Road to Infinity War – “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

Back in 2015-16 I was foaming at the mouth in anticipation for an adaptation of the legendary Marvel Comics event “Civil War”. I knew that this was going to be very, very different due to the absence of Fantastic Four, XMen, Punisher, etc- but a huge event all the same. And after that first trailer dropped, I was a lost cause.

Next up on the Road to Infinity War, it is none other than the third installment in the Captain America trilogy….CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR!

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‘Civil War’ titilated fans for months on end, and the anticipation translated into its success- not to mention the homecoming of our beloved Spiderman to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spidey and company brought in $1,153,304,495 at the global box office- making it one of Marvels most successful movies to date.

TEAM CIVIL WAR:

The Captain America trilogy team assembles once more to bring fluidity and feeling to the franchise. Directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo continue to flex their Marvel muscles with heroes that they have already had a hand in molding, while giving their unique influence to the plethora of characters that they were allowed in ‘Civil War’. Thanks to screenplay writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus- who have written for all three films-the tone to the film is quite similar to ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’- which is as sombre as it is entertaining- boiling over with killer action sequences, intimate moments and fan service scenes that strikes a great balance. Although this complete change in formula may have taken some viewers aback, it broke the mold for future ensemble films and gave way for their next project- INFINITY WAR. The Captain America movies have very little impact or reference to this future, but Thors absence since ‘Age of Ultron’ accounts for the lack of reference to these coming events.

The soundtrack for ‘Civil War’ is also brought to you by a man that has stuck around to see the trilogy through- scoring for ‘Winter Soldier’- along with several non-Marvel projects like the ‘Kick Ass’ films, both ‘Kingsman’ movies, and a couple of ‘Uncharted’ games. Composer Henry Jackman knows his stuff when it comes to action adventure.

THE HEROES:

Strap in folks, this is going to be a REALLY long one.

AWOL HEROES: HULK/BRUCE BANNER, THOR ODINSON/DR DONALD BLAKE

TEAM CAP:

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CAPTAIN AMERICA/STEVE ROGERS:

Captain America and Sam Wilson have been working to locate the Winter Soldier aka Bucky Barnes after he went AWOL following the events of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’. Working with the new breed of Avengers like Wanda aka the Scarlet Witch they have also been on the tails of the remaining heads of HYDRA. At the beginning of Civil War they go up against ‘Crossbones’ aka Brock Rumlow, who was the resident loudmouth asshole in ‘Winter Soldier’ who ended the film on a stretcher looking close to death. Wanda contains a suicide bomb set off by Crossbones that is meant to take out Steve, but unable to control its destination, she takes out an entire floor of a building-resulting in a very public outcry that she be taken off the streets, along with all the rest of the Avengers.

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When General Ross proposes a government mandated bill that essentially puts superheroes like the Avengers under the full supervision of the United Nations, Cap has absolutely no desire to conform. He finds himself divided against those who he has called his friends and colleagues for many years, but he is not willing to budge. During their meeting, Steve gets a call that his beloved old friend Peggy Carter has passed away. Although Natasha is not on Steves side of the Accords, she comes to her funeral to keep him company and to show that their friendship trumps all else.

At the official signing of the Accords, an explosion takes down the building, killing several people-including the King of Wakanda. Footage shows that it was in fact Bucky Barnes who is responsible for this, but Steve and his team know well enough that the likelihood of Bucky being under the influence of Hydra once again is unlikely and he refuses to believe it. Steve seeks out Bucky and finds him just in time to warn him about the opposing parties that are coming to take him down. With the help of his “will they, won’t they” lady friend Agent 13, himself, Sam and Bucky are able to assemble a team of their own to take down Baron Zemo and to prevent the release of the rest of the Winter Soldiers.

Steve ultimately remains at odds with Tony about the Accords and Bucky up until the end, where Baron Zemo drops a bombshell that nearly ends the Avengers in its wake. Fortunately for everyone, Tony can see past his rage just enough to allow Cap to walk away free, a fugitive without a shield. In his closing monologue, he sends Tony a cell phone to contact him and we see him coming to release his friends from confinement.

