The following contains spoilers for Captain America: Civil War. You have been warned.
James: Welcome! Marvel celebrates their thirteenth (lucky number thirteen) film in their lucrative franchise – Captain America: Civil War. There’s a lot going on here, but to begin, what did you all think of the film as a whole?
Erik: Just when I thought Batman v Superman was the worst comic book film ever- nah, I’m just kidding; Civil War was great. Though I don’t know how I’ll be feeling in a few weeks when the initial afterglow has worn off (and the BvS hatred has finally abated) at the moment, for me, Captain America: Civil War is one of the best things Marvel has put out.
Karen: Very impressive and well balanced film given the sheer number of characters they were dealing with. The potential for it to become an unwieldy mess was huge but the filmmakers were able to skirt that. Loved that it had a lot of heart.
Kristen: After the overkill that was Avengers: Age of Ultron, it was nice to focus more on the characters and their relationships. The first hour was a bit slow, but the last hour and a half — greatly helped by old and new faces — was gripping and action-packed with much needed one-liners. I’m not sure how we’re handling spoilers here, but the twist at the end was unexpected and worked well.
Erik: Who gives a fuck about spoilers? What twist specifically are you referring to: The one about Stark’s parents being murdered by Bucky or Cap’s team going underground?
Kristen: Definitely the former.
Erik: I enjoyed that as well. Especially considering it was a great excuse for one last hero on hero on hero fight. And unlike the airport battle at the climax (which was entertaining as hell), Bucky and Cap’s final bout with Iron Man had some actual emotional weight to it.
James: It may speak a bit to my general superhero indifference but it took me a moment to gather when you started talking spoilers. My initial thought – this is a Marvel movie, there’s nothing to spoil, right? I’m half kidding because there’s obviously a lot going on in Captain America: Civil War but while I found myself enjoying huge chunks of the film and can heartily agree it’s probably one of the strongest Marvel outings to date, I can’t really say too much stayed with me very long. Anyone else feel this way?
Karen: Yes I would agree, but I knew going in that it would be a grand popcorn flick and that’s exactly what it was.
James: Phew! Not the only one.
Erik: Well, I’m a comic book fan (lapsed, but still one regardless), and very much susceptible to fan service. And for a fan, this film was packed to the brim with big stupid grin inducing moments. When Ant-Man mentioned he was going to try something, in my head I was thinking “please turn giant, please turn giant,” and when it actually did happen, I had to restrain myself from throwing my hands in the air and shouting “Fuck Yeah!” lest I disturbed the nine-year-old sitting next to me.
Kristen: I have to agree. As a comic book fan myself (again not so much anymore), it’s a lot more rewarding if you’re very connected to the world and the characters. Anyone who goes to see it will enjoy it, but the Russos (directors Anthony and Joe) made sure to cater to the huge fans of Marvel instead of the average moviegoer.
James: Here is where I have a disconnect. I was never hugely into comics so I go into the movies fresh. I totally see and understand the idea of geeking out when these films touch on a particular note that possibly few others in the theater may totally understand (I’ve been a full blown movie nerd probably since I was in diapers – e.g. – recently the Coen’s Hail, Caesar! hit buttons in me that haven’t been touched in years) but purely as films, the MCU brand exhibits such a sameness throughout (same color palette, same sound design, similar pacing and structure) that often have the effect of feeling rather hollow to my eyes. Granted, there’s much to like across the board and certainly in Civil War but I still found myself bored here and there and asking silly questions like: Is Bucky, as a character, really this boring? Why does he have so much screen time if that’s the case? So on and so forth.
Kristen: Honestly, sometimes I feel like the community is better than the movies because part of the excitement of the movie was also in the theater, since the audience was very involved and they always are. It’s like always going to a midnight run of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which everyone should do at least once or twice in their life). The feeling is pretty contagious, but I may be asking the same questions after I watch it again a couple of times.
James: Let’s get into specifics. Anything surprise or delight along the way in Civil War? Despite being the superhero crank, I can one-hundred percent co-sign that the introductions of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) were positively delightful additions.
Erik: Like I said, there were a lot of delightful, fan-servicey moments. I really got all gushy anytime there was even the slightest hint of a relationship forming between Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Ant-Man and Spider-Man fan-boying over first meeting Steve Rogers and Tony Stark respectively was charming. In broader sense though, one thing that really made me like this was its handling of the whole “Civil War” situation. I thought it did pretty good job of presenting both Rogers’ and Stark’s positions, and even if you didn’t agree with one side, you could understand how they came to those views. Finally, even though they had a big conflict, the writers didn’t take the easy way out of turning one side into a villain (something BvS and even the comic book story this film took inspiration from resorted to). It makes me believe there was some actual thought put into this story, and it wasn’t just a cash-grab for everyone involved. That’s one of the main reasons I appreciate the MCU films (even if I don’t necessarily like all of them): they more often than not feel like they were made with the tiniest bit of love for the source material (another strike against that other film).
