Captain America: Civil War was a movie I was meaning to re-watch for some time now. Every time I thought about Civil War, I just got this incredibly underwhelmed feeling. I didn’t dislike it but after greatly anticipating it, I was relatively disappointed by it. Now that it’s been years and I decided to give it a rewatch in the lead up to Endgame, I was hoping for a turnaround on it like what happened with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. While I definitely do like the movie more than when I last watched it, I still have some issues with it, and it’s a real shame because there are a lot of parts about the movie which are legitimately great.
As this is a retrospective review, this will be spoiler filled, it’s the only way I can talk in depth about what I think about the movie. Generally, at around 2 hours and a half the movie is paced pretty well all things considering, and I was surprised that most of the humour didn’t detract from the more dramatic moments. The highest praise that I can give in terms of plot is the third act, which is largely done well. None of the ‘twists’ really hit hard at all for me but I really liked certain reveals, such as the subversion of the randomly introduced extra Winter Soldiers as just red herrings. You really feel the emotion with every character, Rogers, Stark, Barnes, T’Challa and even Zemo, and it was all handled very well. There are a lot of great parts to Civil War as well, however they also don’t handle it in the best way and so it detracts from the movie. For example, while I liked the idea of the Sokovia Accords, the introduction of them in the movie was pretty messy. One explosion during a mission by the Avengers is what sets off the creation of the Accords, which is something I really don’t get. There’s even a bit where during a meeting, General Ross showed a montage to the Avengers of the amount of destruction that the past films have caused, considerably higher casualties and damage, however this one relatively smaller even is what got the world thinking “these guys need some oversight”. It wouldn’t be so bad if almost all of the MCU movies didn’t have some large destruction during it and most people just brushing it aside easily. Age of Ultron was the most destructive, so it was the perfect Segway into Civil War. I’m not quite sure why they didn’t directly link it with the Sokovia events (you’d think they would given the title of the Accords), after all it’s what led Tony Stark and Zemo to make their decisions over the course of the movie. With all that being said, I do like the debates about the Accords with all the characters, and they do make some interesting points. I do like how they managed to make the change from ‘superhero registration’ to ‘Avengers Oversight’, the superhero registration thing definitely wouldn’t work in the MCU, even the large amount of characters that exist in it would be too small for an event of that size.
The problem is that despite all this, this still ends up being a movie about Bucky. Both of the major ‘versus’ battles, the Airport scene and the Cap, Iron Man and Bucky fight at the end, are all surrounding Bucky. While people are split into ‘teams’ because of the Sovokia Accords, they aren’t battling because of their positions on it, that’s just a background event that coincidentally splits them on the sides fighting during the airport scene. It feels like there was no point in having it in the story, even without the Sokovia Accords, the idea of Bucky Barnes being framed and on the run with Cap trying to protect him would’ve worked well (on a side note though, wasn’t that invested in the Bucky Barnes story in this movie either). I’m not making this a MCU vs DCEU thing, but it’s worth pointing out that once WB announced that they would be making Batman v Superman, Marvel gave the Russo Brothers the go to do Civil War. I don’t know for certain what their plans for the third Captain America movie were beforehand but I’m guessing it would’ve been more consistent than what we got at least. As for the impact of the Sokovia Accords on the other movies, I guess it’s mentioned briefly like in Ant Man and the Wasp and maybe some of the other movies, but all in all really didn’t have too much impact on the other characters and movies that much. The reason I’m mentioning this is because I’m wondering how much impact Civil War really had on the MCU, and it doesn’t seem to have much, there really weren’t many consequences, any problem that was raised, many of the characters seemed to bounce back from pretty easily. Even when Rhodes crash landed at the end of the airport battle and needed exo-sketal leg braces to walk again, in Infinity War he’s back flying and fighting in the suit like nothing ever happened. The only thing that was really impacted was the relationship between Steve and Tony, which was fractured during the last act of the movie. The thing is that at the end it almost feels like they resolved it and that they regret fighting each other at the end, and they aren’t at odds with each other anymore, as evidence by that message from Cap at the end and Tony’s lllleaction to it, so even then it doesn’t feel significantly damaged. Not to mention by the time the events from Endgame come around, what happened between them in Civil War will be relatively unimportant in Endgame considering The Snap and the aftermath. That last bit however is just speculation, maybe Endgame addresses those events (I hope so at least).