WANDA MAXIMOFF/SCARLET WITCH:

After a devastating incident that resulted in death and destruction, Wanda has been removed from the outside world and she becomes the case in point for the Accords to be implemented. Her powers have expanded to include flight and a much more refined control of her “witchcraft”, but when she is put on the spot to relocate a detonated bomb, she is left with few options. Wanda is now well cared for under the supervision of uh, Super Vision, but she is angry that she is being sequestered like a child with a disease. Her relationship with the mandroid that she affectionately refers to as “Vis” is blossoming into something that is a deep friendship, a mutual respect and a potential romance, but Vision still follows the logical aspect of any situation and believes that keeping her away is the best thing for her and everyone around her. A “retired” Hawkeye comes to her aid, stealing her away under Team Iron Mans nose and forcing her to detain Vision using her powers. This is the first time that we see just how powerful she is- but the two are made from the same Infinity Stone- so it makes sense that she could stand up to him, and that he would not fight back even if he could.

BUCKY BARNES:

Bucky has been dealt one of the worst hands in the MCU- a former Hydra weapon who was repeatedly brainwashed to rid him of any memories of his past. In Civil War, he is framed with the bombing of the Vienna International Centre where the Accords were scheduled to be signed. Though Steve find him before he is confronted by every possible government agency that wants him dealt with- he must remain off the radar for the entirety of the film. He is ultimately taken in under the supervision of Everett K Ross for questioning. The session is highjacked by Baron Zemo, who has uncovered the key to activating his mind control once again, and he is turned back into a weapon within minutes. Though he is knocked out of it again after a great deal of destruction is left in his wake, his role in the near-fall of the Avengers becomes tremendously important. In the end, he is put back on the ice to prevent anyone else from attempting to reactivate him-hidden away from the rest of the world in Wakanda.

ANT MAN/SCOTT LANG:

We don’t get much of an update about what Scott has been up to since taking down Darren Cross and destroying his lifes work- but he is brought into the fight by his one time sparring partner Sam Wilson to assist their poorly staffed team. He is immediately taken by his introduction to Captain America and the rest of the Avengers, and he suits up to go against Team Iron Man. In the epic airport confrontation, Lang is the curveball that throws off nearly every member of Tonys team and he makes some of the biggest impact. Not only do we get to see himself and Hawkeye reinact the amazing arrow launch scene, BUT we get to see his newest trick- GIANT MAN!

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I’d love to say that I was drunk with surprise over the reveal of Giant Man, but unfortunately Funko released a Giant Man Pop figure well ahead of the release of the movie with the films titled splashed across it. I’m still mad about it. Funk you, Funko. Seriously.

Lang winds up in confinement along with Sam Wilson and Clint Barton where he throws some shade at Tony, but we know that Cap has come to release him, so we don’t know what his future holds from here. Will he be able to live his life freely or is he now a fugitive as well?

HAWKEYE/CLINT BARTON:

Clint comes out of his short lived retirement to rescue his new Avengers daughter, Wanda, from the heavy thumb of Tony Stark. He risks everything to come to the aid of Captain America- even going up against his best friend in the world to fight for what he believes. Clint doesn’t say a whole lot about why he is supporting Caps side, but it is quite obvious that a man with a wife and children hidden away from the world would not want to be a pawn on the books for the United Nations. He has a lot to lose, and if it weren’t for Cap coming to his rescue in the end, he may have wound up behind bars for a long time.

TEAM IRON MAN

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IRON MAN/TONY STARK/TONY STANK:

Tony and his relationship with his parents become a resounding theme to Civil War, just as Steves relationship with Bucky does. In the beginning, he is brooding over the loss of his parents and handing out money like its pennies to an auditorium full of students. We learn that he and Pepper are on shaky ground after he broke his dramatic promise to abandon the Iron Man moniker in Iron Man 3. Incidentally, this is one of the only things about that film that resonated into the MCU. Alone and vulnerable, Tony seems to be softening up more and more as time goes on. He is confronted by a mother who lost her child in Sokovia, and she blames him for her sons death. This incident forces Tony to face a perspective where he can no longer run as a free agent, doing whatever he likes whenever he likes. He is willing to work with others for once, and he believes that accountability is the right thing to pursue for the greater good.

