I admit before starting this that I am absolutely a fan of Marvel. Most of the comics I get these days are from them (it wasn’t always that way, but that’s another story), and I’ve loved their movies. I don’t think they were all fantastic, but all were good, and the worst of them (probably Thor: The Dark World) is still worth watching more than once. So yes, I’m going into this with a bit of bias. Admitted, acknowledged, moving on.
I’ve been looking forward to Civil War for a while now. I thought Winter Soldier was amazing (my favorite of the Marvel movies), and this is the same production team and same cast. I had a lot of hopes going in, especially as I learned that a favorite of mine, Black Panther, was finally showing up after being hinted at earlier, especially in Age of Ultron. I’ve never been a fan of “heroes fight each other” stories, but I have faith in Marvel Studios at this point. I’ve also read the Civil War story in the comics (and the novelization, I’m a geek), and was curious to see how they could adapt it to a movie. The answer is, pretty damn well.
The comic book story is very complicated. It ran for a year in several different titles. It also had important roles played by characters who haven’t shown up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, including some who can’t (I keep hoping Marvel will get all their film rights back someday). So obviously, there would need to be some major changes from the original story for the movie. There were, and they worked.
The Avengers have not had the best record for damage control. From the Battle of New York to the Helicarriers crashing in DC as SHIELD fell, to the Hulk/Iron Man smack down in Johannesburg, to Sokovia, there’s been a lot of damage in their wake. Now, in fairness, only one of those events was actually their fault (Sokovia, thanks to Ultron, brought to you by Stark Enterprises). But still, it seems the people are starting to associate Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with damage, destruction, and death.
The triggering event of the movie is a mission that goes badly, and civilians die. The world puts political pressure on the Avengers, and the United Nations gets involved. The end result is a demand that the Avengers only act when a special council agrees they need to. Heroing by committee, what could possibly go wrong? The concept deeply divides the team. Then, another crisis erupts, bringing matters to a head and drawing in the Winter Soldier and, afterwards, the Black Panther. The Avengers are split, and the divide gets worse. Two distinct teams form, one trying to deal with a disaster in the making, and one determined to make their former teammates toe the line. Both sides get new members as the battle lines are drawn.
The major fight at the airport, much of which has been seen in clips, trailers, and talk show appearances, was brilliant, but sad. It was done remarkably well, and had some great lines, fight moves, stunts, and creative use of powers. It also led to a serious casualty, driving more of a wedge between the teams
Then, there’s a big ugly showdown at the end. It’s a brutal fight between former friends, and it’s heartbreaking, in its way. There’s a reason for all this conflict besides the obvious, and that reveal makes everything fall into place brilliantly. This isn’t a simple fix, and don’t look for a big reunion at the end of the movie. There are a lot of surprising choices, from the characters and the writers.
I thought this was a brilliantly done movie on many levels. The face of making the Avengers obey was Thaddeus Ross, best known for being a major Hulk antagonist, and he brings all the smug self-righteousness he ever had against the big green guy to the Avengers. Hulk and Thor are absent, but that’s commented on, not swept under the rug. Every single character got at least one good line, usually more, and each got a moment to shine. The progression of events made sense and the often lame justification for heroes fighting worked here.
For comic geeks, there were a few Easter Eggs. Aside from Ross, as mentioned above, there were a few other familiar names, some of which I won’t mention here for spoilers. Crossbones is back after his reveal as a Hydra agent in Winter Soldier. Falcon gets a version of Redwing. One of Marvel’s best romances gets hinted at.
What I liked: Everything. Seriously. There were reveals about the past that made perfect sense but didn’t change anything. There was decent screen time for everyone, which is impressive for a cast this size. There were callbacks to earlier events (I can do this all day…). The characters are well fleshed-out, the motivations make sense, and it’s hard not to feel bad for the choices some of them make. There are a lot of potential plots they could build on from the end of this movie.
What I didn’t: Ok, as a franchise trend, Hawkeye keeps getting screwed in my humble opinion. By the end of the movie, one of the major characters, again in my opinion, is arguably a super-villain.
I won’t say this is my favorite Marvel movie. For me, that’s still Winter Soldier. But this is an amazing piece of work that I think any superhero fan should see. It’s smart, well-executed, and has a lot of surprise twists and turns. I’m giving this a very rare 5 out of 5.