I finally caught up with Captain America: Civil War yesterday after I felt safe enough to venture out after my recent surgery.As a companion piece to the dismal Batman versus Superman it’s interesting as it touches on the same sort of themes but does so intelligently in a way that this is a film where there’s no clear villains, just people with their own motivations to do what they think is right, even if that involves creating mayhem. This isn’t a film where you have no idea why people are doing things because the script is a garbled mess. From here on in it’s SPOILERS, so if you’ve not seen it you’ve been warned.
Civil War starts with an Avengers mission in Lagos that ends up going horribly wrong as Wakandan diplomats are accidentally killed. This causes the United Nations to propose a system to regulate The Avengers called the Sokovia Accords because having an unregulated, unanswerable group of superhumans flying around the planet causing mayhem, even if they save more lives than are lost, isn’t a good idea.
This splits the team in half. Captain America is against the plan thinking that The Avengers need to have the freedom to do what it has to without being answerable to governments because they ‘have agendas’ and ‘agendas change’. Iron Man on the other hand wants to keep the team in check so innocent lives are saved and those people that fear superhumans feel safer. Falling with Cap are The Falcon, Hawkeye, Ant Man, Scarlet Witch and The Winter Soldier, who is being framed for a massive terrorist attack on the day the Accords are signed. While falling in with Iron Man are War Machine, Vision, Black Widow, Black Panther and Spider Man.
A huge battle takes place in Germany before Cap and the Winter Soldier track down the culprit, Zemo a survivor of Ultron’s attack on Sokovia, of the attacks in Siberia and joined by Iron Man, they look set to team up to take down Zemo, but there’s a final twist that sets our heroes against each other as Tony Stark discovers the Winter Soldier murdered his parents. Eventually the battle ends but The Avengers are split in half, friends are turned against each other and a number of suerhumans are criminals on the run.
Compared with the previous Captain America film, The Winter Soldier, this isn’t as a complete entity as the ending is clearly left dangling for future films to resolve but this is almost Bond in the scale and span of it. What Civil War does well is to make the case for both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Steve’s motivated by his distrust of people who want to curb what he sees as personal freedom while Tony wants to curb The Avengers to make not just people feel safer, but to make them democratically accountable to the people. So Steve’s pushing a libertarian point while Tony’s pushing a more socially democratic point. One would think the positions would be reversed seeing as Steve’s a 1930’s lad and a democrat and Tony used to be a capitalist warmonger.
However this all serves the purpose of the film which is to split Iron Man and Captain America up as a unit that held The Avengers together thus making The Avengers weak as after all, the only ones left by the end of the film are Iron Man, Vision and Spider Man. All of Tony’s team have either betrayed him or moved on by the end and as for Cap’s team they’re either in hiding or on the run so the planet is left vulnerable which is setting things up for The Infinity War in a couple of years time. And that’s the big problem with Civil War. There’s no real resolution that’s satisfactory, just dangling plot threads that’ll be tied up in various films over the next three years and I understand the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is taking influence from it’s comic origins by doing this but it makes for a bit of a cheat in otherwise what is one of the best examples of the super hero film that’s been made so far.
What Civil War does is provide some intellectual substance to the MCU, especially after the misfiring Age of Ultron and the light, fun antics of Ant Man. That though isn’t what gets people’s arses on seats, it’s people in costumes hitting each other and Civil War fulfils it’s part to the letter with some splendid action scenes as it not just introduces The Black Panther to cinema (nice to see another strong black character too) and Tom Holland’s Ditko-esque Spider Man. Both characters have their own films coming out next year and off the basis of this both could be very good indeed.
Civil War is a fine example of how to make good superhero films with a bit more to it than action and violence. It’s also a film that can be watched so you think Iron Man is right or Cap is right and you experience the film differently. For me, Cap’s acting like a dick and needs a slap as it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a group like The Avengers can’t go flying around in the semi-real MCU because of the body count, and when Cap says ‘agendas’ he’s talking about democratically elected governments in most cases. Stark is at least admitting there needs to be a compromise and indeed, at several points Cap nearly goes with Stark to work out the problems with the Accords.That sort of mental meat was entirely absent from Batman versus Superman, or if it was in there I missed it in all the grimness watching ‘heroes’ let people die with no remorse or kill people for kicks. IN Captain America’s world there’s remorse and consequences of innocent people dying, They’re not just background noise.
I do hope Marvel continue this standard with Doctor Strange later this year, though without too many dangling plot threads. As for Civil War it is a turning point but as we long time comic readers know, the status quo will return. Steve and Tony will team up again and The Avengers will regroup because that’s how it is.