Civil War is the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. This whole shindig was kicked off in 2008 when Tony Stark hopped into the Funvee and ended up making a suit of iron to keep himself alive and to make up for some of the pain he had caused the world. Since then, Gods from Asgard and Monsters from a lab and Heroes from the greatest generation and a few somewhat normal people came together to protect the world from threats, both of this world and not.
What’s interesting about this smorgasbord of heroes from different backgrounds is that they all have the same goal, albeit with different ideas of how to achieve them. The futurist thought he could build a suit of armor around the world. The fossil is pretty sure the punishment comes after the crime. The God left humanity to its own devices, and only came to help when absolutely necessary. The Monster stays as far away as possible. The fighters do what needs to be done to keep the status quo ticking along. All of these people have different ideas of what protecting people means, and have developed their own ways of achieving that goal. Then, some aliens come through a portal (thanks Loki!) and they have to work together. Heads were going to butt.
This is the 13th movie in the MCU, and we have seen these characters on their own and working together, with the same goal in mind. Throughout those 13 movies, we have seen most of these characters change in response to the world around them, but the goal is always the same: saving people. What happens when the world is what changes around them?
THIS POST ABSOLUTELY CONTAINS SPOILERS. IF YOU’RE ONE OF THE TENS OF PEOPLE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE AND WANT TO EXPERIENCE IT FRESH, COME BACK LATER. YOU CAN’T UN-RING THIS BELL!
In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers is a kid who just wants to help the war effort, because it’s the right thing to do. Steve wants to do what’s right. In a time where most able-bodied men are drafted against their will to fight, Steve wanted to do his part, but couldn’t, because he was a twig. Steve’s heart was bigger than his frame, and Dr. Erskine realized that it wasn’t training or strength or bravado that made a good soldier; it was heart and determination and drive, something Steve had more than most. Steve became Captain America, and his new powers didn’t change who he was: Just a kid from Brooklyn doing his part to make the world a safer place. He was loyal to a fault, and determined to a fault. He took down Red Skull, and then sacrificed himself so the world would be safer. Throughout all of this, Captain America was a soldier. He fought for the government and for America because of what it stood for and because at the time, the goal was simple: protect the world from tyrants and murderers. Captain America trusted the system, and trusted the people behind it.
In Iron Man, Tony Stark was a billionaire playboy philanthropist and a weapons manufacturer, making and selling sticks for people who spoke softly. His lifestyle led to him being stuck in a cave with a box of scraps and a new outlook on life. Tony created that first suit, and then made more for himself, because he realized that he couldn’t trust the system. The same people he was making weapons for were selling them to whoever had a big enough check book, and those weapons were being used on both sides of every conflict. It was time for Tony to take things into his own hands, and he became Iron Man. No more weapons manufacturing for the system. Any more weapons were for him, to fix what he helped break.
In Iron Man 2, Tony was challenged by the system yet again, when Senator Sterns tried to get Tony’s suits for the military. Tony resisted (rightfully so, look how Sterns turned out), but ended up needing Nick Fury and Phil Coulson and James Rhodes’ help. SHIELD (and his late father) helped Tony solve his poisoning problem, and the military eventually got one of his suits. Although Tony was right not to trust the system, it’s corruption was immediately shown when Justin Hammer got involved. The safest hands were still Tony’s, but he understood that the system could be useful.
Then, in Avengers, Steve was recruited by Nick Fury to work for SHIELD, a “company” his best gal helped found with Howard Stark, two people Captain America trusted completely (save for that whole tofu snafu). As soon as Tony got on that helicarrier, he hacked its computers to learn its secrets. Steve was still a “company man,” taking orders because that’s what good soldiers did. Tony got in his head, and put him on the path to question the authority Steve had grown accustomed to.
In Iron Man 3, Tony was dealing with PTSD following his jaunt into the abyss, and decided that he needed to make a suit for every possible contingency, because the world needed protecting and he was best suited (puns!) to handle it. The seeds of doubt were planted: Maybe Tony couldn’t save everyone by himself. By the end of the movie, the bad guys were vanquished, and Tony realized that he didn’t have to plan for everything himself, and he trashed all his suits. But he was still Iron Man.
