Captain America: Civil War, A Spoiler-Filled Conversation with Lebeau and Daffystardust
Greetings LeBlog readers! The biggest movie release of the weekend has been the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) superhero throw down Captain America: Civil War, so Lebeau and I have decided to have a conversation about the film here. A warning right off the bat: There Will Be Spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the movie yet, go to your local multiplex (this obviously isn’t an art house flick, so you’ll have no trouble finding it) and enjoy a little hero-on-hero combat and then come back here to discuss what we all saw and what it means about the future of the Marvel films.
Spoilers begin after the break, so this is your last chance to avoid them.
Daffystardust: Okay, so everyone who is still with us has seen Captain America: Civil War and knows that Galactus landed on Earth halfway through, right? Good thing Ant-Man found the Ultimate Nullifier, huh? I have to say I was pretty surprised when The Beyonder showed up and abducted everybody at the end.
Allright, so I’m kidding, but seriously the spoilers will start flowing in earnest now.
I’m going to come right out and say that while I really enjoyed huge portions of the movie, it has some real weaknesses that identify it as a second-tier Marvel production in the big picture. The title and basic concept for the story was taken from a big crossover event from the comic books of about a decade ago. I was about twelve years past following the books by that point, and it was just this sort of cross-promotional event that tested my patience and helped to push me out of Marvel’s readership. Lebeau, on the other hand, was still around for this particular storyline when it was presented in the books.
Obviously there were going to be some differences in the movies. How do you feel the film version compared?
Lebeau: Let the record show that Civil War was one of my least favorite comic book events of all time. I hated it. It was the Man of Steel of comics in that it insisted on being taken seriously as a “real world” take on super heroes. Writer Mark Millar kept giving interviews where he would say how in the real world, people would demand supervision over these incredibly powerful super beings who were capable of leveling cities. And he’s not wrong about that. But after decades of reading stories in which it is an accepted convention that super heroes are just a fact of life and collateral damage is something that gets cleaned up off panel, it was jarring to have a story in which the premise is centered on the idea of super hero registration.
The movie takes only the most basic elements of the source material. The government moves in to assert some control over super heroes. This pits Tony and Cap against one another. In the comic book, the main issue was over secret identities. As a gesture, Tony convinced Spider-man to unmask publically – something which is completely antithetical to the character. For decades, Peter Parker has been defined by his desire to keep his identity secret in order to protect his loved ones. Almost immediately, his decision has repercussions as Aunt May gets shot. That opened up a whole can of worms in which Peter makes a deal with Mephisto- Marvel’s version of Satan himself – in order to save her. But we won’t go too far down that rabbit hole.
The cinematic universe doesn’t focus on the secret identity concept nearly as much as the comic books do. Iron Man revealed his secret identity at a press conference at the end of his first movie. There’s a museum that tells you everything you could ever want to know about Steve Rogers. And Black Widow testified in congress. So not surprisingly, the movie drops all that stuff. In its place, we have yet another underdeveloped villain manipulating events to get the Avengers to turn on each other. It’s a real shame that all of Marvel’s best villains are from franchises that Marvel doesn’t own the film rights to.
How do I feel the film version compared to the source material? It was a massive improvement in just about every way. If the movie has flaws – and I think we agree it does – a lot of them are from the DNA of the original story. But I’m still impressed that Marvel came up with such an entertaining movie based on such a garbage comic book. I get the sense based on your introduction that I liked Captain America: Civil War more than you did. I’m sure we’ll hash that out as we go. Why do you feel that Civil War is a second-tier Marvel movie? I’m not sure I can get on board with that.
Daffystardust: This is, or course, in a system in which there are three or four tiers of Marvel movies. There was quite a lot to enjoy about Civil War which make it well worth the price of admission, but I would definitely rank it below the best of the studio such as the first Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and each of the two previous Captain America films. I even prefer Ant-Man and maybe the first Avengers movie. None of the aforementioned films was as disjointed or left me feeling as empty as Civil War did. If you add up the excellent scenes, the laugh lines, the imaginative action sequences, and the amazing special effects, you wouldn’t think it would end up there for me, but Civil War turns out to be less than the sum of its parts.
