Captain America: Civil War—Avengers, Disassembled

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Warning: Spoilers and feels ensue.

I was not ready to see this movie. All the fun and games from the first Avengers film have gone completely out the window.  Like Buffy Season 6, I knew this movie was going to hurt. And it did. A lot. But it hurt in a good way. The same way that a good tragedy hurts. Because in the end, that’s what Captain America: Civil War is—a tragedy.

I don’t want to go too much into the plot. What I will tell you is that the trailers and TV spots for Civil War are really clever in their misdirection. Don’t go into the movie thinking that you know what’s gonna happen. You will be shocked in the most genuine manner possible.

There are two major conflicts in this movie. The first conflict is this: The Avengers are divided on where they stand on what is called the Sokovia Accords, which registers the Avengers as a UN task force in order to hold the heroes accountable for the collateral damage they cause worldwide. Yes, in spite of the fact that the Avengers went out of their way to cause as little collateral damage as possible, a lot of people still died along the way and most people are blaming the Avengers for it, especially when Scarlet Witch accidentally kills dozens of Wakandans while doing a job with Captain America and company in Lagos, Nigeria.

Now one would expect, given the previous movies up to this point, that Captain America would be all for signing the Accords while Iron Man would be distrusting of the government. However, the events of  Iron Man 3 and The Winter Soldier have led to Tony being in favor of the Accords as a way to try and get some kind of accountability for everyone and Steve wanting the right to choose the battles he fights as opposed to using his abilities to further some politician’s agenda.

Both sides have a point. On the one hand, the heroes do need to be held accountable for their actions. On the other hand, the heroes shouldn’t be used as pawns for government organizations. Both Tony and Steve have very questionable actions throughout the movie as well. Tony reminds me of Angel from Buffy and Angel, trying to atone for his actions by doing what he thinks is best for everyone else whether they agree with him or not, but unlike Angel, Tony is doing so out of genuine grief and PTSD issues and not just from a curse. He’s also willing to admit when he is wrong. Of course, that doesn’t help any by the time Act 3 comes around. But we’ll get to that later. On the other hand, you can argue that Captain America is way too forgiving of Bucky, who killed hundreds of people under the influence of HYDRA’s brainwashing. (Reminds me of Buffy’s treatment of Spike during Season 7.) However, Bucky wants to atone for the things he did as The Winter Soldier and is making an effort to remember the things he did. Unfortunately, he gets implicated in a couple of terrorist attacks, forcing Captain to assemble a team to help him keep Bucky safe. On the other hand, Iron Man assembles his own team to get Captain America and his crew to side with the Accords.

This leads to the huge battle in a Germany airport that’s shown in basically every trailer. The teams are divided thusly:

Anti-Accords (Team Captain America):
Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans)
Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)
Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie)
Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)
Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)
Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)
Pro-Accords (Team Iron Man):
Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.)
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)
The Vision (Paul Bettany)
James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle)
T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)
Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland)

The most surprising characters in the movie are actually Black Panther and Spider-Man. Spider-Man is the picture definition of “adorkable” in this movie. With the latest reboot coming around soon, Peter Parker is back to being a teenage kid with an insanely hot aunt (played by the seriously-does-not-look 51-year-old Marisa Tomei) who received his spider powers about six months before the events of the movie started. In contrast, T’Challa is a diplomat and the new king of Wakanda. He’s also a very powerful, experienced fighter in contrast to Peter.

A lot of Peter’s life (from what is seen in the movie) feels the most authentic compared to the previous film incarnations because he’s in way over his head. He provides a lot of humor to this very serious movie. It makes sense that he’s the most chatty of the heroes because he’s just getting into the hero scene. Spider-Man is used to exchanging witty banter with his enemies, but the other Avengers (even his fellow teammates) found his chatter a bit excessive. He also makes the other Avengers feel very old when he drops pop culture references. However, in the end, Spider-Man is just an extended cameo compared to the other new kid on the block.

Black Panther joins up with Iron Man with vengeance towards The Winter Soldier on his mind. What surprised me the most about Panther, however, is that while he is awesome at kicking ass, he’s also very wise. Towards the end of the movie, he confronts the true villain of the movie, Zemo, and realizes that everything has been stirred into motion by the cycle of revenge. He doesn’t kill Zemo and refuses to let Zemo kill himself. That is the closest thing to the Catholic version of justice that I’ve seen in this movie.

