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Captain America: Civil War

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Captain America: Civil War was probably my most anticipated Marvel movie ever.

I mean, that’s not a particularly difficult title to achieve. I only finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy about six months ago, enjoyed Ant Man more than most of their movies, and still haven’t seen the first Captain America, despite watching Agent Carter. But The Winter Soldier was fantastic — when I finally watched it, a year after everyone else — and I couldn’t wait for the clever plotting and high emotional stakes that Civil War promised to provide.

So, does it live up to all that hype and potential? The rest of the world seemed to think so, judging from its score on Rotten Tomatoes, but my response was far more muted. Not “omg best movie ever,” but that solid, “yeah, it was good” feeling you get when you don’t regret seeing a movie, but aren’t exactly going to be thinking about it much once you leave the theatre.

Which is a solid result for a superhero movie, but perhaps not what the movie wanted to be. Unfortunately, Civil War is never quite as philosophically interesting as it aspires to be.

The set-up is a pretty good one, if slightly too convoluted to explain in a sentence. After Wanda accidentally kills people when trying to disarm a bomb, the world demands more oversight on The Avengers — something that Tony Stark supports, as he’s haunted by the casualties his own superheroing has left behind, but that Steve disagrees with, as it will cripple the group’s ability to do good. When it seems that The Winter Soldier has attacked a UN meeting on the issue, the Avengers are forbidden to interfere, but Steve can’t just stand by and watch his friend be hunted and killed, turning him and his allies into outlaws.

So far, so good. It’s a compelling and morally interesting set-up, because there’s no clear right answer. UN oversight will potentially cripple the Avengers’ ability to do good. But superpowered individuals acting without any oversight at all is pretty dangerous too. They don’t necessarily know the best course of action, just because they’ve been granted superpowers, and too much free reign could potentially lead to superheroes sliding down into supervillains. Similarly, Bucky is Steve’s friend, and he’s been brainwashed… but he is also dangerous and, as far as anybody knows, just murdered a whole bunch of people. Everyone in the fight has a point.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long. “Captain America is totally right and Iron Man needs to stop” becomes the theme of the movie. Once we get to the secret underwater superhero prison, the whole “monitoring is good for us” argument falls apart, and the logic behind Tony’s stance collapses too. He’s willing to help his fellow heroes, because he knows injustice is being done, but then he stands by his initial stance at the movie’s end. This might be related to his discoveries about Bucky, but it isn’t really explained, making “Team Tony” a little confusing by the end.

On the plus side, Civil War is excellent at providing the superhero spectacle part of the equation. There are a lot of characters in this one, but the movie somehow managed to prevent it from turning into character soup. Mostly, it did this by remembering who was important — it’s Steve and Tony, then the people closest to them, with the others mainly cropping up for humor and spectacle. Characters who appeared in The Winter Soldier have emotional arcs, and Ant Man just shows up to add to the fun.

So we have the big fight between all of the heroes as a fun showcase of their different strengths and potential combo powers, but then in the finale, it’s reduced to the key three, allowing it to focus less on tricks and more on emotion. My takeaway from the movie, though, was that one big fight. The “wasn’t spiderman funny??” and “wasn’t it cool when…” parts of the film. Although the emotional set-up of the finale was compelling, it didn’t quite come together.

And then let’s get to the “feminist fiction”-relevant parts of the movie. There basically were none. There were three female hero-y characters, which seems like progress — one for each side of the war and one for fandom to aggressively hate for getting close to Steve. And hey, Black Widow and Scarlet Witch spoke to one another, sort of, at the very very beginning. There’s not really much to say on the topic of these female characters, except that it would be good if the movie gave us more (good!) things to talk about. No horrible female character tropes, but nothing particularly noteworthy either.

Except, perhaps, for Wanda, the one victim of the movie’s character overload. I really felt like we needed more from her. More plot, more emotional development, more insight into her, just more. She was the one who triggered this debate, after all. She was the one who accidentally killed people, and who was being locked up “for her own good.” It would have been interesting if she’d done something, anything, on her own initiative after the film’s opening scenes. Perhaps we could have heard more about her opinions on all this. Why is she on Captain America’s side, when she’s feeling so much guilt over her actions? She’s one of the group’s biggest badasses, with one of the coolest outfits, but she’s also incredibly new — she deserved more screentime than she got.

Also, as much as I loved Spiderman in this, a part of me really wishes they gone for Ms Marvel for the same vibe. I know she’s far less iconic, but she also hasn’t been rebooted twice in the past decade, and she would have been just as fun in that fight.

But, overall, the movie was good. Not as gripping as The Winter Soldier, but good. Funny at the right times, rooted in character and emotion, and even capable of making me appreciate Iron Man’s presence on screen. It didn’t rely on a fakeout!death to create false tension, and it’s reshaped the Marvel universe in interesting ways that have the potential to create fresh and exciting movies in the future.

Civil War is a perfectly serviceable, amusing, dramatic, non-squee-inspiring, “yeah, it was good” type movie. And after the disappointment that was Age of Ultron, I’m more than happy with that as a result.

