Saturday, May 7, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Spoilers!

Divided, they fall.

After an undeserved guilt trip, Tony Stark () worries that the Avengers need to be put in check. He is surprised to find that if, say, an alien army attacks New York, or a robot AI army tries to lift an entire city into the sky and drop it again, people die in the wake. So, he signs a document called the Sokovia Accords, putting himself under the command of General Ross () and forces the other Avengers to either sign as well, or retire from their crime-fighting ways; or become outlaws. Steve Rogers (), however, is Captain America, and as such sees no wisdom in allowing himself to be controlled by someone who may someday order him to do something wrong, or deny him permission to do something right. He and about half the Avengers refuse to sign.

Rising tension between the two sides explodes when Bucky Barnes () appears on the grid and everyone wants a piece of him; Steve, the ever-loyal friend to help him, new addition T'Challa () for revenge, Ross (and thus Tony) because he's dangerous, and also the villain Zemo () who framed him for the UN bombing in the first place. Zemo plans to destroy the Avengers by leading them to destroy each other.

Anthony and Joe Russo return for another Captain America movie featuring the cast of an Avenger movie.

It's the year of the "hero vs. hero" story line, and Civil War set out to make it realistic. It is -- a little bit too much. Superheroes, practically by definition, are people who can act outside the law and remain good, but this movie challenges that, putting our heroes under the harsh judgment of our reality. The result is that the plot is not fundamentally conducive to the genre. It's like if Pirates of the Caribbean 5 were a courtroom drama where Jack stands trail for all his misdeeds. The film struggles to find footing at the beginning, forced to scrounge around for some contrived situations to justify the plot; some that sacrifice character and sense in the effort.

At first Iron Man is only antagonistic and it works alright. He was pressured and emotionally coerced into believing he needed someone to put him in check, and imposed his beliefs on everyone else. But no matter what that self-righteous, cruel, finger-pointing woman by the elevator wrongly says, Tony is not a murderer, and I hate that they made him buy into that lie. He created Ultron, yes, but ultimately, Ultron was an intelligent being that made decisions for himself. What he chose to do isn't on Tony. And that's something Tony would know if the movie didn't require otherwise. Most of the characters have the drama work for them -- as it should -- but someone had to be made the villain, and Tony got the short straw in a lot that shouldn't have existed.

After five films, Tony is no stranger to putting himself in check, but suddenly now he needs someone else to do it for him?

Eventually it reaches a point where if they'd have just stopped and talked about things for a few seconds everything would have been cleared up. Cap has evidence that Bucky was framed and they attempt to go off after Zemo. But Tony and co. (Rhodey (), Romanoff (), and Vision () with the help of T'Challa, aka Black Panther, and some kid named Peter ()) are under orders to arrest Cap and co. (Bucky, Sam (), Wanda (), Barton (), and newly recruited Scott Lang ()), and they battle it out instead. This was one of the most fun sequences in the movie though, so of course they couldn't just bypass it with a simple exchange of information. Still I reserve the right to be annoyed that that's all it would have taken.

After that Tony discovers the truth for himself and goes off to help Cap and Bucky. Great, right? They team up and prevail against the villain, right? It's a glorious reuniting of friends almost torn apart joining together and putting aside their differences to fight evil, right? Nope -- instead, the villain reveals his plan to them, and shows video footage of Bucky as the Winter Soldier, under the influence of mind control, killing Tony's parents. Tony flips back over in his rage and actually becomes a villain. Not just a misguided and uninformed antagonist -- as irking as that was -- but a villain, uncharacteristically intent on causing harm to the innocent. There are so many things wrong with this; I hardly know where to begin.

It did endear Bucky to me a lot more, so it's arguably worth it. I wasn't ever a huge Iron Man fan anyway. And I'm sure he'll be back to hero status in no time...