In Captain America: The Winter Solder, Steve, ever the good soldier still taking orders from Nick Fury, watched his whole world crash when it was revealed that SHIELD was infested with HYDRA. Who could he trust anymore? Steve didn’t trust the system, because its corruption was finally clear to him. The best hands were his own.
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Avengers became privatized under Tony Stark. No more governmental control or corruption – they saved who needed saving when they needed it. No worry about being a pawn as part of some Hydra scheme. Steve was happy to be on his own, calling his own shots, answering to himself and his friends. But Tony wanted to end the fight, so they could all go home and retire on a farm. So he built Ultron, the armor around the world, and everything went to shit. The suit of armor turned into a sword against the very thing Tony wanted to protect, and it was mostly his fault. Tony made Ultron behind everyone’s back, and lost a lot of trust. Tony lost the confidence he had in himself and realized that the best hands were no longer his own. Why should they be trusted with so much responsibility, when everything always seems to go wrong.
By the end of Age of Ultron, Steve and Tony pretty much swapped sides: Tony went from an independent tinkerer who didn’t trust the system to wanting its oversight; Steve went from a proud company man to distrusting everyone with a badge. But through it all, their goals stayed the same: to save people. Be it innocents under a wormhole or floating city or a lost friend, the goal was always the same.
So now we’re 1,200 words in and I’m just starting to talk about Civil War. That’s the beauty of the MCU: Everything has been building to this movie for eight years. When the movie starts, Steve is in his happy place working as an independent team making the world a better place, and Tony is trying to make up for all the hurt he and the Avengers had caused. When Wanda accidentally kills a few dozen innocents in a building (including 11 Wakandan relief workers) in an attempt to save the hundreds of people on the ground from Crossbones’ suicide bomb, things change. Throughout the entire MCU, one thing was constant: The world accepted and was thankful for these Avengers. But that feeling of trust eroded a little bit each time things came crashing down. By Civil War, it was the world that was changing around the Avengers.
The thing about the movie that everyone has talked about that I’m going to repeat here is that both Tony and Steve were right. They both had the same goal, but were coming at it from different backgrounds.
The Sokovia Accords were probably needed. The Avengers answered to themselves, and there were no real consequences when things went south other than the weight added to the Avengers’ various consciences. Things were getting out of hand, and the world was losing trust in the Avengers. They didn’t need to be put in “check” so much as they needed some accountability. Tony wants the hard choices to be made for them.
However, the Sokovia Accords put the Avengers under the purview of a committee in the United Nations, who would dictate where the Avengers could go and what they could do. The committee was populated by people with agendas, and agendas change. The Avengers save people, but what happens when the committee doesn’t let the Avengers into a certain country to save people because of some political red tape? Or worse, what happens when the Avengers are ordered to put down a revolution because politically, the dictator is good for business? Steve doesn’t want to lose the ability to make that choice.
Interestingly, even though this was a Captain America movie, Natasha was the most reasonable person in the entire movie. She’s been on both sides of the aisle, acting as a tool for an oppressive organization and saving people with the Avengers. She knows that too much control and corrupted officials can skew their mission and make them no better than the bad guys. But she also knows that people need to trust the Avengers, and the best way to achieve that was by signing the Accords. It wasn’t the best solution, but it was the best one at the moment. Earn the world’s trust back, and then go from there. Accords can be amended. Control can be loosened. Committees are disbanded.
Even throughout the movie, Natasha remained the most level headed person on the team. She realized that Steve wouldn’t stop trying to save his friend because he is loyal to a fault and that’s what he does: he saves people. She also realized that Tony was going at it all wrong: he was trying to impose compliance when violence wasn’t the answer. The whole world wanted a leash on the Avengers because of their violence; maybe it was time to try something else. But Tony wasn’t having it, because he just knew he was right. Steve wouldn’t comply, because he just knew he was right. Natasha told Tony fighting wasn’t the answer and tried to convince Steve that this was the best possible situation given the circumstances. In that sense, Natasha was the star of the movie.
