By Jim Foote
There are so many characters the Russo Brothers had to balance in both screen time and story placement. Let's count 'em. Cap, Iron Man, Black Panther, Falcon, Black Widow, The Winter Bucky, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Sweater Vision, Scarlet Witch, War Machine, Spider-Man, Thunderbolt Ross, Sharon Carter, "Don't Call Me Baron" Zemo, and Crossbones. Cameo by Peggy Carter in photo form, because well... why not?
How they managed to bring everyone together is beyond me. I would've just ended every writing session with action figures laid on the floor, making explosion sounds with my mouth.
However, some would say that's exactly what they did.
Let's recap the plot before I head into what worked and what didn't. The NEW Avengers (Cap, Widow, Falcon and Witch) are fighting Crossbones and as 'Bones tries to blow himself and Cap up, Witch contains it. She tries to lift him away but messed up and the blast kills people. From that, we get the Accords, which Thunderbolt Ross explains it's time for them to be accountable and answer to the United Nations. All they have to do is sign, or else they're not allowed to continue.
Cap believes the government or a governing entity can't be trusted and the safest hands are their own. Tony, riddled with guilt, believes they need to be kept in check. From there, we have our initial conflict.
To make matters worse, The Winter Bucky is framed (although we don't know that yet from a story perspective) for countless deaths, including Black Panther's father, The King. Cap wants to be the one to bring him in, although Panther is out for blood. Once Cap figures out he was framed by Zemo via the same programming from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he tries to clear his name. By then, no one cares or believes him, and Tony is sent to take both of them in.
Both Cap and Tony build their teams, with some doing it out of belief in the cause and some out of sheer loyalty. They fight in what has been dubbed "the airport scene," and it's an amazing action scene. I'll expand on it down below. After that, Cap and Bucky go to Siberia to confront Zemo, believing there are several other hibernating Winter Soldiers, ready to wake up. Tony follows them and they team up in their quest. Well... that is until Zemo reveals Bucky killed Tony's parents, albeit while under mind control.
Cap tries to defend Bucky and Tony's out for blood. We get our final battle. Bucky loses his arm, Tony gets beaten by Cap (with an assist by Bucky) and they get away.
Oh... and The Vision wears a sweater.
Now, before I continue, it's only right that I get the Batman V Superman comparisons out of the way. They are two separate movies in their own respective universes. That being said, I feel I should address some of the comparisons out there.
1. Baron Zemo had the same plan as Lex Luthor. Don't call him Lex. He's Alexander Luthor Jr. I can see how their objectives were similar, but their motivations are widely different. Zemo's family was killed during the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Luthor just... had a dad who didn't like him and some story about flowers. Also, Luthor loses and Zemo wins. Zemo got exactly what he wanted, whilst Luthor's plan was stupid and contrived.
2. Superman vs. Captain America.
Both are characters some say wouldn't translate to today's times, or modern times in general. Most of the criticisms of Superman deal with he's too much of a goody two shoes, too bland, boring, etc. The funny thing is... Chris Evans was the best Superman on the screen this year. He was more Superman than Superman himself. Crazy, huh?
3. Destruction and fallout.
A lot of BvS defenders will say, "You had a problem with the destruction and death but Civil War did the same thing." That's true, but false. Follow me, here. The key isn't the destruction but rather how it's handled. A big running theme in Civil War is consequence. Almost everything in the movie is a result of something else. It flows. It's natural. BvS was forced and clunky. Love the movie all you want, but that question is thin at best.
Back to Civil War.
One major fault some will have is whether the movie lines up with the comic. While there are certainly some aspects that take from the comic, it goes its own way. That's very important for those who didn't expect it. Think about it this way, the comic wasn't followed up by Infinity Gauntlet or Infinity War. The movies, though, follow a very specific timeline and Thanos is coming up soon. So this idea that Cap has to die, while it was something I expected, I can see it wasn't necessary. Besides, I think everyone's in for a hurting once Thanos comes knocking.
Black Panther's story works. It's a nice introduction because not many casual viewers know anything about him, who he is or what he can do. Here, you get a taste to wet the appetite. He works as a rather mysterious entity, clearing having his own goal in finding Bucky. Towards the end, you can see his arc completed as he gives up the revenge and knows the better way.
The other character new to the larger universe is Ant-Man. He only has about two scenes in him, but boy if he doesn't stand out. How he acts around Captain America alone is how we would act in a similar situation. "Thinks for thanking of me," says it all. Ant-Man's comedy fits perfectly with the tone Marvel has created, proving some levity in the midst of a super serious situation.
The show stealers really are Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., regardless of all the Spider-people and Metal cats that show up. You fully believe both of their convictions on the issues and see they both believe what they want is best for the overall team. But, like any opposite pair of friends, eventually tensions will rise. You see Downey play Tony as someone who is fed up, yet has no other cards to play. All he can do is appeal to his friend, hoping he can convince him. Yet, you know Steve won't. The way Chris Evans plays that, doesn't even come off as holier than thou. He plays is earnest and sincere. He knows the right way, even though everything else is trying to convince him otherwise. He would be the guy who, if he had to stand one against the world, he would do it anyway.
