Monday, May 16, 2016

Why I Couldn't Pick a Side || [Spoiler-Free] Review of Marvel's Captain America: Civil War

Disclaimer: I kept this post as spoiler-free as I could. There are elements of the plot that I give away, but for the most part I tried to keep the main plot-points out of this post. Okay, there is one kind-of-big spoiler in the last paragraph...feel free to skip that part if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want any spoilers!

Last week I saw Captain America: Civil War in theaters for the first time and then I saw it again in theaters the next week. I rarely go to the movies. The last time I went to the movies was when Pixar’s Inside Out was in theaters. But the Marvel Avengers movies are too good to pass up and they rarely disappoint. Ever since Captain America: Winter Soldier, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the resurgence of the Cap’s old-time friend, Bucky. Nevertheless I was wary going to the theaters because I was afraid of what this Civil War meant. For weeks Marvel has propagated this movie as a civil war, duh, between the closest-knit comrades and heroes of all time and asked us which side are you on? Iron Man or Captain America? And for the past few months I have waited in anxious anticipation. How can Marvel be so cruel as to make us choose between the two? Iron Man/Tony Stark has always been my favorite but I also love the Cap and everything he stands for (“Watch your language!”)

The only thing that could change my mind is if they made Tony turn completely rogue/evil. And this was kind of what I was scared of. However, as the movie progressed I realized that more and more this movie was not about good vs. evil as much as it was about two ideals that clashed. Tony wants the Avengers to give up their independence and submit to the oversight and authority of the United Nations. Captain America believes giving up their freedom will compromise his conscience. What if the U.N. orders him to intervene in a situation or take a side that is inconsistent with his beliefs? What if the U.N. keeps him from acting in a situation where he believes he is needed. (This sounds familiar.) Both Tony and Steve act on their individual convictions and come to different conclusions.

Tony is made to face the collateral damage that is caused in every situation where the Avengers intervene. I cringe when I watch action adventure movies like The Bourne Trilogy, because all those epic car chases and explosions inevitably leave behind a trail of devastation, death, and damage that is never addressed. The hero simply walks away, unscathed or not-so-unscathed, but the point is he walks away. Super heroes are not so different. In all the battles against giant robots and hordes of alien armies, there is a significant amount of collateral death and destruction. People die. Buildings burn. Cities are traumatized. And the heroes are supposed to be allowed to just fly away from it? Someone else will clean up the mess.

In Civil War the heroes don’t get to fly away from the damage. Tony has to swallow the brunt of the guilt because he made Ultron. He invented the enemy that nearly destroyed the earth, killed countless innocent lives, and left a city destitute. His choices and actions, his power, led to this damage and suddenly he realizes he doesn’t want this kind of responsibility. He shouldn’t have this kind responsibility or power—maybe no one should. The Captain disagrees. He believes the safest hands are his own, not Tony's or the U.N. Tony decides he needs to put the Captain in check. And war breaks out between friends. The Captain is virtually forced to choose between his two friends, Tony or Bucky, and of course he chooses Bucky. He chooses his conscience and independence.

I love Bucky. Who could not love Bucky? All Tony sees in Bucky is The Winter Soldier but he doesn’t know the history Bucky and Steve have together. He never knew Bucky before Hydra and the Winter Soldier.

Bucky was the only friend who stuck up for Steve before he was Captain America, back when he was the malnourished kid from Brooklyn who got picked on and faked his medical records so he could have a chance to fight for his nation. Bucky was there for Steve when Steve was at his weakest. And now that Bucky is at his weakest, how can the Captain abandon him? What I loved most about this movie was the character development of Captain America. He was always the perfect hero (and he still is), the na├»ve idealistic soldier who remained faithful to his country no matter what, who saw the world in black-and-white, and the hero who uncompromisingly upheld those traditional American values. But when Bucky returns as the Winter Soldier, Captain America is forced to come face-to-face with the reality that sometimes good and evil are not so black and white, there are some American values he doesn’t want to uphold, and sometimes you have to abandon your country and your leaders and act on your individual conscience.  Sometimes the right thing is the wrong thing in everyone else’s eyes.

