Well, holy shit. I went in expecting a hot mess that I’d love anyway (hello, Age of Ultron) and instead got a movie that I feel like I need to make dying seagull noises about and then place it on a shelf next to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
I’m not going to write a more standard-ish review. I fucking loved this movie, end of story. If you liked CA:TWS, you’ll probably love it too. Instead, I want to scream about some very particular things, so this is going to be nothing but SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT.
The Actual Civil War Bit
After all the Team Cap vs Team Iron Man advertising, this was nothing like what I was actually expecting. As in, the positions of both Tony and Steve make a lot of sense, and when it came down to the fighting it was played as a lot of very good friends reluctantly swinging at each other. Hell, the best bit was during the massive fight when Clint and Natasha clash and Natasha asks, “We’re still going to be friends after this, right?” And Clint grins and answers: “Depends on how hard you hit me.”
Perfect. And it’s so striking, how when Rhodey gets taken out by friendly fire, both Tony and Falcon immediately dive to go after him. (Even if it’s ultimately useless.) There’s hurt in some of the fighting, and anger, but no hatred.
The interesting part is the big Iron Man vs Steve and Bucky fight that is prominent in the trailers doesn’t really occur until after the so-called civil war is settled. Tony’s come to help Steve and Bucky and is driven to start the fight back up again not because of an ethical disagreement, but out of a desire for revenge against Bucky.
The disagreement between the two sets of teams really did come down to a clash of worldviews. That was unfortunately not as well defined for many of the characters as it could have been. Tony and Natasha’s position is pretty clear: they’re both people who can tell which way the wind is blowing and see signing on as a way to get good will back and head off anything worse. Tony gets an extra push by being confronted about the collateral damage issue, since that’s already a sore spot for him, but I think it was more true when he tells Steve that they need to be on board because it’ll keep something worse from happening.
It sets up the contrast between Tony as a business man (and Natasha as a spy and survivor) and Steve as someone who is a archetypal noble soldier. It’s the pragmatic versus Steve’s inclination to distrust politicians when it comes to making those kinds of decisions. Both sides make complete sense in their own worldview.
Sam sticking with Steve makes sense; they have similar attitudes and Sam’s primary loyalty has been to Steve since he first put in an appearance. I’m less certain about why Wanda, Clint, and Ant Man were in there. For Clint, maybe it’s just because he’s part of the grizzled old soldier who is so done with everyone’s shit this time, no really, he means it, you fucking kids and your fucking problems.
Likewise, while it makes sense that Rhodey is with Tony (similar in a way to Sam sticking with Steve) and Spider-Man (Tony recruited him specifically, so it’s not like he knows both sides), I’m still puzzled what the hell Vision’s deal is. I can’t say I’m convinced by anything that went on with Vision. I kind of feel like no one behind the script knew quite what to do with him either.
Maybe part of this is an issue of there being so many goddamn characters again, since you have all of the above plus the Wildcard of T’Challa. I wouldn’t call T’Challa to be on Team Tony so much as Team Let’s Murder Bucky. It was a crowded movie, though since it seemed to be less about setting up a ton of other movies, the characters had a bit more breathing room.
Okay, but T’Challa was EVERYTHING in this movie. There weren’t that many well-defined character arcs in this film, partially because it was so crowded. Bucky doesn’t really change as such. Wanda sort of has a mini character arc I guess? But for all this was nominally about the Avengers Civil War and Steve getting Bucky back, this was really T’Challa’s movie.
We see him go from being a prince who’s attempting to be a politician to a king who is mourning a father he saw die in front of him. And then we see him relentlessly pursue the person he blames for his father’s death. T’Challa’s fight scenes are amazing, and they say SO MUCH about his character. (Mike Underwood would approve, I think.) One thing I loved about T’Challa when he was being Black Panther was how remarkably quiet he was.
