Movies! I like them! I spend a lot of time thinking about them! Sometimes I talk to friends about them without recording it for a podcast and it seems like a WASTE. So I’m going to make an effort to post more reviews. The reviews will be broken down into SEVEN categories: My Twitter Review, Why I Saw This Movie, Big Theme, Favorite Things, Questionable Things, Favorite Lines, and What This Film Inspires Me To Do. SPOILER WARNING:This is full of spoilers. Let’s do this!
Here’s my spoiler-free review of #CaptainAmericaCivilWar:
— Joseph Scrimshaw (@JosephScrimshaw) May 7, 2016
WHY I SAW THIS MOVIE:
I’ll see just about any superhero movie. I will definitely see all Marvel movies. I WOULD RUN SEVEN MARATHONS AND FIGHT A BEAR TO SEE A CAPTAIN AMERICA MOVIE.
I’m #TeamCap. I’ve always been a big fan of the character in the comics and I think Chris Evans’ portrayal and the team’s take on Cap is one of the best superhero characters ever committed to
celluloid digital film stuff.
If anyone ever tells you characters can’t be interesting if they’re fundamentally good, shake your head, hold up a copy of your Captain America: The Winter Soldier Blu-Ray, stand up tall, and say, “No. You’re wrong.”
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Steve Rogers has retained his consistent motivation: he just wants to do what he believes is right. He doesn’t feel comfortable unless he’s actively working toward a greater good. But he’s never been boring because he’s always had conflicts both external and internal. He’s struggled to know who to trust. He’s struggled to keep his individuality within organizations. He’s struggled to translate his values to different time periods and different conflicts. He’s questioned the morality of not wanting a family life, but instead wanting to be a soldier.
The movies have told that story extremely well through the exterior conflicts of the plots and through Chris Evans’ amazing performance. There’s always something going on in his eyes. There’s always a weight on his shoulders. Cap doesn’t blindly believe he’s right. He gives every decision a lot of thought. Not a lot of BROODING. A lot of thought. He’s not perfect. He just truly wants to be his best and is always striving for it. He’s a great role model.
Also, his shield is awesome and I cheer when he hits people with it in cool ways. I’m not a good person, but I’m STRIVING.
Also, there’s this:
If Captain America said he’d help you move, he’d do it.
Iron Man would show up late, eat free pizza, & make fun of your furniture.#TeamCap
— Joseph Scrimshaw (@JosephScrimshaw) May 11, 2016
There are a lot of ideas floating around in Captain America: Civil War about vengeance, leadership, hidden agendas, loyalty, fear, guilt, sarcasm as a viable tool of self-expression, but the big idea that wove everything together for me was borrowed from young Spider-Man himself:
With great power, comes great responsibility.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie was Tony Stark (who is also great and Robert Downey, Jr. deserves a lifetime achievement award for kickstarting the MCU) recruiting young, impressionable Spider-Man. When Tony asks Peter Parker why he does it, he gives a little speech that is a concerted rephrasing of his catchphrase. I think we probably would have just heard that phrase if it hadn’t been pummeled into the ground by the previous 872 Spider-Man films released in the last decade or so.
I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the quote online, but young Spidey basically says it seems irresponsible to have these powers and not try to use them for the good of others. There’s a great response from Tony Stark. A little flinch. As if it pains him to hear this young, relatively innocent person basically reiterate Cap’s fundamental argument even as Tony is recruiting him away from Cap’s side.
The other reason “with great power comes great responsibility” stood out to me as the central theme is that every character in the movie would vehemently agree with the statement. They just disagree about how best to take responsibility. The film might ultimately be weighted toward Cap’s perspective, but everyone, even down to the “bad guy”, Zemo, is trying to take responsibility.
There are plenty of other reviews that do a great job of marching straight through the plot and (so far) I’ve only seen the film once so I’m just going to share the big things that popped for me on the first viewing.
Layers of motivation:
The movie built on everything the MCU has done so far. Every character was well motivated AND they were motivated based on who they fundamentally are, the events we as an audience have witnessed them going through, and their devotion to more ephemeral ideologies. Cap has consistently been let down by organizations he trusts. Those organizations have often told him specifically NOT TO ACT. Going back to his first film, when the government and the army wanted him to just dress up and sell war bonds. He never would have become the Cap we know and love if he hadn’t disobeyed the institution, rescued Bucky, and exposed the full threat of the Red Skull.
Tony is driven mostly by guilt. But just as Cap has the personal motivation of protecting Bucky, Tony has not only Rhodey’s injuries, but the elegantly constructed simmering jealousy and sense of competition with Steve Rogers spurred on by his late father.
Black Widow’s loyalties are divided. She’s also fundamentally motivated by guilt, but she’s also a spy who adapts to the situation. When it becomes clear that the fight is no longer about the Sokovia Accords specifically she helps Cap get away and continue on his mission.
Ant-Man hero worships Cap and we’re even reminded that he’s got no problem working on the wrong side of the law.
I could go on and on. I’m a little bummed that characters being well-motivated is so rare that it’s this exciting to me, but there you go.
Even though this was one of the biggest, punchiest superhero movies ever made, the world was only at stake on a rhetorical level. I loved that there was a traditional antagonist in Zemo, but I loved that no one was trying to blow up the world or even Cleveland. It created variety and was a good reminder that HIGH STAKES can just be something that’s very, very important to the characters personally.
