Thursday, September 15, 2016

Movie #372: Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is the third Captain America movie, and as such stars Chris Evans and Sebastien Stan. However, it's also basically another Avengers movie, and as such also stars Robert Downey, Jr., Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, and then adds in Tom Holland, William Hurt, Daniel Bruhl, and Chadwick Boseman.

Set some time after Avengers: Age of Ulton, the Avengers, led by Cap (Evans) is doing Avengers stuff. In Lagos, Nigeria, they confront Crossbones (Frank Grillo), who winds up trying to blow himself and Cap up with a suicide vest. Scarlet Witch (Olsen) tries to redirect the explosion, but it hits a building, killing a bunch of people.

Meanwhile, Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) is reliving some old hurtful moments and trying to buy his way out of his guilt for the Ultron incident. He winds up coming face to face with that guilt, and then Secretary of State and former Hulk-chasing-guy General Ross (Hurt) decides that the Avengers are kinda running amok with no real supervision. The Sokovia Accords, then, propose that they're answer to the UN, which will tell them what they can and can't get involved with. It also involves "registration" of enhanced people, although that doesn't get as much screen time as it does in Agents of SHIELD (where it's more relevant).

Tony is all for it; Cap is not, and the team is likewise split. Cap has to zip off to London to attend Peggy Carter's funeral, and while there he reconnects with Sharon Carter (Emily Van Camp), former SHIELD agent and, as it turns out, Peggy's niece.

Now, I want to make an aside here. Cap and Sharon wind up kissing later in the movie, and I've seen some folks deride that choice as creepy, I guess because of Cap's age or that he was once romantically linked with her aunt? Watching it again, I think that in context there's nothing remotely creepy about it. Sharon and Steve didn't meet until Sharon was a grown woman, and they met in a context that had nothing to do with Peggy. Steve and Peggy had a close relationship, but he got frozen before they had anything that could legitimately be described as a romantic relationship, and by the time she died, he'd had a few years to get to know her - but she was an old woman who had actually lived through the ensuing decades and Steve, despite being technically over 100, is still actually a young man. So, in context, we have a young man striking up a relationship with a woman that he met who turned out to be related to a woman he was once involved with, after she died, and with mutual attraction. I think it's fine, people (and this from the crowd that will happily "ship" random characters as the whim strikes them).

Whew, sorry. Anyway, it looks for a moment like Steve might retire from being Cap, but then Zemo (Bruhl) blows up the UN, killing King T'Chaka (John Kani) and framing the Winter Soldier (Stan) for it. This, of course, winds up making his son T'Challa (Boseman) hella pissed at Bucky, Bucky gets captured, and Zemo lures the Avengers toward Bucky's old Hydra base in Russia. A big brawl ensues as Stark tries to recapture Bucky (and Steve); Stark even recruits a young Spider-Man (Holland) to even the odds. But in the end, only Cap and Bucky make it to the base (with Stark following after he figures out what's really going on), and it turns out this was all a plot by Zemo to show Stark that Bucky killed Stark's parents, and thus fragment the Avengers.

So, the Captain America movies have consistently been the best of the MCU, and Civil War continues that. It's such a busy movie, but unlike Age of Ultron, which languishes under too much Whedon, this not only keeps everything nicely balanced, gives all the supporting characters a bit of cool screen time, and raises the stakes without killing any major character (alas poor Quicksilver), but it manages to retroactively improve both Age of Ultron and Iron Man III by putting some of their events into context and showing the fallout. When I heard that the Russo brothers were in charge of the next Avengers movie, I breathed a sigh of relief - they can handle the massive cast, clearly.

The performances here are good. I kind of wish that Crossbones hadn't died, because it'd be nice to have some villains that hang around, but Zemo lives, so maybe he can show up again someday. Boseman is amazing as Black Panther, and I'm very much looking forward to his movie now. I'm hopeful that some of the other MCU directors remember the Russo's attention to detail and what has come before; especially Peyton Reed when he does Ant-Man & the Wasp. I want to see Scott Lang (Rudd) at least dealing with being an international fugitive during the first act of that movie.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next Up: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers