What We Loved (And Didn’t) About Captain America: Civil War

A.K.A. Cole and Clarice are so not Stucky shippers. Steve and Sam forever!

So this past weekend the Killer Moose saw Captain America: Civil War in a theater packed full with people all ages. (Seriously, guys, we arrived half an hour early and there was already a line that curved around the hall!) Many of said people — adults and children alike — were wearing Captain America t-shirts.

There has been a huge build up for this film. A line was drawn between much of the fandom before it even premiered: Team Captain America or Team Iron Man? On which side do you fall? It was set to be the most epic installment yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, pitting superhero against superhero.

Did it deliver?

Well. That’s what we’re here to discuss.

Afterwards Cole and Clarice sat down to hammer out what they loved, what they didn’t really love and other random details of the film. There are lots of spoilers. You have been warned!

Let’s start with what they loved, shall we?

 

What We Loved

The Supporting Cast

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Cole: The supporting cast were, without a doubt, the best damn part of this movie.

Clarice: Absolutely agree. As you can personally attest, I exited that theater squeeing about the supporting cast more than all the Tony/Steve — and by extensions Bucky — drama that dominated the movie.

Cole: Don’t get me wrong, I love Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. and the characters they portray. I love them a lot. But in Civil War they ultimately represent a point of view or an ideal more so than anything else.

Clarice: Less characters than “rhetoric placeholders for the plot.” Yup.  

Cole: The supporting characters brought the humor, the romance, the perspective and so many of the “holy shit that’s cool” moments.

Clarice: Indeed. For instance, I cannot wait another moment to say that my #1 Favorite (probably of the whole damn movie) was Spider-Man.

Cole: One hundred fucking percent agree. Not only is Tom Holland’s Spider-Man one of the film’s very best parts, he’s also the best Spider-Man ever put on screen and, considering his screentime in comparison to other cinematic adaptations, that is a huge achievement. Goes to show what happens when you put Marvel characters back in the hands of Marvel! *Clears throat* X-Men *Clears throat again*

Clarice: Ok. I am leaning away from falling down Cole’s ranty X-Men ditch at the moment… SPIDERLING WAS AN ADORABLE PUPPY AND I WANT TO KEEP HIM!

Cole: He is adorable. And being a superhero is so damn cool. And he’s so excited by all the awesome stuff happening around him. But he also gets one of the best damn moments in the film with the line (I’m paraphrasing): “When you can do the things I can do, but don’t, what happens becomes your fault.” It’s a riff on “With great power comes great responsibility”. It’s a great bit of writing (and acting) that beautifully underscores both Steve and Tony’s points of view.

Clarice: 100% agree. It is a refreshing perspective to have considering the elder dudes are running about with their serious-faces and nonsensical/unnecessary ego contest. Peter Parker is someone genuinely excited by things! PS that sort of outlook is also exactly what Scott Lang’s reappearance had going for the movie. With the two of them around there was allowed to be — GASP — joy involved.

Cole: Scott Lang pretending to by Tony’s conscience was one of the best things ever. And another example of exactly what you’re saying above.

Clarice: And holy shit it’s amazing how much more I like Scott Lang when he isn’t the main character of his own movie.

Cole: Also! Giant-Man! I was so happy when he went big! It was full-blown comic-nerd joy.

Clarice: That whole fight is! And that’s the whole point! But I think we’re saving that for a bit later in the discussion… So I will move on to my runner-up for favorite character… Black Panther! Chadwick Boseman absolutely positively slays it. Fabulous.

Cole: Holy shit is he cool. His fighting style is so light-footed and gravity-defying it makes an awesome addition to any and every combat sequence in which he’s involved. And on top of that, he’s a gorgeous, dapper and regal Prince? Yup. I’m on board.

Clarice: I think he’s mesmerizing to watch. And he’s a man who somehow makes a necklace sexy — that’s some serious power as far as I’m concerned. It was legitimately awesome to watch him run down Bucky on the motorcycle. Even if the sequence did seem to go on for a very long time…

Cole: Agreed! On both points. On another note, T’Challa gets some of the best character work in the film, would you agree?

Clarice: Oh I think he easily gets the best work in that regard. I’d argue that everyone else essentially returns to an emotional status quo. T’Challa is the only person who follows a beautifully concise arc of his own choices and making. This movie worked as a great stealth origin story for him. And his wrap-up is arguably the best character moment they had in the whole movie. I’m talking specifically: “The living are not done with you yet.”

Cole: Agreed. That line is among the best writing the film has to offer (and the writing for it isn’t exactly terrible). And his ability to recognize the cost of vengeance and his willingness to give it up makes him one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel roster moving forward.

