The Marvel Cinematic Universe is something that I still feel Hollywood is trying to wrap their heads around. Well everyone outside of Kevin Feige. At the time of this article the MCU is composed of 20 films, which have released for over 10 years. That alone is an accomplishment no other movie franchise has ever come close to. Sure some movies in the universe aren’t amazing. I don’t think anyone is rushing to rewatch Thor 2: The Dark World anytime soon. However some of these movies are among the highest grossing films of all time. People love a good amount of these Marvel movies and everyone has their favorites. However out of all of them I believe, Civil War is the best.
The 2016 movie, directed by the Russo brothers Joe and Anthony, is a sequel to Captain America: Winter Soldier, which was also directed by the Russo’s. This also technically is a follow-up to Avengers 2 as well as Ant-Man, and kicks off the ‘third phase’ of the MCU. The main plot, or at least what Wikipedia and IMDB and several other movie sites say, is about the political complications of the Avengers in the world and if the collateral damage they cause is worth it for them to continue the work they do. Which by the way is saving the fucking world from aliens, gods, and killer robots, but yea lets not blame the actual government for being incapable of saving those people or anything. Anyways, the governments of the world, the ones that were riddled with hydra agents 2 years prior, do not think the Avenger’s should continue to operate freely and should be folded into an existing branch of government. The team disagrees on what to do. The movie actually does a really good job making something that, from the outside, seems black and white, and gives the characters complex reasons to consider this issue carefully.
The giant cast does an amazing job in this movie. Every single member of the Avengers is given an individual reason for their choices. The Vision, Paul Bettany, uses a calculation to conclude what the logical choice is. Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson, sees it as a compromise and would rather not be on the other side of the law again, that is until later in the movie but we’ll get to that later. War Machine, Don Cheadle, uses his duty bound sense of military purpose and understands how important the chain of command is. Falcon, Anthony Mackie, is the opposite side of the military coin. We first met him in Winter Soldier, where he as a character leads a support group for military members that have seen the horrors of war. He follows Steve because Rogers gave him a purpose again and it was simple, “do what is right”. The Scarlet Witch, Elizebeth Olsen, has probably the best reaction of all, she doesn’t know what to do. That character is still stuck with the realization that she murdered a group of people. She is afraid of what will happen to her. So much so that later in the film she actually listens to The Vision and plans on staying trapped in the mansion. That is until Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner, comes and gives her the type of advise that the character is so good at delivering “You want to mope you can go to high school. You want to make amends you get off your ass.” He basically says there is no point in feeling sorry for yourself, that’s childish, shit happen. But at the end of the day Cap needs our help. There is no doubt in his mind. Someone asked for his help and because he is a hero, he is going to help them.
This is not an Avengers movie. I know sometimes that gets confusing because it almost has every single cast member aside from Thor and Hulk, who I believe at this point in time are with Jeff Goldblum. The cast is gigantic. And then these directors and producers had the audacity to also introduce Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland. Spider-Man gets an origin story in this movie without an origin story and it works. Anyone who knows about the movie rights issues with Marvel’s IP’s knows that seeing Peter Parker in the MCU was a dream come true. And Tom Holland’s performance is perfect. He is exactly the Peter Parker I have been waiting for since I was a kid, sorry not sorry Toby and Andrew. We get to see a relationship develop between Tony and Peter that then goes on to flourishes in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Also the action is great. The fight between him and Winter Soldier and Falcon is a perfect display how his abilities and power without a training montage. They also bring back Ant-Man, Paul Rudd, fresh off his solo picture. This movie has so many cast members, and yet is able to give each one time and care and moments of absolute awe. Wanda and Vision developing their feelings for each other, Rodey having an accident that paralyzes him and him still believing in the cause, Scott Lang giving us Giant-Man! Black Widow actually gets the most development she has ever had in a movie. From the time we see her in Iron Man 2, she is a soldier in S.H.I.E.L.D following orders to make amends for her criminal activities. We have seen her develop, watched her back story, and know her motives. In Civil War, a movie all about the consequences of doing the right thing, she chooses to betray Tony and the UN in order to help Cap and Bucky. The collateral damage of which is herself, a sacrifice she makes in order to do the right thing. And those were just the characters we already knew.
