Captain America: Civil War is a superhero film starting Phase 3 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The film starts in a hidden Siberian base in 1991. James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is triggered to become the Winter Soldier through an activation phrase, is given orders to intercept a vehicle, and take its contents without any witnesses. The vehicle contains five samples of Super Soldier Serum.
Cut to present day, Wanda Maximov/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) communicates with Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to stop the theft of a biological weapon orchestrated by Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo). While the mission was a success, Scarlet Witch’s attempt to contain a blast resulted in the destruction of a building. She is particularly affected, feeling guilt and responsibility.
Meanwhile, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) shows off his new technological marvel to M.I.T. students and allows all of them grant money for their experiments. While leaving, he comes across a woman that lost her son to the incident in Sokovia and holds the Avengers responsible. General Ross (William Hurt) gathers several members of the Avengers and proposes the Sokovia Accords, a registration of super-powered people to maintain accountability and analyzing threats. The act is met with support from over a hundred different countries and the heroes are left to sign and comply, retire, or break the law and be arrested. Each member gets into a large argument why the Accords are a good or bad idea. Steve Rogers, shortly after, attends the funeral of Peggy Carter. Her niece, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) recounts a story about compromise and standing by conviction. Rogers commits to not signing.
While in a U.N. meeting, the King of Wakanda recounts the story of the stolen Vibranium used to make the anti-gravity weapon responsible for the destruction of Sokovia. His son (Chadwick Boseman) notices a bomb and fails in his attempt to save his father. He finds that the Winter Soldier was seen planting the bomb and dons the Black Panther outfit to find and kill him. Captain America catches wind of this and tries to help Bucky escape, only for both of them to be caught. With the Sokovia Accords now in effect, Captain America is arrested.
The two main points of the movie are putting the Sokovia Accords in place and the relationship between between Captain America and Winter Soldier. The former splits the Avengers in terms of ideology and the way superheroes need to carry themselves. The latter takes the majority of the movie, being a Captain America movie. While the movie is advertised toward the former, the focus on the latter leaves a lot to be desired.
Almost all of the characters in this movie were introduced in previous movies, with the primary exception of Black Panther. As such, we already have an idea of their emotional temperament, what they stand for, and how they solve problems. In terms of numbers, it has more heroes than Age of Ultron, which would normally be a source of confusion having so many characters available at once. The simple solution is having characters in groups, each time allowing to adjust to their personality. The climactic fight of the film has everyone together with their own fighting abilities.
My biggest concern is the character change in Tony Stark. Given his history in previous films, Stark has been very anti-government when it comes to his technology being used for federal purposes. While he may have developed some sort of change following his vision in Age of Ultron, where Captain America insists that Iron Man didn’t do enough to save them all, I don’t think it’s enough to escalate from developing an artificial intelligence to giving the government allowance to use his services whenever. It seems too dramatic of a step for Stark to let go of his ego and narcissism since it’s been built up since the first Iron Man movie.
Much like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a month and a half ago, the idea of superheroes unilaterally making decisions for fighting crime is a universally interesting point for all comic book characters gives way to the smaller-scale conflict. In the movie, Vision brings up the escalation of super villains with the presence of heroes. Since the introduction of super heroes, super-powered villains have escalated to match or overwhelm their power (to name a few: Iron Monger to Iron Man, Abomination to Hulk, and Yellow Jacket to Ant Man). Vision argues that because of these escalations, a check of powers can be beneficial to contain catastrophe.
The film expands on the relationship between Bucky Barns and Steve Rogers. It goes to a deeper theme of standing up for what you believe is right. Steve Rogers actively breaks the law because he’s sure that Bucky didn’t do what he’s accused of doing: blowing up the U.N. His justification, other than Bucky being his best friend, comes from the first act of the movie. During a eulogy, Sharon Carter shares a message that from her now deceased aunt, which is paraphrased, “When the world tells you to move, you dig in your heels and say ‘no, you move.'” He believes that the Sokovia Accords is wrong because it gives up his personal liberty and allows the government to dictate his actions as Captain America.
Amazing Spider-Man #357
Captain America’s conviction is to be commended and is often considered to be in the right for the movie (it’s his name in the title, after all) and the source material it’s based on. In the case of the movie, his actions are personal instead of right. Instead of defending Bucky in a court of law, he takes it upon himself to help him escape custody. Iron Man eventually confronts Steve on a personal level, insisting that his crusade for one relationship damages another.
The movie builds off of the vernacular set up from previous movies, so it’s assumed that the audience has seen most of them to cut down on exposition.
There’s a small amount of licensed music in the film, but mostly relies on an orchestrated score. There’s a lot of swells to match the action of the movie. Henry Jackman returns from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He updates some themes, like Brock Rumlow, to the more fitting presence of Crossbones. The new themes are exciting and relevant to the plot of the movie.
The scale of this movie is very large, having more heroes than either of the Avengers movies. The movie prevents the audience from being overloaded by not having all of them on the screen at once, even during the climax fight. There’s plenty of special effects to keep attention, and with the new heroes comes a more dynamic fight.
There are plenty of recognizable stars, with the newest to the movie being Daniel Brühl and Martin Freeman in small but significant roles. Chadwick Boseman joins the fray of superheroes as Black Panther and will get his own standalone movie in 2018.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands, a lot more of it is expected from its audience. With Civil War being the start of Phase 3, this is not a movie where anyone can just drop in. The audience has to know the main characters at least from the previous Avengers movies. If not, the audience will be left swimming in questions of “Who’s that character? What does s/he do?” The movie will be a hit for action movie fans and obviously those invested in comic book movies.
As with other Marvel films, there are extras following the movie. In Civil War, there are two after-credits scenes: one following the animated credits and another at the end of the main credits.
The lingering thoughts of the movie deals with which character was in the right. Was Iron Man correct in saying that superheroes need to be held accountable for their actions? Was Captain America correct in saying that superheroes need to maintain their autonomy? While it’s a good marketing strategy, picking a side isn’t exactly the point of the movie. Its recognizing the merits of both as well as their faults.
Civil War was a Marvel crossover event from 2006 to early 2007. Although there were different circumstances, the Superhero Registration Act in the comics are largely identical to the Sokovia Accords of the movie. The number of characters in the former is much larger than that in the latter due to movie licensing, though a full adaptation may have made the movie much harder to follow. The message of the movie is slightly altered, putting a focus on Captain America rather than super heroes as a whole. I feel this is not a good move, as it takes away from the significance of how it affects superheroes as a whole, rather than how it affects Captain America personally.