“Captain America: Civil War” Movie Review

Warning: I’m going to kick things off with spoilers.  If you haven’t seen “Captain America: Civil War” and you’re sensitive to those, come back after you’ve checked out the film.

At the heart of “Captain America: Civil War,” Anthony and Joe Russo’s follow-up to “The Winter Solider,” is the relationship between Steve Rogers as Cap (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Between them is Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) — Captain America’s WWII buddy, robotically enhanced and fighting demons from his days as a brainwashed super assassin.  Being that this is a Marvel Studios production, it’s telling that the greatest physical damage sustained by the three combatants when they come to blows is the destruction of Bucky’s mechanical arm.  Now, I’m not the type who needs a high body count to be enthralled.  But I do like stakes, and many choices in “Civil War” undermine them.

The film opens in earnest with an operation where Captain America and a small team, which includes Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), are trying to thwart a terrorist group from procuring a biological weapon in Lagos.  Though the Avengers successfully stop the bad guys, they cause a lot of collateral damage.  The United Nations wants the superheroes regulated, causing a rift between Captain America and Iron Man and setting up the primary dilemma of the film.  It’s not in Steve to act at someone else’s whim.  He worries that the UN might send the Avengers somewhere they shouldn’t be or not send them somewhere they should.  Tony, wrestling demons of his own, believes that the group wields too much power to go without oversight.

There is a nefarious presence pulling strings behind the scenes: Zemo (Daniel Brühl).  As far as motivations go, his are pretty standard.  He lost his family during the events of “Age of Ultron” — more collateral damage — and he wants to see the Avengers suffer.  An empire destroyed from outside can rebuild, but one destroyed from within?  He frames Bucky for a bombing at a conference, which exacerbates tensions within the group.  I appreciated that Zemo’s objective wasn’t so lofty as world domination.  It’s far more personal and sinister.  Brühl’s soulful performance goes a long way toward imbuing this baddie with some humanity.

The Russo brothers are collaborating with “The Winter Solider” screenwriters again, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.  There’s a lot of table setting to be done.  Old characters to re-introduce, new characters to bring into the fold.  The newcomers are Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland).  The former is steeped in pathos, and the latter is brimming with personality.  Both contribute to the film’s thematic quilt: patches of responsibility and duty and the intersection between justice and revenge.  Both left me very excited for their solo ventures in the coming years.  After all, isn’t that a major goal for these Marvel films — getting you pumped for the next one?

All the placemat-shuffling shows.  I felt the film’s length, a Hulk-sized two and a half hours. There’s bloat to be sure.  For example, the set piece in Lagos is impressively staged but overlong given the payoff.  Once the film finds its trajectory — when the villain’s plans become clearer and the battle lines are drawn — it (mostly) soars.  There’s a massive, knock down, drag out fight at an airport where Iron Man and his team attempt to bring in Captain America and company.  The quips fly as fast and hard as the punches, and each character — and there are a lot of them — gets a moment to shine.

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And then we come to the climactic slugfest with Cap and Bucky on one side and Iron Man on the other.  We learn that Bucky, while brainwashed, was responsible for the murder of Tony’s parents years ago.  And Cap knew about it.  Emotionally loaded, the fight pays off on multiple films worth of characterization and setup.

And yet…

Nothing sticks in these movies.  Tony’s longtime friend, James Rhodes (or War Machine if you prefer, played by Don Cheadle), is seriously injured during the airport throwdown.  We’re told he may never walk again, but by the end of the film, he’s got high-tech leg braces courtesy of Tony Stark.  The airport itself — evacuated or not, our heroes have no qualms about tearing it a new runway or two.  Many of Avengers are arrested after the battle, and then Cap rescues them from prison during the closing moments of the film.  He also writes an apology to Tony, and we’re meant to infer that their relationship will be fine.

Why embark on this grand shared universe experiment if you’re not going to move the ball down the field?  The answer, obviously, is to not rock the boat.  Got to please the bean counters, and these films are nothing if not cash cows.  I really enjoyed “Civil War” for its colorful characters (new and old), snappy back and forth and exciting action sequences.  I just wish that for a film about consequences, this one had some.  Everything feels safe or easily replaced.

Like a mechanical arm.

If you’d like to see me discuss Marvel’s “The Avengers” with a couple friends, click here.


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Garrett is an entertainment professional living in the Los Angeles area. In his free time, he's a shark hunter, Jedi Knight, Kaiju wrangler and dog owner. He also edits and contributes to movie discussions at 3byThree.

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100 thoughts on ““Captain America: Civil War” Movie Review

  1. I’m inclined to agree on your overall appraisal though I think there are areas where the film did take some moderate risks. Some thoughts.

    -The titular Civil War, for instance, is left unresolved. The respective sides are sticking to their guns and the division that has resulted is left standing by the end of the film. I would presume it’ll be a background plot element for multiple movies going forward which is very interesting and not normal for tentpole films.

    -The film did a good job of making both sides views seem idiotic. Captain America’s endless chasing after Bucky equally one part heroic and one part pig headed destructive was an eloquent demonstration of how he could have used some oversight. The utter laughable failed logic of Starks regulatory side was so glaring that I almost needed sunglasses over my 3-d glasses. In Avengers the oversight entity (Shield) launched a nuclear fishing weapon at New York. In Captain America II it is discovered that basically the ENTIRE regulatory entity is taken over by Nazi’s and must be destroyed, then finally in Civil War the NEW regulatory structure is infiltrated and compromised by a lone wolf before it’s even fully set up. Yeah the cause of more regulatory oversight isn’t covering itself in glory.