That’s partly because of the villain situation that you mentioned. Any Marvel reader of any pedigree knows who Baron Zemo is, and while the books’ version of his origin is pretty silly, what we’re left with here is a character who doesn’t resemble Baron Zemo at all. The problem is not just that Marvel owns the rights to so few of their greatest villains, but that they think so little of the ones they do own. Anybody who read the books or watched the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon series knows that Baron Zemo, Baron Strucker, and yes even Ultron can be done much better than they were in the last two Avengers-related films. You’d think Marvel had an embarrassment of riches where it came to villains the way they’re burning through them with what appears like no thought. Zemo did survive, so maybe we’ll get a chance to see him develop into his full-fledged villainy, but the disposal of both Strucker and Crossbones leaves me shaking my head. Why do that when you have a fully-established cinematic universe that is already short of villains?
Based on some of what I’ve read, it seems like plenty of audience members are buying in completely with Zemo’s big reveal late in the film, but I wasn’t sure why it was presented the way it was. It all just seemed like a convenience of the plot. I have lots of questions. Was it really necessary for Zemo to lure Cap, Bucky, and Tony to that facility in the middle of nowhere in order to play that video for them? If Cap didn’t know that it was Bucky who killed Tony’s parents…then what exactly did he know, and how is him knowing that piece of information some sort of betrayal of Tony? It all just seemed like an excuse for one more battle and to position the characters where Marvel wanted them at the end of this part of the story.
Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t bring myself to care one little rat’s patoot about Bucky as the Winter Soldier. I cared more about him when he was just dead Bucky. That’s largely an issue about how the whole Captain America franchise has been handled, though. We got one scene of Cap feeling bad about Bucky’s death in the films and now we’re supposed to be understanding of Cap’s impulse to defend him at all costs. I’m just not. Screw Bucky. Or maybe keep on having discussions about what has happened. Considering that Black Widow used one of those high tech masks JUST LAST MOVIE, Cap and the rest of the Avengers look pretty stupid not to question what that grainy security camera footage showed them. The conversation leaped past any sort of doubt based on the facts rather quickly.
All of this succeeded in holding me at an emotional arm’s length during the run time of the movie despite all of the fun super hero action and strong acting going on.
Lebeau: I will agree that Tony jumped on the “Kill Bucky” bandwagon awfully quickly considering that they live in a world where science borders on magic. Not to mention actual magic exists. Considering all the things Tony has seen, the security footage is hardly conclusive evidence that Bucky needs to be shot on sight. But if they had decided to bring Bucky in for questioning, well, we don’t have a movie. So that’s just something you have to get past in order to get to those sweet super-hero throwdowns.
I don’t have the same aversion to Bucky as you do. I get why Cap feels a sense of loyalty to his friend and some obligation to protect him. When Steve Rogers was a 90-pound weakling, strapping Bucky Barnes looked out for him. Under Cap’s watch, his friend was captured and subjected to all kinds of unspeakable acts. I can see why a guy like Cap would feel responsible for that. If you were captured by a rival site and brainwashed into writing click-bait articles, I’d do my best to bring you back into the fold!
Steve wants to protect Bucky from the world and the world from Bucky. Yes, it was handled differently in the comics. But the comic book treatment wasn’t going to work here. So, I’m cool with Bucky. Not my favorite character, but he’s not detracting from my enjoyment of the movie at all. Mostly, I was just glad to see that dangling plot thread mostly wrapped up. We may not see him again until Chris Evans fails to renegotiate his contract and a new Cap is needed.
As for the bad guy, if he hadn’t been named Zemo would you have felt differently? I don’t have a strong attachment to the character. I have to remind myself which one is which when it comes to Zemo and Strucker. I understand why Marvel might shy away from having mustache-twirling Nazis as the central villains of their blockbuster movies. That kind of thing hinders global box office. I’m just not sure why they bothered using the name if the character was going to be completely different from the one in the comics. Maybe there are long-term plans. I’m not really worried about it. They just needed a character to light the plot’s fuse kind of like Jessie Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in Batman V Superman. And by comparison, I’ll take Zemo over cracked-out Luthor any day.
