Captain America: Civil War is hands down the best Marvel superhero movie to date. The pinnacle achievement from a decade of superhero storytelling.
Captain America: Civil War Synopsis
Because of collateral and human losses during Avenger battles, the United Nations passes an accord to supervise and control the team. The Avengers are divided on this move. While Ironman supports it out of guilt for creating Ultron, Captain America has more faith in his own judgement than the government’s. Before differences are resolved, Bucky Barnes resurfaces and kills King T’Chaka of Wakanda in Vienna. With Captain America going rogue with Bucky to uncover the real mastermind, the rift is further widened. This ultimately leads to an all-out confrontation between the two Avengers faction in Leipzig. The differences between the former comrades may never be bridged.
2016 is the year of superhero infighting, and so a review of Captain America: Civil War cannot be possible without a comparison to that other superpower bash two months ago. I.E. Dawn of Justice.
Why did DoJ fizzle while Civil War shines? Is it because of Marvel’s accumulated experience in cinematic presentation? Is it because Civil War has predecessors that saved it the tedium of origin stories?
No. In my opinion, both movies enjoyed no overriding advantages because the producers of DoJ could have easily drawn from other movies too. Anyway, how many viewers are unfamiliar with the origin stories of Superman and Batman?
What Marvel did right with Civil War, and correspondingly triumphed at, was its method of superhero storytelling. This is the acknowledgement that audiences do not watch superhero movies just for over-the-top fights, explosions, and special effects. Instead, they seek to understand superheroes on a personal level, be told about the humans beneath the masks and powers too.
During fights, audiences cheer not only for rampant destruction and wreckage, but when reminded of quirks, strengths and weaknesses. The greatest thrill then comes when these quirks are exemplified through the characteristic ways these superheroes battle with. It’s literally an expression of personality through combat movements.
To put it in another way, Superman and Batman slugging away at each other, destroying an entire precinct, doesn’t thrill. Collapsing buildings and exploding vehicles feel run-of-the-mill. Clark’s “WTH?” reaction to the distrust of his power, is cliché and flat.
On the other hand, deeper examination of Ironman’s damaged psyche is evocative*. Steve Rogers’ simplistic, boy-scout mentality is endearing and infuriating, particularly the way he both defends and compliments his opponents, even as they battle**. And lethal super-assassin Black Widow is very much the streetwise big sister you hope to have, when she’s not snapping your neck with her legs.
There are also the character comparisons. In the form of two “cameos” for the big fight. One’s a chatty teen new to the adrenaline of superpowered fights. The other, a still-clueless crook forced to wear a high-tech suit. The spectacular ways they experiment with and execute their powers aside, they provide intriguing contrast with the older cast. Here are the new and fresh, alongside the jaded and veteran. What should be the direction for these new heroes to go forth with? What’s going to happen to them in their coming battles? In that sense, the end-credit scene for Captain America: Civil War doesn’t just feel promotional, it also feels ominous. And with that, Marvel secures a sea of audiences for its coming releases. It also cements its position as the king of superhero storytelling.
*Take note of how often Stark is shown with bruises or injuries in this movie.
** I think the meaning of the scratched shield is easy to grasp.
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