Okay, so even though I repeatedly said I wouldn’t, and that I had no interest in it (that part was true), I did see Captain America: Civil War.
I was not, contrary to what most of you hope and many had assured me, blown away.
Don’t get me wrong: Civil War wasn’t a bad movie. It certainly wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the tire fire that was the comics it’s based on. But…it just wasn’t very interesting. Like Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron before it, it seems to give fans a lot of eye candy and a fun time at the movies, but I wonder whether it would hold up to another viewing in a couple of weeks, when the “new” has worn off.
For my money, I’d much (much) rather have seen Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice again. I think it’s far more interesting both visually and in terms of storytelling, and I personally enjoyed it much more.
Granted, my disdain for both the Civil War comics and the last few Marvel Studios movies brought me into the cinema with a lot of reasons not to like the film, and a essentially brought the movie to bat with two strikes. But you know what? I’m okay with that.
First of all, because this review is appearing on the Emerald City Video podcast, not on ComicBook.com, so I feel like I can be me and I don’t have to be a journalistic “we.”
Second of all, that’s how a great many reviewers and pundits went into Batman V Superman, so I guess we have the precedent set that we can be dicks now.
Anyway, I had some thoughts on the film. Some of them are big picture, some of them are small potatoes. Either way, this is what I jotted down as I watched through the film for the first time.
1) The establishing captions reminds me of something out of a Wes Anderson movie, for size and font. This isn’t really bad, per se, but it feels weird and out of place in a superhero film. Every time those giant captions would pop up on screen I would think “where’s the punchline here?” They really feel like they’re either a gag or something out of a really snooty indie film. When neither turns out to be true, it’s just…odd.
2) Something about Redwing (Falcon's mechanical bird) doesn’t quite work for me. It doesn’t look REAL. VFX, maybe? Anyway, not a HUGE deal since it’s used fairly sparingly. I will say that in a movie so full of quips and jokes, the fact that nobody made a Clash of the Titans reference is a little disappointing.
This time out, some of the Iron Man action also looked fake to me. Maybe I’m just getting used to it? Could it be that even as impressive as what they’re capable of doing with him is, you eventually just start to see the seams?
3) How the fuck did Natasha use a guy as a meat shield to get out of the armored car when a grenade was going off inside? No, seriously movie. I need to know what you’re using for physics. Last I checked, Natasha is just somebody who’s a really good fighter with no special powers. Even if the grenade is powerful enough to blow the back door off the truck, I'm unclear as to how her holding a dude in front of her while the explosion rocks her and the building she's in is going to do much.
4) Collateral damage from Scarlet Witch may be a plot point, but it’s no more justifiable than in Man of Steel or Batman V Superman, when so many bloggers bitched and moaned about it.
Unsurprisingly, it’s been crickets about collateral damage in Civil War.
5) Rumlow (Crossbones) is just...wasted. Just like so many other villains. Marvel has the worst habit of just killing bad guys more or less at random, even villains who in the comics have plenty of good stories to tell. The worst offender on this score was Iron Man 3, where a bunch of familiar names were hastily applied to Extremis soldiers who were basically extras. But we have some of it in Civil War, too.
Crossbones feels particularly egregious because he came back from Winter Soldier for this. You want to know how to do that right, Marvel? Check out how Scarecrow functioned in the Dark Knight movies.
6) Did they digitally make RDJ younger like they did Michael Douglas?! WHY?!
I get it: Michael Douglas was a proof of concept that this creepy digital de-aging thing can work. But it didn't look all that good in Ant-Man and it didn't improve at all before Civil War.
7) Many of the best actors in the film are wasted in nothing roles. Hope Davis as Maria Stark? What?! We also have Alfre Woodard in a nothing-at-all role. This is the same thing they did in Batman V Superman — just stocking up on hugely accomplished actors to play roles that demanded nothing of them — but at least in Batman V Superman most of the roles seemed to be an investment in the future of the DCverse, whereas here, we get famous people appearing just to appear.
8) Apparently Tony went to MIT? Did we know that? I feel like we probably knew that. Anyway, it seemed worth mentioning since they mention it a half-dozen times at his MIT thing and then when he's meeting up with Peter Parker.
9) Also: Pepper Potts is Sir Not Appearing In This Film, so you have to make a meaningful beat out of it? Why? She didn't appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron, either, and nobody noticed or cared. And this isn't an Iron Man film.
10) Dean Pelton was pointless, I’m sorry. Yes I get it, the Russos worked on Community and they stuck the dean from Greendale in as a dean from MIT. But...no. Just stop.
11) WTF is Alfre Woodard doing in this movie, besides carrying over the worst/dumbest part of the comic? Tony may be an egomaniac, but he's neither stupid, nor a sociopath. He knows that these battles cost lives, and he cares about it. The implication that one or both of those things isn't true is offensive to the character.
12) Exposition News Network! Woohoo! We get a sequence of Avengers sitting around watching news reports that literally just narrate the events of the botched Nigerian operation and what it means for them on TV.
13) Ross as Secretary of State, Vision in a sweater...these are images and concepts that have some resonance in the comics, but...they're odd choices.
14) “There are some who would prefer the word ‘vigilantes,’” Ross says. Umm, who, exactly, prefers that? Because they were all fucking deputized and even after the Avengers was privatized we continued to see them interacting with official powers.
15) Also: 117 countries came together and agreed on something like this without raising ANY red flags with the Avengers? And the final blow came in the first act of this movie, which means…how fast did they write these Accords?!
16) Ross says that the Avengers “Routinely ignore sovereign borders to inflict their will wherever they choose and who, frankly, seem unconcerned about what they leave behind.” That's actually a really fair criticism, since Captain America is an enlisted soldier and The Avengers are part of a U.S. government organization. Creating international incidents is a big no-no for those kinds of groups.
17) Wait, nobody ever prosecuted Widow for releasing all those classified files? How did she skate past those charges?!
18) December 16, 1991 - The week Tony Stark's parents were murdered by the Winter Soldier was the week The Punisher was black, and Marvel published “What If No One Was Watching The Watcher?”
19) The Vision: “Our very strength invites challenge” - The Dark Knight thesis
20) I’m sorry, but giving Steve’s MOST ICONIC SPEECH to dead Peggy in a half-hearted delivery by Sharon…it’s just…no.
21) SO MANY DADDY ISSUES
22) Wow…that attack on the UN is almost identical to the attack on the Capitol, huh?
23) There’s no getting around how creepy the Cap/Sharon flirtation is here.
24) OH! And they framed Bucky for the attack, too? Hmm.
25) The “in my culture, death is not the end…” speech does not give a lot of confidence that the middle-aged white guys who write these films really GET other cultures.
26) So…what the hell did that Winter Soldier PS from Ant-Man have to do with anything?
27) The gratuitous product placement in the middle of what should be a badass chase sequence with Panther is actually something they might have gotten away with if Infiniti didn’t release that stupid ad.
28) The first time Marvel has ever had three black people int he same scene, and two of them are being arrested.
29) Wow. So “Mr. Stark would like to avoid another public incident” is enough of an excuse for Vision to hold Wanda against her will?
30) “I ask you as both warrior and king: how long do you think you can keep your friend safe from me?” — So, Black Panther just jumps right into abuse of power. Wow. Well done.
31) Tony referring to his friend as a weapon of mass destruction really does fall into the Mark Millar area where he’s a flat-out bad guy
32) “My name is Bucky” when he doesn’t know Steve is listening is basically the dumbest line in the sand to draw, like, ever.
33) Can we make “December 16, 1991” into a drinking game?
34) Captain America can kick cars into people. Bucky can throw Captain America through walls. Somehow, Tony (without a suit) and Sharon are able to go blow for blow with him without serious internal injury. Explain.
35) And then T’Challa just beats him up.
36) After which Cap (remember, the wall punch guy) is stronger than a helicopter. And I don’t care how cool it sounds on principle, that’s a dumbass scene.
37) ,,,Wait, what? The scene from the end of Ant-Man is just a random scene from the middle of the movie?
38) The whole Bucky-killed-Tony’s-parents thing would have been a fucking AMAZING reveal…for “Agent Carter Season 2” or something. Having it here is just too little too late in terms of it making a dent.
39) Tony flirting with Aunt May is totally appropriate for this version of the characters, but still feels icky.
40) Why does Peter sound like Andrew Garfield’s Peter?
41) Peter’s whole “when you can do the things that I can, but you don’t” philosophy is 100% Steve’s philosophy, so…is Tony manipulating a teenager?
42) I know everybody thinks Spider-Man is amazing. He’s not. He’s annoying.
43) I won’t lie: Wanda dropping cars on Iron Man was the coolest thing I’ve seen in any non-GOTG Marvle movie.
44) There’s our ride,” and then cut to a stair car? It works, because you’re in an airport, but mostly it feels like they’re trying to evoke the Russo’s early days on Arrested Development.
45) Even before the thing with his parents, Tony seems to take everything way too personal. This all feels like something that is being done to inconvenience him, and he’s really a dick.
46) Rhode kind of deserves what he gets for trying to shoot the others to death. And what happens to Rhodey is no more Team Cap’s fault than the guy whose grenade killed him after he targeted Batman.
47) Also: All those people who bitched that the title fight in BvS didn’t take place until way too long into the movie have no place to talk about the greatness of the airport scene. It’s a hell of a piece of choreography, but it’s an hour and a half in.
48) Both Steve and Tony are totally insane people driven by myopia and ego. Neither of them is genuinely good.
49) Apparently giving a black hero a solo film means Rhodey’s disposable.
50) The film’s “mystery” all comes together from something for which absolutely no clues were dropped at the 1:45 mark.
51) “The Raft”
52) Mark Fuhrman
53) Thunderbolt Ross is a problem for this film. He’s profoundly one-dimensional and always has been in every film incarnation. And it’s just…not fun…to watch him.
54) For a movie that spends pretty much half of its time talking about this bill, the bill is never particularly explained. EVEN LESS than in the comics, which is pretty impressive.
55) To their credit, everybody on the run at the end indicates that all this talk about laws and breaking the law hasn’t completely fallen on deaf screenwriter-ears. At least there’s some fallout.
56) Manchurian Candidate is a nice nod. Pretty appropriate to Bucky, actually.
57) Zemo isn’t even evil here, he’s just…he’s the fucking Age of Ultron version of the Maximoff Twins.
58) Steve knew…but how? When? It doesn’t really make any sense.
59) I will give them credit for all the times people tell Steve “move.” I can see why they traded the speech off to somebody else, because it would have been TOO on the nose coming from him. But…eh. Still.
60) Also: The dumbass “he’s my friend/so was I” thing actually kind of works now. Because Tony is in a fragile emotional state.
61) And, yes…the bad guys win. Because that’s how you end a superhero movie.
62) Tony even tells him to stay down. Because there weren’t enough BvS echoes yet.
63) REALLY?!?!?!?! “My father made that shield” is better than “Martha?”
64) They try to buy back the fact that Steve and Tony were selfish and stupid by showing that Rhodey, at least, did it for the right reasons. And so he’s the one who gets to pay the price.
Cap: 2 (+1 if gas was lethal?)
Bucky: 2 (minimum)