When the trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron hit the internet, it was like a religious experience for me. Everything about it looked amazing. Iron Man and the Hulk battling it out! Ultron! The Pinocchio song! Waiting another five months or whatever it was for the movie to come out was pretty tough. But the day finally came, and as I sat in that theater watching Earth’s Mightiest Heroes face down another world-ending threat, I remember smiling, leaning forward in my seat and thinking, “This is pretty okay, I guess.”
I liked the movie, and I was all too happy to spend the $20 when it came out on blu-ray a few months later, but it was kind of a letdown. In the end it just felt like 15 pounds of movie in a 10-pound bag. So when I heard that the next Captain America movie was shaping up to be Avengers 2.5, I was worried I was in for another disappointment.
As it turns out, Civil War sticks the landing pretty well. Actually, I’d say it’s the best movie Marvel’s put out so far. Like much of the Internet, I have a lot of opinions and I need to get them out there! So here are my big takeaways…
Civil War handles more characters, and handles them well. Civil War is a packed movie no matter how you look at it. But for me it never felt like it was trying to be an Avengers movie. It felt like Steve’s relationship with Bucky stayed pretty central to the plot (it’s the only reason the two go at it with Iron Man at the end of the film) the whole way through. Sure, you’ve got Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and, like, four or five others, but the movie treats them the way people who aren’t Captain America should be treated in a Captain America movie: as supporting players. They never become the focus of the movie.
It sets up the future of the MCU without beating you over the head. The MCU gets more and more cumbersome with each movie it puts out. There’s more story to address, more characters to keep track of, and more movies to set up. This was not something Age of Ultron did well. Thor going off to learn more about the Infinity Stones couldn’t have felt more shoehorned into the movie, forget the fact that the whole thing made no damn sense. These are things Civil War does much better with. You can tell that Black Panther is going to be playing a big role in Marvel’s coming years. The filmmakers came up with a way of introducing him in Civil War that felt organic and natural, so the movie never feels overstuffed.
Civil War shakes up the Marvel formula. The movie doesn’t end with Captain America and Iron Man shaking hands, with Cap smiling and saying, “Agree to disagree?” and the two laughing while that airport burns in the background. At the end of the film, the Avengers are split in two, with Captain America’s team presumably on the run. The MCU is moving into its third act. So, while a move like this may be seen as obvious by some, it’ll be interesting to see how it’s resolved once Infinity War rolls around and everyone is forced to work together again.
Captain America: Civil War featuring Spider-Man: Homecoming (coming Summer 2017). Look, I like Tom Holland. Honestly, he’s the first Spider-Man I’ll probably give a damn about. His turn in Civil War is a lot of fun, but it serves the plot of the movie in not one way. The whole thing feels very much like, “Okay, everyone! This is the Spider-Man part of the movie! Wow! Look at him go! Make sure you preorder your tickets at Fandango.com. Okay, that’s all. Say goodbye to Spider-Man, everyone! Bye, Spider-Man!” Tony Stark recruiting Peter Parker to go off and fight Captain America in Germany makes no sense. In practical, real world terms, it’s actually kind of reckless. He’s in this movie only to get people excited for his solo film. The end.
Is Captain America stupid? We get to see Cap and Tony make their arguments for and against putting the Avengers under government control. They both make some good points, but Captain America refuses to sign the Sokovia Accords, and then proceeds to blow a whole bunch of stuff up. He doesn’t need to agree with Tony, but he has to admit that he kind of has a point.
Marvel has a villain problem. While Marvel has done a great job making us care about their heroes, their villains and typically paper-thin and very forgettable. I thought it was pretty telling that Tony Stark is the most memorable villain the studio has used, maybe since Loki.
So Civil War wasn’t a perfect movie, but it was still pretty damn good. And while I don’t think this was the culmination of a plan Marvel had since Iron Man came out in 2008, it was pretty cool to see the culmination of something the MCU has been building up to for this long. I can’t wait to see where the whole thing goes from here.