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IN REVIEW: “Captain America: Civil War”

Rating — 5/5

Don’t be confused — Captain America: Civil War may be the third MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) entry in movies titled after the patriotic hero, but it is by no means a finale to a trilogy. If anything, it is a bridge. A “to be continued” to something. Something more. Something more… “worthy”?

Worthy of what? Civil War stands head and shoulders above all other superhero films and comic book movies, presenting a grounded on Earth tragedy that is bound to resonate with friends and family, super or not. It does the business of furthering along a soap opera into its darkest hour, while progressing and staying true to its players. It’s also NOT cloudy with a chance of depression, as some other similar flicks have been this year. An audience pleaser with the smarts to break and mend hearts alike.

What is there to be worthy of?

In this movie, not only is the question of why someone chooses to be a hero asked, but the very the concept of heroes (super ones, anyways) is challenged. Near gods with autonomous decision making and little to no accountability is not something most regular folk would appreciate. Of course, in Post 9/11 W. Bush era America, we “appreciated” having our civil liberties scaled back for the sake of “freedom”. I suppose it’s all a PR game. Whoever is attractive and charismatic enough for the masses gets to make up their minds for them. Wait… am I talking about W. Bush or a fictional supervillain?

There is a compulsion by these men and women of great skill to protect and serve, one that comes with heavy complications and burden. For Captain America, it’s the need to save everyone. He acknowledges the futility in his efforts, but tries anyways, because he can. And, to him, inaction is just as grave as evil action. He’s not talking about pre-emptive striking — to start war in order to “prevent” it — but rather preparedness and being ready to go when the call is made. As a WWII vet, I’d expect nothing else from him.

It all weighs heavy on him, but never is he “burdened”. It’s a privilege and an honor. Iron Man, however, is driven BY burden to save the day. Driven by guilt of creating weapons, causing destruction and even consequences of current heroic actions. It’s a safe bet that if he’s made a choice, it was probably rash and personal, thus questionable. This isn’t to suggest he’s bad or anti-hero, but that he’s complex and even flawed. Cap is too, by way of his strong, even stubborn convictions.

The Russo Brothers punched up the emotional resonance of the action sequences, while pulling back the amount of action, compared to The Winter Soldier at least. That movie’s danger and thrills gives way to this movie’s causality and punch packing. It can be fun and funny, deviating slightly from the whole tone, but it never goes off the rails. Civil War is always sure footed and on solid ground. Lean, but tasty.

Like in Age of Ultron, Civil War has a villain that exists due to The Avengers’ actions. Well, villains. I counted two. One a person, the other a culture. Both are quite manipulative, crafty and able to get beneath ones skin easily. While the person could rank up there with Loki in terms of chaos caused, it’s the culture of fear, paranoia and propaganda that rules the day. A culture without a head or body, but with a heart and a purpose. It’s something straight out of William Burroughs — abstract but defined. There is no individual to point fingers at, but we are all controlled by this entity. An entity created by us. By our natural inclination to distrust each other. Well, unnatural maybe.

Regulations or not, danger will always pop up. Like Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men (an apt title for this review), “You WANT me on that wall! You NEED me on that wall!” Sure, it was a quote that was pompous to the brim, and while I wouldn’t want HIM to be on “that wall” defending me, I would want “that wall” to be defended and manned. But who gets to choose who? Who chooses the choosers? And why would someone sign up for such a mission? Do they have an agenda?

Where Zack Snyder’s Watchmen was a fine visual accompaniment to a much better book, Marvel Studios’ Civil War stands by itself, defiantly, as the real “Who watches the watchmen?” movie. Inner turmoil, outer problems, existential queries, no win scenarios, utter drama. Where Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman was just sickeningly depressant, Civil War is classically tragic with a thoughtful edge. Its thoughts drift from one arc to another, but it all connects to a wham of an ending, that brings about feelings of pain and, yes, even hope.

The challenge to these characters and to comic heroes in general is absolutely staggering in Captain America: Civil War. What could’ve just been a franchise on franchise beatdown turned into a struggle to maintain the mythology and point of having heroes. Are they serving the greater good or their own good? The answer is more complicated than expected. After all, they’re people too (most of them, anyways).

What is there to be worthy of? A hammer, and all that comes with it.

Written by

Independent film critic. Progressive po’ boy, moviegoing romantic. SEFCA member, 🍅 - approved. Newsletter at ofthosewho.substack.com

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