(I promise he's really a nice guy)
I find this tension, as opposed to the crystal clear good guy vs. bad guy, relates so much more to our world today, a world where we are constantly compromising between our individual freedoms and government oversight, a world where it’s so often a war between two ideals more than it is a war between good and evil.

I was not disappointed by Captain America: Civil War but I did not come out of the theater having picked a side, because neither party was inherently wrong. Sure, Tony was wrong about Bucky. He was wrong to want to seek personal vengeance. But was he so wrong in forfeiting the right to his power? Was he wrong in believing he was not worthy of wielding this power and bearing the responsibility that came with it? Both parties have more in common with one another than you might think. Tony and Bucky are both forced to come face-to-face with the destructive reality of their power. They are both plagued with guilt and grief. Tony’s guilt is the result of not having anyone to put him in check. Bucky’s guilt is the result of being under the control and command of wicked leaders. There are two sides to both ideals and ultimately it comes down to the goodness or lack thereof in the hearts of men.

At the end of the movie all I wanted to do was cry and give them both hugs. Please, somebody just give Tony a hug already!

a tribute of sorts | Cap and Buck by SW at a free mind
In Defense of Tony Stark from The Fangirl Initiative 
21 Times I Died During the "Captain America: Civil War" Teaser from Buzzfeed

Were you able to pick a side for Captain America: Civil War? Who is your favorite Avenger and why? Were there any elements of the movie you disliked? What parts did you particularly enjoy? 


  1. Probably can't talk about the movie without SPOILERS, so, SPOILER WARNING. :)

    Like you, I went in skeptical of the premise. A civil war? Why? What's the point?

    When I walked out of the theater after watching the movie, I was impressed by how the story was told. Both sides were given a fair hearing and it is up to the viewer to decide what to take away. You care about the people making their choices, you can (mostly) see where they're coming from, and you want a happy ending for everyone...

    As for sides, I find myself rooting more for Cap's position of taking personal responsibility instead of passing the blame to a department head. It's not that he made the right calls all the time, but he looks at a situation and tries to act in a way that honors his principles (friendship, loyalty, decency to and for all). It would have been interesting to see how he (and Wanda) would have tried to work that out if they'd had the opportunity to do so instead of being thrown into the race to protect Bucky and stop Zemo's plan.

    And then there's Bucky, who actively resists being used by others, despite the fact that of all of them he has the best 'excuse' for not being responsible for his actions. ALL THE BUCKY FEELS.

    T'Challa and Natasha were also high points of the story for me.

    1. Excellent thoughts, Mel! I was more sympathetic with the Cap's perspective as well. It seemed the more mature reaction. But I empathized with Stark because, well, as childish as he is, I still feel for him and can see where he's coming from.


      I really liked the character development with Natasha and kind of wish they had given a little more time to her, but there's always the next movie, right?

    2. Like I said, they did a good job showing both sides. I could see where Tony was coming from too--he made some good points. The Avengers did need some sort of accountability and they did need to be united on the issue. They just didn't have enough time to sort it out internally!

      If there was one thing the movie needed, it was more Bucky. I kind of wish they'd trimmed the cast list and given more time to him, Natasha, and even Sharon. But, as you said, We'll just have to wait until the next movie.

  2. I just saw the movie yesterday with my family and while Captain America is my favorite Avenger, I wasn't able to pick a side.