Tony knows that Bucky killed his parents because of mind control. And this is not a new issue; Barton killed several people under mind control in The Avengers, but once he came back, no one batted an eyelash. They said it wasn't him, and they were right. Here Cap says the same, and Tony doesn't care, trying to kill Bucky in revenge. (Yet he didn't even blame anyone for Rhodey's injury?) They pick and choose what pushes Tony's buttons based on where the plot wanted to go, instead of the other way around as it should be. He knows he's innocent and he doesn't care -- but not killing innocents was exactly his whole agenda in the first place!

In the end Cap defeats Iron Man physically, but it's really Zemo who wins the day. He didn't succeed in making them kill each other, but he divided them, and the results of Steve's attempts to heal the breach are left ambiguous. Also, it's sad that Zemo's family dies, but it doesn't justify his villainy; it makes it a double standard. He murders in order to orchestrate murder, and his revenge is directed at the people who stopped the one really responsible. These plot lines are the foundation of the movie, and are almost nothing but nonsensical hogwash, and I couldn't buy it. This whole movie was contrived into existence, and characters were bent and broken to its whims all for a nice, swift kick of maddeningly lazy drama that moved nowhere before being resolved by nothing.

I guess one thing this movie portrays well is the folly of revenge.

Remember that heartbreaking moment in the trailer, where Cap seems to have abandoned his friendship with Tony? "He's my friend" he says of Bucky. And Tony replies sadly, "So was I." I don't know if the same take was used in the trailer and the finished film, but the difference the context made was incredible. Once we see that Cap is at that moment keeping Tony from committing emotionally driven unjustified murderous revenge on his friend, that "So was I" comes across in the exact opposite way. Suddenly Cap is the one we feel for, ever the man who will stand up for what he knows is right, and has his friends turn on him for it. That's noble.

And Bucky -- the movie's main focus in on Bucky, and he was the main redeeming factor that kept the film afloat. Bucky regrets the things he was forced to do, and even though he doesn't blame himself, he takes himself out of the equation, giving up on living a life he deserves until he knows he can live it without inadvertently putting others in danger. Like Iron Man, he recognizes that his existence is dangerous, but he takes it upon himself to prevent that danger. That is noble. That is what superheroes do. Iron Man's only spark of nobility here is only perhaps in his motivations of wanting to keep people safe. His actions do a poor job of reflecting that desire if it's true though, and I wonder if really he was only interested in dulling his misguided guilt. In past movies he's been the noble character, but not here, and that doesn't sit right.

So -- that concludes the main point of what is wrong with this movie. On to what is good. Here's to my ability to express it in a more condensed fashion!

Next, I need to devote a whole section to Spider-Man, (Forget condensed!) because his part in this film felt like a whole different film. He didn't really fit, but I was glad he was there. The scenes he has with Iron Man were the only times in the movie that I actually liked Iron Man, and the fight sequence at the airport was fun (uncharacteristically so) because of him -- and Ant-Man. I knew Tom Holland was going to be my favorite Spider-Man, but he didn't let me down even one bit in his short amount of screen time. He tell his origins with a mere "It's a long story," and explains his version of "with great power comes great responsibility" earnestly and simply, like a teenager would. His place in the movie was obviously contrived, but that didn't dampen the exciting appeal of his presence at all.

But even when Spidey is absent the fights are still the most effective distractions from the occasionally insulting drama the movie gives. The choreography is just as great as The Winter Soldier, and though there isn't exactly an equivalent of the elevator scene, Civil War makes up for it by having lots more fights, and lots of fights featuring Bucky. Bucky was great wherever he went. The stairwell fight and the sequence when Zemo activates Bucky stand out as the best and most memorable. I did miss Cap though. It was his movie in name, but he was slightly overshadowed by the long list of a-list co-stars whose characters had bigger issues than Cap did. Cap's problems didn't carry as much weight as they should because all he had to do was the right thing, and that's the one thing he always does. It's why we love him.

Cap trying to hold the movie together...

