Sunday, May 8, 2016

Captain America: Civil War SPOILER REVIEW

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If you read my spoiler-free review a couple days ago, you know that I thought this movie was pretty much amazing.  The characters are all handled very well.  The motivations are clear and consistent.  The plot makes sense.  The villain is kind of one-note, but that’s really all he needs to be in this movie.  The emotion of seeing the Avengers at each other’s throats was huge.   All in all, this is an incredible movie, one that you definitely need to see.

If you’re looking for more than that (and don’t mind spoilers) keep reading.

The movie kicks off with a bang as the New Avengers—Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, and Scarlet Witch—are in Lagos, Nigeria, to stop Brock Rumlow, a.k.a. Crossbones.  Through teamwork the four Avengers manage to quickly take down all of Rumlow’s mercenaries and reacquire the biological weapon that they captured.  Seeing the Avengers fight together as a team is a great way to start the movie, particularly when so much of the movie focuses on tearing this team apart.  However, the mission ends in tragedy when Rumlow activates a bomb in his vest to kill both himself and Captain America.  He fails to kill Captain America when Scarlet Witch intervenes, but when Scarlet Witch tries to get Rumlow away from the people on the ground and he detonates in midair next to an office building, blowing out two floors.

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This tragedy, which kills a number of civilians including members of a mercy mission from Wakanda, serves as the immediate inciting incident for the Sokovia Accords.  Thunderbolt Ross (now Secretary of State) meets with the Avengers to press them into accepting the Accords as an accountability measure.  Tony Stark is already on the side of the Accords because he has been feeling immense guilt for his role in the Sokovia tragedy, and presses the others to sign as well.  I really enjoyed the scene with all the New Avengers (plus Iron Man) sitting around and discussing the Accords, and how well it lays out just what the rest of the heroes think on the political issue.  Vision’s position is particularly interesting, as he echoes a common complaint:  as the number of superheroes increases, so does the number of super-villains and potentially world-ending events.  Given this correlation, he favors registration as a way to potentially reduce the number of incidents.

However, this being Captain America’s movie, he of course gets the most time to lay out his position:  heroes need the freedom of choice.  They can’t rely on other people to tell them what to do; the Accords’ governing body might tell them to do something they find morally wrong, or refuse to let them help out in a situation they need to get involved in.  “The safest hands are still our own.”  This lesson is driven home even more at Peggy Carter’s funeral when her niece, Sharon, speaks about Peggy’s belief in what is right and the need to do what is right no matter how many people are telling you the opposite (note:  Sharon’s speech is actually a quote from the comic book “Civil War” miniseries).
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Iron Man, War Machine, Vision, and Black Widow all sign the Sokovia Accords, and Widow goes to Vienna for the signing, which is also being attended by both the King and the Prince of Wakanda.  Our introduction to T’Challa is very well done:  we see him as an eloquent diplomat and dutiful son… right before he becomes the King as a bomb goes off outside, killing several people including King T’Chaka (I kind of called that).  This sets T’Challa on the warpath against the Winter Soldier, who is blamed for the bombing.  Everyone tracks down the Winter Soldier in Germany, where Captain America tries to talk him in before Special Forces attack.  This pits Cap against the Special Forces—though he doesn’t let any of them get hurt.  Black Panther also appears to attack the Winter Soldier, leading to an exciting chase scene with the three of them (Cap, Winter Soldier, and Black Panther) running through traffic.  The fight finally stops when War Machine arrives with Special Forces to take them all into custody.  This is the first time when one of the Avengers is actually threatening another Avenger.  However, at this point Iron Man and War Machine are just trying to keep the peace and prevent the world from turning against the Avengers any more than they already have.  This also leads Iron Man to assign Vision to “protect” Wanda by keeping her in the New Avengers Facility.

Zemo infiltrates the U.N. facility by posing as the psychiatrist brought in to evaluate Bucky, but he instead takes advantage of the opportunity to reengage his Hydra programming and set him loose.  The Avengers try to stop him, but he still manages to escape.  However, Cap and Falcon succeed in capturing him, and he reveals that he wasn’t the only “Winter Soldier” that Hydra had; they had five more “super-soldiers” in cryostasis in Siberia, and Zemo wanted to know where the facility was.  Suddenly Captain America is faced with a situation which could devolve rapidly if Zemo were allowed to control these five “Winter Guard” (I know it's nothing like the comic version, but it's a bunch of "Winter Soldiers," so let's just roll with it):  he could completely destabilize the world in a matter of days.  And unfortunately there’s no guarantee that the Accords would allow the Avengers to intervene when the information came from the man accused of bombing the U.N.  In other words, this is exactly the kind of situation that Captain America feared:  the Avengers have to intervene, but their accountability group probably wouldn’t let them.  Captain America needs to defy the Accords.

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There’s a really good recruiting sequence as Captain America pulls Hawkeye out of retirement and sends him to recruit Scarlet Witch (who takes Vision down hard on the way out).  Meanwhile, Tony goes to Queens to recruit a new hero of his own in the form of Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man.  There really isn’t anything bad that we can say about Spider-Man:  he’s a poor kid from Queens given extraordinary power.  He wants to do the right thing, and he is in awe of Iron Man, who’s pretty much his hero.  Something I appreciated was that most of the Spider-Man tech was built by Peter Parker.  There were some suggestions that Tony would provide the web shooters—and he does give him upgraded ones—but the basis for Spider-Man’s suit and web shooters is Peter Parker’s.  At this point the battle lines are pretty much drawn, with the addition of Black Panther on Iron Man’s side (he really wants to slice the Winter Soldier up with his vibranium claws) and Ant-Man on Captain America’s side (he fanboys over Captain America almost as much as Spider-Man does over Iron Man).