Clarice: That one line saves that scene with — the aggressively uncompelling — Zemo from falling into the eye-rolling common ‘villain comeuppance.’ Kudos to them that Zemo doesn’t get to mope about his dead family motivation and shoot himself. Of course, now we have him conveniently in Martin Freeman’s hands…

Cole: Agreed again!

Clarice: So does this mean Cap & Co. are all just chilling in a secret mansion-bunker in Wakanda now?

Cole: I am so okay with that as an arrangement.

Clarice: So am I. Just checking.

Cole: Why don’t we talk about Black Widow next? She gets some good stuff in this film. As usual, she gets some kickass fight sequences but it was actually her quieter moments that I found impactful. I especially liked her sticking around after Peggy’s funeral to make sure Steve wasn’t alone. And I like that she’s the one with the best perspective and most level head throughout the entire conflict. Now, if only Steve and Tony had simmered down the testosterone for more than a few seconds and actually listened to her…

Clarice: Black Widow, aka everyone’s reasonable bestie? It’s essentially Natasha’s curse to spend this entire movie running around trying to be the rational one, and failing. I think she’d be my runner up for character work awards — even though part of me desperately wanted her to get a bit angrier about the fact that these two egos aren’t even trying to listen to her or each other or anyone.

Cole: I’m with you on both points there. Her character work is great in the film and feels like a very natural evolution from the Avengers films and Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Clarice: I especially will always be fond of moments between her and Clint/Hawkeye. I love the idea of them pulling their punches with one another — in fact, I wish we’d actually gotten a tiny bit more of their dynamic. But when you have so many characters running around…

Cole: …the fact they even got that moment is kind of a miracle?

Clarice: Speaking of trying to scrounge together moments… Let’s talk Scarlet Witch for a second. So I was pleasantly surprised, and pleased, at beginning when it seemed like she’d have some significant/interesting character shit with which to deal. And she does… sort of… ? To an extent? It sucks considering the hullaballoo largely all starts because of her, and her presence drops off more and more the longer the movie goes. It was disappointing.  

Cole: It was. Her material basically ends after the centerpiece fight. Which sucks because she had some interesting stuff going on. She’s struggling with the guilt of innocent deaths caused by her actions at the start of the film. She’s, hands down, easily the most powerful of the Avengers since her powers can kinda sorta do ALMOST ANYTHING. There’s some unique conflict centered around her specifically and the film just drops her.

Clarice: Yup. Tony is too busy sucking up the guilt for anyone else to have a chance at feelings…

Cole: Pretty much! On a separate note though, I’m very exciting they’re laying the groundwork for a relationship between her and Vision!

Clarice: … Sure? I suppose? But Vision = yawn. Don’t get me wrong — I giggle as much as the next person at him wearing pull-over sweaters and trying to cook paprikash… But speaking personally, Vision does not interest me as a character at all.

Cole: Totally valid. A lot of my excitement over them as a couple on screen comes from the comics. I actually enjoy Vision quite a lot. I find him quite adorably awkward and endearing (The sweaters are the best). That being said, in comparison to new entries like Black Panther and Spider-Man, he doesn’t hold a candle.

Oh…you know who else I love way more than Vision? FALCON.

Clarice: Haha. That’s not a given? Of course Falcon. Always Falcon. Hell, I unrepentantly ship Cap/Falcon. Forget about Bucky. Oh, Cap still loves him a great deal, of course, but that’s first love / memories / the past. The future is Falcon. We all know it.

Cole: Absofuckinglutely.

That Central Fight

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Clarice: It was their big set-piece. The Fight the entire film was building towards… And it was unequivocally the best part of the whole 2.5 hours.

Cole: Completely agree. It is a large beautiful splash of, as we put it earlier, full blown comic-nerd joy. It’s just unfortunate that it came about halfway/two-thirds of the way through so there was still a lot of film to get through after it finished. But yes. Amazing fight sequence from start to finish that gave everyone equal weighting, everyone their moment and seamlessly wove in character work throughout. That’s not easy to do.

Clarice: It was fun above all else — probably because it’s when we got the characters that brought all the much-needed levity.

Cole: Yup!

Clarice: Quite literally — I didn’t realize that I wasn’t having a lot of fun with this movie… until we got Spider-Man and suddenly everything was a lot of fun! … and then the fight ended and the movie went back to not being fun again…

Cole: Yeah. I did not really occur to me that I hadn’t been laughing…until I was laughing every other moment.

And then it went away again.

And I was sad.