    -Again this film rode especially hard on the “We have to fight right now because if we talk for even five minutes then all the reasons for us to fight will evaporate.” Which always grinds my gears a bit.

    -Zemo worked on some levels though he clearly was sipping heavily on the Joker omnipotence juice to cause his plan to work out the way he intended. What exactly was he going to do if Cap didn’t have a girlfriend in the CIA who’d slip him Bucky’s location and Bucky ended up shot in the fact by the German SWAT? How did Zemo know exactly where the UN Oversight group was going to bring Bucky? Exactly who they’d call in to do the psych profile? How’d he be so sure that Bucky would not only not get shot in the face while escaping but that he’d team up with Cap and go rogue? How’d he know that once he let Stark know he’d been punked that Tony would fly out to Siberia Solo instead of showing up with the entire team? Eh…

    -I have never been hot on Spiderman so that’s probably why the films (very funny) bits with him didn’t mesh well with me but I’m the hold out on that. I enjoyed every single crumb of the Black Panther elements though, the standoffish advanced Wakunda; the high tech vibranium Panther suit; the passionate but philosophical Prince. I liked that a lot. I also liked the way they’re basically doing pseudo character intros here so they don’t have to in the titular Spiderman and Black Panther films later. Valuable work that.

    -I remain an unabashed MCU fanboy of a high order though the Captain America movies have always struck me as the weakest of that pantheon’s offerings. I’m not sad to see the end of them.

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    • “I also liked the way they’re basically doing pseudo character intros here so they don’t have to in the titular Spiderman and Black Panther films later. Valuable work that.”

      Very good point here, especially on the Spiderman front. If I have to watch one more movie where they re-tell the story of Uncle Ben dying or how he got his powers, I am going to seriously lose it. Since the Marvel movies all follow a unified timeline, I’m hoping they won’t use flashbacks to still get away with that.

      On the flip-side though, I am pretty interested in how the Black Panther gets his powers. That could be interesting.

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      • I’m pretty interested in everything about the Black Panther. His introduction in this movie left me hungry to know more about every aspect of the character’s incarnation in the MCU.

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        • The next Spider-Man film is explicitly not an an origin story although it is the first stand-alone for a new iteration of the character. Firstly because its been done already so many times before and secondly because MCU seems to be moving away from that kind of movie. At this point Spider-Man isn’t something that needs to be explained, you can just jump into telling another story with him.

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      • What about just text at the beginning of the movie? I know we seem to have moved away from that (Force Awakens being an exception), but it does work to catch people up without burdening those who already know the story.

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          • Guys, we already have an obvious way to give backstory. People might have missed the announcement, but *Tony Stark* is going to be in the movie. (The way it was worded, it was going to be ‘Tony Stark’, not ‘Iron Man’. We’ll see.)

            Tony is probably just going to ask what happened. Duh.

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        • I don’t know that modern audiences would go for text at the beginning, unless it was done in a deliberately retro style. “The Force Awakens” gets away with it, because that’s part of the “Star Wars” experience (and itself harkened back to an earlier form of storytelling).

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    • I’ve always wanted someone to do an alternate version of one of the big fantasy/comic book stories from the mastermind’s perspective of pulling all the pieces together. Not so much villains — since ultimately they fail to get it right — but the folks like Gandalf and Dumbledore, pulling strings and manipulating people for decades to set up a successful climax. A Loki movie, maybe, where it doesn’t just look like he’s doing random things.

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      • I have fun writing things from the mastermind’s perspective.
        (Of course, part of the fun of the mastermind is he’s already thought of a lot of stuff, so it still leaves the audience in suspense, even if you do give them peeks into his mind).

        Schemes and sensitive, perceptive people make a nice change from “The Hero is Emotional And Self-Absorbed”

        Gandalf really was a horrible, horrible mastermind.

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      • : You ever read Orson Scott Card’s Ender series? It’s not from the villain’s perspective, but he does a pretty clever job taking a relatively minor character from Ender’s Game and then showing how they were actually very crucial to the mission’s success behind the scenes in Ender’s Shadow (which was published some 15 years later).

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    • -Zemo worked on some levels though he clearly was sipping heavily on the Joker omnipotence juice to cause his plan to work out the way he intended. What exactly was he going to do if Cap didn’t have a girlfriend in the CIA who’d slip him Bucky’s location and Bucky ended up shot in the fact by the German SWAT? How did Zemo know exactly where the UN Oversight group was going to bring Bucky? Exactly who they’d call in to do the psych profile? How’d he be so sure that Bucky would not only not get shot in the face while escaping but that he’d team up with Cap and go rogue? How’d he know that once he let Stark know he’d been punked that Tony would fly out to Siberia Solo instead of showing up with the entire team? Eh…

      My guess would be that anything going wrong for Cap would just lead to the fight happening sooner, with Cap as the instigator rather than Stark. It’s because they get so far that Stark needs to be pushed. Meanwhile Zemo is going after the group in Siberia for his own reasons, since he wants to get rid of as many super powers as he can. His whole “kill the Siberia group” plan is independent of his “break up the Avengers” plan, they just happen to use some of the same elements. But yeah, just from the order in which he takes his actions, he’s clearly a little bit omniscient.

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    • Re: “omnipotence juice” (As a side note, the juice must come in a bottle labelled “Zima”, right?). In some sense you are right, but I think there’s enough material to allow one to imagine contingencies that he might have had in place.

      And I think you have to ask yourself whether covering those contingencies would make this story better. Would it make the film better, or just longer? What things do people want to see onscreen, and what things do they want to just fill in? Everyone has a different answer, so it’s fair for you to feel this way. I didn’t.

