a History test you haven’t yet studied for. Even against a well established actor like Downey Jr., Holland commands the screen in every scene he’s in. He’s a wide-eyed, naive, awkward teenager who’s being put up against these god-like heroes, but he’s just as powerful, if not more so than some of them. The only reason he doesn’t completely destroy say Captain America is because his abilities are still unpolished and new. He says to Stark when they first meet that he’s only been at it for six months. We get no back story, only a few blurry videos that Stark’s somehow captured with Parker swinging around New York. And for me, that’s plenty of back story. We’ve seen Parker get bit by a radioactive spider and Uncle Ben die twice in the span of ten years already. The general public knows what makes Peter Parker Spider-Man. We don’t know much about Homecoming yet, but we know it takes place after the events of Civil War, as most people expect it would. Marvel’s been good about keeping their movies in line with real-time, so we luckily won’t be heading back to where it all happened for Parker.
I think if most MCU fans had their way, they would put Spider-Man as a founding Avengers member – have Spider-Man part of the MCU from the very beginning. However, when I really think about it, I’m glad Spider-Man is swinging in when he is. I like that he’s just a kid tossed in the middle of this tumultuous team of heroes. I like even more that Stark is helping him along his hero development, sort of as a guiding light to help him learn what it really means to be an Avenger. Stark he’s not full on Avenger yet, obviously, but I bet he’ll be front and center when Thanos comes knocking on Earth’s door.
The end fight between Cap, Bucky and Iron Man was especially brutal and emotional. Maybe this is a little dramatic, but with every punch I could feel Stark and Rogers’ friendship being ripped apart. When Stark’s helmet comes off and we see his bloody face as Cap is on top of him, I felt real fear for Stark. Cap has a chance to kill him, but luckily his humanity takes over and he instead disables Stark’s suit. It was actually hard to watch these two teammates who I’ve enjoyed seeing work together so much trying to rip each other apart. And aside from Cap and Iron Man, Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine, is permanently crippled! That’s pretty heavy, Doc, but I’m glad no one actually dies because I didn’t want some contrived, unbelievable plot about brining the character back to life for Infinity War. When the credits role, nothing is resolved. Team Cap and Team Iron Man are still at odds, Team Cap looked at as criminals. But that’s great set-up for the next Avengers. They’ll have to put their personal feelings aside to save the world yet again.
So by the end of Civil War, out heroes are divided, Cap’s leading the Secret Avengers, Stark is leading the regular Avengers and Spider-Man has new tech to play with for his solo film next year. We’re heading into uncharted territory in Phase Three of the MCU. While Phase Two had mostly sequels to established heroes, Phase Three will have us meet a lot of new characters like Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel and the already introduced Spider-Man and Black Panther (hopefully the Inhumans are somewhere mixed in as well). With Civil War, the Russo brothers have shown they can handle large casts of heroes effectively. That makes me very excited for Infinity War, which will no doubt include even more heroes.