It’s Civil War!

Thursday night I grabbed my kids and headed to the theater to catch a late-night showing of Captain America: Civil War. It was well worth the late night. I’ll give you fair warning now there will be spoilers ahead.

Non-spoiler thoughts

The Screen

The only showing which fit our schedule was in a 3d IMAX auditorium. I don’t typically go for 3d movies the first time I see them, but as it was “this or nothing” I decided to take the plunge.

The film looks amazing in the IMAX format, and certain segments of the film are specifically shot to take advantage of the special aspect ratio. The 3d was also subtle, similar to my experience seeing The Force Awakens in IMAX 3d. It gave the film some added depth, but wasn’t gimmicky or in the way. If you are able, try seeing this film on a large format screen or some sort. You won’t regret it.

The overall take

As the release of Civil War approached I noticed several concerns being voiced by the geek community. The most vocal of all these was, “How can they possibly do a movie which does justice to all these characters?” This was often asked in conjunction with thoughts about Avengers: Infinity War, which has an even larger cast than Civil War.

After seeing the film, I can honestly say we really don’t need to be worried. The film is very well balanced and, while Captain America and Iron Man do take central roles, each hero gets an appropriate spotlight in which to shine. The Vision has several “Data moments” which should be appreciated by any fan of NextGen. Ant Man’s introduction to the group is hilarious and mind-blowing. The MCU version of Spider-Man is phenomenal. And some moments between Black Widow and Hawkeye are both funny and great ways to show how these are friends fighting. Also, don’t mess with Black Panther. Ever.

I also appreciated how the story was adapted for the cinema.

The Civil War Comic is a political story which takes on a personal tone. It spans multiple issues and touches many different titles. There was simply no way to put that on the screen and make it compelling 1.

The Civil War film, on the other hand, is a deeply personal story which takes on some light political trappings. Because the media of film requires the material to be condensed, this take works better. And yet, as serious as the situation found in the film is, the characters remain themselves. Iron Man has arrogant banter, the interactions between characters reveal how well they’ve gotten to know one another, and no one really becomes dislikable. As the heroes fight, it’s gut-wrenching. Many viewers have, after all, been watching these characters come together for the better part of a decade, watching them at each other’s throats brings “the feels.”

My only real complaint is, perhaps, how the last plot shift 2 changes the relational setting as quickly as it does. Even so, the situation is immensely more believable than someone crying out, “Martha 3.”

Spoilers

You’ve been warned, the spoilers will be coming.

The airport aftermath

Seeing War Machine hit the ground with a sickening thud drew an audible gasp from the audience. It certainly made me skip a beat or two. That reaction shows the strength of the MCU. We’ve become attached to these characters – even relatively minor ones like War Machine. When Falcon lands next to Iron Man and says, “Sorry,” Tony Stark’s response only adds to the tension of the moment. He wordlessly puts Falcon down for the count with a repulser blast before checking on his friend. At that moment you see how the Avengers really have become broken.

The follow up scene in The Raft, where the imprisoned Avengers argue with Tony about evidence he’s ignoring, is also gut-wrenching. The dialog is fairly typical, “How could you?” Hollywood faire. It’s delivered well, but most are the words you’d expect to hear 4. What makes the scene work are the visible bruises and cuts each of the main characters have on their bodies and faces. You see the toll this fight had on them, in a way we have not seen in any other MCU film. Actually, the physical aftermath of the airport fight is more akin to the Netflix Daredevil series than The Avengers films.

Villain-less

Captain America: Civil War has an antagonist, a version of Baron Zemo. And yet, it has no villain. In fact, as maniacal as Zemo has become, when his motivations are finally revealed he becomes almost as sympathetic a character as Winter Soldier. So much so that Black Panther, who has joined the fight only to avenge his father’s murder, actually ends up first sparing Zemo’s life and then saving it from his suicide attempt. “The living aren’t through with you yet,” he tells Zemo. By no means does Black Panther have a soft spot for the man who killed his father, but at the same time he sees what vengeance has wrought on Zemo’s soul and decides to follow a better path. He pities the man he should have been hunting, even while bringing him to justice.

But when was the last super hero film which didn’t have a villain? I suppose Watchmen would qualify, but that might be the only one. But it works, and it works because the audience is led to care that these characters are brutally assaulting one another because they all feel backed into a corner. When Black Widow asks Hawkeye, “We’re still friends, right?” that’s exactly what we’re thinking. I mean, Widow is “Aunt Natasha” to Clint’s kids. How can they not be friends?

Even with no “villain” working for global domination, however, the conflict of the film manages to drive the plot forward. This is an impressive bit of filmmaking, and difficult to pull off. Civil War doesn’t throw in an obligatory “final boss” which cancels out all previous plot development and brings the heroes together for a final unified battle 5. In fact, it leaves with relationships still very much in tatters. It impressed me.

Spider-Man

I’ve wanted Spider-Man in the MCU since I first learned about the MCU 6, and now he’s here!

The banter is awesome. But his best line is, by far, “Hey guys to you remember what they did to bring down those walker things in that old movie, Empire Strikes Back?” When Rhodey fires back, “Tony, how old is this guy?” I was in near tears from laughing. I cannot wait to see his solo film.

Moment of “Cool”

Giant Man has landed. I hope we see him in the next Ant-Man movie, because that was cool! Tony’s response, “OK, does anyone else have some extraordinary ability they’d like to reveal right now?” was priceless.


  1. Without, that is, trying to make 6 movies at once – a certain recently released movie attempted just that, and kinda fell flat. 
  2. It’s not really strong enough to be a twist. 
  3. I really didn’t care for Batman vs. Superman all that much. It had all the elements to be a really good film, but they just didn’t get fitted together very well. 
  4. With the exception of Ant-Man’s exchange with Stark. “I’m sorry, who are you?” is probably my favorite line in the film. 
  5. Like some other film I know. 
  6. Marvel Cinematic Universe 
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