I think the most pure-fun moment in this movie might be when Sharon brings Cap his and Falcon’s gear and the two of them (finally) kiss.  Steve comments that it’s “late.”  And then he turns back to the car to see Sam and Bucky both grinning at him.

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The airport fight scene is everything that the early reviews said it would be.  Everyone gets there moment in the spotlight.  Ant-Man gets a ton of awesome moments, from hiding on Cap’s shield to pretending to be Iron Man’s “conscience” to even turning into Giant-Man during the fight to provide a distraction so Cap and Bucky could escape.  One thing that I really liked in the fight was the use of two particular pairs of heroes to drive home the emotional stakes of pitting friends against each other.  The first is when Hawkeye fights Black Widow and the two of them are both clearly holding back.  Between The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron it is clear that the two of them have a history together and are very close friends.  And yet they find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.  They don’t exactly want to fight, but they both think they are doing the right thing.  The other pair is Scarlet Witch and Vision.  As the most powerful heroes on their respective teams, they inevitably must fight.  But a few moments early in the movie made it pretty clear that they would not want to fight each other because they have become such close friends (perhaps they even hint at something more).  Finally, Scarlet Witch gets taken out of the fight and Vision goes to comfort her, at which point the two of them actually apologize for fighting each other.

Simply put, I love how the fight is such a huge spectacle but doesn’t lose sight of the little personal moments.

None of the heroes are actually killed in the fight, but War Machine does get shot out of the sky by an errant blast from Vision (who is “distracted” because Scarlet Witch got hurt).  Consequently, Rhodey is paralyzed, something which doesn’t get fixed before the end of the movie.  I really appreciate just how well this movie shows the consequences of the Avengers’ actions as being physical as well as emotional.

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Captain America and Bucky escape from the airport to go to Siberia, but the rest of their team gets captured and incarcerated at the Raft, a top-secret prison built in the middle of the ocean by Ross (and presumably Stark) to house super-villains and Accords opponents.  Tony finally discovers that Zemo played them and convinces Falcon to tell him where Cap and Bucky went.  Iron Man follows them to Siberia, and the three of them together discover Zemo and the “Winter Guard.”  However, this is when Zemo’s true plan comes to fruition:  the super-soldiers were just bait (he killed them).  He just wanted Iron Man, Captain America, and the Winter Soldier in the same room so he could show them Hydra footage of the Winter Soldier killing Iron Man’s parents.  I’m not sure which is more heartbreaking:  the guilt in Bucky’s eyes, the horror in Tony’s, or the shock and terror in Howard’s.  Tony of course goes ballistic trying to kill Bucky, and Cap tries to hold him back and make him see reason.  Tony turns on him, however, when he realizes that Cap discovered the truth (Hydra killed his parents) 2 years ago.  The fight between these three is absolutely brutal, with no holding back.  Iron Man wants to kill the Winter Soldier, and Winter Soldier and Captain America get so insanely heated that they nearly kill Iron Man.  There’s a moment right at the end of the fight when Iron Man’s helmet is off and Cap is kneeling over him with his shield raised, and I thought he might decapitate him, but instead he just rammed the shield into the ARC reactor, killing the suit.  As Steve and Bucky are walking away, Tony tells him that he doesn’t deserve the shield that Howard made, and Steve drops his shield before leaving.

What really drove the point home was Black Panther arriving shortly after the others, in time to hear Zemo confess to bombing the U.N. in order to draw the Winter Soldier out.  While the others are fighting, Black Panther confronts Zemo outside, and Zemo actually apologizes for killing T’Chaka before revealing that his family was killed in Sokovia.  Black Panther is about to kill him to avenge his father, but holds up when he acknowledges just what revenge has done:  splintered the Avengers, nearly drove him to kill an innocent man, pushed Zemo to bomb the U.N.  He decides it is not worth it… but still prevents Zemo from killing himself so he can be locked up by the U.N.  I really liked Zemo’s story in this movie.  Yes, his motivation was very simple and the movie probably could have happened without him.  Yes, he is rather one-note.  But that’s exactly what he needed to be in here.  My hope is that Zemo will continue to be around, manipulating from the shadows, and he will eventually break out of prison and become an even greater threat in Phase 4.

The movie ends with Tony helping Rhodey learn how to walk again with an exo-suit.  Stan Lee drops off a package for Tony with a letter from Steve, who apologizes for not telling him the truth sooner.  He also gives him a disposable cell phone so he can call Steve (and his team) if he ever needs them.  Meanwhile, Steve goes to the Raft and breaks his teammates out.  In the mid-credits scene we get our first glimpse of Wakanda as T’Challa agrees to put Bucky (who lost his metal arm in the fight) in cryostasis while they figure out a way to remove the Hydra programming.  And in the end-credits scene Peter Parker returns to Queens and discovers a few more features of his new Stark tech web shooters.  I loved Peter’s way of deflecting Aunt May’s questions about his black eye:  he got punched by “Steve from Brooklyn,” whose friend was “huge.”  This definitely seals it for me:  Tom Holland is Spider-Man!

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Next week I will delve into where the characters will go from here—there’s quite a bit to unpack there—but for right now I think I just need to close by saying:  This is an incredible movie.  Just about everything works fantastically.  The characters are true.  The old characters’ stories progress.  The new characters get satisfying introductions.  And Captain America’s story is really central to everything.  The movie does end on something of a positive note as Steve is trying to mend fences with Tony, but it’s not a very “happy” ending.  The Accords are still in effect, and Steve’s team is still on the run.  The Avengers are still divided.  I didn’t think this could be resolved in a single movie, and it definitely was not.  I can’t wait to watch it again (and perhaps again) in theaters!

What did you think of this movie?  Where do you see the characters/story going from here?  Let me know in the comments!

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