‘Civil War’: There Are No Teams
It’s unfortunate that ‘Captain America: Civil War’ arrives just a month after the other big comic book “Vs” movie of the season. As it is, there are going to be (no doubt) plenty of ‘hot takes’ comparing DC’s ‘Batman V. Superman’ against Marvel’s ‘Iron Man Vs. Captain America’ – which one is better, or more “serious”, or more “mature” (as if levels of maturity should matter when we’re discussing Comic Book Movies) or more “faithful” to the source material… I plan on avoiding any and all such arguments because, frankly, ‘Captain America: Civil War’ succeeds so completely in all the ways that ‘Batman V. Superman’ failed that it would be like comparing oranges to porcupines. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
‘Civil War’ isn’t about choosing sides. The marketing campaign of #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan was a nice little dodge that offered an easy hook, but it ends up being irrelevant. At some point during ‘Civil War’ you will be on everyone’s side. Maybe even the bad guy.
It’s not about thinly-veiled political viewpoints, either. #TeamCap isn’t a codename for progressive or libertarian ideologies any more than #TeamIronMan is for neo-con state fascism. The events that set ‘Civil War’ in motion may be international and political in ramification, but what drives the actions and reactions of it’s many players are entirely personal. Everyone has a valid point at one time in the movie.
In short? This isn’t about picking TeamCap or TeamTony. It’s about whether you put your faith in people and principles, or you abandon those people and principles out of fear and guilt.
That ‘Civil War’ manages to pose these questions in the context of a Comic Book Movie with wall to wall action, while also shepherding several new players onto an already crowded stage without sacrificing pacing or character development is… well, after seeing how even a master storyteller like Joss Whedon became overwhelmed by the very same issues on ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ let’s just say that I had my doubts about the guys from ‘Community’ being up to the task.
And yet… The Russo brothers arrange this potential mess into a sleek, engaging whole. Everyone, from Iron Man to Black Widow to Ant-Man to Falcon to Scarlet Witch to Vision to War Machine to Hawkeye gets their moment to shine.
And then they bring in Black Panther and Chadwick Boseman just about steals every scene he’s in.
That is, until we meet the new Spider-Man. Who utterly romps away with the movie in a mere 10 minutes of screen time.
Yeah. It’s like that.
The other amazing thing? Even with all of those other heroes crowding the spotlight, ‘Civil War’ never forgets it’s a Captain America movie first and foremost. And a huge part of that is all down to Chris Evans. Evans may never be anyone’s idea of the next Robert DeNiro, but with a simple, perfectly pitched series of performances he utterly and totally disproves the miserable lie that says a character like Captain America is boring. That heroes need to be brooding and tortured to carry weight with an audience. Evans nails Cap’s basic decency, even as he shows the other side of this guy who is a true Lost Boy. Out of his time and still trying to do the Right Thing in a world that no longer seems to care about even paying lip-service to that idea, Cap is not only the hero of ‘Civil War’ but in a weird way he’s also the catalyst for all of the troubles that ensue. That dynamic gives this movie a certain tension and drive that raise it way above a routine punch-em-up.
I’ll back off a bit from fanboying to note, that, yes; there are some problems in ‘Civil War’. The biggest is with Cap’s pal, James ‘Bucky’ Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier, and it’s an inherited problem. One of the biggest flaws in the first Captain America movie, what with the rush to get Cap into the ice and deep frozen so he could join up with The Avengers in modern times, was that Bucky never really got a moment that made us, the audience, care about him as deeply as Cap does. And since it’s his friendship with Bucky that informs every action Cap takes in ‘Civil War’, well… that’s a problem. I mean, I get it. I understand that Cap needs to hang onto the one last piece of his old life and that makes him vulnerable to poor judgement, etc… but it would be nice to have felt it, rather than just be told it.
(Another problem is that Aunt May as played by Marisa Tomei is just ludicrously attractive, and I feel weird writing that about Aunt May but I guess that’s really my problem and I should just shut up.)
But, here’s where I gotta mention what an absolutely phenomenal job Robert Downey Jr. does as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Always the most troubled of heroes, Downey Jr. also manages to make Tony Stark a real, believable human character. His actions make total sense in this film. Hell, you may go into ‘Civil War’ proudly brandishing your #TeamCap shirt and badge, but still find yourself rooting for Tony at certain moments. I know I sure did. (And again, this is across the board: EVERYBODY in this cast absolutely shines at one point or another.)
And that brings me back to my earlier point: ‘Civil War’ is smart enough to know that there are ultimately no “teams”. Instead, there’s people – people doing what they think is right in the ways they hope are for the best. There are people so lost and angry that the only thing they can see to do is to make everyone else feel as hurt and lost and angry as they are. And there are people who are so consumed by guilt and fear that they want to do nothing.
And then there’s Steve Rogers, Captain America, and his belief in his friends. Sometimes that belief is unrewarded, maybe even ill-judged. But the idea that ultimately we all have to look out for each other and try to catch our friends when they fall is a better option than one based on fear and distrust. In the end, whatever our problems, we will be there for each other.
And that is why I’m Team Cap. Always.