May 5, 2016
Captain America: Civil War- Shadowcon Mini-Views
This review is SPOILER FREE
With twelve films under their belt, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has undoubtedly taken the film world by storm, influencing everything from storytelling structure to branding to rethinking entire business practices. In terms of quality of storytelling, personally I’d say about half of the Marvel films have been good; rarely are they amazing beyond novelty, and sometimes they’re just bad films, however much the Marvel fanboy in me hates to admit it.
I’m happy to say, however, that “Captain America: Civil War” is one of the greats, up there with the previous super soldier film in the franchise, “The Winter Soldier,” as being one my favorites. Directed by the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, the film boasts now-classic and expectant Marvel action and humor, but also a surprisingly meaty through-line about security, trust, casualties, and “for the greater good” operations. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) express different points of view regarding how the Avengers as a unit should operate, catalyzed by the UN’s desire to have the team put under government supervision so as to theoretically stop all the destruction the Avengers cause in their attempts to help people. I liked this debate a lot, for sure, but more than that, I liked how both men had personal connections and reasons for believing what they did: Stark not wanting to see more people hurt, and having to deal with the personal guilt of having to look a mother in the eye as she tells him the his heroics killed her son; Rogers not wanting the government, with its politics and pencil-pushing, interfering with not only how he operates but also deciding who lives and who dies and having that be based more on political action than on saving as many lives as possible. This debate and the words said between these two drives a good chunk of the story, and it was great to see that happen.
A civil war of ideologies breaks out, with various other heroes taking sides, and all the action is sublime, effective in its mission to entertain, and just a ball all around, with all of these different personalities coming into conflict while still understanding that what they’re doing—throwing trucks at each other and being webbed up by Spider-Man—is kind of insane. There are a great many thrills to be had in this film, but unlike other superhero films, the action does not compromise the story, always being at the service of the plot or characters; its indulgence does not become self-indulgence, and that is a good thing.
As a sequel to “Winter Soldier,” I think “Civil War” is a decent follow-up. Because of the nature of the film’s need to be both a sequel to the Captain America and the Avengers films, I think it balances its two tasks as well as can be expected. The Bucky/Steve relationship I’ve never found particularly groundbreaking or interesting, honestly, but the writers try their best to infuse Bucky with some character this time around, making him a victim of other people and foregrounding that aspect of him in the film. This victimization and use as a tool for a corrupt government again feeds into the different ideologies at play, a literal representation of what Steve is afraid could happen to the Avengers, though obviously not on a literal scale, and it bridges the two roles that this film must serve quite well.
“Civil War” also serves as a meta-text for the broader state of superhero films, I think. The desire by big governments, Tony Stark, and Steve Rogers too, to not cause so much destruction and civilian casualties with their superheroics could be considered a commentary on the state of the superhero film craze that has taken Hollywood by storm: there is more to superhero movies than just action, and to rely on action at the expense of a good story sells the audience short and, in-universe, perhaps does more harm than good to the very people superheroes are attempting to save.