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    • Great insights!

      I felt differently about the Civil War. Tony’s expression while reading the letter looked like acceptance to me. And then of course there’s Cap rescuing the other Avengers, etc. It seemed like a lot of resolution for a film that’s about consequences and dredging up these deep-seated tensions.

      I was extremely pleased with both Spider-Man and Black Panther. I wasn’t much of a superhero kid, but I did like Spidey growing up. Wasn’t at all familiar with Black Panther, but Boseman was great. I’m excited to see what Ryan Coogler does with the solo film.

      Thanks for reading!

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      • Ah but regardless of Tony’s expression the -divide- is there. There are now two superhero teams, the UN regulated and sanctioned Stark Team and the unsanctioned vigilante team under Captain America. I would be surprised if the two don’t strike sparks off each other even if *cough infinity stones* a global calamity doesn’t eventually bring them back together.

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        • There are now two superhero teams, the UN regulated and sanctioned Stark Team and the unsanctioned vigilante team under Captain America.

          Technically, there are also the Secret Warriors, which are part of SHIELD, over on Agents of SHIELD. Which are sorta-kinda US government controlled…in the sense if the US government doesn’t tell them what to do, they won’t refuse to do it.

          (For those who don’t follow that show, SHIELD is basically, at this point, with the consent of the US government, pretending to be the ATCU, the government agency set up to deal with ‘alien powers’ at a national level. The actual ATCU was, of course, full ofHydra, and secretly mostly disbanded.)

          Right now, on AoS, it’s an open question as to whether or not they’re going to have their people sign up.(1) Coulson seems to think ‘No’, whereas the government is like ‘Uh, yes.’ Where this is going to end up is unknown. And this is weirdly hypocritical of Coulson, because *he’s* the one who used to run around putting people with superpowers on a list so they can be tracked, and he wanted to do that as recently as last season. Granted, that did blow up in his face, but it blew up because assholes didn’t want to register, so I’m baffled as to why he thinks that means *he* should resist registering his people.

          And it’s even odder when you consider that SHIELD (aka, ‘the ATCU’) is probably the entity that should be *managing* the American list…assuming there’s anything that happens at the national level.

          Also, this raises the weird issue: If there are superheroes employed by *national* governments (As the Secret Warrior kinda-sorta are.) do *they* need UN permission to act?

          Of course, they are the *Secret Warriors*, and Coulson gave them that name under the concept they should be the secret version of the Avengers…and that was before the Accords. As the US government knows about them, perhaps the concept is that they are the secret US government team that isn’t operating under UN sanction. (With a few built-in levels of plausibility deniability… ‘Oh, we’ve never heard of the Secret Warriors. Wait, you say they’re working for SHIELD? Didn’t we disband that? You say we’ve secretly been running SHIELD as part of the ATCU? Can you prove any of this?’)

          1) And it hasn’t been helped by, uh, mind-control. Although it’s was actually funny watching General Talbot flip the hell out when he realized the problem they were currently dealing with.

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          • Oh, and as an aside…it seems odd that no one has tried to find *SHIELD’s* index of people with superpowers as the starting point for the Accords.

            OTOH, perhaps they already have it…it was implied that most of the people on SHIELD’s index had already agreed to not use their powers for criminal activities or crime fighting or anything like that.

            So I suspect the Accords doesn’t care about those people. And just gave them something to sign that said that formally, or even just *notified* them of the actual rules. (Possibly this treaty includes national laws?)

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          • My understanding was that they would be managed by the US government at the behest of the UN. Similar to how NATO works with forces from the member state governments.

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  2. Inevitable Black Panther film? I’m as intrigued as I would be for a Green Lantern-Green Arrow teamup on the DC side and for the same reason: blending the exuberant joy of comic book action with serious social issues.

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            • Really? I specifically *didn’t* like that scene because I was expecting to see *more* of Wakanda on the zoom-out, but we just got some statue. Which I guess was there to tell us where we were, but I had already figured that out, and so was *expecting* to see a technological marvel of a city instead of just a giant panther statue. Bah.

              Incidentally: Leaving Cap in Wakanda is a really clever way for him to replace the shield he just lost. They really do plan these things out, don’t they?

              Now I’m wondering if ‘Captain America’ is going to be in the next Avengers movies, or if Steve Rogers is going to be there under a *different* superhero identity. (Although ‘Nomad’ is a perhaps a bit too goofy an identity.)

              And at the end…Falcon becomes Captain America?

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                • I don’t see how that is something I should concede to ‘be fair’. They had a chance for a incredible pullout at the end of the movie, and they didn’t do it. Yes, they probably didn’t *make* the CGI for Wakanda yet, but unless the movie was finished days before release, they had *time*.

                  And if the argument is something like ‘But they need to carefully plan everything out, in detail, so they just showed a little park area at the end’…Wakanda presumably has more than one city. Have one city at the end of this movie, and then, if in the Black Panther movie, they want a different city layout for a fight scene or something, just start the movie by saying they moved Bucky to another city.

                  Or, heck, explicitly say this is some super-advanced medical complex, and just show that part…and then move Bucky to somewhere else after he’s frozen.

                  I was really disappointed in the ‘reveal’ of…a giant panther statue. Ooo, impressive. A giant statue really shows us Wakanda’s technological advancement, which is apparently right up there with fricking 280 BC Greece!

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      • Well, they at least tackled the issue of ‘Should a madman be allowed to murder everyone in the slums via earthquake machine?’ with a resounding ‘No.’. A complicated social issue to be sure.