By the end of the movie, Tony started to realize that maybe Steve was right not to completely trust the system, and Tony got back to his roots a little. Secretary Ross walked in to Avengers Manor and told them they were dangerous. From the very beginning, he did not trust the Avengers and had plans of his own. Ross wanted to make the Avengers a strike force of sorts for the United Nations, and didn’t believe Tony when he brought evidence that Bucky was set up. Ross had an agenda of his own. So Tony started walking back from his commitment from oversight, and began acting independently again. He zapped the A from Ross’ AV feed so he could help Steve. He put Ross on hold because he loved watching the light blink. Tony is coming back around.
This was very much a Captain America movie. Throughout the trilogy of Captain America movies, Steve hasn’t changed (other than his trust issues) while the world changes around him. Steve has always been a tree.
Now, on to the madness:
1. Zemo was my favorite cinematic villain to date (Sorry Loki!) He didn’t want to rule or destroy or occupy the world; he wanted to avenge his family’s death that he (and many others) blamed on the Avengers. Zemo was just a man. He didn’t have any powers or abilities, except patience and determination. Zemo couldn’t defeat the Avengers, but he knew that the Avengers could defeat themselves. Zemo was working alone and did his homework. He understood Steve Rogers and knew about Bucky. He connected the dots between the Winter Soldier and Howard and Maria Starks’ deaths, and new that was the ultimate weapon to destroy the Avengers. At the end, when Everett Ross was begging Zemo to cross him at the end in that containment container (it was a cell within a cell), he remarked how sad it was that Zemo’s plan failed, and Zemo simply responded: Did it? He achieved his goal – he broke up the Avengers. The only people to realize that Zemo actually won were the Avengers, Zemo and Panther. This wasn’t a villain the Avengers could just punch into submission, because Zemo’s plan required them to fight: Eachother.
2. Marvel needs to hurry the hell up with the Black Panther movie, because HOLY SHIT he may be my new favorite MCU character (save for Coulson, the best Avenger). His fight scenes were bonkers and his chase scenes were bonkers and the Wakandan technology was bonkers and his persona outside of the suit was bonkers and god damn I want to watch that movie NOW. The way he told Natasha that he would kill Bucky himself after T’Chaka died in the bombing was bonkers. The way he told Steve that he was a warrior and a king and asked how long he could keep his friend safe from him was bonkers.
What I’m trying to say is Black Panther and T’Challa is fucking bonkers.
3. Tom Holland might just be the best Spider-Man to date. I never really liked McGuire (too mopey), and thought Garfield did great as Peter, but to me, Tom Holland was the best Peter Parker and the best Spider-Man. He’s dorky and shy and awkward and mouthy all at the same time. It’s the best. From the way he tried to play along with Tony sitting in his room with his hot aunt to the way he tried to deny being Spider-Man to the way he geeked out at meeting Captain America was so much fun. One of my favorite parts was when Tony threatened to tell his Aunt May, and Peter webbed his hand to the door. When Peter finally agreed, Tony gave him the exasperated “get me out of this web” look and I lost it. I’m glad Tony is going to be in Spider-Man: Homecoming, because the two of them have great chemistry.
As much as they hate each other, Bucky and Sam have some great chemistry, too. I was dying when Bucky asked Sam to move his seat forward (“No.”) and then just moved to the other side, and how Sam used Redwing to knock Spider-Man outside, and Bucky said “couldn’t you have done that earlier?” and Sam responded “I hate you.” If anything happens to Steve, they should both take over as Captain America, buddy-cop style.
Spider-Man is one of the stronger characters in the MCU arsenal. Throughout the comics, it’s been shown that he has been pulling his punches because he knows if he goes all out, he’ll straight up kill people. In Superior Spider-Man, when Doctor Octopus takes over Peter Parker’s body after his death (comics), he punches a guy’s jaw clean off and realizes that Spider-Man was holding back all this time.
