The second monument of comic book rivalry in 2016 stands erected with the release of Marvel’s much-hyped Captain America: Civil War out in theatres worldwide, and already Marvel’s road to Infinity Wars is being paved with vengeance, distrust and anguish.
Now with Infinity War boasting 67 characters, and the trend of the superhero laden team being kicked off by Avengers, a lot of us saw Civil War as Avengers 2.5. And understandably so. But now seeing the film on the silver screen, I can honestly say that the numerous cameos didn’t feel as distracting as the cameos were in say Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Was it that the introduced characters, save for Black Panther, had their cinematic debuts in films before? Nah, that’s not it. Or was it a narrative that help set the stage that would bring titans in conflict? That’s more like it. That, and the fact that while Infinity War and Black Panther films were teased, it wasn’t as sore a thumb as BVS’ teasing the coming of a team of Justice of some sort. A League if you will.
Off the bat, the Winter Soldier is introduced to us back in 1991, still under brainwashed Hydra control. And when Hydra is pulling the strings of a deadly assassin, best believe brainwashed Bucky was made to do some terrible, covert naughty things. And to trigger compliance in the Winter Soldier, one would just have to read a list of otherwise arbitrary words and he would be in total control of a human killing machine. And Baron Zemo has the words. Now he just needs to flush Barnes out of hiding. So what better way than to bomb the UN during a gathering of leaders and frame Bucky in the process, ultimately triggering a world-wide manhunt for the Winter Soldier.
So why the UN? Because moments before, The Avengers were called before the UN Council to discuss an incident involving Captain America, members of the Avengers and the bombing of a building in Lagos. Now, granted they didn’t see the efforts and how cool Scarlet Witch was when she used her powers to literally contain an explosion from suicide bomber Crossbones. In an effort to save Cap, she sends the explosion upward taking out the side of a building. Of course there are casualties. Well that’s what is implied by her continued gasping. Not a red bloodied or charred corpse in this PG movie. And with all the grand-scale destruction of foreign countries creating such spectacle, and the Avengers being in the centre of it, it is understandable why the world authorities and some people would want to exert some control.
The strands of Civil War‘s narrative and the resulting conflict felt like an organic escalation. As organic as one could expect. From the UN calling for restrictions to be put on the Avengers’ activities of global destruction via the Sokovia Accords (basically a compliance to regulatory powers being put on them) to the disagreement on terms between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. From the death of T’Challa’s father at the UN to the Bucky variable, that saw lots of injury to both sides, mainly #TeamIronMan. Which honestly would have been more gratifying if Tony Stark didn’t have a point. Face it, Cap was an asshole. Pretty much everyone on his team too. And I am not an Iron Man fan. So that should tell you.
Come on, Captain America didn’t even have the decency to attend the council to voice his opinion, to at least try to convince them against the Accords. He just straight up didn’t attend. So much for diplomacy, America.
Granted that the various characters and strands were interwoven with the skill of nimble fingers of children in sweatshops (hey, don’t judge my words, I didn’t take a kid Spidey into an all-out-war). In the end, the characters that truly remained stuck in our heads isn’t Captain America. Hell, it isn’t even Iron Man. It’s Spider-Man. It’s Black Panther. And, in a strange way, it’s a little bit of Bucky too. Which begs the question why not just name the film Civil War?
Black Panther‘s introduction at the UN as T’Challa was an interesting one; Wakanda is presented as a forward-moving nation despite the Prince not being a fan of diplomacy as described by the words of the current King T’Chaka, his father. But when the UN bomb goes off, killing the King as he addressed the UN, T’Challa’s takes up the mantle and is on the warpath seeking vengeance against Bucky for his apparent involvement in the death of his father. So we already know where he’ll stand in the Civil War face-off. As for T’Challa in costume, his intro was not as ceremonious as it could have been, but hey, no time for theatrics when you have vendetta on the brain. And how weird was it for T’Challa, the now King of Wakanda, referring to the Cap as a fellow ‘King’. Not leader. But King. Captain America, a poster boy for American military super-soldier steroids and war-bonds. That scene just stunk of American anglo-hegemonic trumpet-tooting. You’re not that great, Cap.