This uncharacteristic change of personality makes perfect sense after the shitstorms that Tony has helped to deter and cause, and he likely still feels tremendous guilt for what Ultron became on his watch. He has started to realize that just because he believes that he can fix the world, doesn’t mean that he can control it. He cannot control outside forces, and he cannot control all of the other heroes and villains that continue to be unearthed as his story goes on. He believes that a system of cooperation and structure is the best way to keep the Avengers together, and as they always have, Steve and Tony disagree. The airport fight between the divided Avengers comes to a tragic end when a distracted Vision accidentally injures Rhodes to the point where he loses the function of his legs. Tony is devastated that this situation has caused such harm to a close friend, and he expresses his concern that Vision could be capable of such error.

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In the end, Tony comes to make a truce with Steve and Bucky when he learns that their mission is a great threat, going up against even General Ross to extend an olive branch one last time. However, Baron Zemo throws a huge wrench into their relationship and Tonys whole existence when he shows them that Bucky- under the influence of Hydra-personally killed both Tonys parents. He has very little time to process this information and goes after Bucky at full force in a fit of rage, causing an intense confrontation between the three of them. He ultimately loses the fight and a friend, but Steve reaches out to him in the end.

WAR MACHINE/JAMES RHODES:

It should be no surprise to anyone that Rhodes would be on board with the Accords- seeing as his position over the last few years has been “government Iron Man”. His friendship with Tony certainly influences his support as well, but as a military man at heart he knows the importance of being accountable. While in flight, Vision takes a shot at him and mistakenly shoots out his suits power source, causing him to crash to the ground and seriously injure both of his legs. In his last scene of the film, Tony is helping him with his physical therapy and he gives a rare look into his mental state in all this- revealing that he always knew that there was a potential for a worst case scenario when he pursued a career with the military, but he is nonetheless devastated. Fortunately, he doesn’t lose his sense of humor-and there is no doubt that his genius billionare friend will have a sweet setup for him in no time.

BLACK WIDOW/NATASHA ROMANOFF:

Natasha is honestly one of the biggest surprises on Team Iron Man for me- but maybe she is tired of running. She spent most of her career working for an organization with resources, a hierarchy and a purpose- but now that SHIELD has fallen, she is lost in the world. Frankly, she seems tired. She thought that she may have found a sort of stable future with Bruce Banner, but he is nowhere to be found after the events of ‘Age of Ultron’. Her role in the MCU has always been-and always will be- the heart, and right now she is aching. She rarely makes a selfish decision and she is always open to new and collaborative ideas-even if that collaboration is with Tony Stark.

Natasha is one of the only Avengers who has no powers to speak of aside from her skills as an Agent and her insight into the workings of the darkest corners of the world, and this may also be a contributing factor in her decision to support the Accords. This is the lesser of two evils and the closest thing to SHIELD that she may have again. SHIELD wanted to protect the world, to uncover the mysteries of the world, and to understand it- all things that embody who she truly is. She betrays nearly everyone in some way, but she gains no resentment for it because she is so obviously doing what she thinks is right without hurting anyone along the way. She cares for everyone.

Natasha and Steve have become very close, but he feels let down by her support of the Accords and it seems that their friendship may be lost. However, when Steve and Bucky finally have a chance to escape the massive airport confrontation, Natasha subdues a pursuing Black Panther to allow him to escape. As always, she comes through to do the right thing for the right reasons.

VISION:

Vision is living the life, being one of the most powerful beings on Earth, the house to an infinity stone, and a budding romantic relationship with a beautiful young mutant. He still seems to be stuck in an obedient state that Ultron once questioned him for- doing whatever Tony Stark requires of him. He is remarkably humble for a being that could quite literally destroy everyone and everything without so much as a thought. When we see him again he is dressing in very human looking attire-perhaps to make himself and his fellow Avengers more comfortable with his presence. He seems to be quietly learning and adapting to life as both a superior being and a resident of Earth- cooking dinner for Wanda even though he doesn’t eat, phasing through walls and invading peoples privacy, and offering words of Vulcan wisdom in times of crisis.