Rhiannon

Rhiannon Thomas is the author of A WICKED THING and KINGDOM OF ASHES. She lives in York, England.

15 thoughts on “Captain America: Civil War

  1. What are your thoughts in light of all the Sharon Carter bashing, particularly by angry Stucky fans?

    Personally, I thought Sharon Carter was criminally underused, although her parts in the movie were great. I strongly disagree with everyone that dismissed her as “just the love interest.” She was badass in her own way. And I loved her speech at Peggy’s funeral — that part was painful, especially in light of Agent Carter getting cancelled.

    1. And I loved her speech at Peggy’s funeral — that part was painful, especially in light of Agent Carter getting cancelled.

      It was frustrating too considering she identifies herself as Peggy’s niece, even though Agent Carter depicted Peggy’s brother’s death. Which means the aborted season three would have no doubt revealed he was still living (and possibly the guy who shoots Agent Thompson in the finale’s final moments).

      Something that someone else pointed out: Wanda grapples throughout this movie with her powers and what she’s done with them (not only here but in Age of Ultron). In many ways she’s looking for redemption – and yet is never given the chance to have a proper conversation with Natasha, who knows exactly what it’s like to seek out atonement for past misdeeds. Instead Wanda is paternally treated by Steve/Clint who essentially tell her nothing is her fault and that she’s just a kid. I realize it must have been a job and a half to juggle so many characters, but I think they fumbled with Wanda.

      Loved Black Panther, though. Looking forward to his solo-movie.

    2. I’ve been away from Tumblr for a while, so I’ve managed to miss pretty much all the Sharon Carter bashing. Can’t say I’m surprised by it, though. Relatively new character + related to Peggy + obstacle to very popular slash ship = perfect recipe for drama. And I completely agree that she wasn’t “just the love interest.” I wish we’d seen more of her, since she was instrumental to the plot in the middle, but her actions must have had consequences. I suppose you could argue that the movie treated her as “just the love interest,” since she disappeared once she kissed Steve (unless there’s something I’m forgetting), but it’s not like the romance element was completely out of the blue. It had a movie and a half of build up.

      1. I was actually interested to see how Steven and Sharon’s relationship developed but I feel like they played it very, very badly. I think it was rushed in the end. They seemed to feel the need to kill off Peggy so he could move on, but the fact this happened in a handful of days before the kiss with Sharon made it seem off, worsened by the comment that the kiss was “late”, which clearly suggests Cap is thinking of Peggy, and not her niece. I’m ambivalent about the age-appropriateness that I know some others have called up, since Cap was frozen for more than half of his ninety-or-so years of age, but the family relation does make her seem a bit like a replacement.

        It didn’t bother me before, but the scene itself felt stiflingly awkward to me and seemingly the rest of the theater. Both characters are played by excellent actors but they seemed very uncomfortable and confused during the scene. The kiss seemed sudden, and when they broke away both expressions were awkward. I half-expected one of them to say “nope, that was a mistake, let’s be friends”, and I’m still kind of hoping that Cap will admit he’s trying to replace Peggy in a later film. I don’t think either actor knew what they were supposed to be doing in the scene. And whether they like it or not, all of what Cap said in Winter Soldier about finding someone with shared life experience for a partner just points all the more strongly to Bucky, or even Sam, over Sharon. The shippers have a point.

        1. He didn’t even know she was Peggy’s niece until the funeral, and he had been interested in Sharon since Winter Soldier, which was two years ago. That’s what I thought the “late” comment was about.

          I’m not terribly invested in that relationship, but I don’t see any reason to think Steve is just looking for a Peggy replacement. They don’t even look alike, and he was unaware of the familial connection.

      2. I regret that we haven’t seen more of her, I’ve heard she is quite cool in comics. She was also the primary plot mover for like half a movie and then got dropped right after she kissed Steve, which was really weird.
        But I am, unfortunately, on the anti-Staron train. Not for shipping reasons, I don’t really ship that much in Marvel, but the entire romance was very rushed and just blatantly “No Homo”. The actors have about as much chemistry together as two barbie dolls (honestly she had more chemistry with Bucky in that one scene when they were kicking each other’s asses. That was beautiful.). And the biggest gripe for me – how can Cap kiss his dead lost love’s niece when her body is still warm? It feels very out of character. It overshadowed Peggy’s death. And for the entire movie Sharon didn’t have much character development – it felt to me like they were making heavy comparisons with Peggy and we, the audience, were sorta meant to fill in the blanks in her characterization with Peggy.
        So Sharon as herself? I’d like to see more. Preferably without making her Peggy 2.0
        Sharon with Steve? So far a big resounding no.

  2. I can enjoy superhero movies but is not a hard core fan. Often I get a “have you seen one, have you seen all”- feeling, especially today when there are so MANY of them! I may have seen half of those who have come out in recet years, and that feels like more than enough..