In the movie, Steve drops a raised walkway on Spider-Man, and he holds it up (with some effort). Winter Soldier is shown to be really strong (especially with his metal arm that can catch
Steve’s Howard Stark’s shield) but Bucky is no match for Spider-Man, who effortlessly catches his hand and remarks about how cool his metal arm is.
Also, I loved how they barely referenced (but included it subtly) Spider-Man’s spider sense. The best scene was when he sensed the sign Bucky threw at him and his eyes went wide and he said “Oh God!” as he ducked out of the way.
4. I’m torn. Because Black Panther is probably my favorite new character, Ant-Man is a very close second. Like, it’s almost a tie. From his dorky fanboying over meeting Steve (and feeling him up) to telling Tony “this is your conscious!” to BECOMING GIANT MAN HOLY SHIT, I was in pieces. He’s like Falcon and Spider-Man and War Machine in that he still has fun doing what he’s doing. That look on his face when he grew was amazing. And Spider-Man’s reaction “HOLY SHIT!” was perfect.
And the way Lang freaked out when Steve threw the truck at the growth-disc and it ended up being a fuel truck “Oh god I thought that was a water truck!” was hilarious.
5. I noticed something that I haven’t heard much about so I’ll be a blowhard about it here: Tony and Steve are a lot more alike than meets the eye. The whole point of this movie (and The Winter Soldier really) is Steve trying to be there for his best friend, who was always there for him. Tony has the same thing in Rhodes, and would have done the same thing had Rhodes been turned like that. Tony would have stopped at nothing to get his friend back, regardless of what the world or anyone else thought. Rhodes had always been there for him, and he would be there for him at the drop of a dime. That’s why he was so heartbroken when Vision shot Rhodes out of the sky, and didn’t want to hear what Sam had to say when they both landed. That’s why at the end, when Tony was helping Rhodes walk again, he was standing by his pal, helping him like Rhodes helped him after his kidnapping and through his PTSD.
6. Vision is just trying to understand his place in the world, and hopes to fully understand (and one day control) the mind stone in his forehead. Vis feels a special connection with Wanda, and wants to keep her safe. Too bad his next appearance will likely involve the stone being ripped from his forehead. Shit.
7. As much fun as this movie was, god damn was it heavy. Notice that as soon as Tony realized Bucky killed his parents and that Steve knew about it, the jokes basically stopped (save for one, I’ll get to it). Tony mentioned earlier in the film that as he was growing up, he hated Captain America because that’s all his dad would talk about. Those feelings came right back up when Tony realized Steve not only knew about his parents’ killer, but didn’t tell him.
It was a freaking gut punch when Tony told Steve that the shield belonged to his father, and that Steve didn’t deserve it. It’s 12 hours later and I’m still thinking about that one scene. I’m telling you: Heavy.
8. Intentional or not, there were two instances where I thought the movie was giving a shout out to the television side of things (FINALLY!) Maybe I’m projecting, but I don’t care because in my head it all makes perfect sense.
When Steve and Bucky were walking in to the Winter Soldier facility near the end of the movie, they were talking about how Steve spent all their bus money on hot dogs. Steve remarked that Bucky spent all his money playing a game trying to impress that redhead named Dolorous, who told them to call her Dottie. In Agent Carter, we realize her name is Dorothy, but this was after the war, and Steve and Bucky were playing games before the war. It’s possible that Dottie was a Leviathan plant in the US before the war and just happened to run into Bucky and Steve (pre-serum days). After the war, Leviathan was very interested in Howard Stark, maybe they had Dottie on the hunt prior to the war, and their interest perked up after seeing what he could do. IT MAKES SENSE PEOPLE.
The second instance was Bucky’s programming. Hydra fried Bucky’s brain and programmed a series of words that when spoken in the correct order, triggered the Winter Soldier programming. Hydra had many heads, and some of those heads worked closely or shared resources during and after the war. Red Skull was just one faction of Hydra, and Daniel Whitehall was a closely related faction. Whitehall knew about Malick’s religious based faction of Hydra, and dismissed its beliefs out of hand.