Was Zemo’s plan needlessly complicated? Of course it was. What super villain plan isn’t? I found myself questioning why he would tip off Iron Man by calling the hotel and ordering breakfast. But then it was revealed that he needed Iron Man to come help Cap so he could show them the video and get them to fight. Sure, Zemo’s plan has a lot of weaknesses. What if Falcon didn’t give away Cap’s location? What if Tony watched the video and said, “Gosh Cap. We have a lot to talk about when we get home?” There’s about a million other ways things could have played out. Alternatively, Zemo could have just posted his video on YouTube and that might have broken up the Avengers just as effectively.
But that’s not the point. This movie exists for one reason only. To set up the “imaginative action scenes” you referenced earlier. That big brawl at the airport set a high bar for all superhero battles that follow. I’m glad the Russo brothers will be the ones directing Infinity War, because this is exactly what that movie is going to need to deliver on a grand scale. What I find most impressive about Civil War is that it manages to juggle so many characters without any of them getting lost. Everyone feels unique and true to character. They all get at least one moment to shine – even Hawkeye. While the set-up may have been a little forced, the payoff was pretty spectacular.
I was won over. Quibbles aside, Civil War did some difficult things very well. It managed to deliver Black Panther’s origin story so his solo movie won’t have to while reintroducing Spider-man to the Marvel universe and developing the Vision-Scarlet Witch relationship. The world building was occasionally clunky, but I felt it was better handled than what we saw in Age of Ultron or the abysmal Batman V Superman. What’s your take on the attempts at universe expansion in Civil War? As a Spidey fan, did you like the new take?
Daffystardust: I liked the new Spider-Man pretty well, and I’m glad they just skipped over the origin story we’ve already seen twice before, but I did feel the movie creak a little under the weight of everything it was trying to do. One new character in Black Panther was enough, so grabbing Spidey as well felt a little like overkill no matter how well they stuck the landing. I understand why they needed to go ahead and do it, but it still wasn’t ideal. T’Challa’s story seemed a little rushed, but I did like the actor and the character design. I would argue that world building should continue to be one of the very top priorities for Marvel, even as its cast of characters expands. Audiences will start to notice if character introductions become consistently lazy or awkward.
On a less obvious note, I found some of the editing in Civil War to be out of character for the rest of the MCU movies. Things were moving fast and the cuts appeared to get a little sloppy at times. That airport action sequence was masterful, but I did not feel the same way about all of the other fight scenes. The chase scene between Bucky and Black Panther and Cap was not as thrilling as it could have been and the stairwell scene has been done before and better in other action films. Heck, Daredevil did it better in season 2 on Netflix.
Let me bring up something positive that had my jaw on the floor that I haven’t seen mentioned a lot in other places. The computer-generated “flashback” to Tony and his parents was absolutely stunning and kind of makes me wonder if Downey can’t just keep playing Iron Man ad infinitum, no matter how old he starts to look. Why re-cast the actor who is perfect for a role like this if you can reproduce him so convincingly? Of course the studios will have to pay a handsome price for the right to do that sort of thing once the dust clears. I haven’t seen any details on how the effect was accomplished, but it was the most impressive thing I saw in the whole movie, which was full of impressive stuff.
Lebeau: The young RDJ effect was impressive. I assumed it was the same technology used to de-age Michael Douglas in Ant-Man. It’s pretty great that it allows these kinds of flashbacks without having to recast an actor who kind of looks like a young RDJ.
Poor Tony got put through the ringer in this movie. He’s always dealt with daddy issues. But those really came bubbling to the surface here. Of all the Avengers, he has the most blood on his hands. He was a weapons manufacturer before he became a super hero and he’s at least 55% responsible for Ultron. It seems like Sokovia is filled with people who rightly hate him. On top of that, he gets dumped by Pepper Potts which is probably long overdue. But you can see why Tony makes some questionable decisions in Civil War. His life is falling apart!
Daffystardust: Who are we kidding? Pepper Potts broke up with Tony because it was convenient for the filmmakers. We can’t have seen her for the last time unless Gwyneth Paltrow is just that hard to work with. She’s a primary character in three MCU movies. “We broke up” isn’t a good enough explanation by a long shot.