        Sadly, the show has given up on both Verdant and Roy, which were their two connections to the Glades. It’s a bit sad, especially as Oliver *isn’t* rich anymore…but they had to go and make *Felicity* rich, just because. (I mean, I understand they need some plausible way to buy their gear, but whatever.)

        Meanwhile, Legends of Tomorrow had a social issue episode…which was really really weird. They were in the 50s…and the racial stuff was just dumbass. Guys, maybe not pose as an interracial couple in the 50s? We get it, they were racist, but…really? That is the dumbest cover ever. (And then it turned out…most everyone was fine with it? And then they lived two years there just fine? Mixed messages here, guys.)

        Likewise, maybe pick anyone but the young black guy to chat up the white teenager girls for info? Yes, he’s the *youngest* person, but how about using Sarah *there*? She can pass for early 20s. You guys are the worse undercover people ever.

        And then, during all this, they did a closeted lesbian nurse and Sarah flirting *perfectly*, along with all sorts of sexism she had to put up with. That part worked because they operated within the rules of the time, and didn’t try to have Sarah pose as a doctor, or openly gay, or whatever.

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  3. It’s funny/interesting to me how organizational needs manifest themselves in movies despite customer needs just like it does in other industries. But I guess that makes sense because movies *are* actually products made by organizations that have needs. Why should I be surprised?

    And yet, I’m still kind of surprised.

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    • With movies, especially serialized franchises like this, the hope is that there’ll be some progression…or more aggressive progression. There have certainly been changes and developments since the beginning of MCU’s run, just not as much as I would hope given the number of films.

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      • Tell me what you think of the idea that, over time, movies are becoming more like TV and TV is becoming more like movies.

        The standard TV show of yore had no progression. An episode isn’t allowed to actually change anything because that would ruin the modularity of production. Movies, meanwhile, weren’t so constrained. You could kill big, important characters because you weren’t forced to save anything. It’s OK for Leo to die at the end of Titanic.

        But now, we have movie franchises. You are limited in what you can do because you need to leave room for a sequel.

        TV, meanwhile, has managed to do the opposite. They have long arcs where major characters are now expendable. People aren’t watching episodes in random order, so there’s no need for modularity.

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  4. As we, as a society, become more and more post-religious, it seems to me that we’re losing an important vocabulary for discussion of ethical and moral concepts.

    Into this vacuum comes the next best thing: Superheroes.

    I just wish that for a film about consequences

    If Superheroes have impeccable intentions and unlimited power, why should we still have consequences?

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    • Absolutely! This is a massive reason why I continue to have interest in comic books and costumed superheroes despite my advancing middle age: yes, it’s a reliving of an adolescent joy, but it’s also an articulation of contemporary myth, in the Jospeh Campell sense of mythology. In our myths we find our shared ideals, aspirations, fears, and moral cautions.

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    • Yes. I think the film contrasts an old-school idea about power with the coming ideas. In a sense, all superhero movies are about one’s relationship to power, and how one uses it, and how that lands on everyone else on the planet. Far from ignoring the collateral damage that superheroes normally cause, this film makes that damage it’s core.

      Captain America has moral certainty of a type that the Americans who fought the Nazis had. He is right, and that is unquestioned. In the prior films, this has been an asset. In this one, it’s not so clear. Even Bucky, a contemporary, asks Cap, “Am I worth it?” That moral certainty can take a person off the rails very badly.

      In contrast, Stark has been consumed with guilt, and wishing to be rid of the responsibility that he somewhat unknowingly picked up when he made the suits. He keeps trying to duck it (blowing up his suits), to pass it on(building Ultron), to share it with someone else (signing the accords). Can one use power without guilt? Peter Parker understands the responsibility, but doesn’t seem to be burdened with guilt. That’s what makes him so important to the film.

      I would take as the thesis of the film the idea that collateral damage is impossible to avoid, and asks the question, “What then?”

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      • If collateral damage is impossible to avoid, by all means, become a supervillain.
        At least then you can manage who lives and who dies. Superheroes are so terribly, terribly reactionary.

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          • Utilitarianism certainly has no need to be — and I’d argue rarely is.
            The Categorical Imperative? Oh, fine that’s as reactionary as you please.
            Values-based Morality is a purely sociological concept — and to a good extent can’t be reactionary as it founds itself on society as a whole. “Be Loyal” for example has a common societal definition.
            (Of course, you could make the argument that society itself is always reactionary — serving as a guiding force for people whose instinct is to always go to excess)

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        • This is, in fact, the rhetorical position of Jessica Jones. Jessica firmly positions herself as a non-hero, and gives a speech to Jeri Hogarth that is basically this. But Jessica can’t walk away from certain things, either.

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      • I would take as the thesis of the film the idea that collateral damage is impossible to avoid, and asks the question, “What then?”

        I’d say that the answer is letting the people who are exposed to the collateral damage have some say in whether they think it’s worth it for you to get involved.

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        • This is the premise of the supposed solution coming from the Iron Man side of the conflict, which rightly points out that while the Avengers actions are laudable and to the general benefit, they are being conducted outside the law and without authorization by any legitimate authority. The appears to bedeal being that the Avengers become an authorized agent of any state that signs the agreement in return for being supervised by a panel appointed by those states through the UN.

          The Captain America counter-argument is that this process doesn’t actually give the people a real say in whether the act or not, as the ability to decide will actually be held by that is de facto if not de jure removed from accountiablity by the people of the world and now the real power is held by powerful people with their own agendas.