And lucky us we also got a taste of Marvel’s filmic version of Spider-Man, and we have to say they did good choosing Tom Holland. This Spider-Man was fun; smart and witty, a level of naivety but courage, a quirkiness interspersed with moments of self-doubt. All which made for an interesting, layered character, one who with all his powers and skill still looked for approval from an amped-up version of the Tin Man painted red and gold. We also got a sense of Peter Parker’s ideals and his strength, and he’s pretty much ‘up there’ on those scales. Petey so effortlessly thwarted a punch from Bucky’s full-metal arm. It was a pleasure to see his movement on the screen. Marvel going ‘younger’ for Spider-Man was a great choice; it feels we can grow with him once again, the right way (although we did like Andrew Garfield‘s take on Spidey too).
Fight scenes were pretty monumental (although that chase on the highway / motorway felt like Bucky / Black Panther / Captain America were gliding rather than running). Perfect example of one of the intense fight scenes was Cap and Bucky’s escape from his safehouse right after UN fiasco and the pursuant manhunt for Bucky. The duo waste no time teaming up, dispatching of the police cannon-fodder and Bucky is particularly ruthless; he consciously made no kills, signifying the old Bucky was there despite the Hydra mind-skew, but still, at least half of those armed cops will certainly need rehabilitation.
The particular sequence at the airport was pretty awesome, and at one point it felt exactly synonymous with what one would envision gods looked like if they ever had a bar brawl. And seeing Spider-Man in the mix felt like a true homecoming. Gave us a Secret Wars /Alex Ross painted cover type of feeling.
As for Baron Zemo, his need of revenge against the Avengers was satisfied by planting a seed of disharmony and mistrust. Honestly speaking, we feel nothing on an emotive level for Zemo or his loss as we aren’t shown his loss. Not like the photo of a child killed by events caused by Avenger-led conflict that sparked Tony Stark wanting regulation. Or the death of T’challa’s father. Or even Crossbones forced facelift by Captain America dropping a building on him. It would have been nice to somehow emotively connect with Zemo, to at least entertain the idea that what the Avengers were experiencing was a deserved karma of the worst kind.
And Zemo’s efforts for flushing out Bucky, finding out where the clandestine operation for the Winter Soldier program was, with the odd chance of bringing Cap and Iron Man together was to show them a snuff video of Tony’s parents being killed by none other than brainwashed Bucky. A reveal that built on the very first scene of the film where Bucky, on a mission runs a car of a dirt road, stealing IV bags of neon-blue liquid (means it’s “Jesus-juice” special), which we were practically spoon-fed the idea that the scene was of significant and needed to be mentally filed for later reference.
Baron essentially sews the seed of conflict and disharmony amongst the Avengers. Using them as pawns and instruments of their own undoing. But in all honesty, the Cap’s stubbornness and rather selfish stance would have gotten us there anyway.
Marvel in any case is efficient. Does what it says on the tin. And that’s great when things are rationed out during times of war or natural disasters. And the narrative holds up relatively well and other than Vision accidentally taking out War Machine in mid-air, we never at a moment felt that any of our heroes were in real danger. Just an intense sparring match with exploding planes and fun sequences of Ant-Man size shifting and Spidey taking care of business.
Essentially putting the civil in Civil War. And while Stark’s righteous anger had justification upon emotional onuses, Captain America’s position seemed paramount to ‘I don’t want to follow the rules, Scarlet Witch is under curfew but I want to play, Bucky killed your parents but he’s my friend’. Course I am over-simplifying, but still.
The film narratively speaking works, and it was fun seeing Spidey flying, which made us more hopeful to see Spider-Man than Black Panther by a nudge, although the post-credits focused our attentions back on the next coming film in the Marvel canon. It will also be interesting to see if Wakanda, T’Challa’s nation, housing the Winter Soldier will be the centre of a diplomatic incident that puts the new King up against some another super-power or insights a civl-war conflict of his own in the vein of the new comic series.