Thursday, June 02, 2016

A Rambling Review Of Captain America: Civil War

Civil War the movie is better than Civil War the comic event. An admittedly extremely low bar to clear. Yes, it's time to discuss Captain America: Civil War, and there will be spoilers if you haven't seen the film yet!

But I'm going to start with a question for the people who have seen it. And I guess this constitutes a spoiler, but I already warned you, so deal with it. When did Steve find out Bucky killed Tony Stark's parents? I know he found out in The Winter Soldier they were murdered, but I wasn't sure we were to take it as given Bucky was used for that specific act. Honestly, killing an elderly couple as they drive alone at night hardly requires a master brainwashed assassin. I know I got confused when Tony asks if Steve knew, and Steve admits he did, but opted not to tell Tony. And of course, Tony immediately tries to kill Bucky in an (understandable) rage, which possibly demonstrates not telling Tony was a good plan. Or that he should have told Tony earlier, when Thor or Rhodey were around to help restrain him.

This was, for me, the weakest of the three Captain America movies. Of course, it's closer to an Avengers film than a Captain America one, so perhaps not surprising. It was kind of nice to see Spider-Man (even if he was on Tony's side, again), but it felt shoehorned in. Stark drags him in for the fight, then he drops back out. I suppose Spidey could represent the sort of people who would be negatively affected by the Sokovia Accords: this kid, got powers by accident, just trying to help people, and now some vague UN council would get to tell him when and where he could and couldn't help people, might tell him he has to kill people, and doesn't really consider him a person so much as a weapon. Except, of course, they already had that going with Wanda.

But I suppose it helps highlight how bullshit Tony's support of the Accords is, since he bribes/extorts (he basically threatens to tell Aunt May if Peter doesn't go along, which is pretty shitty, but also pretty perfectly Tony Stark)  this kid into a fight against people who are trained soldiers and killers, without, you know, consulting anyone or getting authorization. We didn't see how it went down, but I assume Clint and Ant-Man were at least asked if they would be willing to help Cap out.

I do think we needed to see Steve made some sort of public comment on what happened in Lagos. Why didn't they involve local law enforcement? Were there time constraints, concerns about security leaks, something else? Steve tries to take responsibility when talking with Wanda, because she's a kid and he doesn't want her to be too hard on herself since she was trying to save lives (and I appreciated that scene). But it would have been good to see him making some kind of public acknowledgement of the fact things went, let's say sub-optimally. Or at least him talking to Stark or Natasha or someone about making that statement, if he didn't feel qualified. I feel like even if he feels his judgment is the best to determine when and where he uses his abilities, he'd still feel a sense of responsibility to the people he's trying to protect.

And look, you're not going to convince me that in the Marvel Universe, government registration or oversight is a good thing. I know Millar always argued we'd want it in our world, and he's probably right, although I'd argue large groups of people want things all the time, especially if it involves someone footing the bill, and that doesn't make it right. But the Marvel U. is not our world, no matter how much they try to make it our world, and there's a wealth of evidence in continuity that the once the government butts in, it starts going badly. Super-villains get the secret identities, or they get into positions of power, or you just get bigoted assholes, or incompetent dopes giving the orders.

Even in the relatively limited movie continuity, we just had a whole Captain America movie about how SHIELD was actually being manipulated by HYDRA, and there was no oversight to stop them (or the oversight was also HYDRA, like Shandling's Senator character). Or the mysterious board of Directors who tried to make Fury nuke New York, then just went around him when he refused. And there's nothing mentioned about who the Accords are going to put in place to keep an eye on the people keeping an eye on the Avengers. But the person they sent to deliver the news is Thunderbolt Ross, who gave a guy some untested sorta-Super Soldier Serum and helped create the Abomination. Certainly someone with moral authority to speak about behaving without oversight. As far as I know, Ross wasn't demoted or court-martialed for his nonsense, which including a massive firefight on a college campus.

So it's sort of an issue for the movie, because what makes a certain amount of sense in the real world, doesn't in the fictional one, and the two sides grate. I did think it was interesting that Steve seemed willing to go along with the Accords once he had brought Bucky in alive (and the fact the strike team was immediately going to "Kill" was hardly a ringing endorsement of this new world of oversight and authorizations), until Stark lets slip Wanda is a prisoner, because her powers are making her be considered not a person.

