After the events in Sokovia, The Avengers suddenly find themselves in the spotlight not as heroes but as vigilantes with no regard for life or property. Out of this, viewers get Captain America: Civil War. Which side are you on?
Readers of comic books know the story that directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo – brothers – adapted: After one of the typical big superhero fights that lead to great loss of civilian life and a lot of property damaged, the superhero community finds itself in a precarious situation. In the comics, the American government wants to establish the following points in the Super Hero Registration Act (SHRA):
- All superpowered creatures residing on Earth need to register with a coalition between the American government and S.H.I.E.L.D.. This includes giving up their real civilian name.
- Young superpowered people are to report to boot camps where they’re trained to fight, to save lives and to not endanger innocents
- The coalition has the final say on whether or not a team of superheroes get deployed for a mission
Now the problem with adapting this for a movie is that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe there aren’t that many superheroes. There are The Avengers and their villains. Somehow, the entire superhero universe of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has emerged from that group. In addition to that, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been revealed to be part of the terrorist group Hydra in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
So the coalition becomes the United Nations and the SHRA turns into the Sokovia Accords which basically say that The Avengers are forbidden from acting without oversight of the United Nations.
Why Is This a Captain America Film
I have exactly one major and a few minor grievances with this film. Mainly, there’s the question as to why this movie is titled with the name of Captain America in it. At this point, there’s really no reason why Marvel movies carry titles of heroes. Because the cast of this movie and the Avengers movies is identical and then some. Now Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is also part of the line-up and so is Spider-Man (Tom Holland). As of right now, there’s no hero who still has his own corner of the world to himself.
Sure, there’s a subplot in the film that hinges on Captain America (Chris Evans) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) being catalysts for the division of the superhero community, but there’s really nothing that Captain America and his best friend Bucky, also known as The Winter Soldier, do on their own. This movie would be about half an hour long – maybe an hour tops – if it wasn’t for the hero vs. hero conflict, which dominates the movie.
And that’s a shame, because the Winter Soldier subplot is a good one. The movie delves into the communist assassin past of Bucky Barnes and shows where he’s been and what he’s done. It would be quite shocking, if it wasn’t for all the Civil War going on.
All The New Heroes
Before I saw the film, I was worried that the film would have a cast too small to have a big Civil War as I’ve read about in the comic books, where the entire Marvel Universe is divided.
While the big fight of pro-registration vs. anti-registration was comparably puny as it wasn’t even a dozen characters duking it out, the effect is not lost on viewers. It feels like a much more intimate ordeal and the parts where heroes just aren’t sure on which side they stand – torn between friendship and what they perceive to be right in the eyes of the law and society – are more hard-hitting than expected. This is especially apparent with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who I swear had more story to her. Because when Captain America and Bucky get to the communist super soldier factory, they take guns from a gun rack clearly marked Romanoff. Natasha Romanoff is the civilian name of The Black Widow.
Now, the questions everyone is asking are these.
- How awesome is Spider-Man in this?
- The Black Panther, is he cool?
So Spider-Man is amazing. He’s funny, he’s heroic and he never shuts up. He also delivers the movie’s funniest line. When Captain America throws his mighty shield, Spider-Man watches this and says the following:
You know, that thing doesn’t obey the laws of physics at all!
Spider-Man, Captain America: Civil War
This pretty much sums up Spider-Man. He’s super annoying and in real life probably insufferable – which is something characters on both sides of the conflict remark upon – but as a character, he’s lovable, respectful of comic books and other characters and just a great character.
That said, the movie isn’t really re-inventing anything with him. We’ve seen the webslinging in so many movies before as there have been five Spider-Man movies in the past decade and a half. What’s new is that this character feels as if he’s part of the universe and fits in seamlessly.
The same goes for Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman. Now this is where the novelty is. After it’s been hinted at his appearance in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the king of the fictional nation of Wakanda leaps into action. Wakanda, as comic book fans know, is the only place in the world that has reserves of the fictional metal Vibranium – an element that absorbs kinetic force and doesn’t make any sense outside of comic book physics. The Black Panther’s suit is made and/or reinforced with that metal and it shows. He is nearly silent when he moves, extremely agile and damn near unstoppable. I want to see his solo movie. Seriously. The Black Panther rocks.
The Irreverence For Superheroes
What sets this movie apart is the distinct lack of costumes for the most part. The heroes get in gear for the big fights, sure, but other than that, they only show themselves in their civilian clothing. It seems generally to be a topic this year that superheroes are being knocked off their pedestals. Batman v Superman – Dawn of Justice has done a similar thing, but was much less funny about it. But even the Marvel Cinematic Universe is questioning their heroes and idealism makes way for distrust and cynicism about people who out of the goodness of their hearts want to help.
But the interesting thing is that in both universes – Marvel’s and DC Comics’ – it works, albeit on different levels. While over at DC, the heroes are set up to be mistrusted in their basics, the heroes at Marvel are somewhat untrustworthy, but not because of their ideals but because of their methods. What sets the universes apart is that the heroes themselves are not quite sure where they stand. It’s not their nature that is being questioned, but their characters.
So you may prefer one or the other, but I like both approaches. And both have been executed pretty well, with the difference that Batman v Superman just looks better, which brings me to a minor grief about the movie. There’s nothing extraordinary about the look and feel of the film. It’s just yet another Marvel movie. Which has its pros and cons, of course. On one hand, we know exactly what we’re getting and it’s good, solid filmmaking. But it’s nowhere near extraordinary and it’s not evolving.
Either way, the heroes are divided. Which is something that’s quite bad. Both Captain America and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) know that they’re essentially on the same side but support different means, but that’s something the heroes have to resolve on their own. And it’s a tough call to make.
All in all, Captain America: Civil War is a very good film. It has a complex and well-executed story that is engaging and inconclusive, leaving people to decide who’s right on their own, but it’s not re-inventing a genre that – truth be told – doesn’t actually need all that much re-inventing. I’ll definitely go see it again when it opens in Swiss cinemas on April 28th, 2016.
Oh yeah, don’t be too shocked when the movie Captain America: Civil War is not playing in Swiss cinemas, but there’s a movie called The First Avenger: Civil War. For some strange reason, Disney and Marvel apparently have decided that the name Captain America is too American, even though the character has now spent three movies going up against the governments of the USA twice and once against the entire world.