Because, you know what, hero versus hero is an awesome central conceit for a superhero film. I really loved this as a central idea. I was genuinely excited about it. And man, that central fight sequence DELIVERED. And then some. They nailed it in that one scene.

Clarice: Well it’s the sequence that most felt like a comic book. However, I’m not convinced this one phenomenal sequence in the middle of an otherwise blah 2.5 hour film doth a Great Film make.

Cole: Oh, it doesn’t. But it’s not as if the rest of the movie was TERRIBLE. At least, I don’t think it was.

Clarice: No, it wasn’t. But it was more dour for more of it than I think it should/could have been.

Cole: The levity was sorely missed. The movie basically did not know how to let Captain America be funny when he was on his own. When he was bouncing off Natasha or Sam or Scott? Not a problem. Him and Bucky on their own…

DEAR GOD SOMEONE GET ME THE ANTI-SERIOUS SPRAY!

I think the biggest issue is, beside Captain America and Iron Man, the hero against hero concept was not carried all the way through. We lose our strong supporting cast and only get one fight sequence that pits them all against each other. It’s suddenly just about Tony and Steve. And even then the punches were being pulled and the conflict was not about opposing morals at all. And…well I guess that kind of leads us perfectly into our next section, doesn’t it?

 

What We Didn’t Love

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Cole: Short version of this is basically, the whole central conceit of the Civil War comic is superhuman registration (and the conflict between those on either side of the issue). The film instead starts with the idea of an oversight committee splitting the Avengers down the middle. It initially moves forward as if that’s going to be the driving force. And then it’s not.

Clarice: Nope. It becomes about other things / other conflicts so that no one has to ever actually confront any of the hard questions posed at the outset. “The Accords” launch us into the movie / provide background set-up, but it feels like, as an audience, we were promised one particular conflict… and that conflict was never delivered on or resolved. Beyond that, it’s as if they were actively hiding from it. The Accords conflict turns into “protecting Bucky because he didn’t blow up the UN” and then once that is resolved, it hard turns into “you killed my mom.” That whole complex and hard debate about whether or not we should be regulating how the Avengers work?? Nevermind!

Cole: And I was looking forward to that!

Clarice: Ah but that would require characters sharing a conversation for more than a minute at a time… AND I would like to point out that when they are continuously shifting the conflict away from the harder stuff, it means that they dodge having to make anyone face real consequences… for anything really…

Cole: Very true. The once exception I can think of is War Machine, which does affect both Steve and Tony but ultimately, because the plot moves away from the Accords and accountability for one’s actions (particularly if one is a superhero) and becomes about personal matters, this consequence does not carry the weight it ultimately should.

Clarice: Oh yeah — War Machine! Hahaha. We keep forgetting about him! Anyway… even Rhodey feels like just another cheat to me — also because I’d argue it inherently punishes Tony alone. It punishes his perspective. Cap’s is never really punished.

Cole: Fair point. The movie does work very hard to justify Steve’s perspective.

Clarice: I think it works fucking overtime to keep Steve in the right. It never feels like Steve’s arguments/stance are thrown into any serious question. It was as if the narrative always found some way to twist around an issue in order to justify Steve’s actions, even if they weren’t necessarily related. Think of all the times that Steve was faced with an issue, and new circumstance(s) allowed him to sidestep ever having to actually settle or resolve the starting issue… because it became about this muddled, tangential problem instead.

Cole: The narrative twists a lot to justify its own ends. I mean, the Accords plotline is dropped in favor of saving Bucky, which is dropped for “He killed my mom”. All this jumping around means they can sidestep major consequences for any of those conflicts. To be clear, I’m all for subplots and for switching gears and for the reasons behind “hey…why are we fighting” getting muddled and confused as emotions run high. But the problem for me is, Civil War never cycles back around to the oversight committee conflict. And, yes, perhaps it’s being left for later in the franchise, but it ultimately makes Civil War just a cog in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe rather than something that can really stand on its own feet as a satisfying film in its own right (as opposed to Winter Soldier which is both).

Clarice: It may or may not be entirely fair of me, but I wanted a Captain America 3 movie… Not an Avengers 2.5 movie. Steve Rogers was possibly the least compelling part of his own damn movie. I’m not sure that’s ok.

Cole: It’s a prime example of the needs of the franchise overriding the needs of the individual films and series. It was one of my larger fears with Civil War and if kind of came true.

 

Other thoughts and comments

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Cole: I am officially excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming (even if I do kind of wish it had a better name…)

Clarice: Oh — the name is terrible. But Tom Holland is adorbs. I want to see it now. And I never thought I’d be excited about the potential for a Spider-Man movie.

