by Tarique Ejaz and Luv Mehta
Tarique: Captain America: Civil War is the third installment in the Captain America franchise and one of the most awaited superhero-comicbook movie of 2016. So let’s start with the simplest of things. How did you like the movie?
Luv: Captain America is my favourite hero from the MCU, essentially being the modern Superman of the movie landscape. I’ve made my love for the first movie known before, and the second movie is the only instalment in the series to feel completely unpredictable. So, with my heightened expectations, I’m happy to say, the answer is yes!
T: To be honest, when I had gone into the theater for the movie, I wasn’t thinking about this particular movie as being as centred around the Captain America mythos as the earlier two movies since it was taking on a beloved storyline (albeit in its own way, which was really great) but I can easily say that it ended up surprising me and I absolutely loved it from the start to the end. The best part being that I spent the rest of the day thinking about how this movie plays into the MCU with characters being introduced and in terms of the future of the MCU.
L: Well, coming to the original Civil War storyline in the comics, the immense success of the run and its adjoining parallel storylines in the comicverse was also accompanied with a mixed critical and fan reaction, as well as a bunch of character revisions and post-retconning (like “One More Day” for Spider-Man). There were a lot of great moments, sure, like Peter Parker unmasking himself to the public, but by and large, the ideological debate at the core wasn’t represented well, the characters acted completely unlike themselves, and the whole thing felt too rushed.
Tony Stark, in the comics, is on the Superhero Registration Act’s side, which is a total turn from his usual capitalist “I-know-what-I’m-doing-so-leave-me-alone” persona, and Cap is against the Act, which makes him punch and fight and antagonize others pretty quickly (it was his decision to punch Tony in the face when the latter wanted to negotiate, effectively starting the war). The comic itself isn’t very balanced, since Tony is essentially right, superheroes need control, but the story takes Cap’s side by making Tony commit unspeakable acts of evil, making an extra dimensional prison and blowing off the death of Black Goliath.
What I love about the movie is that both sides and their choices are completely well defined from previous actions. Tony’s responsible for Stark weaponry committing havoc in nations, he’s responsible for Ultron’s rampage in Sokovia, of course he’s so racked by guilt that he’d do a 180 and help the government (which was foreshadowed in the Winter Soldier too, he designed the helicarriers with the satellite weaponry). On the flipside, Cap’s always been about obeying orders to save his fellow citizen, but his first act of heroism was when he disobeyed the Colonel to save the soldiers, and he blew S.H.I.E.L.D. wide open when he found out they were too corrupt to save the world. Of course he’s not in favour of being a puppet for people with power and agendas.
T: Well stated. There is a lot of difference between the comicbook Civil War and the movie and it was a good thing that there existed such a difference. However, when we talk about the comicbook Civil War we need to take into account the fact that Marvel had been building up Civil War for quite some time before they actually went head on into it, which actually happened earlier than they had planned due to dipping sales of solo titles such as Captain America and Iron Man. Civil War made roadways for some of the more complex and brilliant storylines, like Stark taking over S.H.I.E.L.D. post it and not to forget the ‘Death of the Dream’ arc.
Now, the comics presented a complete contrast to what categorized most of the heroes involved in it and it mainly centered around the Registration Act presented by the government. The movie, on the other hand, does a fantastic job by not making the Sovokia Accords (MCU’s version of the Superhuman Registration Act, not in the exact essence though) the only thing that becomes a point of opposing stances between the two heavyweights of the MCU. This is where Civil War earns its credits by making Winter Soldier one of the major factors and thereby, introducing a famous Cap villain who has an agenda of his own related to what transpired in Age of Ultron.
The part where Tony tells Steve, showing him the photo of a deceased civilian caught in the crossfire, that they need to be restrained from acting without guidance is something I can understand and the part where the guilt that he carries makes him feel the need to comply with the government. But it was ultimately Tony’s creation that caused all the damage in Age of Ultron although it was created from a fear which he carried about not doing enough. So when he puts Cap in the spotlight saying that they need to be follow the guiding system, Steve’s skepticism is also clear since it is linked to what happened in Winter Soldier and the fact that the Avengers only fought to clear up Tony’s mess in the first place.
