Major spoilers for Captain America: Civil War and the Civil War comics arc
Last Friday, Marvel released its first Superhero offering of the year and before you say it, we all know that Deadpool is an R-rated 20th Century Fox masterpiece so shut up. Captain America: Civil War is the third standalone Captain America movie, following 2011’s Captain America: We’re not in Broolyn anymore Bucky and 2014’s Captain America: Oh no, the secret Nazis that run SHIELD have Bucky! In this third outing, Captain America must fight former ally Iron Man and the United States Government as the series of city destroying fight scenes from every MCU film to date comes back to bite the Avengers in the butt and they are divided over whether to become a UN-approved task force, only undertaking missions that this oversight committee deems acceptable or continue to act without oversight, attending to the situations that they deem to be in need of Avenger’s intervention. If that wasn’t enough, someone frames Bucky Barnes, aka Winter Soldier, for a terrorist attack on the UN as the Sokovia Accords, the document that would make the Avengers a UN task force, are being signed. and Captain America is intent on clearing his friend’s name.
I know that this may be the unpopular opinion but I found the film to be pretty bland. There were certainly highlights, which I will come to, but the negatives definitely outweighed the positives. Don’t worry, I will get give credit where credit is due but first, let’s look at why I felt the film didn’t live up to expectation:
- It was too small: The Civil War storyline in the comics is one of Marvel’s biggest ventures and one of its best known arc. At the time of run, you were hard pressed to find a Marvel character who wasn’t affected by the events of the Civil War. That’s why a Civil War film that includes ten of the MCU’s existing heroes, plus the introduction of Black Panther and Marvel!Spiderman, feels small. It’s largely due to who has the rights to who and Marvel’s roster not currently including key players as of 2016. If you want examples- Reed Richards, of the Fantastic Four, plays a huge part on Team Iron Man, helping create a prison for superpowered people in another freaking dimension in order to house any Captain America allied rebels who are arrested over the course of the series. Now not only are the Fantastic Four a 20th Century Fox property, my sources tell me that they are also buried somewhere in the New Mexico desert like an unwanted Atari cartridge. Similarly, Ms Marvel has a major role as an enforcer of the Superhero Registration Act but does not appear in Civil War due to not actually having been cast yet.
- The plot motivator felt shallow: In the comics, the Superhero Registration Act is brought about after a group of C-list superheroes, called the New Warriors, take on a group of powerful super villains in order to boost ratings for their Cops-style TV show. In what would go onto be known as the Stamford Incident, The New Warriors are beaten down in vicious style until the leader of the super villains, Nitro, uses his power and, as you may have guessed from his name, blows up. This results in 600 dead, including an entire elementary school. This, combined with the Hulk’s recent Vegas rampage as well as revenge attacks on Manhattan after the Secret War, led by Nick Fury, is what spurs the US Government to demand superheroes register, reveal their identity and become Government employees. In the film, the Sokovia Accords come about as, yes, a result of the destruction of Manhattan in Avengers Assemble, the destruction of Washington DC in Captain America: Winter Soldier and the destruction of Sokovia in Avengers: Age of Ultron with the cherry on the top being the accidental deaths of 11 humanitarian aid workers at the start of the Civil War film when Scarlet Witch propels an exploding Crossbones into their building. However, the whole government oversight vs. freedom to fight crime quickly takes a backseat to a ‘Is Bucky evil?’ storyline as Captain America seeks out Bucky’s origins to try to stop a grieving Sokovian Spec Ops soldier from using Bucky’s Soviet programming to destroy the Avengers. Civil War is one of the most influential and expansive comic book arcs and to narrow it down into a story about Captain America’s friend is a real blow.
- Marvel can’t get death right: We all know that Marvel is very much the ‘family-friendly’ superhero film studio but does that mean that death doesn’t have any meaning? As Secretary of State Thunderbolt Ross does a little preamble to introducing the Avengers to the Sokovia Accords, he plays footage from the previously mentioned attacks in New York, Manhattan and Sokovia, along with casualties and property damage estimates. Now here’s the thing- casualties refers to both those killed and injured and given the sheer scale of each of those attacks and the number of times someone claims to have known someone who died in one of those attacks, the numbers are ridiculously low- Ross’ presentation claims 74 casualties in New York, 23 in Washington DC and 177 in Sokovia, or a total of 274 casualties across the three events. Now, I don’t want to sound cold-hearted but seriously? Across your three climax battle scenes, which in one you crash town sized helicarriers into the US capital, only 274 people died or were injured? To put that in context, the Stamford Incident from the comics sees twice as many people die in one incident and in real life, the worst terrorist attack on US soil, 9/11, only saw the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon get hit, as well as the plane was allegedly headed for the White House but that the passengers regained control of and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania and yet nearly 3000 people died and over 6000 more were injured. An attack by ruthless aliens on the entire city of New York resulted in less than 100 total casualties, really? I may sound cold but it’s hard to watch a film about world-threatening plots when the world seems to run on serendipity and lucky escapes from death.
- The shock factor was taken out: Here come the major spoilers for the comics- there are some truly shocking moments in the comics. The top three for most people are: the death of Goliath during one of the most climatic battles of the series (imagine the airport fight from the film but with like 50 superheroes on each side), Crossbones murdering Hawkeye’s family and of course, the BIG one- Captain America being gunned down on the steps of the courthouse as he goes to face trial for essentially treason. None of those appear in the film, to be honest the biggest shock of the film takes place in a scene between Bucky and Iron Man. That’s why on social media, I’ve been described the film as tame. There is no real shock value to the film.
But, I will admit that the film wasn’t all bad, so let’s take a quick look at my personal positives:
- Black Panther: I thought that Black Panther was an excellent addition to the film. The character was well-written and, barring his entrance, didn’t feel forced or tacked on. Plus, I am always a fan of a character who can just shrug off a barrage of bullets from a helicopter.
- Spiderman: Most of the time, I can take or leave Spiderman, I’ve never really been a fan. However, Tom Holland’s new, Marvel approved iteration was refreshing and amusing. I’m not likely to go and see Spiderman: Homecoming but I do hope to see more of Spiderman in ensemble films.
- No Pepper Potts: Enough said.
What did you think of Civil War? Let me know in the comments below!