    1. Me neither! Though Iron Man has always been my favorite. ;)

    2. Once again, I hope this doesn't reveal too much. Pre-movie I assumed the "Civil War" concept was to reflect the current political tensions between our ever-polarizing parties, which seem to be fracturing from within. (and it does, somewhat). With that expectation, I was impressed in the story's ability to translate the theoretical to the personal. I was also pleased they put a twist to it, because from a character study it seems more consistent that Captain America would be more sympathetic to law and order, and Iron Man would be more rebellious. But they lay sufficient foundation to the story to make the intellectual choices they make reasonable. And in the end, while the question of authority lingers, ironically they both find resolution in the authority of their own conscience. Of course, we circle back to the pitfalls of our own societal issues. We are struggling under the weight of "every man doing what is right in his own heart" which makes for very entertaining art, and lively hypothetical discussions (you should see my Facebook wall, and my political discussion rooms) but which also leads to questioning authority and potentially the ultimate authority. Our culture wants absolute principles be called into question at every turn, and like the movie suggests, when you move from the theoretical to the personal, are we willing to give up what we claim is our guiding principle if the cause seems reasonable enough? What choice will push us over that line? And what is the damage once that line is crossed? I posted to Facebook, the movie feels like the second part of a trilogy, because the resolutions at the end make you feel they are answers for now; but more conflict lies ahead. The answers are not easy, and the dominoes are still tipping.

      Having said all that in the abstract, I have always been a fan of Spiderman. I have not particularly cared for the recent attempts to tell his story in the trilogies of the past decade or so; but this new kid gives me optimism.

    3. Agreed! The movie definitely felt like a set-up for something bigger. I really appreciated the addition of Ant-Man (we always need a little positive comic relief) as well as the introduction to (the latest edition of) Spiderman. I've always loved Spiderman and I am pretty optimistic about this version of him! I can't wait for his return. :)

  3. I found myself rooting for Captain America though mostly because I like the people on his side better. When it came to what they believe, I understand both. Though when it comes to what the Captain believed, I kind relate it to Christianity. If someone or the government tells us to deny Jesus then we shouldn't. That's what it makes me think of.
    I like how even though they were fighting, they were still friendly. I thought that was nice. ^-^ And after the first fight I was thinking, "That wasn't very civil warish!" And then it was like, "... oh." When the Captain, Bucky, and Iron Man were watching the video, at first I didn't know what it was... and then it hit me. I was literally whispering, "OH NO. THIS IS BAD. THIS IS REALLY, REALLY BAD." That fight scene definitely gave me some serious feels. My heart was beating so hard! When the camera was backing away from Iron Man... it was soooo sad!! :(
    I thought that everyone was epic but especially Bucky. And I've always been a fan of Spiderman and the new one was funny but that's all I can say at this point. Personally, I want to stay loyal to the first one.

    1. There's a line from the Captain America comics that the younger Agent Carter paraphrases during Peggy's funeral,

      "It doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell the whole world, 'No. You move.'"

      I think I relate a little more to Captain America's ideals as well, but it's difficult to say one is right and one is wrong since the issues at hand aren't necessarily religious or moral. The Captain certainly has a better track record than Iron Man but that doesn't mean Tony doesn't believe he's doing the right thing just as much as the Captain believes he's doing the right thing. Haha, I've heard it said that the Captain had the "young hot" team! ;)

      Bucky was definitely a highlight for me in the movie! I wish they had given him a little more screen time though. If the Captain ever retires, I hope the Winter Soldier becomes Captain America...and then they would make a whole movie about Bucky. :D The scene when they have to watch the Winter Soldier's mission report from December 1991 is so, so sad. I think that's when the real "civil war" starts.

      I like the new Spiderman, but I also really liked Andrew Garfield's Spiderman. However, I think this new actor fits the role a little better, at least now, because he's so young. I can't wait to see him again in upcoming Spiderman/Avenger movies!

      Thanks for stopping by, Mary! :D

  4. Hey! I tagged you on my blog!!!!

    1. Thanks so much, Kara! I can't wait to complete this tag. :D

  5. I haven't seen the film yet, so the only thing I have to say is that I love your take on this.

    1. Thanks, Victoria! You should definitely go watch it and let me know what you think! :D

  6. It was so much fun reading this post Dani! I love hearing your thoughts on Steve and Bucky and Tony.
    Thanks so much for linking to my post ♥


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Sarah! And thanks for sharing your own thoughts on Steve and Bucky--I really enjoyed your post. :)


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