The cast generally do a good job in their roles. Chris Evans once again does a commendable job playing Captain America, though I can’t help but feel like he was robbed of a proper conclusion to his trilogy. While The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier were definitely Captain America movies, Civil War doesn’t feel like that, even if he definitely is the main character of it. His story arc was relatively weaker as well and he didn’t seem to go through as much in comparison. Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Don Cheadle as War Machine and the rest of the Avengers cast that appear here do well once again. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Paul Rudd Ant Man feel shoe horned into the movie just for the airport scene (even if both actors played their roles as best as they could), but at least Hawkeye has a reason for being there, with him repaying a favour to Scarlet Witch after the events of Age of Ultron. Ant Man was just sort of put there in the scene with really no motivation behind his actions. When I first watched Civil War, I was very mixed about Tom Holland as Spider-Man, he just felt so out of place. Now after watching Homecoming I’m much more into his version of Spider-Man and so he came across better here, however like Ant Man, still feels a little forced into this movie just for an action scene. I think the part that annoys me so much about his appearance in the airport scene is because he’s only there because Tony Stark wanted another person to help him stop Cap, if he at least knew what was going on and why everything was happening, it would’ve been a lot more tolerable. Let’s just say that I liked him a lot better in his Peter Parker scenes, based off those scenes along he’s a perfect Peter Parker. Robert Downey Jr. gives one of his best performances as Iron Man, even if his sudden change in character was a little shaky. For whatever reason I guess he never realised that people died in Sokovia and it took Alfre Woodward’s character to confront him about her dead son to actually realise it. With that being said, Downey is fantastic in the role as usual and was one of the highlights from the movie. Chadwick Boseman made his strong debut as Black Panther here, and it was actually a great storyline for him, with him starting out wanting revenge for the death of his father and when he does find the man responsible, he chooses to stop him from killing himself. It’s by far the best character arc/story in the movie, as well as the best character in the whole movie. Daniel Bruhl is the main villain Zemo and a lot of people have questioned whether we even needed a villain for the movie, given that it’s mainly Cap vs Iron Man, while I get that perspective, he set the events of the movie into motion and I was fine with him. It’s a very different kind of antagonist compared to the other villains, with almost all of them being super powered beings, and if not that they’d have powerful suits or something. He’s much more of a human based villain, very intelligent and making well laid plans and successfully breaking The Avengers apart (sort of). Also he’s driven by revenge, and it’s a revenge story you can really buy. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot to him outside of that, however Bruhl did such a good job at playing him that I’d be open to seeing him again in another movie (even if I don’t think there’s much more you could really do with him).
Most of the Russo Brothers’ direction is pretty good here. The action scenes are mostly good and I appreciated it a lot more than the last time I saw them. The opening action scene in Lagos was better than I remember it being, it is a little too shaky but still good. There’s the Bucky chase scene with him, Captain America and Black Panther, also very good. Most of the other action scenes were also well done. The final fight is one of the highlight action scenes from the MCU, you really feel the weight of every blow and it was all handled very well. The cinematography is not as grey as a lot of people have said it was, it’s actually pretty good for the most part. The score by Henry Jackman is also much better than I remembered it being, with most of the themes being quite memorable, even if some of his other scores are a little better.
The one scene you’ve probably noticed I left off mentioning was the Airport Scene, it’s so far removed from the rest of the movie and I have so much to say about that I had to dedicate an entire paragraph talking about it. Generally, it is widely known as one of the best scenes in Civil War and one of the best scenes of the MCU. Many people have described the scene as the cinematic version of smashing action figures together, and I can’t think of a more apt description, though you can probably tell where I’m going with this that I mean it in a bad way. It honestly brought down the movie for me, it doesn’t feel like it belongs in the movie at all. The tone is completely different, even if the some of the other action scenes have some humour, it still managed to maintain a sense of tension and weight throughout, just like what the Russo Brothers did with The Winter Soldier. This scene on the other hand was like cheesy ‘fun’ comic book mayhem that doesn’t particularly progress the story like the other action scenes did. Really everyone is pulling their punches too (except for Black Panther of course, who’s trying to kill Bucky), so you feel no tension whatsoever. Even on a technical level it’s a bit of a downgrade from the rest of the movies. As I said earlier, most of the movie isn’t that grey but this particular scene definitely is, it’s not visually appealing to look at, even with all the battles that are going on. Most of the CGI in the movie is actually pretty good but in that scene, it is hit or miss, whether it be the green screen backgrounds, Giant Man or even the effects on Iron Man and War Machine. The best part about the scene I guess is that it does show off everyone’s abilities well, particularly Scarlet Witch and even War Machine gets to show off more than in previous film appearances. Despite its issues, on its own the scene isn’t terrible, and it would’ve fitted in a much more lighthearted movie, like the first Avengers. In Civil War however, it doesn’t belong there at all and the movie would’ve been better if it didn’t have it.
What gets me about Captain America Civil War is that there are some legitimately great parts to it. Even if you remove the frustrating Airport scene, it’s got some issues in its story which keeps the movie back from how it could’ve been. It’s not bad by any means, it’s decent, just unfortunately with a lot of problems. With talk about how Endgame makes the previous MCU movies even better in hindsight, I really hope that it’ll retroactively improve Civil War too.