Coming to Cap, it was already established in the first movie about how idealistic kind of a thought process it carried and his distrust about power and authority that carry a personal agenda. The part where Steve tells Thunderbolt Ross that the Avengers were created to come in whenever there was a situation that required irrespective of which region it falls in complies with what Steve Rogers had been all about his entire life. Fighting for what he believed was right. (That was also one reason why I was majorly inclined towards Team Iron Man as we edged towards the climax of the movie)
L: I love the fact that the Avengers don’t really fight each other until after the halfway point of the movie. When Cap tries to save Bucky and gets arrested, Tony tries to help him out, and they have a heart-to-heart conversation where they try to figure out what the other person’s stand is, and what it’s for. There’s a lot of mutual respect between them, and they delay the conflict for as long as possible, and keep trying to make peaceful amends. For all the #TeamCap and #TeamIronMan camps made before the movie, the story earnestly wants them to cooperate and remain amicable. It’s the situations that drive them apart.
It’s funny how the Captain’s become the heart of the MCU, with his movie essentially acting as an Avengers movie as well as a Captain America movie. And looking at the limited amount of screentime he’s always got in the previous Avengers movies, it’s great to finally see him get the position and respect he deserves. And I can’t even fault Robert Downey Jr. here - he might have been given loads of screentime and Whedon-y quips in the previous movies (and it really was quite clear that he was Whedon’s favourite) but he’s given a completely human and melancholy role here, a depiction of PTSD that even Iron Man Three can’t beat, and we in Cap’s team can’t bring ourselves to hate him, too, because everything he does, however selfish or desperate, comes from a place of great pain, and a yearning to save as many people as possible.
What did you think of the supporting characters?
T: From Scarlet Witch to Vision to Hawkeye to the rest, each got their fare share to shine and the thing is they grasped their opportunities with both hands. Black Widow was shown as the one who had a pivotal role in a certain capacity because she had worked closely with both Steve and Tony earlier (in their respective stand alone movies, that is). So the point where she decides to take Tony’s side is perfectly showcased by Captain’s reaction and the same kind of reaction is exhibited by Tony when she decides to back captain later on. The one complaint that I had was regarding Scarlet Witch and the way MCU has portrayed her. Olsen is beautiful and she does but for a character like Wanda, she seems to be underplayed by the Studio as far as the power characterization is concerned.
Now coming to the others, Ant-Man was lovely to watch. Honestly, I had a smile on when he came on for the first. Paul Rudd is just how do I put it, an actor I enjoy watching. Vision was not given that much of screen time but then looking at the overall scenario, I believe it was apt. They utilised War Machine and Falcon really well. It was like since ‘we are become factious, let us do it properly.’ Cap had falcon while Tony had Rhodes and that is why the part where Falcon seemed so concerned about Rhodes after the clash is simply clever. That is it.
The newcomers, up next. Black Panther! I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction than that. It had a tragedy bring him to light which only played into the movie’s narration. This gave us one of those characters who is not only a royalty but also one of the smartest character in marvel, along with Tony. For the BIG one now. Spider-Man. Tom Holland is the best live-action Spider-Man I have seen till date. He seems the role and that costume and web-shooters all play into making him fit right in.
L: What’s amazing is that, even in a movie with fifteen to twenty characters, all of them got some kind of character arc. And coming to the Black Panther, his regalness and latent rage is perfectly suited to the character, and I hope Wakanda finally gets its due in the MCU with the upcoming movie.
I’m not sure about the recent trend of declaring new iterations of superheroes as the best ones yet, and it’s the same for Tom Holland. Tobey Maguire’s been in two of the best superhero movies ever and his portrayal perfectly suited the scripts - and I’m a fan of Spider-Man 3 too, even with its flaws. I will say this, though. He’s a lot of fun, and his update on the great responsibility speech is great too, perfectly fitting in with the movie’s themes at that point as well. Plus, it’s great to see a movie fearlessly forego the origin story and introduce him just as he is. He’s not Cap or Iron Man, he’s one of the most famous superheroes ever, and we all know his origin story by heart by now, just like we know how Bruce’s parents were killed.
Plus, to see the movie acknowledge his verboseness in fights and have others react with incredulity is incredibly fun too.
Coming to Zemo, though, I’m a little torn. Bruhl is a brilliant actor, and Zemo’s a unique character in that he has no interest in seeing the world get destroyed (unlike almost every MCU villain ever), but his origins tie in to Iron Man’s actions as well. He’s a former Sokovian agent, but that’s used as a red herring - as is the phone call he receives, which turns out to be a voice message. However, he could have been written and played a little more memorably. He is the only solo villain in the series that actually ended up being successful, after all.
