Politics, guilt, loyalty, fear, anger, and superheroes all play a part in Captain America: Civil War, leading to the longest—and perhaps most complicated—Marvel movie yet.
After an Avengers’ mission in Nigeria leads to civilian deaths, the United Nations begins pushing for a law that will restrain superhero activities. This most recent example of collateral damage, added to Sokovia, New York, and other disastrous scenes of Avengers’ battles, leads politicians, the public, and even the superheroes themselves to question how much good the Avengers are accomplishing. Tony Stark agrees to the Hero Registration Act, and other Avengers follow suit out of loyalty, practicality, or agreement. Steve Rogers feels he cannot agree to the act with a clear conscience and becomes the leader of the dissenting superheroes.
Both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers make valid points about the new law, but they never really listen to each other or have productive conversations. The two characters stubbornly stick to “I’m right—you’re wrong,” when the best answer is somewhere in between their two ideas. Sadly, personality and circumstances disrupt each possibility of compromise. Meanwhile, as the Avengers team breaks down and superheroes take sides against each other, a sinister man named Zemo manipulates them all, and Captain America is swept up in saving his friend Bucky Barnes from everyone who is pursuing Barnes for a crime for which Barnes has been framed.
One of my favorite parts of the movie is the characters, which is good because there are a lot of them. Black Panther makes his debut, proving himself an impressive hero with some surprising character qualities. The newest “incarnation” of Spider-Man appears several times, as well, bringing some energy and humor to the film. Viewers also have another opportunity to enjoy Ant Man and his fun personality. Although the story briefly develops the personalities of Scarlet Witch and Vision, most of the old characters change little, and the writers surprisingly focus, not on Cap, but on Iron Man. Tony Stark becomes a more sympathetic, but also more frustrating, character whom anger, fear, and guilt drive more than love, courage, or compassion.
Although I appreciate that Civil War has a more interesting and complicated story than its predecessors, I miss the clarity of purpose and moral sense that Captain America displays in his two previous films. Yet, divisive plot and themes notwithstanding, Captain America: Civil War is an enjoyable movie, with lots of punchlines and interplay between the different superheroes, old and new, and plenty of fodder for those who like to think.
Note: I will be posting another article about Captain America: Civil War in the near future in which I will look more in-depth at the themes and messages of the movie.