On top of all that, we also get the introduction of Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman. The reason I wanted to give this character his own section is because to me, he is the 3rd protagonist. I actually left the theater almost thinking he stole the show. I know a lot of people really loved his solo film, but his story arc in this movie is better. A man is forced to come to a diplomatic meeting that he does not want to be at. Only there because his people, or more importantly at this point his father’s people, died by the actions of the Avengers. In a split second his father is dying in his arms. T’Challa was already the Black Panther before the events of this movie, but now he has a purpose, a vengeance. He believes that Bucky Barnes killed his father and he wants blood. What I liked the most about his character is basically the opposite of the reason I liked a lot of the other character’s story arcs. He has no connection to anyone. There is no mutual respect. Not honor bound duty or history. To him, Captain America is just another person. By the end of the movie he learns a lesson, realizing he was wrong. That whole time he was willing to murder an innocent man, as he himself says to Zemo “Vengeance has consumed you. I am done letting it consume me.” And then the film takes his arc a step further and gives T’Challa some kingly wisdom. Murder does not solve anyone’s problems. He goes out of his way to stop Zemo from killing himself in order to clear Bucky’s name; to help the man he was trying to kill the entire movie.
While we are on the subject of Zemo and the end of the movie, I have to mention that Zemo is a great antagonist but he is not the bad guy of the film. He was a man of… let’s say questionable morals who suffered an incredible loss. He had to find his family dead, and knew it was because of the Avengers. That really is the theme of the entire story. The Avengers are not perfect. They do not represent their comic book counterparts where at the end of the issue the world is still great. These movies take place in the real world and in the real world, no one is 100% a hero. Collateral damage is real. Innocent people die. And no one in a colorful suit can stop that. I think a lot of people who don’t watch superhero movies have this preconceived notions that these movies have no dramatic weight, that they do not push boundaries or make statements. But they do. Sure there are some that are fun and light, and I love that aspect too because it’s okay to feel good and smile. That is why I love Spider-Man: Homecoming and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. However what the Russo brothers did with this movie, even more so than their previous Captain America movie, Winter Soldier, or the next movie they worked on, Avengers: Infinity War, was have a sense of weight. This movie isn’t about aliens invading or government conspiracies or a crook stealing something. Civil War is about real people going through real choices and dealing with the consequences of those actions because they believe the good will outweigh the bad.
Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are the main characters of this movie. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. play, in my opinion, the best versions of these characters in the entire franchise. Two main characters, two heroes, fighting each other because of what they believe is right. The Sokovia Accords divide these two characters because Cap believes that he cannot allow someone else to tell him what to do, a feeling that is driven from the events of Winter Soldier when the government he believed in turned out to be corrupted. Tony Stark, haunted by the damage caused directly from his choices in Avengers: Age of Ultron, believes that it is time for the team to have some guidance and control. If this movie took place in phase one of the MCU, both characters would believe the complete opposite. Iron Man started out refusing to listen to the government and thought he knew best. Captain America started as a loyal soldier that just wanted to do what he could to help out with the government’s causes because he believed they were right. These two characters have developed so much over the years. We the audience got to see them grow organically as we ourselves were growing and learning and changing our minds about topics. So to see these two fight is something that I’m sure everyone felt on some emotional level. Throughout the film we even see them try to avoid a fight but they’re both heroes. And heroes always fight for what they believe is right. Seeing these two fight really is tragic, and it’s something that other movies have tried and failed to replicate, I’m looking at you Zach Snyder, thinking that having your two main heroes fight each other in the second movie of your cinematic universe for some convoluted paper-thin plot was a good idea. But none of those movies had the gravity, personal relationship, or emotional betrayal this film had.
What do the Sokovia Accords have to do with betrayal? Well see the Accords, the giant cast of heroes fighting each other, the collateral damage, and government intervention argument… that is what script writers call “The B Story.” As in that is not the main story of Civil War. The actual main story, which is shown throughout the entire movie, is the murder of Howard and Maria Stark. This is the real driving plot of the movie. The writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFreely, are geniuses. This plot is shown throughout the entire film and the audience doesn’t even realize it. A single event and everything that follows in the movie is the real reason why Civil War is the greatest MCU movie. This film literally starts with the car crash. We then see it with Tony Star displaying a memory of the last time he sees his parents. Move on to Zemo asking about a specific date. The audience is led onto a red herring thinking the date is about some super soldier program. And finally, the greatest moment in the entire movie, Tony Stark seeing it for the first time as we are seeing it for the first time. But not the first time Steve Rogers has seen it.