They have definitely given Downey the most interesting character beats to play, and why not when you’ve got an actor of his skill to write for? Cap’s character through-line has also been meaningful and well done, but “earnest strength tested,” while commendable, is not as obviously dramatic to play. That said, Chris Evans has done a pretty good job with it, and I’m interested to see where Cap goes from here. It kind of points out how crowded this movie was when you realize that Peggy Carter passed away and it was one of the less memorable events in the story, even though it clearly helps to inform how Steve has changed in the context of this more complex modern world.
I admit that I was kind of hoping that we’d see his pop culture catch-up book again and find out how much he’d crossed off the list.
We know that the Avengers have Thanos to deal with in their next outing, but I’ll be very interested to see which other villains get introduced into the MCU. My personal favorite would be Kang the Conqueror, but I think his rights belong to 20th Century Fox along with the Fantastic Four. MODOK is straight out crazy, and I’d love to see what they could do with him. The Avengers are going into space soon, so that opens up the Kree and Skrulls, but I’d love to see them come back to earth with a film take on Zemo’s Masters of Evil.
Lebeau: I won’t speculate beyond Infinity War. That takes us through 2019, right? That’s too far into the future for me to prognosticate. By then, this super hero movie craze may be cooling down. I doubt it, but who knows. I’ll just take them as they come.
I’m fine with Pepper Potts being written out of things for the time being. It was getting tiresome seeing Tony and Thor constantly making excuses for their leading ladies’ absences. Pepper and Tony were an on-again-off-again couple in comics. More often than not, they were off. Pepper even married Tony’s friend Happy Hogan at one point. No not the Hulkster. The character played by director Jon Favreau in the Iron Man solo movies. Remember those? I assume if there is ever an Iron Man 4, we will see those characters again. But if there isn’t, “we broke up” works for me.
I’m glad you brought up Chris Evans. Downey’s portrayal of Tony Stark understandably gets a lot of attention. It’s very showy. But I really appreciate Evans’ understated turns as Cap. You know Captain America is my favorite Marvel character because I love earnest heroes. Steve Rogers is an idealist. There’s not enough of that in a genre about people who can fly. I’m glad to see Marvel allowing Cap to be that kind of character instead of turning him into a brooding killer like DC has done with Superman. Evans’ take on Cap is one of my favorite super hero performances period. Which is probably partially who I am inclined to look past Civil War’s short-comings. I’m a sucker for any movie in which Captain America makes a stand.
At the end of the movie, the bad guy wins which is kind of a bummer. Zemo set out to split up the Avengers and that’s exactly what happened. Cap’s team of fugitives consists of Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Falcon and Ant-Man. Possibly Black Widow as well. And Black Panther is at least assisting him by secretly harboring Bucky. Iron Man’s officially sanctioned team is going to need some new recruits. They are down to an injured War Machine, Vision and the teenaged Spider-man. Paging Captain Marvel!
Daffystardust: And her movie isn’t even set to land in theaters for more than 2 years still.
In the meantime, we’ve got Doctor Strange, the second Guardians of the Galaxy, the new Spider-Man, Thor, Black Panther, the first half of Infinity War, and the Ant-Man/Wasp movie. That will be plenty to keep us busy, won’t it?
Lebeau: And those are only movies from Marvel Studios. We’re also getting X-Men movies from Fox and DC movies from Warner Brothers. The ones not directed by Zack Snyder might even be worth watching! There will be lots of choices for super hero movie fans going forward. But I do wonder how long we will have to wait to find out what’s next for the Avengers. Dr. Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel probably won’t touch on the Avengers in any meaningful way. Robert Downey Jr. is supposed to appear in Spider-man: Homecoming. So I guess we’ll get some kind of update then. But we may have to wait till Black Panther to get any kind of news on Cap’s group. That’s almost two years from now.