Karen: I did enjoy the warm friendliness that was maintained among the characters regardless of which side of the “war” they were on. Many surprises and delights – enjoyed seeing young Tony Stark in the MIT simulation presentation, Stan Lee’s cameo, the ending — I had expected some epic battle between Iron Man, Cap, and Bucky against the badder-ass Winter Soldier types in cryofreeze and that totally didn’t happen which was a great twist.
Kristen: I know that this has already been said a thousand times, but Tom Holland stole the show from the other characters — especially since Robert Downey Jr. usually does that above everyone else. I firmly believe that we should just cast all of our American superheros with British actors (Charlie Cox as Daredevil, Christian Bale as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, etc.). The script as well as his performance solidified Holland as the perfect Spiderman; I’m very excited to see what they do in Spiderman: Homecoming.
James: Holland brought an innocence and sense of the wonder to the role that hasn’t really been tapped into…which is strange since Spider-Man is now on his third iteration in less than two decades. What stuck out for me is that the smaller beats here seemed a lot more maturely handled than in most Marvel films in the past. Aside from segments of the airport melee, the action sequences all felt, to me, slightly half-baked. It was the reasoned control and balance of both Cap and Iron Man that gives Captain America: Civil War a bit more weight. One thing I wanted to briefly touch on, does anything think this may be most political Marvel to date?
Erik: Well, yeah. Considering it brings up ideas like, is freedom worth it when sacrificing safety. Not to mention the comic book Civil War storyline was written in the midst of the War on Terror, and involved a document that was a clear reference to the Patriot Act.
Kristen: You can also view the two sides as clear allusions to party politics, and the blue vs. red advertisements also helped the comparison. The Russos didn’t focus too much on the political undertones, but allowed for enough open interpretations.
Erik: Maybe some would view this as cop-out, but I liked how they didn’t really present a resolution to the clash of ideals. I also appreciated that neither Stark nor Rogers ended up “turning” the other one by the end. Yes, Stark is clearly questioning himself by the end, but I got the impression he was more questioning the actions he took to achieve his goals than the goals themselves.
James: Iron Man and Cap have baggage that’s hopefully not going to be neatly resolved…unless it’s revealed that both of their mothers have the same name, which naturally settled everything. It’s not really a cop out and I appreciated the ambiguity here especially in a franchise that’s sometimes averse to such things. What I admired more so, even with all reservations, was the more human-scaled conflict here. Captain America: Civil War is a war of ideologies not another world-is-coming-to-an-end spectacle.
Karen: I appreciated the over-arching theme of love driving the actions of all the characters – Bucky/Cap, Mr. and Mrs. Stark/Iron Man, Zemo’s family/Zemo, Scarlet Witch/Vision, the King/Black Panther, even Aunt May/Spiderman.
Erik: Talking about Zemo (Daniel Brühl) and his motivations specifically, I though he and they were another strong point. Unlike say, I don’t know this is just off the top of my head, Lex Luthor in BvS, Zemo wasn’t pitting the against each other because of some bullshit, first-semester college philosophy about God and the Devil, he was doing it for a simple, human motive: revenge. And he went about it without making convoluted speeches and preening for the camera. He had a plan and he carried it through to the end. I really admired the simplicity of the character and how understated Brühl’s performance was.
James: I honestly forgot all about Zemo (villains are never a strong suit in these flicks) but am grateful for any Marvel villain that isn’t a CGI puppet playing around with Infinity Stones. Anyhow, despite my reservations about Marvel taking over the film universe, it’s still here and still very profitable. Did Captain America: Civil War change perception for anyone as they move onward?
Erik: Here is actually where I’ll voice some legitimate concerns and criticisms. Like a good chunk of film and comic book fans who like to talk and think about movies to an unhealthy degree before they come out, I was pretty dang certain at least one hero was going to die by the end of Civil War. Now, it’s not like I don’t enjoy these characters and wish death upon them, but when you have all the named heroes living through every one of your films (I know, Quicksilver, but I’ll get to him in a second) there starts to be a decay in tension as you go on. I thought that Quicksilver’s death (see, told you) in Age of Ultron was sign of things to come, but then they took the easy way out here. It’s just that when we finally get to Infinity War, the big cap-off to all of this, will there be any real stake? Well, maybe Rhodey getting partially paralyzed is a good sign (I sound like such an awful person right now).
Karen: It’s a good thing there’s young blood in Tom Holland as many of Marvel’s superheroes are going to age out.
Kristen: That’s true. At the end of Civil War, I really noticed how Downey Jr. and Cheadle were aging. Although, adding the new, young characters is just the next phase of a bunch of new Marvel movies in the future. I’m excited for new ones, especially Doctor Strange, but I’m afraid that they’re just going to get too overcrowded or too ambitious, which is what weighed down Age of Ultron.