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Captain America: Civil War – First Impressions

This article is 100% Guaranteed Spoiler Free! We’ll have a much more intensive review that will compile the take of several members of What’s A Geek in the near future. THAT one is going to have spoilers.


I’m writing this review for two reasons: to fangirl, and to assure anyone who’s been sitting on the fence about watching Captain America: Civil War that the movie is worth it. Disney Philippines was kind enough to extend invites to an advanced screening at SM Cinemas to Earl, who then tapped What’s a Geek for a reviewer. So, here we are.

THE FANGIRLING

Let’s save the smart stuff for later. It was every Marvel fan’s dream to see a Civil War movie happen. For the past few years, the build-up through Marvel’s movies have been positively agonizing for many of us, and viewers from all ends have been snapping up article after article, following interviews, dissecting trailers with surgical care, furiously debating the possibilities laid out between us. Movie goes have patiently waited, each and every time, for Marvel’s famous mid or end-credit scenes, hoping for any sort of hint at how things for the NEXT installment in the cinematic universe were going to go. Given all of that, I’m pretty sure millions of ovaries exploded the day the news was announced.

We all knew in our geeky hearts that doing a Civil War movie along the same magnitude of what was achieved within the comicverse was impossible. What the Russos attempted to do, then, was provide as similar of an experience and in-depth exploration of the central conflict of the arc as they could, tailored to narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Framing it within the Captain America line was the natural choice.

I’d say they succeeded. Civil War can be succinctly summed up as “YOU’RE TEARING THIS FAM APART, MAN!!!”, and Captain America: Civil War gives off that feeling really, really well. You have, in Cap, a good man whose experiences have only cemented his belief that being an Avenger means standing for the greater good against all odds and being free to do that good without anyone looking over their shoulders. You set your mind on saving as many as you can and making the calls, knowing full well that you’ll make mistakes and you won’t always succeed – but you have to try.

On the other hand, you have in Tony an equally good man whose experiences have shaken his resolve, and exposed the darker side of having so much power vested in people with real flaws. His ego and his sense of stewardship led to the creation of Ultron, leaving him scrambling left and right, finding any means to make amends. He’s made his calls, but it seems as though everything that has happened has convinced him that they were the wrong ones. If the hyper intelligent Iron Man can trip up this badly, doesn’t that mean that all super-powered or hyper-talented individuals need guidance?

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So what happens when the two pillars of the Avengers find themselves at the crossroads, where the very people they swore to protect are questioning everything your place in the world? Shit Goes Down™, choreographed to a great musical score and full of A+ combat sequences.

On a final note, I still don’t know whether to praise the directors or beat them up for their smart and artful splicing of the trailers. Even after watching everything that they’ve given them, there were so many moments in Captain America: Civil War that I (or my heart) were not prepared for.

THE CRITICAL STUFF

The running theme of Captain America in the MCU has always involved standing by your beliefs, even when the ghosts of these decisions come back to haunt you. This all came to a head in Captain America: Civil War while extending the continuing narrative of the Avengers as a whole. The movie is a tightly run ship, Chekhovian in its execution of the plot, excelling in putting so much forward using simple gestures, measured silence, and a decent script. While I wouldn’t say that it’s the best installment in Cap’s lineup (Winter Soldier still takes the cake there), it is, by no means, a bad or disappointing movie.

Something that this film should definitely be praised for is giving most of the characters their time to shine, and extending the character studies of each one as thinking, feeling superheroes. They made good on their promise of giving T’Challa an important place in the narrative as character and plot device: he is, by no means, a Token Black Guy, and Wakanda isn’t exotified just because it’s in Africa. Rhodey and Sam are given their places beside the Avengers who also happen to be their closest friends, and don’t suffer from the Sidekick Syndrome. Spidey is absolved from going through yet another reboot of his origin story, as if the Russos are content in the knowledge that We Already Know What Peter Parker is About. Wanda’s quiet struggle with her nature (Is she human? Is she a weapon?) is put on display, together with the Vision learning more about his own existence. Clint’s screen time is a nice fallback on the man we saw in Age of Ultron. Natasha continues to be the Widow we all know and love, making me pine yet again for a movie (or television) series that explores her character further. And in case you thought I forgot, Ant-Man continues to show us the many ways that a crazy tiny guy can hit us where it hurts.

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For those of you, as well, who were curious about how they did Zemo, I believe that you won’t be disappointed. What you might be a little irked by, however, is what they’ve done for Sharon Carter this round. I’m personally ambivalent over it.

There are times, of course, where Captain America: Civil War feels like an excuse to get a whole bunch of heroes together for glorious beat down after glorious beat down, together with some gratuitous shots of big-name actors playing important side characters. Let’s be real here, though: it’s a superhero movie, and that is kind of the point of a superhero movie. The justification for such direction, I feel, was clear from the offset. Furthermore, anyone who has been loyally following the movies will be treated to see how it all comes to a head.

On that note, though, Captain America: Civil War is definitely NOT a movie that can stand on its own. It’s the natural end to many of the ongoing storylines within Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and thus dependent on a baseline understanding of what happened in previous Captain America, Iron Man, and Avengers movies. I personally feel that knowledge of the plot from other films adds more depth, but aren’t intrinsic to the enjoyment and understanding Civil War.

Finally, I’m impressed at how the Russos have managed to stay within the constraints of a PG-rated film without shortchanging any particular aspect in the spirit of censorship. I’m of the personal belief that making a good movie marketed to a general audience is extremely difficult. Not having to be censored is always “easier,” much in the same way that it’s always easier to elicit an emotional response with drama than it would be in a comedy. I’d say more about the specific ways that Captain America: Civil War manages to navigate the limits of its rating, but I DID promise not to spoil anyone.

P.S. Stay for the mid-credits scene, damn it!

 

THE VERDICT: 8/10, will watch again and again.

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Pam Punzalan
Pam Punzalan
29, female, not in Narnia about anything. Games, teaches, writes, reads, flails, smokes, occasionally drinks, loves cats. Answers to Kae, Pamela, Pam, Pam-Pam, Pammy, Pammeth. Pamera, and Pammu. Also part of the admin team of Girls Got Game, over at http://girlsgotgame.org/!
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