So few misunderstandings:
I also really liked that while Zemo manipulated events he never really “tricked” our heroes. Apologies to people who loved Batman v Superman, but one of the reasons I didn’t like the movie is that–even though the characters did have some ideological differences–by the time they were punching each other it was a misunderstanding. As soon as Batman knew the Martha-truth everything changed.
Zemo manipulated events, he stoked the fire, but the fundamental personal and ideological differences between Cap and Iron Man were already boiling under the surface.
I also like that Zemo didn’t just lure our heroes to fight in a cool bunker without any logic behind it. Part of his plot was to get to Siberia and MURDER THE OTHER SUPER SOLDIERS. (Which made for a great subversion of normal superhero movie third acts: They have to fight FIVE SUPER SOLDIERS–Whoops, no. There’s an upsetting home video.) Like everyone in the movie, Zemo’s trying to take responsibility and use his power to make sure there aren’t more Winter Soldiers running around. Yes, it’s an awfully MURDERY, VENGEANCE-TINGED responsibility, but he believes he’s making the world safer.
Big-ass location titles:
I loved the big location titles. It was a great stylistic break from the location typing out in the bottom corner of the screen like a spy dossier. It also reinforced that this was a global story. It stretches the superhero genre to be like James Bond or Indiana Jones. Superhero movies can be about zipping across earth. Not everyone needs to be locked in their one visually appropriate city they need to save.
Iron Man 3 clean-up:
I enjoyed Iron Man 3 but I’ve always been bothered by the disconnect between Tony blowing it all up (literally and figuratively) and then being right back in the mix and even wanting to create more weapons in Age of Ultron. Tony’s simple elegant line about not being able to give up the superhero game clarified his ideology and made a connecting point between Tony and Steve Rogers: They want to do good, but it’s not just altruistic, it’s a little selfish. At this point, they don’t know how to not be superheroes.
Secret identities are back, baby!
I loved Peter Parker’s intense concern about Aunt May not finding out about his Spider-Shenanigans. Also, the concern about his mask riding up at the end of the airport fight. The MCU has handled the lack of secret identities well, from the kick-ass ending of the very first Iron Man movie all the way to Black Widow emailing everyone all the secrets in The Winter Soldier. But as a comic book fan I’ve missed some of the nuance and conflicts of secret identities. The fact that Spidey really cares makes me feel like this is going to be reintroduced and maybe become a norm for heroes going forward in reaction to the Sokovia Accords.
And finally, fuck it, let’s go crazy:
It felt like this was the movie where the MCU felt truly comfortable in the reality they’ve built within their universe that they can take the risk of truly being COMIC BOOK MOVIES. Specifically, Black Panther and Spider-Man’s costumes being much closer to their comic book origins and not worrying about BUT IT HAS TO BE CHUNKY ARMOR OR SUPER-TEXTURED OR WE’LL LOSE OUR GRITTY, REAL WORLD CRED. Also, Giant-Man.
I loved seeing the technology–both in the world of the movie and our real, human world–that made Robert Downey, Jr. young. But there was still a little bit of the uncanny valley to it. It’s cool to see the technology, but it weirds me out a little in a “with great power, comes great responsibility” way.
What are you doing, Vision?
I’m going to push my geek glasses way up my nose and say I was distracted by Vision not having more of an impact in the big fight at the airport. He’s definitely one of the most powerful members of #TeamIronMan so he could have turned the tide of the battle more. I appreciate that he took a few specific actions at the end of the fight, but I think a few shots of him just hanging back and observing during the early part of the fight would have gone a long way.
“Tell me, Captain, do you know where Thor and Banner are right now? ‘Cause you can bet if I misplaced a couple of 30 megaton warheads, there’d be consequences.” – General Thaddeus Thunderbolt Ross
Why: I love that it sounds like a strong argument until you realize he’s taking all humanity and agency away from Thor and the Hulk by comparing them to non-sentient weapons.
“Protection? Is that how you see this? This is protection? It’s internment, Tony. Come on, she’s A KID!” – Captain America
Why: With the one word “internment” we’re reminded that Cap has the perspective of multiple generations and that his reasons to distrust humans within organizations goes way back. Tony was playing on old patriotism with those FDR pens. The word “internment” was a nice f you to that tact.
“I don’t know how many fights you’ve been in, but there’s not usually this much talking.” – The Falcon
Why: I want Spider-Man to never stop talking during fights so I took this as a great promise of things to come.
“Manchurian Candidate, you’re killing me. We’re on a truce. Put the gun down.” -Iron Man
Why: I love the movie Manchurian Candidate and I love the snark of Stark.
“I can do this all day.” -Captain America
Why: See the #TeamCap paragraph above.
“Uggghhhhaaa.” -Captain America preventing a fucking HELICOPTER from taking off.
Why: Come on.
WHAT THE MOVIE INSPIRED ME TO DO:
I try to do a few exercises every day. Just a few push-ups. I don’t expect to ever be ripped, I just want to be healthy enough to live a long time and see every Captain America movie.
It’s hard to stay motivated. But Cap does a great job of cutting through the noise and the BS to what is right.
“Come on, son,” I hear Cap say. “Just do your push-ups.”
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