Happy Memorial Day! On this day Americans honor the service of their veterans, and somewhere out there in the alternate realities we call the Marvel Universe(s), Steve Rogers is marching in quite a few parades– in his World War II era dress uniform, in modern dress uniform, in his costume as Captain America, or (in my own personal reality), in street clothes among the young veterans of the current war. It’s a day to think about Steve, so here’s a review (of sorts), of his most recent film appearance.
Yes, I went to see the new Marvel Cinematic Universe entry Captain America: Civil War. In fact, I saw it opening day, and I’ve been sitting on the notes for this review until then, waiting, I suppose, for inspiration to strike and hand me something original to say that hasn’t been said by dozens of reviewers. But hey, no luck, so why not just share a slightly beefed-up version of the notes? Said notes are behind a cut because spoilers, even though I’m pretty sure that everyone who likes the Marvel Cinematic Universe films will have seen this one already.
But I will say this here: not bad. Better than Ultron, with lots of interesting new material and some clever scenes and writing. The new characters are fascinating, the set pieces are grand, and the consequences are coming home to roost. It’s an MCU movie, and a good one.
Finally, I am very glad to be able to add the traditional warning to the end of the “above the cut” section of this review. Don’t be an idiot– stay in your seat when the credits start to roll. There are both mid credits and post credits extra scenes and they are both excellent– significant to the ongoing plots and lots of fun.
**First of all, poor Tony. Everybody who reads this blog knows that I am an unshakeable member of Team Tony. MCU Tony Stark is horrible person in just about every way but I love him very much. Tony has been on a down swing for a while, but in Civil War his angst reaches epic levels. Steve pretty much doesn’t love him any more and they have an epic super-fight that ends in a permanent breach in their friendship (in so far as anything is permanent in any Marvel Universe). I am sorry to say that this fight is an excellent example of the translation of comic books to film, with several famous comics panels recreated very effectively onto the big screen.
And all of this is running alongside the ongoing thread of Tony getting old, possible too old to be Iron Man any more. He has suffered horrible losses and is questioning all his choices, and of course since he is a horrible person a lot of those have been more or less bad. Poor Tony.
The best angsty Tony bit is the speech at MIT in the beginning of the film where we see Tony as a very young man. This is a very clever piece of cinematic trickery and it is utterly convincing. This being a “Captain America” title, you will expect both a tighter plot and a darker, more “realistic” tone than you get in a movie with an “Avengers” title. The plot opens in this scene with the image of Tony’s father.
And it turns on the bizarre innocence of the Winter Soldier and the events involving the crash of the Cadillac limousine in the woods. Is Tony the only one who doesn’t know by now that the Winter Soldier murdered his parents? He may have had his issues with them– being a poor little rich boy at best, or a victim of child abuse at worst, depending on the universe– but he is hardly going to take it lightly when he finds out, particularly when Steve chooses his old pal over his teammate.
In spite of the above, I am seriously digging the Winter Soldier– the way he moves, and speaks and acts, and his relationship with Steve. Of course, this being an MCU movie, this relationship is best described in the form of a combination car chase and fight involving a lot of Audis. And it is an awfully good fight.
**Speaking of awfully good fights, that great big Leipzig airport fight is incredibly good– one of the best superhero fights ever put on film and certainly the biggest. It’s every bit as good as everybody says it is. In fact, I am dying to see it again, especially now that I know the airport was a completely digital creation. And yes, that is the Bluth’s stair truck from Arrested Development. And yes, Ant Man did the thing. I was hoping he would do the thing.
**Spider Man. OK, I was not prepared to like the newly rebooted version of Spider Man that was scheduled to join the MCU in this film. But I do like him. He is a real kid, a mouthy little fanboy, punchy and bold but with an inner core of mixed sweetness and adult courage, like a kid hero in an old school comic. And the establishment of Tony Stark as part of his story in the role of mentor and tech support opens up an interesting set of possibilities for both characters. I would watch movies about this Spider Man, especially if they have Tony in them.
**The Vision. He is a bit of an idiot, but I like him a lot. Vision in a V-neck sweater is the best Vision.
**Black Panther! Wakanda! I like the actors playing both T’challa and his father and what we’ve seen so far of the development of Wakanda and its culture. Bring on the Black Panther movie, please.
**Of course a movie funeral is much improved with Captain America as one of the pallbearers. But, oh, this funeral was missing so many characters. Peggy Carter is dead. You can’t tell me Nick Fury wouldn’t attend, and Phil Coulson would move heaven and earth to be there. (OK, maybe Fury is deep under cover and I didn’t recognize him, but Phil should have been there, sitting openly but discreetly in a back pew near an aisle.
**The end of the film leaves the cast in an interesting position, including Steve Rogers seemingly setting aside the role of Captain America in favor of a return to a life as a kind of New Howling Commando. Where will the powers that be go with this? I am looking forward to finding out.