The movie was the seemingly bog-standard 2.5 hours, and it was noticeable. About the time Tony visits the underwater prison, I remember thinking, "How much longer is this thing going?" I think because there are so many threads in it, and the film shifts from one to another, I was more aware of how long it was going. I wasn't as drawn in. Probably because not every thread was of interest, so when we hit one of the boring ones, I got antsy.

I enjoyed a lot of the action sequences, the airport fight was cool. Chadwick Boseman as the T'Challa was pretty cool. He also has some understandable anger, but you can see him assessing what's going on, pulling information together. He's not just raging about, trashing everything. Really wish they had made Agent 13 Peggy's niece if they're going to do a romance thing between her and Steve. I think Chris Evans and Emily VanCamp have some decent chemistry, but yeah, maybe find another way to get her in the movie. I could do without the teasing of a possible Wanda/Vision thing, because I've never really been interested in that. Or maybe it's more accurate to say I've never been interested in the Vision? Kind of sad we didn't get more of Frank Grillo's Crossbones. Also, I have to imagine it isn't going to help Tony's PTSD that he thought Captain America was going to decapitate him with that shield for a moment.

There are a lot of little bits I liked. Bucky and Sam not liking each other, but both believing in Steve. Not all your friends are going to get along. Really enjoyed that airport fight scene, wanted to mention that again. Wanda driving Vision deep into the Earth. Stark mentioning how much he'd like to put Ross on hold, then getting to put Ross on hold. I feel as though I like Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye a little more each time I see him. He's not my Hawkeye exactly, but there's bits and pieces of him, and he's got a bit of that clever streak Hawkeye's supposed to have about knowing how to leverage his strengths.

I haven't said anything about Zemo, but he really didn't make much of an impression on me. He has this whole elaborate plan, and I don't know what he was going to do if say, Natasha had pursued Cap and Bucky to Siberia instead of Stark, and I don't know, it didn't work for me. Again, maybe there was too much other stuff. A more focused movie, maybe just Cap and Falcon trying to save Bucky, Zemo as a more central villain, rather than this guy who pops up as the Avengers catch their breath from punching each other, that might have worked. Also, didn't the film say he was part of Sokovian Death Squads? I guess I'm not sure how we're supposed to read him. As a stand-in for the innocent people who get hurt, but survive? The insufficiency of the Avengers, that they don't do enough, don't save enough? Or that they shouldn't be acting at all? Sokovia was destroyed because of Ultron, and Ultron was Stark's fault. The contrast with T'Challa is Zemo was consumed by his desire for revenge, while T'Challa draws back. So, understand his anger - so much understandable anger in this movie - but deplore his response?

I suppose I should be glad they didn't go the easy route of having the person trying to destroy the Avengers be some shadowy cabal of power players who think the superheroes threaten their death grip on things. I mean, there are people like that in the world, who have it all and want to make damn sure it all stays in their hands, but in this case, it might have been a little too pat. So they went with someone who is telling the Avengers, "Hey, you may have tried to your best to save innocent lives, but guess what? Your best wasn't good enough and fuck you." Might have been nice to see a counterpoint of people who still believed in the Avengers, but they seemed to want to have the team crack apart under external pressures (both governments and individuals), I guess so they can come back together when Thanos shows up and the world needs them.

What's going to happen to Clint's family? Or Scott Lang's daughter for that matter? Those two are on the run now, as part of Cap's A-Team (that seemed like the natural name after Steve's letter ended with you know how to get in touch with us). That's something I'd like to see at some point. That little group, traveling the country, handling threats as they find them. Maybe Natasha passes something along, maybe they pop up to help Spider-Man when the Sinister Six form. Either way, they do some good, more low-level, not planet-threatening problems, then vanish again.

As it is, I probably need to watch Civil War again at some point, but I don't think I'll be looking forward to that as eagerly as I was seeing Deadpool again.


Kelvin Green said...

Zemo knew that Stark would be going after Cap because that's how he planned it. He arranged for the psychologist he replaced to be found and because of Stark's position in whatever the organisation is called -- it's not the Avengers, and it's not SHIELD, so I'm not sure what it is -- he was going to be among the first to see the photographs.

As for Tony's parents, I think Bucky's involvement was revealed in Winter Soldier, maybe when Cap and Widow meet Zola. I'll have to watch it again. It won't be a chore to do so.

CalvinPitt said...

I think you're right about The Winter Soldier bit. I know Zola told them Howard and Maria were murdered, for sure.