Captain America: Civil War
Or… “Marvel’s The Avengers 3: Disassembled”
– A Hero Corner review by David 2
And, lo, we arrive at the “start” of “Phase Three” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After going through a whole string of “dark” MCU movies and dark storylines, and then wrapping up with an actual “good” movie, we get to the last movie of the Captain America trilogy.
Or, to be more precise, we are starting off with the “team” movie.
“Captain America: Civil War” is a 2016 movie directed once again by the brothers Anthony and Joe Russo. It stars returning actors Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Frank Grillo, Sebastian Stan, Emily Vancamp, and Anthony Mackie, and includes Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, and Elizabeth Olson from “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”, William Hurt from “The Incredible Hulk”, Paul Rudd from “Ant-Man”, and introduces Daniel Bruhel as Baron Zemo, Chatwick Bosman as Black Panther, and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Oh and Stan Lee has his obligatory cameo.
Like I said, this is really a “team” movie.
We start with a flashback in an old Soviet base controlled by Hydra. Bucky Barnes (Stan), the Winter Soldier, is activated by a series of codewords to carry out a retrieve-and-kill mission. Back in the present, Captain America (Evans) is leading the Avengers on a raid of a bio-chem weapons group led by former SHIELD/Hydra member Crossbones (Grillo) in Lagos. Most of the Avengers are able to stop the terror cell, but it is Crossbones that gets the upper hand, with a suicide vest guaranteed to kill everyone in the area. Wanda Maximoff (Olson) is able to use her telekenisis to send Crossbones in the air, but is not able to contain the explosion, and a building full of Wakandan social workers are killed in the blast.
Back in America, Tony Stark (Downey) is showing a detailed hologram of his last memory with his parents to a group of college students. His speech is cut short, however, when he realizes that it was designed to include his girlfriend, Pepper Potts, who is no longer his girlfriend and is taking a break from all things Stark. Afterward, he encounters the mother of one of the Wakandan victims, who blames him for her loss, even though he was nowhere near Lagos.
Meanwhile, a man named Zemo (Bruhel) is chasing down old Hydra agents to get the codebook used to control Barnes.
At the Avengers complex, Wanda is still brooding over what happened when the team is visited by Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (Hurt); the same man who used to chase the Hulk. Ross shows the team video footage of their “greatest hits”, which included the New York invasion (from “The Avengers”), the destruction of the SHIELD helicarriers (from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), the devastation from Sokovia (from “Age of Ultron”), and, finally, the incident in Lagos. Ross blames the Avengers for all of it, and he says that the Avengers need to be controlled. The various nations have agreed to the “Sokovia Accords”, which would place all super-powered beings and groups under United Nations control and subject to their directives. Stark himself joins in the pitch and says that it’s the only way for them to continue to operate. Cap disagrees. He thinks that the Avengers should be free to operate as they should. He’s then distracted by news of the death of his really-longtime girlfriend, Peggy Carter.
At the funeral service, Cap learns, to his surprise, that Sharon, aka Agent 13 (VanCamp), the former SHIELD agent who is now working for the CIA, is Peggy’s niece. With Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) ready to go to Vienna to sign the Accords, she tries one last time to urge Cap to join them. He refuses.
In Vienna, the signing of the Sokovia Accords is sabotaged when a truck bomb explodes outside the building, killing the Wakandan king. His son, T’Challa (Boseman), becomes king. The media soon says that Bucky Barnes was responsible for the explosion. Cap can’t believe that, so he and Falcon (Mackie) follow Sharon’s tip and find Bucky in Bucharest. But they are joined by T’Challa, now dressed formally as the Black Panther, who vows to kill Bucky. All four of them are apprehended by the authorities.
Stark thinks this is the perfect time for Cap to sign the Accords. T’Challa already has. If Cap signs, then the other holdouts would too, and Cap’s little incident with the authorities would be retroactively negated. Cap refuses. Just then, Zemo disguises himself as a psychiatrist and gets into Bucky’s cell, where he recites Bucky’s trigger words to become the Winter Soldier. Bucky breaks out of his cell, causes general havoc, and allows Cap and Falcon to skip out in pursuit.
