Since I don’t watch much TV, movies have always been my primary form of pop culture entertainment. I have seen hundreds upon hundreds of movies over the last 44 years. Today, I’m going to tell you about a movie I consider to be in the top 25 of all of these. High praise, but it deserves it.
When I first saw Captain America: Winter Soldier a few years ago, I considered it one of the best action movies I had ever seen, despite it being a superhero movie. It didn’t feel like a superhero movie; it felt like an action movie. I loved it.
When I saw the first Avengers movie a few years before that, I considered it one of the best movies I had ever seen, though for very different reasons. Avengers actually did feel like a popcorn superhero movie; just a very well constructed one.
Captain America: Civil War combines these two experiences into one. The superhero fun of Avengers with the gritty action of Winter Solider, but it goes even further than that. It is also steeped in thought provoking themes of individualism, freedom, libertarianism, masculinity, friendship, family, and vengeance.
As of now, I’ve seen the movie twice. I may see it a third time. It’s one of those rare perfect films. (To me, of course.)
What I Liked
1. Freedom vs. Security. It’s an age old debate that is very near and dear to my heart. The Avengers have saved the world many times, but there’s been massive collateral damage. The governments of the world want all superheroes to report to the United Nations. All superheroes must sign this new law, thereby contractually agreeing to it, or retire.
Iron Man loves the idea. “We need to be put in check,” he says. Too many people have died. Superheroes have to much power. He is tortured by the death he’s caused.
Captain America, just like in Winter Soldier, takes the opposing libertarian view. “Government is run by people, and people have agendas,” he says. Governments are always corrupt, or become so. They can’t be trusted. If we submit to them, we will be tools, not protectors.
At the end of the movie, Cap tells Iron Man that his faith is “in individuals.” Not groups, not nations, and not interests. Individuals.
Even though he takes Iron Man’s side, Black Panther also doesn’t trust “politics.” “Two people in a room can accomplish more than 100 people.”
Black Widow takes Iron Man’s side. When discussing it with a reluctant Captain America, she makes a very feminine, collectivist statement: “That we stay together is more important than how we stay together.”
I wish I could have taken notes during the movie. So much food for thought. I can’t wait until it comes out on video so I can dissect it more.
Of course I agree with Captain America. So some giant monster starts destroying a city, and no superhero can do anything about it until a bunch of corrupt politicians at the UN debate about it and render a ruling? Millions will die to possibly save a few hundred from collateral damage.
How weird is it that a movie with this much depth is a friggin’ superhero movie?
Strange times we live in.
2. Fantastic action. EVERY action sequence in this movie is perfect. Even better than the action in Winter Solider, which is a huge compliment. The big battle between all the superheroes at the airport is the highlight that most people will be looking forward to, but all the other action sequences were amazing in their own right. This is one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen. Again, high praise.
3. EVERY character in this damn movie is perfect. I’ll give just a few examples:
Crossbones – One of my favorite super villains, sort of an evil version of The Punisher, played by the amazing Frank Grillo, a real-life Alpha. Awesome.
Black Panther – Chadwick Boseman does an absolutely amazing job. I can’t wait for his solo film. Very impressed.
Spider-Man – The best representation of Spider-Man we’ve ever seen in film (and I liked Tobey Maguire). The filmmakers put in all kinds of little details, like giving him a Queens accent. Perfect!
Iron Man – This is a darker, more angst-ridden Iron Man than we’ve ever seen, and that includes Iron Man 2 when he battles his alcoholism. The reason Iron Man is wrong is because he’s coming at his views from emotion rather than reality or rationality. He’s tortured by the deaths he’s “caused” (they were collateral damage while he was indeed saving vast amounts of people), therefore he wants to enact laws based on his emotions. Captain America, on the other hand, is thinking methodically and clearly. Freedom is always best. Not perfect, but much less bad than being subjected to goverment via the rule of men.
Ant Man – The ultimate beta male actor, Paul Rudd, returns to play the ultimate beta male superhero. It works, because he’s played up as the comic relief rather than as the masculine model to follow. Some of the best scenes were his, and he has a new, unexpected superpower that changes everything.
Baron Zemo – The villain of the movie (if you don’t consider Iron Man as the “villain”). He’s a real person, highly intelligent, with real motivations that you completely understand. So much nicer to see something like this than the usual ‘mwahahaha-I’m-a-bad-guy-cuz-I’m-evil’ comic book villain.
I could go on with other characters, but you get the point.
4. Very dark twist ending. If the movie wasn’t deep enough, there’s a twist ending that is darker than any Marvel superhero movie has ever gone before. It’s something that’s been building since the very first Marvel movie (the original Iron Man movie back in 2008). It hits you so hard that it warps your view of the action sequence right afterwards.
I won’t say what it is, but man, it’s great. It also has extra emotional impact if you’ve followed all the other Marvel movies up to this one, and have a good memory for character moments.
What I Didn’t Like
Ummm…nothing. There’s nothing I didn’t like. This is one of those rare prefect movies. I suppose if I really squinted my eyes and nitpicked as much as I could, I could probably find one or two teeny tiny things (I have a few microscopic nitpicks about the big airport battle). But seriously, this movie has no real flaws.
The directors of this film (and of Winter Soldier) are the Russo Brothers, who will be making the next two Avengers installments. That’s wonderful and I can’t wait, but I honestly can’t see how these movies will be better than this one. This is one of my favorite movies of all time and will likely be my number one favorite movie of 2016 (but you never know).