Acting all around was as good as ever, and not hindered by the plot's often confused and illogical nature. Even Robert Downey Jr. pushed a very impressive performance through his character's sludge. Everyone I've previously mentioned had a solid moment to display their chops, and so did , , and even in a disappointingly short-lived stint as post-Winter Soldier Crossbones. Vision and Wanda's dynamic was quite strange and oddly cute. Not much was new with Hawkeye when he wasn't given much to do but left a mark anyway. Chadwick Boseman makes a great first impression as Black Panther. And Bucky is steadily and ever-increasing in my affections. This movie's moments of organic drama were almost exclusively his. (Any chance he'll make an appearance in Black Panther, you think?

Marvel films at this point have become well-oiled machines, and it's beginning to show in less-than-appealing ways. They know how to cater to an audience, and know what kind of moments will serve fans the most and stoke their fandom fires. In the moment, it's a blast, but it's not a good thing at heart. The stories are becoming less and less personal as a result; and more and more familiar. Civil War goes through the motions of what made The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron successful, doling out high-caliber, production-line thrills, but slacking off when it came to the stamp of originality, confident that the heroes turning on each other would be enough. I prefer a handcrafted story that respects character foremost, even if it has flaws in the execution.

This movie didn't seem personal to anyone besides its characters.

Civil War is a hand-book movie; a collection of high-energy action scenes, fan-favorite characters, amusing stock jokes, and heavy-handed drama that occasionally bends characters to suit it, but only really works when it happens to suit the characters. It has a lot of good -- even great -- elements to it, but when they're compiled together, the puzzle is not only missing a few pieces, but it is also several different pictures altogether. Half what I was afraid it was going to be, and half what I hoped it would be; but, slowly, the things that were done wrong or lazily are offending my sensibilities less and less, as I remember the good fondly.

I doubt I will ever not notice the plot holes and contrivances that allowed for this film's existence, but I know that I will sit through them again for the parts that catered to my action-loving side and appealed to my love of character. This film is not the ground-breaking, tide-turning event it wanted to be and thinks it is, but, as a Marvel film, and as a Captain America film, and as a preview of what a Russo Brothers Avenger film might be like -- not to mention an introduction film for Black Panther and Spider-Man, and a continuation of the Winter Soldier's story -- it's got something of everything. Civil War is so packed with so much that it could hardly have done anything that would've neutralized its addictive fun, or seriously dampened the effect of the chaotically, colorfully intense and exciting blockbuster that it is.

17 comments:

  1. Good review! I can see where you're coming from on a lot of fronts, but I really enjoyed Civil War. I thought it was a great Avengers movie and a great ending for Captain America's franchise. Steve and Tony's feud (and Tony's motivations) didn't seem contrived to me, but my explanation would probably turn this comment into a novel. lol Perhaps I'll try to work some of into my post review.

    I agree about Spiderman though. Tom Holland was great but I didn't understand how or why Tony brought a teenager into a battle when Angela said their actions killed her young son and her accusations sets off his belief system for the rest of the movie. Bringing in a juvenile is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when deciding on who you want to join a battle with you....even if he is Spiderman.

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    1. Thanks Katy! I'm glad I make sense. What irritated me stood out really badly, but I do think it's a good movie -- I'm already looking forward to seeing it again! And looking forward to reading your review. I've been trying to understand where other people are coming from on the subject. :)

      Yeah, that was pretty strange, but out of all the things like that that didn't make sense to me, it was the one I was most willing to overlook, since it allowed for Spidey to be there! It just seemed like the movie was too focused on doing what it wanted and didn't notice that sometimes what it wanted didn't make sense.

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  2. CANNOT wait to see this one. Since I'm waiting to see this one (on DVD), I skimmed your review. Sad as I am to see my Avengers fighting (what can I say I 100% prefer them as a team rather than enemies), I'm still curious. Besides, my inner Marvel fangirl won't let me NOT see this one. ;)

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    1. I hope you manage the wait well, Rissi! I bet it'll be painfully long. I prefer them fighting together too. So much. But it was still a good movie -- could have been WAY worse! Hope you enjoy!

