Synopsis: The Avengers reach a critical moment in their career. Most of the world’s governments are no longer comfortable with them operating independently, answering to no one. Especially when things go wrong. So the team is asked to submit themselves to the authority of the UN, deploying only when and where the UN chooses to deploy them.
Adding fuel to this fire is Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers’ old friend who’d been brainwashed during the process of becoming a super-soldier. Bucky is implicated in a crime, and Steve believes he’s innocent. But Tony thinks Steve’s past loyalty to his friend is clouding his judgement. While Tony is championing the cause to put the Avengers under UN supervision, Steve goes flat-out rogue in an effort to save his friend. The rest of the Avengers are left divided between them. Should they accept another authority and obey the wishes of the world’s governments? Should they turn against one of their friends when he ends up on the wrong side of the law? Or should they believe that Steve is doing the right thing, even in the face of overwhelming opposition?
Series: The third Captain America movie, crossing over with rest of the MCU–especially the Avengers movies.
I’ve Watched: All the Captain America, Iron Man, and Avengers movies.
Verdict: Really good.
The characters are front and center in Captain America: Civil War. It was important for the movie to establish strong reasons why every character makes the choice they make, and man, did they succeed.
When the idea of UN oversight is first proposed, and Steve and Tony react to the idea, it made perfect sense that they lean towards different sides at this point in their lives. It fits with the character arcs both of them have had in their own franchises.
Steve’s journey in the previous movies taught him the limitations of official oversight. He was a soldier and a part of SHIELD–but then HYDRA happened and he had to go off the grid to fight official corruption. He’s learned to rely on his own judgement, because he’s learned that official channels can be manipulated or wrong. Essentially, he changed from Lawful Good to Neutral Good. He walks into Civil War ready to believe in his own judgement, and aware of the flaws in the people around him.
Tony started out as a Chaotic Neutral loose cannon. He did what he wanted, and he messed up. Again and again. Where Steve learned that he needed to trust himself more than he trusted the system, Tony learned the opposite. Steve has always had a strong moral core he could rely upon, but Tony hasn’t. Handing over the reigns of power to a group of people means relying on an averaged out sense of morality. That’s a step up for Tony, who has a lower than average moral core. But it’s a step down for Steve.
Furthermore, once Tony joined the Avengers, he started being held accountable for the consequences of his actions. Started feeling guilty for making decisions that cost lives. This is the huge benefit to signing away the control he has over the Avengers, for Tony. This is the advantage to answering to someone else. He doesn’t have to take responsibility for what goes down, because he’s not the one calling the shots. When collateral damage happens, he wants that to be someone else’s burden–because let’s be real, it isn’t going to go away just because the Avengers start taking orders from someone else. In a way, this strongly fits with the core of the character Tony started out as–the irreverent playboy who doesn’t take anything seriously. He’s learned the gravity of some things since, but he’s still dodging responsibility.
The entire conflict is packaged in layers of different worldviews, with each party trying to do the best they can by the people they feel loyal to, without betraying themselves in the process. Natasha’s concerns are more practical than Tony’s or Steve’s, focusing on how the Avengers will best be able to retain control of the situation. But she ends up on the opposite side of the people she has the closest relationship with, Steve and Clint. Siding with Tony means standing by the person she has the worst rapport with on the entire team.
Many of the characters have a powerful reason driving them. Wanda, Vision, and Clint all have different ideas about her place in the world. T’Challa is trying to avenge a wrong. (And by the way, as this movie is the introduction of Black Panther, I think they did a good job. I like him.) Rhodes has always been a soldier, and here we see Tony coming around to his side, for once.
This conflict doesn’t get neatly put away, either. It comes with real consequences for the characters. The effect of the choices these people made in Civil War will reverberate into future movies down the line. It can’t not.
Another interesting thing is that, even when the movie gets serious–and it gets very serious–it retains the spirit of fun established in the first Avengers movie. There’s plenty of comedic moments throughout. They never take away from the drama, but they do mostly prevent the movie from crossing the line into bleakness. Even while the audience witnesses the characters’ pain at going up against their friends, there’s still a sense of connection between them.
And I do love the emotional tension brought into the situation. They keep trying to get through to each other, and it keeps failing. There was this one nice moment before a big battle, where one character looks at the other team and says something like, “they’re really not going to stop.” It’s clear that this is hurting them.
I loved almost every second of this movie.