As we talk through this, I’m pretty sure I had a more positive reaction to Civil War than you did. A lot of the things we have talked about so far didn’t really bother me at all. My biggest objection to the movie was the focus on the carnage and collateral damage caused by superhero battles. This is a big thing in superhero movies these days. The DC movies in particular seem to be centered on the idea that these characters level buildings filled with people on a regular basis. That is true, but traditionally the genre has sidestepped the issue of what happens to the people who live in those buildings. The assumption has always been that the heroes helped with the clean-up effort off panel and there were rarely any casualties.
One of the things I liked about Age of Ultron was that they went out of their way to establish that the Avengers were doing their best to minimize damage and loss of life. But in Civil War, the events in Sokovia are recontextualized in a way that is arguably more realistic. We’re told that there were lots of casualties and Alfre Woodard even gives Tony the Mrs. Kinter treatment (Jaws reference!) over the loss of her son. The story requires that the government has a reason to step in, so I knew that the Avengers would need to have some blood on their hands. But there is a fantasy component to the super hero genre. That big battle on the air strip was fun because he were just watching these characters cut loose with their powers. That’s the stuff I go to these movies to enjoy. When these battles start taking place in a more realistic setting with real-world consequences (or god forbid 9/11 imagery), you sacrifice some of the fun.
Did any of this bother you or is this just me?
Daffystardust: I actually remember reading books back in the ’80s that actively devoted a few panels to the heroes helping with the cleanup after one of their battles. Also, protecting bystanders from falling debris was a constant source of distraction for heroes like Spider-Man. The death of Captain Stacy helped drive this home and he was always breaking off from fights to save innocents.
I don’t mind the way this specific movie addressed the issue, but it’s a story problem with no real solution unless there’s a big event that helps to prove to the world at large that the heroes do more good than harm. Ross (or someone else in his job) will have to make a public statement disavowing major portions of the Sokovia Accords. Most people in the Marvel cinematic universe will have to accept the collateral damage that goes along with having a built-in super powered line of defense. In the books, events such as the alien invasion at the end of the first Avengers movie were plenty for most citizens.
I guess we’re meant to assume that they did a really bad job of community outreach in the weeks following that event, leaving some people under the impression that the conflict was their fault. A quick media interview saying “Hey everybody. Aliens exist. They’re aggressive and they attacked New York City. It was bad enough that your leaders tried to nuke New York, but we stopped the whole thing dead in its tracks. You’re welcome” night have helped. While that would have annoyed members of the government, it would have gone a long way toward getting the citizenry on board. Maybe the threat of the literal end of the universe in the Infinity War will help with this, but that’s really the kind of story that tends to happen out in space without the knowledge of anyone from Earth other than those who were actively involved.
Lebeau: The film-makers clearly intended for this to be an ambiguous movie. Neither Iron or Cap are supposed to be 100% right. Obviously, Iron Man turns out to be wrong in the sense that Bucky was framed in this instance. But he still has blood on his hands including the blood of Tony’s parents. The bigger question and the one without a clear cut answer is whether or not the superheroes should report to a governing body like the UN. If Daffy Stardust is a super hero, does he sign the Sokovia Accords?
Daffystardust: Absent the secret identity element that was the focus of the story in the books I would probably end up signing grudgingly. Not because I felt like it was the ideal thing to do, but because making myself into a fugitive would be really inconvenient. Of course I would probably find myself in that situation anyway after I instinctively leaped to someone’s defense in the heat of the moment. (You mean I needed a direct order before I was allowed to stop the Abomination from crushing that bus full of tourists?) “Stardust” sounds like I belong out in space, so maybe I’d just start spending most of my time out there. Bummer.
Since we’ve never firmly established the extent of Daffy Stardust’s powers, I’m going to decide that one of them is shape-shifting, which would allow me to wander around wherever I liked without anybody bugging me. I’d want to go to theme parks, after all.
How about Lebeau? I know he used to look a lot like Bane from the Batman comics, so maybe he’s already in trouble with the authorities.
Lebeau: LOL. Wow. That reference goes back a few years! I forgot that pre-Val Kilmer my avatar was comic book related. Depending on who you ask, I probably belong in the super villain camp.
If I were an Avenger, I’d be a lot like Falcon in that I do whatever Cap does only slower. Real life me has the most in common with Hawkeye. I’ve got a family to think about, but I’m too stubborn for my own good. If a rich jerk like Tony Stark started throwing his weight behind something, I’d probably have to oppose him on principle.