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  3. Could you do a movie review for the 5th Wave? :)

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    1. I haven't seen it yet, and it's not high on my priorities, but if I do see it, I would definitely want to review it. :)

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  4. In the five minutes it took me to read this post, I questioned everything I thought I knew about the movie.
    When I went to see the movie yesterday, I could hardly find any faults and left the theater LITERALLY singing it's praises. Perhaps part of being 13 is that I can overlook the bad and focus on the good in a way that makes me ignorant... and, while in that instance ignorance is bliss, you made solid points.
    This was so interesting, not to mention gripping. What a marvelous post :D

    ...Can I get real a second, for just a millisecond, tell the people what I feel a second?
    Alright, yay;
    Do you ship Vision and Wanda?

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    1. Thank you, Bekah! I'm glad I was able to challenge your views and make you think, but I have to say I definitely don't think it's ignorant to overlook the bad in movies sometimes! Sometime I wish I did that more often. I'm glad you enjoyed the read -- thanks for commenting!

      (Haha, nice reference. :D) And, yeah. I do, a little bit. :)

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  5. OK, I respect your opinion, but I do have some thoughts on what you have to say about Iron Man. Hopefully it won’t sound aggressive or flame war like or whatever. :) Tony doesn’t want to feel responsible anymore. He doesn’t want to have the responsibility and guilty that his abilities cause, so if the UN tells him what to do, he doesn’t have the guilt of whatever happens. That reminds me of a lot real people, so that worked for me. And I never saw him as the villain really either. He just had a different opinion and convictions. I noticed a lot of people sided with him at the end, although I’m Team Cap myself. That was more of a response to the part you wrote just above the Iron Man picture, then I read the rest of the review afterwards.

    As for the rest, I see your points, but we will agree to disagree. Good review though Sarah. :)

    -James

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    1. I'm glad you respect my opinion James, and you can always feel free to voice your disagreement with me! I trust that you don't mean anything disrespectful, and I hope you know the same goes for me! :)

      I understand that that is what the movie wanted us to see about Tony's character, that he doesn't want to be responsible. That makes enough sense, and I can accept that though I wish he'd know that he prevents much more bad than he causes. (He still shouldn't have listened to that woman.) But why then would he try to force everyone else to do the same? He's free of potential guilt, why make criminals out of everyone who doesn't want to follow his lead? It's like he was warmongering! And no, he's not technically the villain, but in the end his actions were certainly villainous. There is no way to justify that attempted murder. And in the past he has never let his emotions blind him so much that he becomes the very thing he opposes. It just doesn't make sense. That never would have happened in an Iron Man movie. But it had to happen so the movie could exist, so it did.

      I'm glad you understood where I'm coming from. And I'm glad you were able to enjoy the movie so much! Thanks James!

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  6. Okay here comes a potentially very long comment. ;) (I actually read your review before but I didn't comment because I wanted to finish writing mine first and sort of clarify what I thought of the movie first.)

    First off, it's really fun reading your thoughts on Civil War. :) It makes sense that you judged the movie differently than you might usually a superhero movie because of it being more realistic in some ways. I feel like that realistic-ness is something the Russo brothers are putting into their Marvel movies, I think it was there in Winter Soldier as well and that's where the strong themes of - in WS, security versus freedom, and in CW, consequences - come from. I really like the tone it gives the movies, and also because it makes them especially relevant to current times (which seems in keeping with the original Cap who was created really as a patriot figure standing for American ideals to fight the ideas of Nazism (as I understand) (what is it with Cap being Hydra now?!)).

    You said superheroes "are people who can act outside the law and remain good" - I'm guessing you mean governmental laws, so by good do you mean non-criminal?

    I don't think Tony believes himself to be a murderer, I don't think he necessarily believed what the woman by the elevator said about it being his fault. I think she made him aware of the fact that even though the Avengers fight to protect people, when they do, even if they ultimately win, the fact that they fight even to do good will have negative consequences, as well as good ones. Of course if the Avengers didn't fight at all everything would be much much worse, as I'm sure Tony understands - which is why he's not trying to stop the Avengers.