And then we get to the end, with T’Challa waiting patiently so he can pursue Tony and continue his path of vengeance. And there he finds out that he was tricked into going after Bucky. While Tony and Steve are fighting down below, T’Challa talks to Zemo and makes the decision that he won’t continue to pursue vengeance. He will not let it consume him the way it is consuming Tony and being used to break the Avengers apart, the way it consumed Zemo.
And like that isn’t an amazing enough delivery of the movie’s thematic statement, T’Challa then prevents Zemo from killing himself so that he’ll have to face justice from the living. The man had been ready to out and out kill Bucky, but faced with his father’s real murderer and the realization of the internal destruction caused by vengeance, he makes that call.
I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT T’CHALLA, OKAY.
Even more, I think that this was the moral center of the MCU shifting from Steve’s keeping to T’Challa’s. Civil War is driven by Steve making what is ultimately a personal decision–he’s justifying his desire to save Bucky at all costs. And god knows, Steve has earned the right to be a little selfish at this point, and he’s not wrong about Bucky being framed. But it’s still a very personal matter for him, and he doesn’t let it go the entire time. He chooses Bucky over the majority of his team. Whereas T’Challa starts out on a very personal path for vengeance, and by the end of it he lets that go.
I also think there’s a great contrast set up between Tony and T’Challa at the end. They are both in very similar positions–powerful men who don’t really have to answer to anyone, who watched their fathers get killed and are deeply wounded by the loss. When T’Challa is shown that he was after the wrong person and then confronted by the right one, he steps back from revenge. When Tony gets told that in effect it wasn’t really Bucky that killed his parents, his response is, “I don’t care.” I don’t see this as a slam on Tony; he’s so raw about everything in that moment that it would be impossible to not understand where he’s coming from. But it speaks to T’Challa’s inner strength that he’s able to turn aside from that.
I cannot fucking wait for the Black Panther movie. And I will forever resent the Yet Another Spider-Man Movie Oh God Why for delaying that.
Random Other Bits
Spider-Man looked like Baby Toby McGuire. Still not interested in seeing his movie. Also, am I the only one intensely skeeved out by the fact that Aunt May gets younger in ever fucking movie, and Tony actually pointed it out that she was hot? Ugh.
I don’t know what Martin Freeman was doing in this movie. I guess his American accent was all right? After checking the Marvel Wiki, I’m guessing it was probably to start setting him up for involvement in the Black Panther movie, but his role felt very superfluous. It would have made much more sense for General Ross to be doing pretty much everything Everett was doing.
Watching Ant Man go all gigantic during the big melee has finally convinced me to sit down and watch his movie. I wasn’t expecting a movie with such a heavy emotional load to be so fun but it was! That fight in particular had me laughing and squirming in my seat like an excited puppy.
Honestly, this was the best fight choreography I’ve seen in any Marvel movie, and the fights were incredibly well shot. I never had any question in my mind what was happening in them or who was doing what. It’s so rare to see that much clarity in these kind of sequences and I LOVED IT.
Clint Fucking Barton, okay. Every time he is in a movie, he is even more done with everything.
Also, Sam for MVP. Sam was the quip factory and I loved him for it. And everything about his grumpy interactions with Bucky was perfect. “Can you move your seat up?” “No.” Also, Sam saying: “You’d have to go Mark Furhman on my ass…” is not something I even understood until I saw it brought up on twitter (name was vaguely familiar but I’m terrible with names and had to look it up) but godDAMN there’s some depths to be plumbed here.
I’m sure people will throw rocks at me for this, but I’m far less convinced by Steve and Sharon than I was by Natasha and Bruce, and that’s a pretty fucking low bar. Did the director look for the most awkward possible take of that kiss and go with it? It felt like, oh, thanks for getting my stuff, I guess I should. Uh. Kiss you or something.
Anyway, that’s 1600 initial words of screaming. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts and opinions when I see it again. Because I’m going to. It’ll be my reward for getting all my packing done. That’ll make sure I slam through it.