          What I like about the movie is it presents the flaws of both system. Stark’s UN approach is undermined by Secretary Ross being exactly the kind of man with an agenda that would interfere in practice with the seemingly quite reasonable set up they have on paper. Captain America’s argument only holds if he himself is a moral paragon that should be trusted to act in the general interest. Now he actually might be such a man on most days, but even the best man will have areas where he’s compromised (i.e. Bucky).

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          • The problem with moral paragons is that they can’t be trusted in a fight, even if they are on your side. Every man has a price, but theirs is “Doing Good”

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  5. I actually thought the film was mostly fine*, right up until the last fight. It didn’t make sense that Stark would immediately go berserk based on the information he had been given. There probably should have been another few lines of dialogue somewhere to make sense of it, something with Zemo pushing him or Bucky not expressing some desired degree of remorse, something more than what we had. Also, did anyone else forget that he didn’t need the thing in his chest anymore? There was a minute where I genuinely thought Stark was going to die from getting the battery broken. Would’ve made a nice reversal of the result of the comicbook Civil War.

    * What I consider to be errors of camera work deflated the pathos of BP losing his father, to my eye. Also Cap’s relationship with Carter II struck me as creepy.

    edit: do we not have spoiler tagging anymore?

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    • Also Cap’s relationship with Carter II struck me as creepy.

      Why? It’s basically the same (Once you ignore the age difference.) as dating sisters.

      Not that Captain actually dated Peggy Carter *anyway*.

      What seems to be weird to *me* is..how the heck does Peggy Carter, who is (was) 95 years old, have a 30-ish niece? We learn, in season 2 of Agent Cater, she does have a brother, yes, but he died in WWII, and didn’t seem to have any kids…and if he did, they’d be 60 years old, not 30!

      Did she have a younger brother that missed the war, and then married and had kids later in life? (Why wouldn’t she mention this when talking about her other brother?) Or did her *parents* have kids very late in life? (Maybe he literally hasn’t been born yet, although a woman stretching kids out over 30+ years is a neat trick in 1920-1955.) Or is Sharon Carter perhaps Peggy’s *grand*-niece, not her niece?

      The weird thing was…Sharon Carter is an existing character in the Marvel Comics, and she was quite deliberately put into the MCU in Winter Soldier (And everyone but Steve Rogers knew who she was.)…which makes it more than baffling that when they did Agent Carter’s backstory with her brother and family in season 2 of that show, they completely ignored the fact Peggy needed a niece, or, rather, a male sibling to later produce a niece.

      It’s just odd they gave us the brother we knew she had to have…and then killed him off in the flashbacks. So now there has to be some *other* brother out there no one bothered to mention.

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        • Actually, if we go off Marisa Tomei’s age, Aunt May is 52, and Peter is supposed to be 16 or so, so if she was his mother, she would have had him at 36. Which slightly on the high end, but not implausible.

          As she’s *not* his mother, (In fact, she’s not actually biologically related to him, it’s Uncle Ben who was brothers with Peter’s father.(1)) there’s really no age problem there. Even if we assume that both sets of spouses were exactly the same age (Which is clearly a silly assumption.), Uncle Ben just being the older brother by 6 years would have Peter’s parents having him at a quite respectable 30.

          It’s a bit weirder in the Marvel Universe proper, but there are at least three links to add in years…Peter’s mother could have married someone quite a bit older than her, Peter’s father could have been quite a bit younger than his brother (Uncle Ben), and Uncle Ben could have married someone (Aunt May) quite a bit older than *him*.

          Even if you just make each of those age difference 5 years, Aunt May could be *fifteen years* too old to have Peter as a son. She could have been basically 50 when he was born. Make them 10 years, and she could have been 65!

          1) You can actually figure this out from both of them having the last name ‘Parker’, but the comics have explicitly stated it.

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      • It seems weird to me because of all the emphasis on Peggy, and on her being dead. It feels like he’s picking things up with Sharon very much because he hasn’t gotten over Peggy. Which seems like a not-particularly-great thing to do to Sharon.

        As to their relatedness, I’d bet on an unmentioned “grand-“.

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        • It seems weird to me because of all the emphasis on Peggy, and on her being dead. It feels like he’s picking things up with Sharon very much because he hasn’t gotten over Peggy. Which seems like a not-particularly-great thing to do to Sharon.

          Well, it’s possible he’s not over Peggy. Although considering they never actually had a relationship, *and* it’s been five years, that seems a silly assumption at this point.

          But he wasn’t involved with Sharon because of who Sharon is…he didn’t even *know* who she was until the funeral. Whereas he showed interest in her in Winter Soldier.

          So if he shouldn’t be getting in a relationship with Sharon, by the same logic, he really shouldn’t be getting in one with anyone.

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  6. The big… I don’t know if I want to call it a “problem”… with Civil War is that the story it is based on was written during two fairly significant things going on:

    1. Joe Q was in charge of things at Marvel
    2. George W. Bush was President of the United States

    As such, the storyline did its best to make a strawman of the pro-gummint position (held by Tony Stark, among others) and make The Only True Principled Position be the one held by Captain America (paraphased as “I fought against a government that demanded its citizens carry identification papers… I never thought I’d have to do that sort of thing ever again!!!!”)

    With that as a starting point, I suppose that we should be pleased that the movie got as much right as it did.

    Because, really, if it turned out that there was this guy and every time he clapped he could blow up a car, you’d think that we’d want his name to be on a list somewhere.

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    • But this arc goes all the way back to the Core X-Men movies and remains a central theme to many Marvel Properties. At what point does the government need to keep a list of what we “can do”?