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    1. (Apparently my original full comment exceeded the max length. I didn't know there was a max length. hmm. Here's the rest.)


      I agree with what you said about how there was a certain point right before the airport fight scene when if Tony and Steve could just have talked it out they might not have fought. I mean, that's what happens right after the airport scene: Tony doesn't actually talk with Steve but he learns Steve's motives from Natasha and then joins him. In the moment when they're about to start fighting at the airport I think (if I remember right) Steve does ask Tony to just listen to him. I remember feeling that sick feeling when you're just like "come on guys, just listen!" But I think it was realistic. (I mean, I recognize that feeling of please just listen - try to understand because it's occurs constantly in real life. People are emotional as well as intellectual haha.) I think in the end that whole sequence emphasized (as I said in the spoiler part of my review) how conflict is chaos. I think it was a very accurate demonstration of what Vision had predicted (as he then tells Iron Man, explaining why Rhodey got hurt - and really just why TeamCap and TeamIronMan were fighting at all: "I became distracted").

      We don't really get a whole lot of information on Zemo, but from what we do know of him I think what he does fits. From the very traumatic story he told about finding his family after they died and his behavior after - listening to the voice message over and over - he must be messed up emotionally (if not mentally/psychologically to some extent), narrowing his vision to seek purely for revenge and taking advantage of all his natural talents (e.g. the careful planning). (Honestly I don't remember him as well as I should so I should really hold off on saying anything about him until I see the movie again.)

      "I prefer a handcrafted story that respects character foremost, even if it has flaws in the execution." <- YES. That's a recipe for success. ;)

      Your review is stimulating all my Marvel-fan-thinking, but I have to do chemistry now so I'll stop.

      (By the way, from reading this before I remembered you saying something more about Spider-Man - about him being brought into the fight without really having the conflict explained to him and stuff - am I remembering wrong or missing something or something?)

      Really interesting review Sarah, thanks for taking the time to write out all your thoughts! :)

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    2. When you exceed the comment length is when you know you have a really good comment! :D

      Thanks!! Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, I agree, the Russos really seemed to be aiming for a realistic feel with TWS and this which is why I judged it that way. And I can see the appeal of like you said this movie's themes being relevant to current times, but for me it was too close to home, you know? I tire of politics easily, and hate how divided our country is right now, so a movie that mirrors that is pretty much the last thing I would want to see. With movies, especially superhero ones, I look for escape from reality -- or at least an optimistic view of our reality where the conflict is resolved. If CW had ended with Tony and Cap reconciling it would be a very different story. (I know, that's so ridiculous I expect it's just a tease. If they're serious though I'll never acknowledge it!)

      Yes. And sorta. I don't mind the idea that some people (characters) might see them as criminal (because they technically are), but I love and find it important that they are almost always seem as morally good, to characters and to viewers. They are people who can always do the right thing, even when it's illegal.

      I'll have to watch it again to decide whether I think Tony believes he's a murderer or not, but I certainly do think that he holds himself personally responsible for the elevator lady's son's death, because of when he mentions it to Cap later. I'll have to watch it again for this too, but the impression I got was the exact opposite. It seemed to me that Tony forgot about the good he does when he fights and blames himself for the destruction villains cause. And if he didn't want to stop the Avengers, then why would he try to force them into retirement if they didn't sign?

      Yeah, I was really pleased with his temporary common sense there. I thought for a while that the movie was actually going to end with Tony and Cap teaming up... which made it even worse when everything happened! :P Another example of how it was just too realistic for me. I argue very logically, so it really bothers me when I'm debating with someone who is solely emotional. I guess that's why I identify with Cap so strongly in the last battle -- I wanted him to knock some sense into him! Hmm, I like that. Everyone was so distracted by themselves that they wound up fighting for no good reason.

      With Zemo, I thought he was good until they tried to make him sympathetic. He's a regular guy whose wife and kids are tragically killed, and his reaction is to methodically plan out a detailed plot -- which includes blowing up innocents -- just to get revenge on the people whose only crime was not being able to save his family? It's the actions of a twisted psychopath with the motivations of a heartbroken father. I just can't quite buy it. Your explanation makes sense, and is probably what they were going for, but it's all just too extreme for me.

      Yeah. And then when one has flawless execution too, it is a beautiful thing to behold. :D

      You must be remembering wrong... I didn't take anything out or anything. And I actually didn't mind that at all. Because I firmly believe that if they had explained both sides of the conflict to Spidey, then he would have sided with Cap. ;)

      Thanks a bunch Sarah! And thank you for this long and thoughtful comment! I appreciated it very much. :D :D

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    3. It totally makes sense what you said about wanting movies to be an escape from reality (and politics), or at least be optimistic. I liked the movie as it was because though there was that sort of realistic conflict in the story, the movie pointed out how so much of that fighting is confused or distracted or emotion-driven, at least that's what I got. (Makes me think of the Jedi and all they said about not letting emotion cloud your judgement, or Joda: "The dark side clouds everything.”) When I saw saw the movie what I saw was Vision describe how conflict breeds catastrophe and then that description be played out, exactly illustrating the tagline "divided we fall". And I guess they couldn't have made that point as well without the conflict being more realistic. I don't think Vision ever quite said that the conflict was mislead, but I think the rest of the story demonstrates that: Zemo initiates the fight between the UN/Steve/Tony et al by giving them false information (making them think Bucky was the bomber).

      The movie pictures how conflict breaks people apart, making them weak, but its real strength to me was that it understood that often that conflict is driven by emotion or confusion or distraction and that the actual values the disagreement springs from originally aren't necessarily what initiate the fight (or wouldn't always by themselves have initiated a fight). Cap and Tony were both trying to be responsible. I feel like Professor X would have something to say about it. But I understand why you didn't care for it being realistic(er), it makes sense. :)

      "It's the actions of a twisted psychopath with the motivations of a heartbroken father." Okay I see what you mean. I feel like the movie could have tied those two together, but I don't remember if it did so I want to watch it again to see.

      I must have read that about Spider-Man in another review, or maybe it was Katy's comment above I was remembering.

      Of course! :) And thanks for your reply. :) It would be fun to see a Marvel movie with you sometime, then this whole discussion afterwards would be a lot easier. ;)

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    4. That is a really great way of looking at it. Like the takeaway should be that this is where we may be headed, and what we don't want to be like! I would still prefer superhero movies to lead by example instead of being cautionary tales, but that is a very helpful way of seeing things. I'm gonna try to look at it like that when I see it again. I imagine that I'll still wish they had gone about it in a smarter way though. I'd still say that the emotional reactions to things were disproportionately large. The distractions should have been bigger and more convincing to get me to buy it all, I guess. But maybe that's something that I can overlook or will make more sense next time too.

      And that's why I liked T'Challa's plot line so much. Once he saw that he'd been misled, he stopped. But Tony just completely lost sight of everything. I'd like to think that anyone who suddenly sees the full picture of what they're doing in a situation like that wouldn't willingly continue. An argument could probably be made against that, but still I really don't like that they did that to Tony's character.

      I definitely think another viewing should be in order for me soon.

      That would be fun! (Any chance you live in North Carolina? :P) Though I don't know about easier -- sometimes I find that I can express myself much better through writing. ;)

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    5. Yes! T'Challa was so cool. He was great. Yeah I agree, I'd like that too. I want to watch it again and just be like staring at Tony the whole time to see if I missed something. What he did didn't feel 'off' to me (in terms of fitting his character) the first time I saw it, but I want to see it again to get a more definite understanding.

      NC is so beautiful! Actually my family is planning on being there for the Fourth. haha Yeah I feel like I'm much better at expressing myself through the written word too. :)

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