The whole film we are following Steve Rogers, seeing things from his perspective with his journey to save Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan. Remember how I said it is easy to forget Civil War is not an Avengers movie? It is even harder to remember that this is the final Captain America movie in a trilogy. A giant arc that’s main focus is on the connection and relationship between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, personally I think they should just kiss and get it over with but you know they were from a different time. The trilogy starts with Bucky being the hero, saving Rogers from a fight. Steve spends the entire first movie just trying to be like his friend. He then ends up saving Bucky from Nazi, the same way he himself was saved. He then ultimately losing his friend. Move onto Winter Soldier where Cap now has to live in a world he doesn’t recognize and doesn’t belong in, and in some insane impossible way he is given back his friend. At least given the opportunity. Barnes himself doesn’t recognize Steve and ends up going through mental anguish because of it. By the time we get to Civil War, the character of Bucky Barnes is very complex. His mind was basically blended on high-speed so many times he had to learn about himself in a museum. We see Bucky go from lost nomad, to terminator, and then finally back to a hero, thanks to his best friend who never gave up on him. Steve Rogers loves his friend so much, in a purely platonic way, that he literally fights the entire world to help save his buddy from insanity and death. This justifies why he does what he does to Tony. Why the real hero of this story is not Captain America, he is the villain.
When Cap, Bucky, and Tony enter the bunker and see the other Winter Soldiers are all murdered. Zemo is there and says something to Cap that I didn’t understand for a long time.
“I thought about nothing else for over a year. I studied you. I followed you. But now that your standing here I just realized, there’s a bit of green in the blue of your eyes. How nice to find a flaw”
To which Cap doesn’t acknowledge and brings up Sokovia. I’ve seen a lot of people break this line down. Crazy conspiracies, Steve being a Skrull, and literal eye color meanings. But I want to suggest for a moment that the line actually had nothing to do with Chris Evan’s dreamy eyes. A tape is about to play. Zemo knows what is on it. Bucky Barnes and Steve Roger’s also know what is on it. Captain America, the golden boy, the perfect man, the good guy whose name is on the movie card, is flawed. He is choosing to protect his friend, and in order to do that he must betray another. His choices have collateral damage, and because the acting is so good in this scene, we know the emotions Steve Rogers and Tony Stark feel are far more damaging than the explosion in the beginning of the movie.
Tony Stark watches his own parents get murdered by the man he is standing next to. I still get chills when I watch that scene. Shit the music alone is masterful. Yes I feel bad for Howard and Maria, and I feel bad for Bucky even, but Tony… His face when finding out for the first time in his entire life that there was no car accident; that his parents, whose death he obviously still has trouble processing based on the character’s introduction in the movie, were murdered. It hurts him, but what breaks him is Steve.
“Don’t bullshit me Rogers. Did you know?”
Literally from that second on this movie is a cinematic masterpiece. This is the real Civil War. The real fight. Not some bullshit political thing that everyone knows will be thrown out the room once aliens show up again. No, this raw and real reason to fight is what takes this movie from superhero sequel and makes it stand above all others. This is the best Tony Stark I have ever seen, every line is amazing. “do you even remember them?”-“I remember all of them”, “This isn’t going to change what happened”-“I don’t care. He killed my mom”, “But he’s my friend”-“So was I”. I’m actually getting chills just writing those out. I will be the first to admit, superhero movies are for kids, they are. The nerds who argue that seem to forget we are all kids in some way or another. But a lot of parents take their children to these movies and I’m legitimately interested to meet a ten-year old who left that theater. This is heavy shit! Remember everything I said about the history of Tony and Steve and Bucky leading up to this point? Well lets add-on the fact that one of the characters murdered another character’s parents. Steve Rogers chooses the side of the murderer, and hid it from Tony. The fight is so well shot and choreographed that it even ends with Cap taking the shield, destroying Tony’s helmet and leading the audience to believe for even a split second that Steve was going to kill him. The directors even mention that in the commentary, how they intentionally wanted the audience to think for even a half second that Captain Fucking America was going to murder Iron Man.
Captain America: Civil War is the best marvel movie because of the characters and how realistically it connects to the audience. I dare you to find another movie in the MCU that comes close to that moment. There were no invaders to stop, no ancient stones to steal, no wrongs to be righted. The world was not in danger. Innocent people were not going to die. Two men were fighting each other because… well, love. Tony’s love for his parents and Steve’s love for his best friend. Both are heroes that really just don’t want to be alone. As far as I know there isn’t a concept any of us can relate to more.
Movie watched and article written by: Troy Smith