So, hey! I saw CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Have you? I want to talk about this.
More under the cut, because spoilers and I’m not a monster.
First, my Marvel Cinematic Universe history: I was completely skeptical about Iron Man before it came out but I saw it, loved it, and I was in. Iron Man 2 was good, even if the villain was a bit weak. I did like the second Hulk movie, though it clearly didn’t quite match the world and tone that Iron Man nailed so well. Thor and Captain America were solid – fun adaptations of the material that continued to build the franchise. Then Avengers came out and blew my mind. All the feels. Perfection. The pinnacle?
Iron Man 3 felt like a great ending to his trilogy; the Thor and Captain America sequels were … sequels. As much as I loved the Bucky and Steve elements, I felt that everything else in Winter Soldier that setup SHIELD as having been secretly infiltrated by Hydra for years didn’t work for me. Didn’t help that the movie and its release appeared to interfere with the storylines for Agents of SHIELD storylines, either. Then Avengers: Age of Ultron came out. Meh. Meh. I was unhappy with many parts of that film. (And let’s not even talk about Ant-Man.)
How did Captain America: Civil War hold up? A big improvement on Ultron, and a nudge better than Winter Soldier. It’s an Avengers movie that spends most of its time setting itself up. Perhaps only a third of the film really belongs to Captain America. The film, and I think the franchise as a whole is really starting to groan under its own weight.
What did this film do really well? Lots of stuff! I’ll quibble later because I love the material and the characters, but there is lots here to enjoy even if it made me grumpy. It’s funny in a lot of places. The characters for the most part are given lots to do and many opportunities to bounce off each other (sometimes literally). That Airport scene? Fantastic. This is the best action scene in any comic book movie ever. Spiderman got to quip, Ant-Man stopped sucking, the screen was filled with superheroes like a two-page comic book spread and yet the battle still felt like a complete, integrated sequence with a ton of great moments.
But now I shall quibble, because needling at the stuff that bugs me is what I do.
Spiderman on screen was altogether perfect, both inside and out of the Airport scene. Okay, let me dial back perfect a notch. In CA:CW, Peter himself is perfect – he’s young, a bit squeaky, small. We didn’t get the specifics of Ben but that isn’t something he’d share with Tony Stark, no matter how cool Stark is. He’s dumpster diving for parts because money is tight and he works diligently to make his gear, make his grades and make Aunt May proud. But while his bedroom is plain and small, the rest of the apartment he shares with Aunt May is well-appointed and large, and Aunt May herself is no frail senior who can’t make ends meet. I would need to see an exceptionally good reason why this Aunt May can’t pay the rent yet lives pretty high off the hog while Peter lives in a bare box. I’ve ranted about this before but Peter’s relative poverty and his need to take care of Aunt May and, really, the rest of us, too, is a core element of what makes Spiderman Spiderman. Fuck with that at your peril. *cough*Amazing Spiderman*cough*
The villain in Civil War besides our broken team? Zemo is better than Zola (what is with these names?), with less maniacal motivations, but why he didn’t just get the video and release it on YouTube, I don’t know. It does annoy me that at its core, this film is basically grown men getting angry and bashing their feelings out, but that’s not too far off the mark of the original Civil War storyline. I am for gun registration in real life, and superhero powers can be deadly. But not every superhero power is deadly, and I don’t believe in conscription or imprisonment. It’s an interesting argument, what would governments try to do in a superhero world? This version of that thought experiment was marginally better than the original, but I can’t help but hear Captain America’s team rhetoric about planting your feet and never budging, never compromising, as being a failure mode, too. But it nicely broke up the Avengers, the real point of the film, so they can have an epic getting-the-band-back-together adventure in Avengers 3, Part 1 (ugh) before the ultimate Thanos showdown in Avengers 3, Part 2. (I curse you forever, Hunger Games, for what you have wrought.)
Let’s go character by character. Tony? Great. But where the hell was Pepper? (No, you don’t get to break them up off screen.) Also, baby Tony was spectacular. Black Panther was great, a fine addition to the team and the greater storyline. Black Widow getting to literally be a double agent, and perhaps the only sane person in the entire Avengers, was really nice. Never enough Black Widow. Hulk was more noticeable in his absence than Thor who can understandably be called away to less earthly realms but it sounds like our favorite gamma-radiated doctor will be turning up in Thor: Ragnarok. War Machine and Falcon got some of the best lines in the film. Spiderman, happy heart. Ant-Man, good showing. Agent Fury, also missed. Clint, meh. Vision, meh. I’m pretty cold on Scarlet Witch still, and would love some more women on the team.
Which brings us to Agent 13/Sharon Carter.
I love me some angsty Steve and Peggy. That she finally died (again off screen) makes sense given her age, but I am still sad (and still utterly in love with the television show which is my favorite thing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe right now besides Jessica Jones). I also have a strong Stucky streak (that’s a Steve and Bucky pairing) which I think is a valid interpretation of the pair. Agent 13 as a potential love interest for Steve? I could take it or leave it, assuming that MCU would never do something as neat as make Stucky happen. But making Agent 13 a descendant of Peggy? Ew. No. No Consolation Carter romance, please and thank you. Gross. If you must give Steve a heterosexual pairing, please make it someone else entirely. (Not to mention that “niece” doesn’t make any kind of sense considering Peggy’s age and that she has only mentioned a brother, deceased.)
Part of what makes Steve and Peggy great for me is that they are doomed. There is no happy ending, only loss. The power and poignancy of that loss is rendered moot with a Steve and Sharon pairing.
Okay, off the Peggy soapbox and quibbles aside, I felt like Civil War repaired a lot of the harm done by Avengers: Age of Ultron but I’m getting worried. This storyline won’t be complete until 2019. 2019 PEOPLE! THAT’S CRAZY! I mean, I’m in, but we are pushing the limits of what the medium and the audience can handle as a narrative experience that can both wow us visually and engage with us as viewers. Maybe we don’t have to put everything in the same film, yanno?
Also? GIVE US A BLACK WIDOW MOVIE, GODDAMNIT.
And if you delay Captain Marvel one more time … I am coming for you.