Captain America: Civil War
Once again, Marvel Studios delves into the lives of The Avengers, only this time, it would seem that the writers and director decided to take a little bit of a new approach to the storytelling for Civil War. For me at least, this was most unexpected and also very welcome, at least for me. But more on that later.
The film opens with a scene in which Bucky Barnes intercepts a car to recover more of the super soldier serum that made him into the Winter Soldier and made Steve Rogers into Captain America.
About a year after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, several of the Avengers manage to stop an attempt to steal a biological weapon from a lab in Lagos. The antagonist, Rumlow, decides that he cannot get away so he detonates a bomb in which he will kill himself as well as others on the streets. Wanda, the Scarlet Witch attempts to direct the blast away from her fellow Avenger, but several bystanders in a building are killed. The bystanders Wakandan humanitarian workers.
Owing to the death and destruction left in the wake of previous battles, particularly those in New York, London, and Sokovia, the United Nations prepare to pass the Sokovia Accords to establish an international group that will oversee the Avengers in hopes of limiting further devastation resulting from their activities. When U.S. Secretary of State Ross informs the team (minus Thor and Bruce Banner), there is a definite split in opinions between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers on whether the accords are needed or not. Stark believes that since it was his activities that led to the rise of Ultron, the U.N. Is justified in their concerns while Rogers maintains that the Avengers are well able to govern themselves.
During the conference that would ratify the accords in Vienna, a bomb kills many including King T’Chaka of the Wakanda. When the security footage is reviewed, the bomber appears to be a very fuzzy view of Bucky Barnes. T’Chaka’s son, T’Challa vows that he will find and kill Bucky. Rogers is tipped off by Sharon Carter (Peggy Carter’s niece) as to the whereabouts of Bucky. Rogers sets off to bring Bucky in alone. He and Sam Wilson find Bucky in a hideout in Bucharest and attempt to protect him from being captured by authorities, but all, including T’Challa (as the Black Panther) are apprehended.
Helmut Zemo steals a book that contains code words that activate Bucky to become the Winter Soldier. Zemo then manages to gain entrance to the facility where Bucky is being held in very tight security and activates him sending Bucky into a rampage to cover his own escape. Rogers intercedes and manages to take Bucky away and allow him to regain his senses. Bucky explains that Zemo is on his way to a facility where there are other super soldiers are awaiting activation from stasis.
Realizing that they will never catch Zemo in time if they wait for permission, Rogers and Wilson decide to go rogue. They also bring in Wanda, Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and Scott Lang (Ant-Man) for assistance. Meanwhile, Stark assemblies a team consisting of himself, Natasha, T’Challa, James Rhodes (War Machine), Vision, and a very young Peter Parker (Spider-Man). Rogers team is intercepted by Stark's team at a German airport where a battle ensues. Rogers and Bucky manage to escape with the help of Natasha, but the rest of Rogers’ team is captured and imprisoned, but Rhodes is wounded and partially paralyzed after accidentally shot out of the sky by Vision. Natasha is forced into hiding.
When Stark learns that Bucky was framed by Zemo, he talks with Wilson who tells him where to find Rogers. Stark (who is secretly followed by T’Challa) arrives at the Siberian HYDRA Facility and makes a truce with Rogers and Bucky. They discover that the super soldiers have been killed by Zemo who is from Sokovia and has taken on the mission of punishing the Avengers for the death of his family. Zemo shows Stark a film that allows him to see that the car that Bucky intercepted was being driven by Howard Stark and his wife, Stark becomes enraged and turns on Bucky and blasts off Bucky’s mechanical arm. Rogers, in turn, disables Stark’s armor. Leaving his shield behind, Rogers departs with Bucky. Thinking that he has accomplished what he set out to do, Zemo attempts suicide but is stopped and apprehended by T’Challa.
The movie closes with Rhodes working on learning to use exoskeletal leg braces that Stark has made for him, while Rogers breaks his comrades out of custody.
In two “Easter-egg” scenes, Rogers and Bucky are granted asylum in Wakanda by T’Challa. Bucky has chosen to have himself placed back into cryogenic sleep until his brainwashing can be broken. At the end of the credits, Peter Parker plays with a device that Stark has given him.