T: Yes, I can understand your point regarding Zemo. A lot of Marvel fans were expecting the iconic purple costume to appear as well but I was perfectly satisfied with the Zemo they showed, given the way things are shaping up for the MCU essentially. Zemo is the main villain but his villainy is just vengeance being carried out by a man who had suffered as the hands of heroes and their heroism. (A major strength of the MCU as they play with their movies and the links that are there to be worked on) Given the fact that he had been successful, it would have been a complete overhaul had he managed to kill himself as planned but still he managed to do what most of the super-villains - the ones with powers failed to do. Use an Avenger to take down another and create a wedge between the teams.
The thing that however still makes me wonder is him discovering the Winter Soldier program. He states that he had been searching and doing his research on it for quite some time. Maybe, I might have missed it but I don’t recall it being established properly as to how he managed to trace down the General of Hydra who was carrying the internal programming for the Winter Soldier.
Zemo, overall, was a different sort of villain than what we have been treated to normally by the MCU movies.
L: The MCU’s become like this TV series, though, hasn’t it? Every film is like a high budget feature length episode, which is why we get strong continuity, strong characters with tons of development, and yet we go out of the theatre feeling like we watched something without a true ending.
Let’s come to the action sequences first. We go from the end of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, where Cap was just about to make the new Avengers assemble, and come to Civil War’s first scene where they move around the world to neutralize threats. It’s an amazing scene, by the way - we’ve never seen such a visceral ground-level fight in those movies before, but the Russos are the perfect people to give that sort of feel to the Avengers.
Then we get to the second major fight, the airport scene, quite possibly one of the best superhero movie fights ever shown onscreen. Everyone (except, curiously, Vision) gets to show off a lot! We get Spider-Man versus Cap! We get GODDAMN GIANT MAN! And we get the Invisible Woman/Spider-Man turn from the comics in Black Widow, which makes perfect sense, too, as you said.
And then we get the final sequence, intimate and personal, with Tony’s anger at the Winter Soldier and Cap beautifully played out in a fight where we don’t want any one of them to win, because we like these characters - and deep down, we know both of them are right.
And then… the movie just ends.
I realize it’s because of the inherent structure of these movies, but it still feels incomplete as a result. We got the Civil War, but we didn’t get a conclusion to the war itself. And it may very well pay off in the sequels, of course, but if I have one negative point to make against this movie, it’s this.
T: That really doesn’t count as a negative point since Marvel has had this tendency for quite some time. Yes, you can say that it was more evidently visible in this one but yes there is a feeling incompleteness which exists. That is only increased by the mid-credits scene. You are forced to wonder whether Bucky would come back for the future movies and how would he come back, if he does.
Having said that, the climax made me want to just help Tony punch his way out of it. Captain’s stand was right in his own way but then the line where Bucky says that he remembers every single face he had helped put down, made me only sympathize more with Tony and then that sequence is just brilliant. The main reason that we feel this ended rather in a non-conclusive way is because it raises so many questions.
What will happen to Captain next? What will happen to his iconic shield? How will the Avengers reunite with the scars of the rift still fresh and not something that will be condoned so easily by one and all?
Some of the questions among others. Well, it is safe to say that it was a triumphant attempt by Marvel and the hype did not lead to disappointment.
L: Absolutely. This is my favourite MCU movie right now. It may not be as tightly constructed as the Winter Soldier or as epic as the Avengers or as funny as Iron Man or as cool as Guardians Of The Galaxy or as purely visionary as the First Avenger, but it’s all of that, at once, and it manages to add the most purely emotional arc of the entire franchise.
And after Batman v. Superman’s disappointment (for me), I’m glad this movie lived up to the hype.
Forget #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan, I’m #TeamCivilWar.
T: The factions and the hashtags were simply ways to build up the hype. No sane and logical person will be able to abide to a particular without saying “The other guy has a valid reason to go about it.” That for me is the USP of the movie. You just CANNOT pick a side and stay true to it without accepting that even the side you have chosen has been outdone by the other in some aspects.
#TeamCivilWar, it will remain. Now, we look ahead at how Doctor Strange fits in to the already running Superhero Movie-series.
L: It’s got Benedict and Mads and Chiwitel and Tilda, I really really look forward to it being awesome. On to the next movie!