Movie Review — Captain America: Civil War

21 Sep

Those who know me know that I am a fan of the current DC movies. This has caused a bit of a problem for me over the past year. I like the movies that people love to hate. Meanwhile, I have negative opinions about some of the Marvel movies. I don’t like the Avengers movies at all. Nor do I like Thor 2, or Iron Man 3. The rest are entertaining to varying degrees. None are what I would consider great movies, but they’re fun.

These opinions often lead to disagreements online. Those disagreements can lead to debates. Those debates can lead to arguments. And of course, it’s all silly. There is no right or wrong with something like this. There is only opinion and personal preference. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy movies from both franchises, which is an option that rarely seems to appear on anyone’s ballot. I think the franchises serve different purposes. My review is just a review of this movie, not some battle in the ongoing war between two media empires. Keep that in mind as you read this.

A little backstory…

Captain America: The First Avenger was, in my opinion, a good, fun, enjoyable movie for the most part. It was a standard superhero origin story, with a nice twist. Setting it in the past gave it a cool vibe, an there were some solid characters (some of whom would go on to appear on Agent Carter, which shouldn’t have been canceled because it was better than Agents of SHIELD). However, the movie fell apart for me when they stopped telling the story of that movie and started using it as simply a setup for The Avengers. This was a problem for the Marvel movies, because they sacrificed the structure of the individual movies in order to hold up The Avengers, and The Avengers needed to be perfect in order to pull that off… As I stated above, I don’t like The Avengers movies, so the sacrifice was not worth it. I would have rather seen a series of Captain America movies set in the past, eventually leading to Steve ending up in the future.

But what can you do?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier wasn’t a horrible movie. It was a fun, entertaining movie. It didn’t blow me away. It certainly had its problems, but it’s a movie that I could eventually rewatch on some rainy Sunday. The idea of Hydra infiltrating SHIELD was cool, though I have to admit that it was spoiled for me, because I rarely see movies the second they come out, and Agents of SHIELD spoils everything pretty much right away.

So I’m not an enthusiastic fan of these movies, but I’m not someone who hates them either. I’m capable of enjoying them.

Which brings us to Captain America: Civil War.

I’m not capable of enjoying this movie.

It was bad.

It was Age of Ultron bad.

The problem with the movie is that it doesn’t seem like anyone involved was interested in telling the best possible story, in the best possible way. Instead, it seemed like they went in with a bunch of ideas for scenes that they thought would be cool, and they held onto those scenes whether they belonged in the movie or not. As a result, you could cut entire characters and elaborate sequences from the movie, saving money, saving time, and ultimately just improving the overall structure of the movie.

My first cut: Spider-Man. I know that a lot of people liked him in the movie. I know that a lot of people were excited that Marvel/Disney finally got the chance to put him in the MCU. But the fact is, he just doesn’t belong in this movie. The scene where Tony goes to recruit him is a waste of time. Peter joins a fight that he doesn’t seem to understand anything about, agrees to attack people that he knows are heroes, and puts his life on the line for no apparent reason, other than to set up the upcoming Spider-Man movie. How Tony found him is left to us to figure out (“It’s Tony Stark! Of course he found him!”).

Ultimately, I wasn’t a huge fan of this version of Spider-Man. I thought it was weird that I thought Aunt May was hot. I thought the costume with the moving eyes (added so that they could have the character emote, no doubt) was kinda lame. But none of that matters, because it could have been awesome in a movie that he belonged in… which wasn’t this movie.

For that matter, I’d cut Ant-Man (whose movie I did enjoy), Hawkeye, and anyone else who didn’t serve an actual purpose in the movie. If I can’t remember them enough to put them on the list, they definitely should have been left out.

The only purpose that these characters serve is the airport scene. That is a problem for me, because that scene should also have been cut, in my opinion. It shouldn’t have happened. We had a whole bunch of heroes who aren’t trying to stop a bad guy, who aren’t trying to save the world, who aren’t even trying to do harm to each other (until that Vision dude randomly tries to kill Falcon)… and they are destroying a friggin’ airport! They are joking with each other, laughing with each other, admiring each other, and essentially having a family squabble, and yet they’re destroying an airport!

I was cringing through that entire scene. They were trying so hard to keep us liking everyone, but the whole tone of that sequence was a failure to commit to whatever they were hoping to accomplish there. It was an idea for a scene that they wanted in the movie, not a scene that belonged in the movie.

I’d also cut the scene where Steve kisses Sharon. It was awkward, and a little gross.

