And now, let me geek the hell out for a few minutes.
We’ll start with the tl;dr version: Captain America: Civil War: The Search for More Colons is the best Marvel movie. You should go see it. There’s really no reason to read the rest of this. Just go see the damn movie. Get it? Got it? Good.
Minor spoilers beyond the line, but nothing huge:
I’m not sure which surprises me more: that I’m as enthusiastic about this movie as I am, or that there have been thirteen of these damn things and the thirteenth was the best one. My appetite for Marvel movies is clearly not going away anytime soon, and given that this film apparently just had the fifth-best opening weekend of all time, and that two of the other four are Avengers movies, demonstrates that I’m far from alone in that. We saw the damn movie at 10:00 on the morning, which I thought would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are Old People now, but the theater was probably 2/3 full, and most of the crowd was clearly hardcore comics people.
Civil War manages something that ought to be impossible: it takes a huge roster of characters and a summer blockbuster structure and yet still manages to come out the other side as a fundamentally character-driven movie. You can definitely just enjoy it as a ‘splodey slam-bang action film, but it’s much more than that, and that’s where the film really triumphs. Everyone involved ought to be hugely proud of themselves.
Bullet points for the rest of the way. Again, there will be minor spoilers, but nothing that’s gonna kill the movie for you. I managed to walk into this with one big event that I would love to have been surprised by spoiled for me, because I took my son to Target the day before the movie came out and saw a Lego set. I won’t be doing that to anyone else.
- This did not need to be called Captain America, and I’m actually kind of surprised they didn’t just call it Civil War or, I guess, Marvel’s Civil War, or just make it another Avengers movie and leave it at that. Maybe copyright reasons? This is easily as much Iron Man’s movie as it is Cap’s, and in some ways it’s more, as I think Tony has a more satisfying character arc than Steve Rogers does.
- So, yeah, that character arc: while in the comic book version of Civil War Tony pointlessly turned into a huge asshole and even Cap’s position felt forced, the great genius of this movie is that, at least for the two main characters, the previous movies have built up their characters and personalities to the point where they cannot take any position other than the one that they do. This is a movie that remembers that Tony Stark is an addict, and makes the fantastic move of showing him having shifted his addiction from alcohol to the armor. He knows what he is, and he knows what it’s cost him, and he knows that power like his has to be controlled. No other course of action would make sense for him.
- Cap, on the other hand, is holding on to the one friendship left to him from his earlier life. I thought at first that (okay here’s that spoiler I was talking about) Peggy Carter’s offscreen death was kind of shoehorned in and unnecessary. It’s actually critical to understanding why Cap makes the moves he does. Steve Rogers’ fundamental character trait is loyalty, and he has literally one lifelong friend left. There’s no surprise at all that he acts like he does.
- That said, I’m still on Team Iron Man here.
- Motivations are well-defined for all of the characters but one, I think. I feel like given Ant-Man’s motivations in his film, “Yeah, I’ll piss off the US government and the UN and end up in an underwater jail, sure” might maybe not have been the reaction his character would have had, and they put him on Cap’s side to balance the numbers out. I could easily see a scene where IM leans on him and brings him in on the pro-Accords side, personally. But this is my biggest complaint about the film, so really, who the hell cares?
- Damn near every character in this movie gets at least one good moment, and several of them have more than one. Let’s talk about these guys:
- I said some mean things both about Tom Holland’s casting and our first look at Spider-Man’s costume. Well, fuck me for an idiot, because I couldn’t have been more wrong. Holland’s on screen for… maybe fifteen minutes? About a third of which is a Peter Parker scene? And he’s my favorite onscreen Spider-Man already. By a long shot. Casting S-M younger than he’s ever been onscreen was a genius move, and he’s great. Just great. I’d still commit crimes to get a Miles Morales movie, but Spider-Man: Homecoming had a chance to be the first Marvel movie I didn’t bother seeing, and there’s no chance at all of that now.
- Actually, one more from the “motivations” angle: they could have put Spider-Man on the other side too, if they’d wanted to. My wife pointed out after the movie that given Tony Stark’s opinions about the Avengers’ superheroics, dragging a high school student into the conflict didn’t make a whole lot of sense, and while I’m not sure I’m bothered by it, she’s not wrong.
- The action in general, and the last two big setpieces (including That Scene that I got spoiled for me, dammit) in particular, is spectacular. The two Infinity War movies are in good hands with the Russos, guys.
- Chadwick Boseman is amazing as Black Panther. I want the Black Panther movie now now now now now. He’s integrated into the film more than I initially realized he would be, and Wakanda is tied tightly into future MCU films by the end of the movie. I could watch this guy all day.
- Also, from “I could watch this all day”:
- The Dora Milaje (the bald woman on the left) are in the film for, oh, twenty seconds, and she gets one line, and she’s my favorite thing ever. Black Panther movie now. My wife was laughing at me for how excited I got about this tiny little cameo.
- This is, other than Ant-Man, the smallest Marvel movie, believe it or not. I haven’t mentioned the bad guy yet; his motivations are personal and simple, and he’s not interested in Destroying All Humans or controlling the world or anything like that, and we don’t see remotely the level of collateral damage that we did in the other Avengers movies. He piggybacks his own motivations on the much larger events that the previous movies set in motion, and for most of the movie the characters don’t even know he’s there. After all the bombast of the previous villains (and I’m talking about the entire MCU here) I found him really refreshing.
I may continue to add to this as I keep thinking about it. See this movie, guys. It was great.