Part of the problem with the premise of Civil War is that we don’t know what UN supervision might look like. If it means never taking action with the say-so of the ambassador of Sweden, then I think the Accords are pretty obviously a bad idea. As Spider-man says in the movie, when people with (great) powers don’t use them and something bad happens, it’s their fault. That’s actually a pretty compelling argument against what Tony is selling.
Heck, Tony himself should realize he isn’t going to play by the rules. He abandons the Accords the second it becomes inconvenient for him. He’s never been a rules follower. While accountability sounds like a good idea, in practice there’s no way this works. The last government-run agency tasked with keeping people safe was infiltrated by Hydra two summer ago. Within days of signing the Accords, there are already signs that Thunderbolt Ross is not the guy you want calling the shots. Just ask the Hulk. If he weren’t MIA, this movie would have lasted about 10 minutes.
Daffystardust: Hmmm…yeah, now that I think of it, recent events in my own life indicate that I might have found a way to avoid signing without ever indicating that I never would.
Being a shape-shifter sure would help to accomplish that.
There really is no one big reason why Civil War didn’t thrill me overall (although I would give it a mild recommendation). It was death by a series of cuts.
1) I was a little amused that they took a villain they had introduced so carefully in the last movie and killed him off without much thought. I never read any books featuring Crossbones, but his suicide bomb gambit didn’t seem to match the guy from Winter Soldier, either.
2) The continued presence of The Vision here just keeps reminding me how his origin and the whole Ultron story was botched last year.
3) The introduction of the Black Panther was definitely rushed.
4) The toggling back and forth between the Avengers and the UN meeting was awkwardly executed.
5) “Great. This is all going to be in service of saving Bucky, who I don’t care about in the least.”
6) Hey, why isn’t anybody asking about those really handy facial imitation masks that S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to have easy access to and Black Widow used in the last Captain America movie?
7) That stairway escape was really cool when Jason Bourne did it…and it was totally kick-ass when Daredevil did it.
8) Why does some of the editing here remind me of the Affleck Daredevil movie?
9) Seriously- The whole “androids can cry too” thing just never ever resonates with me. I guess I’ll suffer through The Vision’s storylines so we can enjoy his cool powers in the fight scenes.
10) Well, there’s Baron Zemo. When does he get his groovy pink hood?
11) I like this Spider-Man, but this movie is officially over-stuffed now.
12) Cap is stopping that helicopter with super-duper bicep curls.
13) Zemo had to wait to show this video to Iron Man until they were all in this facility in the middle of nowhere because?…reasons?
14) What the heck did Cap know about Tony’s parents’ deaths that he hadn’t told him and why the heck would he know it? 1991 was solidly in the middle of the time period when he was frozen.
I just couldn’t manage to keep my brain quiet during this movie. Every time I felt like it had hit its groove I was thrown by something else puzzling or awkward. Maybe another viewing would leave me less critical, but boy my first viewing just didn’t satisfy me on the level I had hoped. Perhaps I was being too critical in the moment. There was plenty about the movie that was a lot of fun.
Lebeau: That’s quite a list! Most of the things you are referencing didn’t bother me that much. Or maybe even not at all. A few of your comments are the kinds of things that would only be of concern to a very particular audience. I read some of these items in the voice of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. I don’t know if your ambivalence over Bucky is common or not, but I do know some people who feel very differently. The character has some very devoted fans. The Vision, I’m not so sure about.
A couple of your criticisms are related to the fact that Civil War is not a direct follow-up to Winter Soldier. Originally, the third Captain America movie was intended to be just that. But plans were changed around the same time that Marvel was playing chicken with Warner Brothers over the release dates of this movie and Batman V Superman. Originally, the script was going to focus more heavily on Cap’s search for Bucky and presumably Crossbones would have played more of a role in that version of the script. People are speculating that Marvel was concerned that a solo Cap movie wouldn’t seem like an event on the same scale as BVS, so they offered Robert Downey Jr. a truckload of money for their own superhero slugfest.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen that Winter Soldier follow-up. But a lot of that story was worked into this one. I feel like we got a resolution at least.