      I have the knowledge, with a physics degree, to do a lot of harm if I were so inclined to do so. But as far as I know there is no record of my education with the CIA. Should there be?

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    • The obvious right thing the movie did was ditch the central conflict of the comic book arc.

      Yeah, for about five minutes it was maybe about ideological differences regarding oversight, but the conflict in the movie is always a conflict of personality. Cap it righteous, Iron Man is guilty. Those have been integral traits of those characters for 8 movies in a row, and all this movie had to do was point them directly at each other and let go. The specifics of what they were fighting over can, and did change several times over the course of the movie, but the emotional conflict remained constant.

      Until, of course, the very end–when they gave Steve something to be guilty about and Tony something to be righteous about.

      And Contra Garrett, I definately think this is something that will matter going forward. These character relationships are bent and broken, and I expect that the fallout is going to feature heavily in the movies to come.

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      • So if the Marvel Universe is a Universe that also has something similar to 1934’s National Firearms Act that requires automatic weapons to be registered to the BATFE, you’d be down with the Mutant Registration Act?

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  7. Minor quibble:

    I have no believe at all that everything will be “Fine” between Caps and Stark after this film, indeed between any of them, really. I think we’ll see Hawkeye in the Black Widow film because she’s one of the only people on Team Stark who won’t turn him in, but I’d be very surprised to see Falcon team up with Ironman for a while. Maybe they’ll appear in the Spiderman film to create a sense of “what do I do? Do I turn them in?” for Spiderman to deal with, but that’s about it.

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  8. Why are the good guys fighting each other? I mean, these ARE all good guys, right? Also, is Spider-Man in this movie? Or did I fever-dream that during the trailer?

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    • They’re good guys but some are libertarians and some are liberals so they do what libertarians and liberals do.

      And yes Spiderman is in the film, well technically Spider-boy. Spiderman still belongs to Sony.

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      • Uh, Tony’s pretty clearly a conservative in all the movies. Billionaire industrialist weapons manufacturer who inherited his wealth but still thinks it shows he’s better than everyone? And, for the first two Iron Man movies, regards women mainly as convenient bedwarmers?

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        • Part of the whole point is that multiple films of character growth has put Iron Man in the opposite place ideologically from where he started, while Roger’s experience over the same time has shifted him in the opposite direction.

          Tony started out as the man who would privatise world piece and wouldn’t trust the government with his weapons anymore, but his many screw ups has convinced him that an individual can’t be trusted with that kind of power.

          Steve started out as the perfect soldier (albeit with a rebellious streak due to his desire to be allowed to join the fight). After he found out SHIELD got subverted by HYDRA though, he puts his trust in individuals but not insitutions anymore.

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  9. WARNING: POST IS FILLED WITH SPOILERS

    It’s the first Marvel movie where the protagonists don’t win, and the villain does. Cap wanted to protect Bucky, his friend and the only person from his old life who was still living. At the film’s end, Bucky goes into hibernation. and barring a scientific breakthrough, may never be conscious against. Stark wanted to keep the Avengers together. At the film’s end, they’re split apart, three-quarters of them are fugitives, and the team has been completely split. True, the ending shows that they don’t hate each other, but they’re not going to be forming an effective team again in a hurry. That’s enough stakes for me; it makes the film’s emotional toll feel more real than killing off a minor character would (or did, in Age of Ultron).

    I think the movie did a great job of ratcheting up the tension gradually; they’re initially simply in disagreement, and even after the first big fight/chase scene, they’re not in conflict. During the full-scale team fight, you can tell that they still regard each other as friends (the Black Widow-Hawkeye scene did a nice job of illustrating that) and each side is hoping that things can be patched up once they get their way – and Stark is still ready to go out of his way to help Cap when he recieves evidence that he’s been wrong. It’s not until the last fight in Russia, when the stakes are emotional and not political, that real, strong animosity comes into play. Which makes the conflict feel more genuine than if they’d just fallen to fighting right away.

    It also, I think, avoids the “this fight could be avoided by ten minutes of conversation” problem. They discuss things quite a lot in the early stages of the movie; they just don’t agree with each others’ positions. Cap does try to tell Stark that there’s a danger of someone capturing the remaining winter soldiers in Russia, so it’s not lack of knowledge that creates the conflict: it’s Stark not finding him credible because he’s shown himself willing to do or believe pretty much anything to protect Bucky. In the airport, they’re both on a time limit: Cap to find and stop what he thinks is the villain’s plot; Tony to capture Cap before forces that worried about keeping Cap alive take over the pursuit. What was missing was evidence and trust, not conversation. And in Russia, it’s the addition of information that causes the conflict – there was no misunderstanding, just diametrically opposed goals.

    Black Panther was a fantastic character and I’m greatly looking forward to his movie now. They managed to work his origin story seamlessly into the film, and at the same time have his character arc illustrate the key theme of the film, in addition to making him an engaging character in his own right.

    I felt like both sides had decent points. The initial intervention in Nigeria was way out of line (if you’re trying to be heroes by doing something like that, you explain the situation to the country’s government first, ask their permission to assist, and coordinate with them at least to the extent that they can block off the streets where you think the attack is likely to occur). Sure, the Nigerian government is fiscally corrupt, but they’d still want to stop a terrorist attack. My ideal would be that, at minimum, if the Avengers want to launch an intervention in a specific country, they get the consent of the nation’s government. The UN has some major flaws, but it’s not the World Security Council from The Avengers, and it’s not HYDRA, and it’s the closest thing we can get to a representative of international opinion, so the Accords weren’t a completely terrible idea (although they should have limited to restricting whether the Avengers could act, without the power to order them to act). What moron decided to put a US military general in charge of an international UN agreement, I don’t know.