In Agent Carter, Dr. Faustus was revealed to be Leviathan, and ended up being cell mates with Armin Zola, of Hydra. Zola continued the work of Hydra after being integrated into SHIELD via Project Paperclip. In Agents of SHIELD, Whitehall’s faction of Hydra utilized the “Faustus Device” of brainwashing agents, that consists of frying their brains and use of certain trigger words, including “compliance will be rewarded,” triggering the subjects and their conditioning. In Civil War, after Bucky was given the trigger words, he responded that he was “ready to comply.”
This has to be more than a coincidence. The methods used to control Bucky are based on the same methods developed by Leviathan and taught to Hydra in Agents of SHIELD. Maybe not everyone watches both the movies and the shows, but for those of us who follow everything, our compliance is rewarded.
9. Even though there is some thematic similarities between Civil War and Batman v Superman: et al., there are big enough differences to invalidate any real direct comparisons. The two movies dealt with similar themes and ideas of heroes fighting each other, but that was about it. Batman v Superman: DONK DONK wasn’t about oversight versus autonomy; it was about whether people should be heroes at all. Superman wasn’t sure if he should be a hero at all; Batman heroed so hard. Superman didn’t like Batman’s methods, and Batman didn’t like Superman’s face. They were bent on ending each other (Superman wanted to end “the Bat,” Batman wanted to end Superman) right up until the statistical improbability that two people might have mothers with the same name happened (IMPOSSIBLE!) In Civil War, both Steve and Tony agreed on the mission, they just disagreed on the method of execution. Surprisingly, the Marvel version was closer to the DC comics’ basis for the rift between the heroes than Batman v Superman v Your Senses ever was.
Also, there is a core difference between the Avengers and Superman and Batman: The idea that Batman and Superman don’t kill has been ingrained in their character for decades. Sure, it has happened, but when it does, it’s devastating. Superman quit once and not killing is the only thing separating Batman from Joker. That’s why those two characters’ nonchalance in ending lives in the movie is so jarring and out of place. The Avengers, on the other hand, are a band of soldiers and mercenaries and assassins who kill because that’s what the job entails. Steve cut his teeth killin’ Nazis. Tony takes care of terrorists himself. Natasha and Clint were assassins. Rhodes and Wilson were soldiers. Killing is part of the job.
10. I had no problems with the two end-credits scenes. The first one, of Bucky going under the ice until they could figure out how to erase the Hydra triggers, was great because it not only showed that after it all, Steve still had to compromise and began trusting (certain) authority once again, but because it also teased Wakanda and the bonkersness that is going to be Black Panther. Steve warned T’Challa that people would come for Bucky if they learned he was in Wakanda, and T’Challa simply responded with “Then let them try.” Wakanda is an advanced country that chooses isolationism (except for limited exceptions), and has never successfully been invaded. Earlier, T’Challa told the gang that the Black Panther protected his country for Generations, and is a title that is passed down among warriors and leaders. The end-credits scene set the tone for Black Panther, and it’s going to be fucking
11. The second end credits scene, with Spider-Man talking to his hot aunt was perfect. He’s awkward and doesn’t want to tell Aunt May that he got clocked by Captain America, so he tells her he got hit by a guy named Steve from Brooklyn. When she comes into his room, Peter tells her that his friend was huge. Like, really big.
Oh, and we also saw the beginnings of the Iron Spider suit in the hologram projector Tony snuck into his web shooter. Not only was it a spider-logo light, but it also had files and command prompts, just like the holo-computer in Tony’s phone. Homecoming is going to be great.
12. Line of the movie: “TINY DUDE IS BIG NOW! HE’S BIG NOW!”
13. Stan Lee’s cameo was perfect. Is this “Tony…Stank?” Tony already confused Lee for Larry King and Hugh Heffner, so it was awesome to see Lee mix up Stark’s name. I also loved Rhodes’ reaction. “I’m never letting that one go. Table for one! Mr. Stank!”
14. Of course Steve would write Tony a freaking letter, and give him a flip phone. He truly is a fossil.
I thought I had no words after walking out of that movie last night, but apparently I had 4,253 of them.