Captain America: Civil War (2016)

*. I mentioned in my notes on Captain America: The Winter Soldier how I appreciated the simpler storyline, with Cap facing off against human enemies with relatable motivations. Keeping that in mind, I rate these two Captain America movies much higher than the Avengers: Infinity Wars and Endgame all-star doubleheader. Did I really care what Thanos was all about in gathering his chunky infinity-stone gauntlet and rearranging all the deck chairs in the universe? No, I did not.
*. In this movie the whole plot is being masterminded by a regular, even low-key dude named Zemo (Daniel Brühl) who has a hate on for superheroes. And he has his reasons. The narrative here comes from the Civil War storyline that ran in some Marvel comics a decade earlier. I’d actually read those comics and thought the idea — where superheroes fall out over whether or not they should accept government oversight given all the collateral damage they cause — was a good one. A lot more interesting than magic stones that open portals to other dimensions, anyway.
*. Given all the star power here, it’s basically an Avengers film. There are some newbies introduced (including Tom Holland as Spider-Man and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther) while MIA are Thor and Hulk, who were off fighting each other in Jeff Goldblum’s Thunderdome at the time. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is Cap’s main antagonist, being on the side of big government. I thought everyone played well, except for Paul Bettany as Vision, a character I could never warm too. I don’t know why. I liked Vision in the comic books. But in the movies he’s very dull.
*. So what you get is a lot of what Marvel does best. Spectacular fight scenes, like the battle royale that destroys Leipzig airport. Lots of likeable stars humanizing their cartoonish parts. And a story that, for once, I could get on board with. Not only is Zemo motivated, I actually liked the bait and switch at the end where the other super soldiers aren’t awakened, even though I’d been looking forward to this as a climax.
*. The only thing I didn’t like was how Stark couldn’t see through Zemo’s plan to have the Avengers destroy themselves. By this point he knew that Bucky was being controlled by Hydra when he was doing his missions as the Winter Soldier, so why did he have a total meltdown? Yes, he had to watch his parents being killed, but hadn’t he had time to get over that?
*. Instead of an army of mooks being clobbered and a god from another dimension wreaking havoc the heart of the story is the conflict between the obnoxious tech zillionaire in the age of hypercapitalism and a man out of his his time who is deeply uncomfortable about what’s happened to America. No, this isn’t high-level political commentary. But compared to the usual Marvel shenanigans it stood out as at least somewhat meaningful.
*. In short, I see this and the immediately surrounding films as marking the acme of the Marvel years. Nothing I’ve seen since was as good, and given how limited the franchise has been I don’t have high hopes of it evolving into anything interesting going forward.
*. That these movies were decent entertainment though is one thing; that they dominated the box office and transformed the movie business so completely is another. How are we going to look back on all of this sound and fury? Will we care? Will we remember it at all?

16 thoughts on “Captain America: Civil War (2016)

  1. Bookstooge

    With the death of the cinemas eminently imminent (oh, am I so clever or what?!), I am not sure that people in their teens or 20’s now, are going to care about how this changed movies.
    I think it changed movies for the worse even while I enjoyed the decade long story lines. I was tired but satisfied by the time Infinity War duology wrapped up.

    I had actually forgotten this was supposed to be a Captain America film because it just felt like another Avenger movie 😀

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Yeah, there’s something to be said about the way the big cable series at this time showed the audience hunger for long-form narrative, and that the MCU was basically feeding this as well, being a throwback to serial filmmaking. What’s going to happen next is really up in the air, given that Marvel/Disney feel so played out and Covid basically hammered the last nail in the coffin of the cinema experience so that streaming platforms have taken over the delivery model.

  2. Alex's Review Corner

    I can’t talk much to these movies changing cinema because I was 8 when Iron Man 1 cam out and watched every release days after their theatrical release, eating it all up.

    But I do have good hindsight. And yeah movies around this time in the MCU were the best, I agree. It’s like they found a sweet spot for intriguing enough blockbuster plot and refined action.

    1. Alex Good

      And once they found that formula there wasn’t much else for them to do. Satire a bit with Deadpool and some meta-games with the multiverse, but it seems played out now. Though it’ll be interesting to see if they can somehow reinvent themselves.

      1. Alex's Review Corner

        I’d be curious about your thoughts on superhero movies predating the MCU and its formula – like the first X-Men movie or Sam Raimi’s Spiderman. They contributed to modern day superhero movie culture for sure and share similarities, but to me they feel like they exist on a different plain.

      2. Alex Good Post author

        I did reviews of all the Batman movies a while back. The big gamechanger in superhero flicks was CGI. Once they got that technology down pat it really changed what a comic-book movie could be. The characters became more cartoonish though and the stories weaker as Marvel went on.

  3. fragglerocking

    The Captain America movies and the early avengers movies are still my favourites, I loved the camaraderie between the characters. I agree they were better without the Thanos stuff.

    1. Alex Good

      Plus Evans really needed somebody to play off of as Cap because he’s too stiff on his own. He works as a straight man but he needed the oddity of the others around him.

      Sad to hear that the snow leopards didn’t want to come out and play.

      1. fragglerocking

        It’s fine, it wasn’t a photography day out, it was keep the grandkids out of mischief day out and they weren’t bothered about the leopards 🙄.
        Talking of superheroes get your library to get the DVDs of The Boys series, it is SO good and I think you’d possibly like it. Have you finished years and years yet?

      2. Alex Good Post author

        I did finish Years and Years. Thanks for the rec! I liked it, though the ending seemed a bit too optimistic.

        The Boys is on reserve at the library so I won’t get it for a while. Maybe I’ll read the comics first.

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