    Cap was fighting to preserve the life of his closest friend and the only person he still knew from his earlier days (with Peggy’s funeral at the beginning giving extra impetus to this), and his last experience with oversight institutions was when one turned out to be evil fascists bent on taking over the world, so his skepticism of the Accords and his determination to do anything to help Bucky is pretty understandable. In the final fight Stark was clearly in the wrong, but his actions and emotions were equally understandable. So in term of creating a conflict that doesn’t make one side obviously and entirely right and the other side obviously wrong, I think the filmmakers did a good job.

    On the whole, my second-favourite Marvel movie after Winter Soldier.

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    • What moron decided to put a US military general in charge of an international UN agreement, I don’t know.

      Ross is Secretary of State in Civil War, retired from the military.

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      • Ah, thanks, missed that. He was still a bad choice. The Avengers are mostly American and operate out of America; the Sokovia Accords were supposed to be an international agreement. They should have been overseen by someone from another country than the United States.

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        • I would hazard to guess that he was something of a transitional authority at that point as an American foriegn policy official having authority over an American based organization opperating abroad. The UN having agreed to create a oversight panel but not yet at the point of appointing them and having the full infrastructure in place.

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        • The Avengers are mostly American and operate out of America; the Sokovia Accords were supposed to be an international agreement. They should have been overseen by someone from another country than the United States.

          I think the implication is that it’s the US that is going to have to *arrest* everyone who doesn’t sign, because the Avengers live in the US. (And the US would really rather not arrest Captain America.)

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    • KatherineMW: What moron decided to put a US military general in charge of an international UN agreement, I don’t know.

      You know how when GWB got elected, he decided to name as his chief diplomat the guy who conducted our last war in the middle east, and that decision was strongly indicative of his foreign policy goals?

      Replace GWB with President Ellis and Iraq with the Hulk, and you’ve got a pretty good picture of why Thunderbolt Ross is writing the Sokovia accords.

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    • I felt like both sides had decent points. The initial intervention in Nigeria was way out of line (if you’re trying to be heroes by doing something like that, you explain the situation to the country’s government first, ask their permission to assist, and coordinate with them at least to the extent that they can block off the streets where you think the attack is likely to occur). Sure, the Nigerian government is fiscally corrupt, but they’d still want to stop a terrorist attack. My ideal would be that, at minimum, if the Avengers want to launch an intervention in a specific country, they get the consent of the nation’s government. The UN has some major flaws, but it’s not the World Security Council from The Avengers, and it’s not HYDRA, and it’s the closest thing we can get to a representative of international opinion, so the Accords weren’t a completely terrible idea (although they should have limited to restricting whether the Avengers could act, without the power to order them to act).

      The only point I felt should have been brought up was Cap being able to *quit*.

      I mean, Cap specifically raises the question ‘What if they send me somewhere I don’t want to go?’…but, *could* they force him to go? Couldn’t he just resign at that point? I mean, I guess technically soldiers can’t just do that…but *is* that what the agreement said? Is this some *military* force? (Cap isn’t still technically in the Army, is he? He was handed over to SHIELD, right, and then SHIELD was dissolved?)

      Alternately, it would have been an interesting legal question for Captain just to…quit the Avengers, right there in the movie, and say he’s done with all it…and then hey, if he happens to stop a crime in progress, that’s the right of any US citizen. If they try to say he can’t do that because he has superpowers…that sounds like a civil rights violation to me. He can’t be barred from an otherwise legal activity because of a medical condition. (Granted, other countries have the right to *keep him out*, so it pretty much restricts him to America.)

      All these questions, incidentally, and many more even stupider ones, why the comic ‘Civil War’ arc didn’t work. And it’s why this movie, while *supposedly* about the Accords, was actually about Bucky, and the pro-registration side was there so that there was a legitimate ‘Wait, we can’t run around helping known assassins avoid the law.’ issue for the Avengers. The actual Accords didn’t matter.

      Incidentally, I was slightly annoyed that Cap failed to mention to Tony that the first set of people sent after Bucky gave him *no chance to surrender*, despite the fact everyone is aware he was brainwashed and has apparently broke his conditioning. Which is something that Tony probably would have had a problem with. And I’m *also* annoyed at Cap for failing to realize that Bucky being arrested was pretty much the only possible outcome (Bucky at minimum needs a psych evaluation), and what he *should* have been doing is playing peacemaker to get that to happen peacefully. He should have pulled out his phone and called Tony, and said, ‘They’re going to kill Bucky, he’s willing to surrender but not to these guys, get over here in your suit and fly him to jail.’

      If he had done *that*, if Bucky had surrendered peacefully and Cap hadn’t run around trying to help him escape…Tony might actually have listened when Cap said that Bucky had been triggered or something, thus avoiding the entire airport thing.

      I mean, Tony did, in many ways, act like a jackass, but Cap acted like a *moron*.

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      • Strikes me that using superpowers could be banned, as a legal thing. “Too much collateral damage” being the obvious issue.

        Then cap has to fight crime without his shield, maybe?

        Maybe we just ban the truly troublesome powers (like Stark’s grenades, etc)?

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        • Then cap has to fight crime without his shield, maybe?

          The US government could just take the thing back. It’s their property after all. (And worth several million dollars! Vibanium is expensive!)

          Same with Falcon’s gear. It’s never actually explained how he gets access to that in his first movie (I mean, non active-duty helicopter pilots can’t just walk onto US military bases and take ‘their’ helicopter and use it for personal stuff.), or how he keeps it….but it is, in fact, US government property.