Cap and Falcon manage to apprehend Bucky, who tells them that Zemo was behind the bombing and that Zemo wanted the location of the secret Hydra base where Bucky was transformed and programmed into becoming the Winter Soldier. Bucky says that he wasn’t the only “Winter Soldier” that Hydra created, and Zemo would soon have access to an army of soldiers like him. Cap and Falcon decide to help Bucky get to the base to stop Zemo, but Cap knows they can’t do it by themselves. Falcon says he “knows a guy”. (If you saw “Ant-Man”, then you’d already know who he was referring to.)
Meanwhile, Stark pays a trip to Queens to meet with a certain teenager named Peter Parker (Holland). He tells the young man that he knows he is Spider-Man and asks why he does what he does. After a fumbling of the “great responsibility” speech (seriously, guys?), Stark is convinced to recruit Parker.
This leads to the infamous “airport scene”, where Cap and Bucky meet up with Wanda, Hawkeye (Renner), Falcon, and Falcon’s “guy”, Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Rudd). They then encounter Stark, Rhodes, Widow, Vision, Panther, and Spider-Man on the tarmac.
And I think this is a good point to leave it, lest I be accused of spoiling it for the rest of you.
In all seriousness, this really should have been the third “Avengers” movie, not the third “Captain America” movie. There were more than enough characters and character development for it to be considered a team movie instead of a “Cap” one. The fact that the Russo brothers made it a “Cap” movie showed just which side of the “conflict” they were really on, and they pretty much gave away which side would ultimately prevail.
Also, I have to take issue with calling this “Captain America: Civil War”. The Russo brothers were clearly referring to the Marvel Comics mega-crisis mini-series, where much of the general idea of the conflict came from. But while there were some elements that were inspired by the mini-series, this film was nothing like it.
The idea that the Avengers, or, for that matter, any super-powered being in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, should be subject to United Nations control should not be considered a deal-breaker, especially for Captain America. After all, the Avengers themselves were created and aided by SHIELD under Nick Fury and the “World Council”. Hell, Cap took orders from Fury just like he was still in the service. Now he’s a shield-slinging Abbie Hoffman? I don’t buy it.
In the comic mini-series, the legislation required that all heroes that signed on with them would have to not only register with the federal government, but to also publicly unmask themselves and make their real names known to the public. That’s a far more ominous prospect for heroes to consider, because, as Spider-Man himself found out the hard way, that put their loved ones directly in danger. That’s something that Cap would have every right to oppose on principal alone.
But, of course, that cannot translate into the MCU, because, with the obvious exception of Spider-Man, the heroes are not hiding behind codenames and masks. Tony Stark outed himself as Iron Man all the way back in his first movie. Natasha Romanoff gave a very public testimony to Congress about her actions in “Winter Soldier”, and nobody calls her Black Widow. Hell, they don’t even call themselves by their code-names, even in public.
The scene with Ross “dressing down” the Avengers was also convoluted. I was waiting for someone to blurt out that it was Ross that created the Abomination and caused the destruction of Harlem in “The Incredible Hulk”. The Avengers did not cause the Battle of New York. That was all Loki. I was waiting for someone to point out that the Avengers didn’t destroy Sokovia, but was trying to save it from Ultron, which was created by… who? Right, Tony Stark! Seems like Tony and Ross are the ones that need to be controlled, not the Avengers.
Without giving away the ending, I also have to take issue with Tony Stark’s character development in this movie. By the time we get to the final climatic event, Tony Stark’s narcissism has transformed him into a whiny little bitch. The so-called “futurist” with the super-genius IQ is reduced to a sad little boy throwing a tantrum and lashing out at anything standing in his way. Tony “Stank” indeed! (Don’t worry; if you saw the movie, you’ll get the reference.)
The introduction of T’Challa/Black Panther is pretty solid, as is Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Those are probably the best parts of the movie. The inclusion of Sharon Carter/Agent 13 seemed almost a waste of talent other than to make the connection to Cap’s first love and to hint at a new relationship… with Peggy’s niece, which would be a little weird.
Our villain of the story, Zemo, is probably the weakest of them all. The original comic book incarnation of Baron Zemo is an older and more shrewd master manipulator. This version of Zemo is just a bitter “victim” looking to “destroy” the Avengers for revenge over his own loss. He’s another whiny little bitch, like Stark. He even makes Lex Luthor in “Batman v Superman” look downright legitimate.
If you have never read the Marvel comic mini-series, then I believe you will enjoy this movie for what it really is; a third “Avengers” movie. But if you have read the mini-series, then you could very well come out of this very disappointed.
And just think… “Phase Three” is just getting started!