I understand the compulsion to not take movies based on comic books seriously. On the surface, they are promotional tie-ins, eye-candy, just-for-fun escapism or a combinations of any of these things. There isn’t much under the surface, either. Sure, these movies can have moral centers and/or tackle social issues of the day, but only enough to make the story work. That doesn’t disqualify these movies from being well-crafted or entertaining, but it’s easy to not hold these movies in as high regard as say, something by Ingmar Bergman.
At least, that’s my bias going into any of these things. It’s not a bias that I’m particularly proud of, but in my experience it’s not completely unfounded. I’m more willing to look at films based on indie comics with more of an open mind, such as Tank Girl for example. However, I still see movies based on mainstream comic publishers (like Marvel) made by mainstream studios (like Disney, which owns Marvel) as something to watch for fun, especially on the big screen.
All of this said, Captain America: Civil War feels more “grown up” than all of the other entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I’ve seen so far. The social issue of personal freedom versus government intervention—a running topic throughout the current-era Captain America movies—is dealt with in such a serious manner that sometimes you feel like the movie is beating you over the head with it.
Check that, there are some literal head-beatings over the issue throughout the film. The problem splits up the superheroes, who end up fighting each other both verbally and physically over it. This leads to a big confrontation between the lead characters in the latter half of the film.
As fun and entertaining as this big fight scene is to watch, it and other such fight scenes throughout the movies sometimes feel forced in to remind us that this is still a comic book movie. The philosophical issues dividing the characters is dealt with in such a heavy-handed way throughout that the film feels slightly disjointed overall. It’s nowhere nearly as disjointed as Mortal Kombat: Annihilation in that regard. It’s easy to get lost in the movie and enjoy it as it’s happening. Still, looking back at it afterwards I felt I had just seen two movies. Both of them were good for what they were, but did they work together?
I left the theater with the same issue I got there with. Why is this labeled a Captain America film and not an Avengers film? Yes, it continues the discussion on government control and personal freedom from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. (I included that movie in a previous blog post regarding social issues in mainstream comics, which you can find here.) And yes, there is a lot of emphasis on the Steve Rogers/Captain America character. However, Tony Stark/Iron man is just as important to the movie as its title character. (I have to wonder if the popularity of Robert Downey, Jr. played a part in that.) I think the answer lies in marketing and people’s obsession with trilogies: the three main Avengers—Captain America, Iron Man and Thor—all get three movies each, and if you count the Infinity War two-part story as one movie there are three Avengers movies.
Either way, this movie is worth seeing on the big screen if just for the action alone. Also, it debuts the MCU’s version of Spider-Man and Black Panther. I’m especially interested in seeing the latter’s solo movie now, based on Chadwick Boseman’s excellent performance. Despite my bias stated at the beginning of this blog post, I am also looking forward to other installments of the MCU franchise, especially Doctor Strange and the aforementioned Infinity War movies.
Now, when are we getting a solo Black Widow film?