My other issue with the movie is that there are really two potentially really good movies in there, but neither are given the proper attention and development, and neither compliments the other.

First, we have the Sokovia Accords storyline. The concept is interesting. Scarlet Witch kills 11 people (or so) in the middle of trying to stop some bad guys. The hitch is that she killed 11 while saving 50-100 people in the crowd that would have been blown up if she hadn’t thrown the bomb toward that building. That point is ripe for debate.

The event causes a global uproar, which brings about the Sokovia Accords, which will require the Avengers to become a government-run organization, taking commands from the UN. Naturally, the heroes have different point of view on this. Cap comes from a time when people were being rounded up and put into concentration camps, so the idea of registering people who are different and locking away those who don’t comply would not sit well with him.

Further adding to the debate is the fact that many of the actions that were used as examples of Avengers needing supervision were not the result of the Avengers’ actions. In the battle of New York, the governing body in charge wanted to nuke the entire city (rather than the giant hole in the sky where the alien invaders were coming from… which was stupid, but still). Certainly, the Avengers’ actions saved a lot of lives there.

Similarly, the events of Winter Soldier can’t be blamed on the Avengers.

Ultron totally can. But that movie sucked in every way possible, so I’m not sure how to discuss that. If people are being rounded up and locked away, why is the guy who created Ultron taking a leadership role in the new system?

The bottom line is that there is a lot of ground to cover here. There are many valid angles that can be played and many debates that can be had. The problem is, none of them are really explored. We don’t get much of an idea of what is in that huge document that the UN came up with. We don’t dig into the issues at hand. We don’t have any real sense of resolution to that arc. It’s like the writers got bored with the Scarlet Witch story, so they dropped her in a box and forgot about her. The Sokovia Accord storyline ultimately goes nowhere. Drop it from the story and you can still have the Bucky plotline, pretty much untouched.

And that’s the second movie plot here. Bucky. It’s a really interesting concept, because you have the best friend of Captain America being programmed to kill the parents of Iron Man… one of whom is also an old friend of Captain America. These facts are brought to light by a man who has a real reason for wanting to see these characters tear each other apart. It’s complicated, because even the villain or possibly villains of the story have honest reasoning.

In the middle of the conflict is Bucky, who is being used as a pawn by the villain, Zemo, to get Captain America and Iron Man to fight each other and destroy the foundation of the Avengers. (there is a lot of this plot that makes no sense… how did Zemo learn that Bucky killed the Starks? Why was there a randomly placed camera in the middle of nowhere to capture it all? And of course, I don’t think that the he was sitting there, planning out the details of the Sokovia Accords as he plotted his revenge. That’s just… sort of a… happy coincidence?)

Now, Bucky is a good guy. He wouldn’t murder people if he had a choice. He was programmed, which is hardly his fault. So he isn’t to blame. But Tony doesn’t see it that way. Even if he’s not to blame, Tony sees this person who killed his parents and who could be triggered at any moment. He must be stopped, and he must be stopped hard!

Cap sees his childhood friend. A victim who deserves to be saved just as much as any other victim that they’ve helped. What he did wasn’t his fault, and he shouldn’t be put down because of it. Locked away until he is fixed, maybe. But not killed. Not viewed as a villain.

Bucky himself is not really the person who murdered anyone, but he feels the guilt of those actions. He doesn’t believe that he can be fixed and he thinks that he should be stopped, if only so the monster inside of him can’t do anything like that again. He is sorry.

In the version we see, this all leads to a big fight where Iron Man is up against Bucky and Captain America, but it shouldn’t have been that way. Cap should have been fighting for his life, Iron Man should have been fighting for his death, and Bucky should have been in the middle of it, not fighting for himself at all. It would have been a representation of his internal conflict, and it all would have been earned.

Instead, the reveal of what happened to Tony’s parents comes at the last minute and his actions seem like he is lashing out emotionally. Just like a lot of his actions in the movie… not calculated and reasoned out, but knee-jerk emotional reactions that get out of hand. I know that’s how this character works a lot of the time, but it would have been more interesting if his hunting down Bucky wasn’t just emotional. It should have been logical struggle over the course of a whole movie, not a last minute excuse for a fight between good guys.

By trying to merge two movies into one, they sacrificed the integrity of both ideas. The resulting movie is a jumbled, nonsensical mess which could have been made better with the help of a red pen and someone who didn’t care about cramming the airport scene into the movie at all costs.

Again, these are just my opinions. Feel free to disagree.

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