It’s during the third act that you realize that things are never gonna be the same. Without giving it away, Tony and Steve come to an impasse in terms of Bucky and the fight scene is as awesome as it is heartbreaking. The Captain America and Iron Man we knew are completely gone. What’s worse is that Hawkeye and Ant-Man have become fugitives and can’t return to their families. I feel especially bad for Scarlet Witch because she reminds me a lot of Willow, a powerful witch trying to figure out how to use her powers for the greater good. (Not to mention I totally ship her and Vision, but that is something I will save for Tumblr.)

Now while this movie is awesome, I have a couple of minor complaints. The first of which is that the villain isn’t really that involved in the movie. I barely even remember Zemo’s name and face. I understand his motivations, but in all honesty, he acts more like Eris, the sower of discord, in the sense that his only purpose in the movie is to sow the seeds that will cause the Avengers to turn against each other. The reason I compare this movie to Buffy Season 6 is that, in both cases, the villain was someone the heroes could’ve easily defeated if it wasn’t for the fact that the heroes have become their own worst enemy. I really want Zemo to get some kind of punishment for tearing the Avengers apart.

The other minor complaint I have is the “romance” between Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers. I’m not gonna jump on the Tumblr Bandwagon and be all “Steve is gay for Bucky/Tony,” but Steve barely had any development with Sharon. They flirted in The Winter Soldier and bonded at Peggy’s funeral, but that’s all the scenes they had together. For crying out loud, Steve had more chemistry with Black Widow than Sharon!

Aside from that, though, this movie is definitely worth seeing. If you are as invested in these characters as I am, be ready to cry. You also have to be familiar with the previous movies in order to really understand this one. This movie is gonna hurt, but there’s still hope that things will get better down the line.

Avengers vs Batman/Superman AKA Why Angst Is Overrated

I’ll be the first to admit that I am just a casual fan of superheroes at best. I didn’t grow up reading comic books. I watched anime and read manga (Japanese graphic novels) growing up. However, as I also stated before, I’m always appreciative of stories with good writing and compelling characters. And I’m growing to love the fact that superheroes are becoming a thing.

But there’s something else that I need to bring up: Stories, especially superhero stories, don’t have to be overly dark and angsty in order to be compelling. What exactly is “angst” you ask? Angst is, according to dictionary.com “a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish.” Lots of tv shows and movies use a lot of angst to drive the conflict, creating more drama than your average daytime soap opera and relying on what some people call “pretty people problems,” more commonly referred to as “first world problems.” But while some shows can use angst and actually use it to develop the characters in a smart way (watch Buffy Season 6 and cry your heart out as an example), other shows, and oftentimes, superhero movies tend to be too dark and rely on angst way too much.

The early 2000s saw a lot of movies with characters that were up to their knees in angst such as The Punisher. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were able to balance out the angst with some humor, heartwarming moments, and character development, but The Dark Knight Rises was way too rushed. This brand of brooding would later be passed on to  the current run of Superman films.

Now, I grew up watching Smallville. The show was your usual WB/CW teen drama with soap opera levels of writing and teenage-levels of whining and angst, but in spite of that, I liked that the show didn’t come at the expense of making Clark a brooding Byronic hero. There were still some levels of humor that balanced out the less-than-stellar moments such as everything related to Clark and Lana. The current run of Superman films are a stark contrast to this. They build up Superman to be a man with a god-complex (and yes, even I got sick of the pretentious Jesus Christ comparisons in Man of Steel) and the trailer for Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice looks to be something Frank Miller would feel very proud of. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.

Contrast this with the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. While the early days of the Marvel movies had a shaky start with some of the movies doing well (like Iron Man and Thor) while others didn’t (such as the Hulk movies) , the company finally hit the ground running with Captain America and eventually Avengers. They even succeeded in making a movie of one of their more obscure groups of heroes, The Guardians of the Galaxy successful. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll be looking more into Captain AmericaAvengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Now that’s not to say that Marvel has never made overly angsty movies in the recent years. The Spider-Man remakes starring Arthur Garfield are a bit too angsty for my taste and rely way too much on building up questions that never get answered and introducing way too many characters at once. You know, like the writers of Lost and Once Upon a Time. I’m just creating this post to express what I think makes a good story overall.