He can do this all day.
The Airport Scene
We get many different match-ups. Ant-Man vs. Spider-Man in the most obvious pairing that no one mentioned. C'mon, it's a war of bugs! We get some surprising ones, too, in Cap vs. Spider-Man, Iron Man vs. Scarlett Witch, and Black Panther vs. Hawkeye. Now, being an old school wrestling fan, I'm a sucker for team battles. I see Survivor Series. I see War Games. I see the Royal Rumble. The key is, people need to break off seamlessly into new match-ups within the same team battle. Otherwise, you lose the team aspect and it's just a bunch of single's fights next to each other. Make sense?
The characters also blend very well in the fight. Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye may look like he's putting forth the most effort, trying the hardest, but he loses his fight to The Vision and his fight to Black Panther. Sometimes, a guy with arrows just won't cut it. The only one who can seem to fight off Panther a decent amount is Cap. Everyone else eventually gets tossed to the side. Giant-Man taking on (all at once) Iron-Man, War Machine, Vision, Panther, AND Spider-Man... I mean that's a pretty good distraction for Team Cap and a really respectable showing for Ant-Man. or... Gi-ANT Man. Hueueueueueue.
As soon as Ant-Man says, "I got something big..." I turned into Lucille Bluth when she comes face to face with Gene Parmesan.
The entire ending works for me. It may seem like nothing more than a cheap ploy, having Bucky be Tony's parents' murderer. Yet, it works. Sure, Tony knows he was mind controlled, but how can he control himself? He's already dealing with lots of guilt and loss throughout the movie, everything from Pepper to his Avengers to his parents. Now finding out the man who killed your parents is right in front of you? I would've tried to kill Bucky just as quickly.
But as good as Cap is... he still tries to save both of them. With him fighting Iron Man, he's attempting to save Bucky from death and Tony from himself. Even though Tony could kill Bucky, it would rip Tony apart eventually. That's why Cap didn't kill him. He couldn't. All he needed to do was incapacitate him.
I loved Panther not letting Zemo kill himself. LOVED it. Whether he comes back as actual Zemo or more so this version, I care not. But I'm happy a villain survived and in this case, won. He wanted the Avengers to rip themselves from the inside... and they did. That's why I can forgive Cap not dying. By the end of this movie, let's recap where everyone stands.
Captain America: No longer really Cap, as he throws down his shield. Now a fugitive, holds up in Wakanda.
Bucky: Puts himself under stasis again.
Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, and Ant-Man: All fugitives, broken out of the Raft prison by Cap.
Vision: Now questioning himself, after the War Machine screw up.
War Machine: Possibly paralyzed long time, status unknown.
Black Widow: Having turned, now a fugitive as well.
The only real people left are Tony, Panther, and Spider-Man. Peter Parker, no one really knows, so he's fine. Panther has Bucky, Cap, and possibly the other members of Team Cap, in Wakanda. Once people find out, they'll be coming. Even he says, "let them try." The problem is, of the remaining three, none of them are going to be on The Avengers anymore. So by the end of the flick, The Avengers have been disassembled.
I'm at least intrigued for Black Panther, which is way more than I could've said going into the movie. Some of these characters, you probably won't see until Thanos shows up, but I think the space will serve them well.
The main word to use for this movie is fun. Coming off the previous superhero/comic book flick, sometimes movies take themselves way too seriously. It's nice to get back to the tone of Marvel movies where you can still have some humor and fun while remaining serious. Like I said to fellow writer Josh, if you're looking for a direct adaptation of the comic, you're more likely than not going to be disappointed. It takes the basic plan, but deviates and goes its own way. To some people, that may be a line not to be crossed and turn some viewers off, which is completely understandable. But I stand by my, "infinity War didn't follow this in the comics, but it does now" argument.
There were times throughout the movie, I realized I was sitting there with a big smile on my face, just in complete awe. I had one of those moments where I thought to myself, "I'm really watching a bunch of superheroes... and Black Widow... fighting each other." Then Ant-Man went Giant and Spider-Man was talking about the AT-ATs. Talk about a good time...
I'm just bummed I won't see any Vision in a sweater for a while.
I give this movie 8.5 Sweatered Visions out of 10.
So, this review felt incomplete with mentioning something. When the... I think SECOND... trailer came out for Civil War, I saw something that I hoped would be in the movie and immediately sucked me in. It sucked me in like the weird girl did to Pre-Superman Henry Cavill in Hellraiser: Hellworld. Josh, that was the name, right? The online one?
Anyway... the fact that Ant-Man shrunk down onto one of Hawkeye's arrows... or as Ant-Man calls him, "Arrow Guy," was something that shows me 3 things. One, they pay attention to the comics and these characters. Sure, they may have not followed the comic of this story directly, but they were well aware of the Ant-Eye tag team. Two, they wanted the viewers to have them some pure fun. Three, they were ready to pull out all the stops when it came to this fight.
So for this.... I REJECT the previous score of 8.5. NOW... I give it a 9 Ant-Arrows out of 10.