I managed to avoid spoilers leading up to my viewing of the film and was very much pleased with some of the character development in this film. While many of the established characters were pretty much the same as always, I was again very pleased with the performance turned in by Robert Downy Jr. as Tony Stark. In the past, I have been rather snarky on the subject of Stark’s appearances because he has come off as a constant deliverer of snappy one-liners showing very little depth of character. I just plain didn’t like him, but in Age of Ultron as well as this film, he has become more thoughtful and is looking at what he does and seeing that there are consequences. In one scene where he announces that he has funded all of the projects that students of M.I.T. are working on, there is almost no evidence of his usual past super ego that was portrayed in the Iron-Man films and is becoming a character that I am starting to like a lot. Wanda has become a very important part of the Avengers and has come to terms with working well with others. It was nice to see Bucky return as someone who was more than just a mindless automaton bent on destruction at the hands of his HYDRA handlers. We see a hint of a budding relationship taking place between Vision and Wanda that I well remember from the days many years ago when I read comics regularly. Also from those halcyon days of reading Avengers comics was the addition of T’Challa, the Black Panther brilliantly played by Chadwick Boseman! It is my sincere hope that T’Challa returns in future films and perhaps will get a feature of his own. Boseman is a classy actor playing a classy character that was one of my favorites when I was much younger. Another addition to the Marvel Film Universe under the auspices of Disney was young Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Now I have to admit that I have never really been a huge fan of Spider-Man and have avoided the feature films made over the past several years, but this portrayal of the Web-slinger was refreshing and fun. I was, at first, apprehensive when I learned that he was to be included, but the writers did a great job using this portrayal to inject some fresh and youthful perspective into the film. I especially loved when he was wrapping up Ant-Man’s legs with webbing all the while describing scenes from The Empire Strikes Back! Hilarious! Another addition was Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, the niece of Peggy Carter. While she did appear in a previous film, she received some small amount of character development as an ally of Rogers, as well as a potential love interest. But this brings me to the only disturbing moment in the film as she grabs Rogers and plants a kill on him that, in light of the relationship with Peggy in the first Captain America film, made me cringe just a little bit.
One of the things that one can depend upon in the Marvel films these past few years is that there is usually a clear-cut line in the good versus evil. The villains are usually pretty easy to spot and the Avengers know what their target is. In this film though, the lines are not so clear cut. In the case of Civil War for the most part, we have the good guys fighting the good guys, and even the one bad guy, Zemo, was not a super villain, but rather became more of a terrorist as a means of taking revenge for the death of his family.
For me, the first hour of the film was a little slow, not too slow, but from my point of view, the writers of this film have taken things to a new height in Marvel films; they seemed to delve into the realm of philosophy and gave me food for thought as I reflect on what I saw. What I detected was a struggle not between good and evil, but rather a struggle between idealism and pragmatism.
Captain America would seem to be the ultimate idealist. He is willing to go against the established command structure and go a bit outside the law to do what he sees as right. The first instance of this is when he tells Stark that there is no need to sign the Sokovia Accords; as far as Cap is concerned, the Avengers are more than capable of seeing what the objective is and can determine how to take care of it. This is not to say that he is willing to just take lives and leave destruction is the wake of the battle without feeling remorse as a consequence. Cap has fought in a war where there was a lot of collateral damage and believes that it is something that has to be accepted if the battle is to be won. On the other hand, as a pragmatist, Tony Stark realizes that he can make mistakes as he along with Banner created Ultron. Stark is willing to accept that the Avengers should operate within a structure that might limit how they operate and is willing to accept limitations even when morals may be telling him that action is needed. This is one way in which the Stark character has grown in the franchise.
Another example of this dichotomy is when one looks at how the two are divided on the subject of Bucky Barnes. Cap knows that Bucky has done wrong in the past, and is willing to have him face justice, but it has to be on Cap’s idealistic terms; he is not going to let anyone just summarily kill Bucky, even if Bucky is guilty (and even Bucky himself admits that he did kill Stark’s parents, which alluded to me that Bucky believes he was wrong and at least understands why Stark is behaving the way he is). One defense Rogers uses against Stark was that Bucky was under the influence of HYDRA when he committed the crime, he can therefore not be held responsible. At the same time, Stark takes the pragmatic view that it doesn’t matter who was in control, Bucky committed a criminal act and should pay for it.
So who is right and who is wrong? Or is there some gray area here and there is no clear cut right or wrong? As far as I am concerned, it is up to each of us as individuals to decide the answers to those questions that best fits our personal philosophies. As for myself, I find it difficult to adopt a strictly idealistic or pragmatic point of view; each situation calls for careful study and the solution will come from the side that best fits. Perhaps what is commonly perceived as a dichotomy is actually false in many cases.
At any rate, Captain America: Civil War is an excellent film. It is entertaining, humorous, serious, and has some great battle scenes that all comes together into one hell of a roller coaster ride that should be seen by on the big screen. But at the same time, be careful, it might also make you think.
Well, there it is…