          Maybe we just ban the truly troublesome powers (like Stark’s grenades, etc)?

          Pretty sure 75% of Stark’s suit is illegal. He’s basically walking around better armed than a tank. You can’t run around with missile launchers and machine guns, hell, they’re also *concealed*. Does he even have a New York concealed carry license? (And when the suit is flying by itself, it’s a drone *with weapon*, which…didn’t we just make illegal?)

          And even if he has a pilot’s license (?), he doesn’t seem to clear with any air traffic control when flying the suit around. (It’s *possible* he’s under the min weight and the suit counts as an ultralight in some places, but I doubt it. Falcon’s gear, OTOH, probably *does* count as an ultralight.)

          Fun fact: Wanda’s flying is entirely legal, at least in the US. It is legal to fly however you want if *you*, personally, can fly. But the second you’re flying some sort of *vehicle*, like Iron Man (and War Machine and Falcon.) you end up under FAA control. (Vision is also legal, if he counts as a person. Otherwise he’s…an unmanned drone?)

          OTOH, speaking on Wanda…as the movie points out, how is she even *in* the US? Stark just sorta…flew her there, without her going through immigration or customs, and she has no visa or permission to be there.

          So *legally*, when it comes to the Avengers, the US government can take (or at least outlaw) the stuff of Iron Man, War Machine, and Falcon, rendering them useless, kick Wanda and Thor out of the country, confiscate Vision as either a machine or possibly an alien or both, and take Cap’s shield. And also take away permission to fly their Quinjets, which they seem to think gives them the power to move between countries without any permission at all.

          The only people they *can’t* do anything about are Spider-Man (Well, except arrest him on a billion counts of illegally climbing buildings and hanging on the outside of moving vehicles. And also a lot of littering.), Black Widow (Despite being Russian, she presumably she has some legal US status at this point…although, as murder has no statue of limitations, they can probably find one of those to arrest her for.), Hawkeye (He’d probably want to ditch the *explosive* arrows, those can’t be legal.), and Ant-Man (His suit is owned by a private individual, and doesn’t have any weapons and can’t fly…well, he can fly, but not via his suit, but via *ant*, and ants are not covered by the FAA. Although hitching a ride on Hawkeye’s arrow is an interesting question.). And Captain American can fight perfectly well without his shield.

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    • Um, NIGERIA. The government may want bribes in order to do any work at all.
      (Still, Tony can afford to pay bribes on that scale, and it’s worth it to figleaf “we got permission!”)

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      • Well, normally, yes, but remember, there were Wakandan (sp?) diplomats in that building, and *Wakanda* was pissed.

        Basically, Tony would have to bribe Nigeria to have it take the heat from Wakanda (The super-advanced country that was trying to open trade relations, and the rest of Africa would be high on their list of possible trade partners.)…and that might actually not be possible. Bribery will only go so far.

        OTOH, it’s entirely possible that Tony *already* bribed people in Nigeria to allow the Avengers to operate there…and after this mess, the Nigeria government looked for a way to repudiate all that and blame the Avengers, and said ‘Hey, wait, they bribed their way into permission in the first place!’ and pinned everything on whoever Tony bribed, and on Tony.

        Which makes the Avengers look *even worse*.

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  10. So slightly more serious question…

    I’ve seen the three Iron Man movies. I fell asleep during the first Avengers movie and I think also during the second Avengers movie (or I might have skipped it entirely). I haven’t seen any of the other character’s standalone movies. How much of that do I need to go back and watch/rewatch for this movie to make sense?

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    • Its pretty much a direct sequel of the 2nd Captain America and 2nd Avengers film and relies on you knowing what happened in them to get what is going on in Civil War.

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      • It’s a sequel to the second Cap film. The second Avengers film matters for some character bits (and two characters…) but not much else. Avengers 2 takes place in Sokovia, which gets about the expected treatment in the fight. Wanda and Vision join the team. That’s about all you need to know from the second Avengers.

        Meanwhile, as much as Cap 2 was called Winter Soldier and Cap 3 was called Civil War, I am of the opinion that Cap 2 was “Prelude to MCU Act 2”, and Cap 3 was more properly Winter Soldier, since it’s actually about the guy, and the Civil War is started more than carried out.

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    • I’d recommend watching Captain America 2 and reading a plot & characters summary of Avengers 2.

      Beyond “The Avengers have had some big fights and buildings got knocked down in the process”, there isn’t really anything plot-wise you need to know from any movie beyond CA2. But it doesn’t take much time telling you who the returning characters are, so it’s nice if you know things like “Vision is a recently-created android with a cosmic-powered gem in his forehead” and “Hawkeye is a former spy and retired avenger who shoots things with a bow.”–or be the kind of movie goer that can understand the characters without needing to know that basic backstory.

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      • Well, and you also need to know that Tony Stark is a burned-out screwup, who keeps trying to make things better, and then having to *fix* the stuff he broke trying to make things better.

        Seriously, the plot of Iron Man, Iron Man 3, and Avengers 2 are all Tony seeing a small problem, trying to fix it, and then spending the entire movie fixing the stuff he screwed up fixing that thing (Errors include: Not paying attention to the fact his company is selling to terrorists. Telling terrorists to come to his house and kill him. And, of course, building murder bots.)…and Iron Man 2 is fixing stuff his *father* screwed up, so yay? Even Avengers, where nothing is really his fault, the bad guys *use his building* for no obvious reason, so even when it can’t actually be his fault, it’s symbolically his fault.

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