***

Cole: The fact that Black Panther now exists in the MCU and is so wonderfully realized and portrayed it makes me even sadder that the rights for X-Men are not held by Marvel. I means he and Storm can’t have their romance, get married and rule Wakanda. *weeps*

Clarice: Storm may not have been there, but T’Challa did have a fab security guard! She had, what? One line? I hope we see her again in the Black Panther movie…

Cole: She was awesome! I hope so too!

***

Clarice: I liked Sharon Carter for the time she was around. I think she is largely extraneous… except to exist in order to have someone jump on board with helping Cap. She does follow along pretty damn quick…

Cole: She’s fine. Emily Van Camp does perfectly well with what little she’s given. She’s very willing to break the rules for Steve and I can suss out the motivation for that fairly easily but I just wish the film had taken maybe a few extra seconds to make it text. Plus, she’s simply not the Miss Carter I want on my screen (though that is not her fault at all, just a fact). Speaking of Peggy, I kept expecting them to utilize her death to greater effect. She is such a crucial figure in Steve’s story and her death explains so much of his emotional state throughout the film I was genuinely shocked she never came up again. Just a sentence here and sentence there – it wouldn’t have taken much!

***

Clarice: I know one thing we kept talking about was LOVING all the snide side-eyes and bitchy comments between Falcon and Bucky. “Can you move your seat up?” “Nope.”

Cole: They’re little snit fest is amazing. “You couldn’t have done that sooner?” “I hate you.”

***

Clarice: One last random thought? I am done with Bucky Barnes drama. Sebastian Stan is fine; there is nothing precisely wrong with Bucky… But I feel like I’ve now watched two whole movies that do the exact same thing with that character. And now he’s getting frozen again??? So… what? We can do this all again a THIRD FUCKING TIME??

Cole: I don’t think I have quite the same level of frustration with Bucky BUT I will definitely agree that his storylines are getting repetitive and that needs to change. And fast. Which is a shame, because Sebastian Stan is a good actor and could be doing so much more. He was at his best when he was part of the group – he fit the dynamic well. Here’s to hoping future films give him more varied and interesting stuff to do.

***

Cole: Okay. So shall we wrap this up? Final feels and all that jazz?

Clarice: That just makes me want Superhero Bob Fosse… But yes. Let’s do that.

Cole: I think I ultimately land, despite my many above complaints, on enjoying Civil War overall. There are certainly parts that I enjoy FAR MORE than others. And I was frustrated towards the end of the film but it does leave the characters in interesting places going forward in the franchise. While it’s unfortunate that the film doesn’t really operate without the franchise around it, it’s still a solid superhero film (I just wish it had been solid beyond that genre). 

Clarice: I think that Civil War had an unfortunate task. In regards to the Marvel franchise, to the Captain America story, to its place in the current filmmaking climate, and to overcoming how critical I want to be towards it.

Quick! Tiny soapbox time: The more that films become franchised, the more individual quality disappears / gets soaked up by The Franchise. Sure, franchises can be awesome! And what Marvel is doing is unprecedented. But I love Winter Soldier for the fact that it could largely function solo as a well-made spy thriller in its own right — except with superheroes. Iron Man works well independently because it was the first and thus did not have Franchise sacrifices to make… Guardians of the Galaxy works well independently because it was not connected enough for The Franchise to interfere. I honestly think a lot gets lost the more and more we make continuous ‘allowances’ for Franchise films. And hey — maybe I am holding Civil War up to an unfair standard; I do admit I’m finding situations like this increasingly frustrating as they increasingly becoming an almost default setting.

I just know that as fun and — yes, I agree! — overall enjoyable as Civil War is, when we start making allowance after allowance for superhero films being “fine” and “enjoyable enough,” the bar for what could be GREAT superhero films (instead of merely “overall enjoyable” ones) becomes steadily, pervasively, lower and lower. ‘Fun’ and ‘immaculately executed’ are not mutually exclusive concepts. Did Fury Road teach us nothing?

That said… I still like Civil War a lot better than Age of Ultron.

Cole: Agreed! And now I’m super hyped for Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther. Also, with that one central fight sequence being the best part of the film, with twelve superheroes bouncing around? I’d say the Russos are in pretty good shape to tackle the beast that is going to be Avengers: Infinity War (Parts 1 and 2)!

Clarice: They are. And despite everything, we will no doubt be standing in line for those films too.

Cole: Without a doubt! Because, while it might frequently frustrate me, I still do love the franchise as a whole.

Alas, for it shall always be the geek’s lot in life to keep engaging with the things that frustrate them. Which reminds us —  you all should stay tuned for the end of the month when we make Cole see X-Men: Apocalypse.