Splitting Hairs over Civil War
It seems appropriate that a movie dissecting the Avengers would induce minor — hair splitting — gripes. Let me state up front that Captain America: Civil War is a great movie. I'm excited to buy it. And I will most definitely plan for my children to watch the movie that day. Those two statements should alone confirm my affection for this movie.
But like a certain annoying superhero with large muscles and blond hair, I have to stick to my guns. And despite my desire to re-watch the movie for a third time, I have some problems with this movie. This is not really a review. My review of the movie is "go watch it. It's good." This is me expounding some broader thoughts and complaints.
Holy Font Batman
Let me get the most silly complaint out of the way — the font. The font used to indicate location and dates was annoying in 2D. I physically cringed the first time I saw it. It didn't get any better as the movie continued. I just starred annoyed at its size and obstruction. Call me picky. In 3D, the font was mildly transparent and was much more enjoyable. This is a silly critic but it was a visual distraction for me.
Like Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War did overextend itself. There was a solid 15 to 25 minutes of screen time that were not essential. There were 2-3 characters that were not absolutely necessary (I'm looking at you Barton and Vision). That does not mean these characters were pointless. They had legitimate story arcs — none of this hindered the clash between Iron Man and Captain America. But at times, it felt like a distraction. These are the complaints derived when approaching the movie from a singular paradigm.
I have to remind myself that these movies are window sized looks into the MCU — they are never meant to tell the whole story — they aren't telling one story. This would make things very clean, but these movies are not driving to merely one point. They are introducing and preparing character arcs across multiple movies. Put another way, the MCU tells a larger story within the framework of a namesake. They don't inherently give the namesake 95% of the screentime. This is unlike most actions movie in recent history. The previous MCU movies are necessary. The forthcoming movies will expand on the presented themes. There is no "full picture" in the MCU. I always remember this after time away from the movie. Thankfully, I was able to watch the movie a second time after some reflection and remembrance.
Origin Stories and Villains
The MCU has achieved its size and popularity on solid origin stories. But as the movies grow some of these foundations/origins have been forgotten. Without stressing about the process, the MCU refuses to make stand-alone movies. Some of the early origin stories have border on such, but they have quickly expanded beyond. As in real life, stories and plots get messy. Starting as early as Thor's origin story, the MCU has stressed the inclusive nature of their movies — characters will interact without resolutions (eg. Hawkeye's introduction comes in a minor scene in Thor's origin movie only to receive reintroduction in Avengers). This has been exemplified in many of the Avenger's movies.
Captain America: Civil War is the first real attempt at depicting how superheroes butt into each other's lives (eg. the movies with the other person's name). This isn't an "Avengers" movie — the characters are not coming together for a singular purpose and arc. This is a collision of lives in the MCU. This mess is depicted as well as can be expected. But it takes some getting used to.
My largest complaint risks some spoilers — hum while you read. Marvel has a legit problem in their villain department. Marvel TV villains are better than every movie villain not named Loki. Yes, the charisma of the actors has been questionable, but so have the cardboard variants they've been given. I'm going to give Civil War a minor pass since "Baron Zemo" remains a character in development, and it remains to be seen how far he will ascend. He could become one of the best villians in the MCU. But as it stands, Captain America: Civil War lacked a good villian. Crossbones was a wasted villain. So were other characters involed in a certain comic book assaination. All remain a pointer to my previous point — the MCU is messy and we need to accept. The depicted story are not the comics. They are something larger and more drawn out. We should not be so eager for deaths that are less easily overturned in the MCU.
I don't want to get all wordy in this section. But Captain America: Civil War is everything Batman v Superman wanted to be. It is a movie with a background. It has substantial depth. The characters involved all come away with story progressions towards their next movie or arc. Yes, the plot could be perceived as messy if one ignores the movies that have come before and that will eventually come. Get over it. This isn't a summer blockbuster. All the origin stories have been laid out for the viewer.
Ultimately, simplicity made the difference for me — Captain America: Civil War is a traditional three-part movie. The first part exceeds the drama of Captain America: Winter Solider. The second part's humor is barely paralleled in humor and CGI by Ant-man and Guardians of the Galaxy. The third part is something all on its own. Nothing in the MCU comes close to watching Captain America cross the line in battle and declare himself unworthy by dropping his shield.
This is not the movie I was expecting. But it was the movie that fans deserved (despite its trend away from the comic book depiction). This is the blockbuster we all deserved. I can't wait to watch it with my kids.