I am as certain as I can be that Civil War will benefit from repeat viewings. I was initially pretty disappointed with Iron Man 3 and Age of Ultron. While I stand by my criticisms of those movies, repeat viewings have softened my stance. Starz (which I have for some reason) has been running the last four Marvel movies almost non-stop this month and I have really come to appreciate that while Age of Ultron was an overstuffed mess, there was still an awful lot of good stuff in there.
That experience informed the way I watched Civil War. I recognized that the movie had a lot of the same problems as Age of Ultron – problems which will probably persist in most Marvel movies going forward – but I was able to set them aside. Yes, Winter Soldier is a better movie. But Civil War executes better than Age of Ultron did. Also, Batman V Superman was fresh in my mind. The two movies covered a lot of the same territory, so comparisons are unavoidable. And by comparison, Civil War is a freaking masterpiece. If you haven’t already done so, go watch BVS. Then come back and apologize to Civil War for judging it harshly.
Daffystardust: Ha! No thanks. I’ll keep my standards high.
I’m well aware that some of the problems I had with Civil War are particular to me, but hey, there they are. I don’t expect many people to be completely in sync with me, but I did want to give you and the readers a chance to understand where I’m coming from. That’s why the list form above felt like the way to do things. It approximates my experience in the theater. I felt like I hadn’t dismissed one issue for long before another one was popping up and they popped up with enough regularity that I wasn’t getting a smooth and seamless movie experience, which is something I did get from the “tier one” Marvel movies I mentioned above.
A missing Captain America movie between Winter Soldier and Civil War would explain a little. To be honest, I kind of wish Civil War was the fifth Captain America movie.
Lebeau: As someone who intensely disliked the comic book the movie is based on, I didn’t need a Civil War movie at all. But the book sold well and Marvel has been in love with the idea ever since. In fact, the comics are gearing up for Civil War II in which Iron Man fights Captain Marvel. That Iron Man can’t get along with anyone!
Since you brought up the “tier one” concept again, I’ll throw in my $.02. I would rank Civil War in my top five movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. My top four in no particular order would be Iron Man and Avengers (both largely for how fresh they felt at the time), Guardians of the Galaxy and Winter Soldier. Civil War isn’t on the same level as those movies, but I’ll put it ahead of more modest efforts like Ant-Man, CA: First Avenger or Thor. Those movies, to my mind, make up the midrange Marvel releases. And then there are misfires like Iron Man 2 or Incredible Hulk.
Realistically, there isn’t all that much that separates the best Marvel movies from the worst. They range from “so-so” to “pretty good” with the best of the bunch being “a lot of fun”. But I don’t think anyone would argue any of these movies even border on greatness. The best parts of Civil War are among standouts of the franchise. If you’re not having fun during the big battle scene, you just don’t like Marvel movies. For me, there were nits to pick. But nothing that was going to detract from the awesomeness of seeing Ant-man get shot through the air on the tip of one of Hawkeye’s arrows. That was as close as any movie has ever come to capturing a comic book fight in live action.
So, how does your mixed reaction to Civil War impact your excitement for future Marvel projects? Are you jazzed for Black Panther? Does a movie like Dr. Strange which is less connected to the main story feel inessential?
Daffystardust: Civil War is good enough to keep me coming back for more. I’m still a Marvel fan. After all, I came back after Iron Man 3, didn’t I?
I don’t really have any background with Dr Strange, but the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch helps boost it to something I’ll see in the theater.
Black Panther is a little more exciting simply because I know the character a bit better and it seems like his movie might integrate more with the rest.
It looks like our rankings aren’t actually that far apart. I do think that Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy are the kind of top notch popcorn flicks that belong in any conversation about the best movies of their respective years. “Great?” No, maybe not if we’re comparing them to movies like The Godfather or Citizen Kane, but they’re tops in their own genre and deserve the spots they get in posterity.