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Vision brings up one of the most logical arguments in support of the Accords- stating that the very existence of the Avengers is a matter of causality. Power brings challenge, challenge brings conflict. The Avengers existence is literally a challenge to all other powerful beings who may oppose their ideals-therefore it could be argued that everything that has happened since Tony went public with his superhero persona is directly-or indirectly-their fault. However, this statement and the Accords existence does very little to misdirect any future threats towards the team and the planet- it only puts it on a leash. I found it a bit strange that he didn’t see that. However, as he is trying to integrate himself into human culture, this may be another way of trying to appease any questions regarding his own motives. It is a wonder why General Ross, or anyone else for that matter, hasn’t threatened to do anything about Visions existence after seeing what Ultron turned out to be.

While in battle, Vision stops to tend to a wounded Wanda and misses a cue from Tony because of it. His aim is off and he ends up sending Rhodes crashing down to Earth with shattered legs. Tony questions how this could possibly happen, and he is clearly taken back by the question. Vision is quickly discovering how very human that he is on the inside, experiencing the complex emotion of love towards Wanda- a theme that has long been tied to his character in his Marvel Comics history. I am elated to see that they are following this weird but wonderful aspect of his story. He has a heart to heart with her regarding his mysterious infinity stone- pondering the thought that he might one day understand it, and even control it. And I screamed internally.

T’CHALLA/BLACK PANTHER:

We are first introduced to T’Challa in Vienna over a conversation between himself and Natasha. He and his father are in agreement that the Accords are a positive step towards civility, coming from a very secretive nation that thrives under organization and community. While we get very little in the way of an “origin” story- this proves to be a very natural and effective way to introduce us to the character. An intensely emotional conversation between himself and his father brings us right up to speed on the type of relationship that they have and the temperment that they share. Tragedy strikes quickly when T’Chaka is killed during the bombing, which swiftly persuades T’Challa to seek vengeance towards the Winter Soldier. This alone puts him on Starks side of the fight- as he has no familiarity with the situation between Steve and Bucky- and frankly, I don’t think that he cares.

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The Black Panther is not known to the outside world when we see him in all his glory for the first time. He pounces with cat-like reflexes and silent strikes in one of the coolest chase scenes in the MCU so far between himself, Steve and Bucky. He unmasks himself without regard- sending a powerful message that he is the Black Panther and that is not to be kept secret-especially from his enemies. He shows uncharacteristic rage in the wake of his beloved fathers death and spends most of the movie stalking Steve and Bucky across the globe to avenge his father. Swayed by his final interaction with Baron Zemo, he allows himself to be free of his vengeful feelings and instead seeks justice. He stops Zemo from killing himself stating “the living are not done with you yet”. Badass.

PETER PARKER/SPIDERMAN:

It makes me tingle just typing his name into this review, to be honest. I don’t know a single Marvel fan that wasn’t boiling over with joy upon seeing our new Spiderman in the Civil War trailer, Caps shield in hand, meeting the Avengers. The best part of it all is that we were given a perfect Spiderman that is age appropriate, demeanor appropriate, and lack of origin story appropriate!

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Peter is introduced when Tony seeks him out at his home, somehow uncovering his identity via YouTube videos and recruiting him for his cause under the guise of a Stark Industries grant to throw off his unusually attractive Aunt May. The awkward, stuttering Parker has a makeshift Spider suit hiding in the ceiling of his room and webbing cartridges attached to his wrist, and when Tony grills him about his abilities he simply brushes it off as complicated. Tonys line of questioning brings him to ask Peters intentions as a crime fighting vigilante, and he obviously approves of his answers. The next time that we see him is in a full, real Spidey suit (did he already have that made or did his Stark robots make it for him?) complete with manipulating eyes and spandexy glory before he is thrust into a high paced battle with a group of heroes that he has never met before.