Spoilers ensue. You have been warned.

You can make a lot of comparisons between Captain America and Superman. Both heroes are seen as American icons and always want to do the right thing, sticking to their ideals and rarely, if ever, resorted to killing to get things done. However, there’s a huge difference between them as portrayed in their films. Captain America is shown to be artistic, sensitive, and self-sacrificing. He wants to stand up to bullies of all sorts, whether it be Nazis or HYDRA. In spite of the fact that he’s a man out of time, he’s socially functional and is great at making and keeping friends. His friendship with Black Widow is hilarious because she keeps trying to set him up on dates and you can totally imagine her being his best man in his wedding. (Whoever he marries, of course, is up in the air.)

You don’t see the Superman from Man of Steel being the guy who makes friends easily. All the characters talk about how important he is and how much responsibility he has on his shoulders. The whole Savior complex has been done a million times and with a lot more subtlety than in this movie. And yes, I do have issues over the fact that Superman killed Zod. Mostly because Superman never kills and what Zak Snyder said to try and justify this murder doesn’t really make that much sense. You know it’s bad when even a casual fan of superheroes calls you out on a glaring inconsistency.

The Superman vs Batman trailer honestly disappointed me. I understand that there was a Superman vs Batman storyline in the comics, but it made it seem like the two heroes are going to go in an all-out war with each other. Contrast that with the Thor’s Hammer trailer from Avengers: Age of Ultron.

When was the last time you ever saw superheroes having fun? Or hanging out with their fellow heroes like a bunch of college kids? I honestly can’t recall that, even from the days of the DC Animated Universe. I mean, it’s one thing to see the Teen Titans having downtime because they’re teenagers, but I felt genuine excitement and laughter as I watched it. It was hilarious to see Tony’s three attempts all failing, including getting War Machine’s help. I loved the look on Thor’s face when Steve Rodgers was able to make Mjolnir budge ever so slightly. It made so much sense that Natasha wouldn’t play along because the guys were clearly having a sizing-up contest and she didn’t want any part of it because she’s mature like that. Plus, Maria Hill is with them, so it’s not like she was the only girl not playing. And then Ultron comes in and totally ruins the moment. The other trailers for Avengers show that there are gonna be major obstacles ahead for the heroes, but what makes Avengers as a whole work is that they’re not just heroes, but also people.

Now take a look at Guardians of the Galaxy.

These heroes aren’t even as well-known as the Avengers or the Justice League. But when I watched it last summer, I had a lot of fun. The moments that come to mind are always the moments that make me laugh, which makes the dramatic climax all the more startling because it still fit the tone of the movie, but came with a shocking death in the end. Thankfully, Groot came back. The funny thing is that these heroes didn’t come with that expectation of doing the right thing hanging over them. They reminded me a lot of the crew of Serenity from Firefly. They aren’t heroes because they wanted to be or because greatness was thrust upon them. Instead they became heroes by chance. So while they’re not as straight laced as Captain America or the Justice League, you know that you’re going to have a fun ride with them.

Maybe it’s just my personal preference, but I always love stories that make me laugh just as much as they make me cry and/or scared out of my mind. The best movies and stories are able to balance out angst with humor and heartwarming moments. Characters are ideally seen as people first and not archetypes or cliches. And while I can allow characters to have moments of tragedy and sadness, it’s always great whenever the characters finally take action and do something to solve their problem.

It’s also why, so far, I like the latest Daredevil. As I said yesterday, I don’t think I ever recall seeing a villain on a human level the way they wrote Fisk in “In the Blood.” Usually, villains already come with a love interest or act more forceful in the pursuit of a love interest. Fisk, on the other hand, is actually nervous and courteous, genuinely in love with Vanessa. Contrast this with Daredevil’s overly angsty predecessor, as reviewed by the one and only Nostalgia Critic:

My latest Daredevil recap will be posted later today, so stay tuned!