Lebeau: Those two movies hold up on their own in a way most of the Marvel movies don’t. You can show Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy to someone who isn’t into the whole Marvel thing, and odds are they will enjoy them. Civil War doesn’t work on that level. The appeal of Civil War is that it builds on almost all of the previous movies in the series. I can only imagine a non-fan being a little lost and overwhelmed watching it. Ant-Man just shows up with no introduction whatsoever. If you weren’t aware of what his deal was, you’d figure it out. But you might wonder who the guy was and what he was doing there. Civil War is definitely aimed at fans who have watched all the previous movies.
Age of Ultron took a little of the wind out of my sails for the future of Marvel movies. I realized that going forward, most of the movies would have to devote a good amount of their running time to setting up other movies. That’s how Marvel comics work as well. This tends to lead to unsatisfying conclusions. Most Marvel events like the original Civil War don’t so much end as they tease the next big event. In the movies, we have been getting a shake-up to the status quo leading into post-credit tags that leave us wondering what happens next. But what happens next will likely be more of the same only bigger and with more new characters.
With Civil War, I guess I came to terms with that. The solo movies like Dr. Strange and Black Panther have a better likelihood of telling good stand-alone stories. The big all-hands-on-deck events are going to be used as platforms to launch the smaller movies.
Overall, I don’t think our opinions are very far off. We both liked Civil War overall, right?
Daffystardust: This is one of those movies that has faults, but whose strengths are so distinct that they carry you through anyway. I was very entertained by large chunks of what was presented, but I remain a little frustrated that the little problems that kept bugging me through its running time. Follow-up viewings will almost certainly allow me to focus less on these faults and more on what I liked about the movie because I’ll have to come to terms with those things.
I’m giving Captain America: Civil War a recommendation, but not a really enthusiastic one. I did want to offer a mild dissent from some of the raves I’ve seen on line, though. In the end, this is a pretty average Marvel movie. I’m guessing that people who are likely to see it will go ahead and do so no matter what anybody says and they certainly should in this case. The complex points of view, laugh lines, and fantastic action stunts will leave most audience members more than satisfied.
Lebeau: The initial reviews were as positive as the reviews for Batman V Superman were toxic. Some critics may have gone overboard. Civil War doesn’t deserve raves. There’s actually a conspiracy theory out there that Disney is paying critics to lavish praise on Marvel movies while trashing super hero movies from rival studios. Supposedly Deadpool was given a pass because its February release date didn’t make it a threat. But Bryan Singer’s latest X-Men movie is already getting a collective shrug from critics.
Looking ahead at the barrage of superhero movies before us, will you see X-Men: Apocalypse in theaters? Which movie are you most excited about? For me, Civil War was the big one. I’ll probably go see Dr. Strange no matter what. But I’m cautiously optimistic about Suicide Squad.
Daffystardust: I grew up a Marvel reader, so I’m choosier about which DC movies I see. If the general reception is strong I am much more likely to go check one out. Batman’s presence can help too.
I will go to the theater to see the X-Men movie unless the general reaction is awful. I don’t see that happening, though.
The lowest rated MCU film I’m seeing on Rotten Tomatoes is Thor: Dark World at 66% and even it doesn’t go “splat” on that site. Metacritic has it at 53%, so maybe there is some evidence that the MCU is a darling for whatever reason. That said, if Batman V Superman was really really good, I doubt the reviews would have been poor.
Lebeau: I have a litmus test. Anyone who says positive things about Batman V Superman is not to be trusted. It was truly wretched. Paying critics to pan it would be like paying me to eat pie. I’m going to do it anyway, but if you want to pay me I’ll take your money.
Before I get worked up on a Zack Snyder rant, maybe we should wrap this thing up. Anything else you want to say about the latest Captain America movie?
Daffystardust: No, not really, but I will pay you $3 if you post a 10 minute video to LeBlog that consists of nothing but you eating different kinds of pies.
Lebeau: LOL. Only if Zack Snyder films it and I’m played by Ben Affleck.
On that note, let me do a bit of housekeeping. Observant readers may have noticed that this isn’t the weekly article on the Golden Raspberries. I’m taking a week off from that series to catch my breath. Next week, we’ll dive into the remaining five years of Razzies like Batfleck diving into a coconut cream.
If you enjoyed this back-and-forth, let us know in the comments section. We’ll do it again the next time I want to miss a deadline!