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Peters motor mouth and excitable nature is perfectly placed into this climactic scene before he disappears back into the shadows, and his immaturity shows in his willingness to impress “Mr.Stark” and to subdue several Avengers with gusto. His “Empire Strikes Back” moment with Giant Man shows off his ingenuity and confuses the hell out of his comrades, who are left wondering how old this kid actually is. Needless to say, he leaves an impression on everyone-including his new friend from Brooklyn.

THE VILLAIN:

Baron Zemo is a very unique villain-and a good choice to stir the pot in ‘Civil War’. Much like the mother who confronted Tony towards the beginning, Zemo has lost people very close to him because of the Avengers. Unfortunately for them, this is no ordinary person who has to go on with their normal life, but he is a highly trained, highly educated man who knows where to look for bombshells. Daniel Bruhl plays a character quite fitting to him- well spoken, soft spoken, charismatic, natural and sinister.

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His plan is quite elaborate and a bit questionable- but if he is looking for a way to break up the figureheads of the Avengers, he picked a perfect way to do so. He leaves a quiet trail behind himself and looks for no infamy or notoriety for his accomplishment. He has no accomplices, no one working for him, no one above him. He has no regard for his own life, and he has absolutely no one left to care about. He is obsessed with taking down the Avengers, and that is all. He is resourceful, he is angry, he is alone. This makes him incredibly dangerous.

THE GOODS:

The Russo Brothers delivered another fantastic Captain America movie to round out his trilogy, but they also delivered a well balanced Avengers film at the same time. ‘Civil War’ is quite unique- as the threat in this film is purely to the Avengers themselves, in the end. The threat that Bucky and Steve break away to pursue is eliminated, leaving only the conflict between the team to fester away- just as Zemo intended. This tension and conflict is endearing throughout as we see a large group of heroes who must now go up against one another as friends and colleagues. They have no intention of causing harm towards one another at any point in time, but with such an important and future-affecting decision hanging over their heads, they have no choice but to divide. Some of them have been greatly affected by the ugliest sides of authority, power and organization while the others have seen the bright side of it and how it can benefit them to start cooperating with the structures still in place in the world. To be fair, General Ross is not doing anything particularly villainous in asking a group of potentially dangerous vigilantes to conform to the rest of the civilized world. Everyone has incredibly difficult decisions when choosing a side in this civil war.

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Every character in ‘Civil War’-from the established to the introduced-gets ample time to shine, to grow and to make an impact. We learn something new about everyone and they learn where they stand  morally and ethically outside of their shared experiences. Cap has never had to justify his constant and visceral pursuit of Hydra and the necessity to wipe them off the planet to anyone outside of his immediate circle, and Tony has never had to make a case for subordination. Things have changed a hell of a lot since the days where Tony was brimming over with arrogance and bravado and Cap was being patronized and idolized. There is a paternal instinct to both of these men that has molded them into mentors- both very instinctive, intelligent and weathered by the tumultuous paths that their lives have taken. Now that they have witnessed the devastation that can come about when they don’t work as team, chances are good that they will come together once more when it is necessary. Neither of them has given up on the other, and they all truly believe in the things that they have in common and the unique bond that they share more than anything else.

POST CREDITS SCENE:

We get two fantastic post credits scenes that usher us into the immediate future of the MCU-the first being a introductory visit inside of the hidden paradise of Wakanda. T’Challa graciously gives sanctuary to the man that he was erroneously preying upon and allows Captain America and Bucky total secrecy so that they may safely exist after the events of ‘Civil War’. Not only that, but he vows that he will not allow any interested parties to reach him, if they dare try. We already know so much about T`Challa based solely on the way that he adapts, learns and forgives throughout this film.

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The second scene takes us back into Peters Parkers bedroom where is recounting a fight with a guy named Steve from Brooklyn with his Aunt May in the distance. On his wrist is a new gadget that immediately lights up, displaying a range of Spiderman themed functions that we may soon discover for ourselves. The tease, of course, being that his new fan and mentor Tony Stark has gifted Peter with something that may soon give Spiderman the chance to become…superior.

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