    And I´m quite fed up with female characters playing love interests or second fiddle all the time. Superhero movies are generally BAD at female characters! They´re there, but not much more than that. Sometimes they´re badass, but they don´t often get a lot of screen time.

    Therefore I´m looking forward to the Wonder Woman movie. I hope it will be different.

    BUT, if I would recommend ANY superhero movies, it would be Nolan´s The Dark Knight trilogy and The Captain America trilogy, if you can call it that. Because I totally agree with you. Winter Soldier IS very well done, and Civil War is not far behind. And the first Cap movie is not bad, even if it doesn´t live up to the standards of its sequels. I think you should see it.

    And both these trilogies have cool female characters (unlike many others I liked Anne Hathaway´s portrayal of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises), they are at least not too bad when it comes to female presence. And I agree with people above, what´s wrong with Sharon Carter? Her funeral speech was important, not just touching. She basicially tells Steve: “Be yourself and stand your ground if you have to.”

  3. I agree about Sharon Carter being underused and Wanda not getting enough attention. And they could have a little more time to handle that if they haven’t promote Antman and Spiderman. They add nothing to the plot and they take the focus away from other characters arc.

    RANT

    For example, we don’t get to see what happens with Black Widow at the end. She just disapears. I though they would make a teaser for her movie at the end. Instead we have another pointless Spiderman short scene with “hot aunt May”. Well, changing the iconic aunt May for a “hot one” has make me decide to not see the spiderman movie. Don’t really care about how well is spiderman done or about “giving it a chance”. There’s old guys in other marvel movies, but the one old woman that should be there as spiderman moral compass? No, she should be hot and lets Tony joke about it. Sorry, no.

    “Hot aun May” is everything that’s wrong with women depiction in hollywood. No one thing about making profesor Charles Xavier younger and hot, neither Magneto, Black Panter’s father or Nick Fury. They are old (as they should be), but sudently, aunt May becomes young and hot. I’m sure they would have an “explanation” but lets face it, that “explanation” is something they tell themselves to fell they are not sexist, not something I can belive after comparing with male characters treatment.

    END OF RANT

    1. Argh, I’d forgotten about “Hot Aunt May.” I didn’t know about the casting, so I had an extreme “wait, what??” moment when she showed up in the movie. It was just so unnecessary.

        1. As she should, as most teenagers don’t have aunts who are in their 70s. 50 year old Marisa Tomei is far more logical, especially since they finally cast an actual teenager as Peter Parker.

    2. Aunt May hasn’t been made “younger”, she’s just the logical age for a teenager’s aunt (why did Sam Raimi movies make Peter’s uncle and aunt be in their 70s? It would be more logical that they were his great-uncle and great-aunt). Marisa Tomei is 50, the same age as Robert Downey Jr. What exactly is wrong with the movie acknowledging the hotness of a 50 year old woman? I’d think that the opposite would be sexist. Why can Iron Man be sexy at 50, but not Aunt May?

  4. Great post! I just came back from seeing Civil War (for a third time) and noticed just how much of a female presence lacks overall. As a big fan of Peggy and Steve’s ship, I like Sharon Carter and have nothing against her/Steve’s relationship. It’s apparent in the comic books and I didn’t think it handled too badly here. What I really minded was that the funeral, with most audiences and fans, is regarded as either “YUCK” because Steve and Sharon have a connection, or funny because Steve finally realizes who Sharon is. Peggy’s funeral wasn’t handled as deeply or smoothly as Tony’s struggle with his parent’s death. I also loved what you brought up about Natasha, Sharon, Wanda, and “Hot” Aunt Mae. Female characters have no interaction with each other. Also, it’s disappointing that Tony doesn’t even apologize to Wanda for basically imprisoning her once at the Avengers compound, and then the Accords allowing her to be tied up in her cell. There was some serious lack of resolution there.

    Anyways, I just found your blog and think it’s awesome. Great posts all around!

    1. I like Sharon but for me her relationship with Steve is weird in the same way a man dating two sisters or a mother and a Daughter would be. It feels off. Also, I don’t think the have chemistry as a couple, they look more like friends (but that could change with more interaction, I guess).

      If I think about it, the problem is the kiss. It’s meant to be something long overdue, but for the viewer it’s something that comes almost out of the blue. On the other hand, if the two characters keep working in the same side, i would have come a moment that it would be more natural. As it is, Shippers would have to “fill the blancs” and write how the relationship develops. Point is, since we only see what’s in the films, doesn’t work that well.

  5. I agree that the movie didn’t do enough with the ideological part of the debate, but I think that the emotional drama was extremely well done, and the Tony/Steve showdown informed by the MCU history we’ve been following through the movies and Agent Carter was the most memorable part for me.

    I don’t think that your main argument that the movie tried to make Steve right at the expense of Tony stands, since viewers are very split on who they considered more ‘right’ or more sympathetic. A lot of the audience sympathized with Tony more than with Steve, or had trouble relating to Steve’s position. Personally, I don’t think either of them came off as completely ‘right’.

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