I’ve been a Captain America fan for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my brother and I both collected comics, and we made sure we collected between us every single Marvel series (no DC for us). As the younger brother, I was “assigned” which comics I got to collect, and of course I was assigned the less cool ones, like Thor and Captain America. Although I never did like Thor, I quickly became a huge fan of Cap’s. I stopped collecting in the late 1980’s, but always remained a fan at heart.
Also read: Captain America’s Libertarian Paradise
A few years ago I had a subscription to the Marvel app, so I could read any past Marvel comic. I took the time to re-read a lot of my old favorites, but I also read through the whole “Civil War” comic event from 2006. I thought the story line was well-done, and it cemented my appreciation of the Captain America character. Although many think of him as just a goody-two-shoes who is blindingly patriotic, the Civil War series showed that he does what is right, no matter what. The essence of Captain America is seen in a great speech he gives to Spider-Man:
That is Captain America: when he knows something is right, he won’t budge from his position defending it.
When the Captain America movies came out the past few years, I was at first apprehensive (“How would Hollywood screw this up?”), then delighted (“I can’t believe Hollywood didn’t screw this up!”). I particularly loved Captain America 2: Winter Soldier, highlighting Cap’s fight against oppressive elements in the government (admittedly, a favorite theme of mine).
So, needless to say, I was quite excited when Captain America 3: Civil War was announced. Actually, excited would be an understatement; I was ecstatic. This past weekend I went to watch it with my kids, and now I have another word to describe my feelings:
Although most people have given CA3 glowing reviews, I walked out of the theater let down, and even annoyed.
Why? Let me review CA3, breaking it into the good, the bad, and the stupid. (Note: There will be some minor spoilers in my review below. You’ve been warned).
Spider-Man. Falcon. Spider-Man. Scarlet Witch. Spider-Man.
Did I mention Spider-Man? After two previous attempts at the Amazing Peter Parker on the big screen, it finally got nailed. I personally liked the Tobey Maguire version and hated the Andrew Garfield version. But there is no question that CA3 perfectly capture the essence of Spider-Man: young, nervous, weird, and chatty. It leaves me eager to see next year’s Spider-Man movie. (I’ll ignore Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. I can’t handle the idea of an Aunt May who is barely older than me).
I also loved what they did with Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon. He got some of the best lines in the movie, and was a major part of the action. Although he has always been a side character in the comics, it was nice to see his personality come out in the movies.
Another good aspect of the movie was Scarlet Witch. In a movie with little character development (see “The Bad” below), Scarlet Witch was an exception. We were able to understand and sympathize with her more than any other character. Readers of the comics know how powerful she is, and the movie did a good job of conveying the fear that that power would generate, and her reaction to that fear.
Perhaps it’s just my old age kicking in, but I’m getting tired of endless chase scenes and long, drawn-out fights. And if you have already seen CA3, you’ll understand a main reason I was disappointed in the movie, for it sometimes felt like one long chase/fight scene. I mean, how many times do we have to see Black Widow’s move where she jumps on the front of a guy’s shoulders while fighting him? We get it – she kicks butt. Can we move along?
I completely understand the need for action in a movie like this, but not if it takes away from character and plot development. And it did in CA3. Compared to Winter Soldier, CA3 was pretty much all action, no development (other than a little for Scarlet Witch as mentioned above).
Further, I was under the impression that this was a “Captain America” movie, yet it felt like an Avengers or, even more so, an Iron Man movie. The central character in the movie was Tony Stark, not Steve Rogers. You felt much more empathetic towards Stark, and I say this as someone who was decidedly on Cap’s side of the battle.
Lastly, probably the gravest sin of CA3 was the reasons behind the civil war in the first place. Lip service was given to the superhero (or “enhanced individual”) registration requirements, but that felt forced. The real reason behind the fighting seemed to be misunderstandings and personality conflicts, not deeply-held principles. As such, I couldn’t help asking myself, why are they fighting again? And why should I care?
If the only things wrong with the movie were what I wrote under “The Bad,” then I would have only been disappointed in the film. But there were a few things in the movie that were so stupid that it actively annoyed me.
First, the reason behind the final fight between Cap/Bucky and Iron Man was beyond ludicrous. They had called a truce, then the (barely there) villain specifically says he’s revealing something to manipulate them into fighting. And when he reveals it? Tony still blows a gasket and ends up trying to kill Bucky. This stretched my credulity to a breaking point. Even though I can understand Tony being upset, and can understand if he wants Bucky locked up, there is no way that he would just go off and want to kill Bucky – possibly taking Cap with him – in that situation. This ties in to what I said above: the motivations behind the “Civil War” seemed flimsy at best.
But the worst part of the movie in my mind is during the funeral for Peggy Carter. Remember that completely awesome speech Cap gives to Spider-Man in the comics? The one about taking a stand and not moving even if the rest of the world moves? It was a perfect example of Cap’s “super power” – he is able to inspire others to do the right thing even if they are too weak to do it under their own power. In the movie, however, it is not Cap giving that speech – it is Sharon Carter (quoting Peggy Carter). And the worst part is – she is giving the speech to Cap! So instead of Cap inspiring others to do the right thing, he has to be inspired by others to do it. Although Hollywood has done a great job of capturing Cap on the big screen, that was a significant fumble.
As popcorn movies go, Captain America 3: Civil War is still enjoyable. But claims that it is the “greatest super-hero movie ever” are more than a bit overblown. If you want that, stick with Captain America 2: Winter Soldier.