Captain America: Civil War Review Where I Take a Dig At Batman v Superman In Every Paragraph

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WARNING: This review contains spoilers, both for Captain America: Civil War AND Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice!

Am I really so petty, so childish, that I can’t enjoy one movie without taking cheap shots at a similar one in every paragraph? Seems awfully immature of me. Let me answer that question with another question: does Superman purse his lips and glower at people in the shadows like some sort of cave troll? The answer to both questions, thanks to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is yes

But let’s go straight to talking about how good Captain America: Civil War is. If you have yet to see Civil War, get up. Grab your keys. Go to your local theater – right now – and see this movie on opening weekend, the way Marvel Studios intended,  surrounded by cheering fellow geeks. Civil War is by no means a perfect film but it doesn’t mean to be. It’s bombastic and personal, it’s cheeky charm and four-color opera, and it lifts you up and brings you down in equal measure (unlike some other grimdark festivals I could name) (Batman v Superman).

Do some character arcs feel a little shoddy, even unfinished? Sure. Sadly, we are probably never going to get another Marvel movie as tightly constructed as Iron Man. The demands of a shared universe mean less time to focus on any one individual story. Even last year’s Ant-Man, a solo origin movie in the vein of Marvel Studios’ first wave of flicks, wedged in a battle with the Falcon. Thankfully, nothing’s been so ham-fisted as a hero checking their e-mail and looking up what the other heroes have been up to, but in Civil War you do wonder at Scarlet Witch’s largely unexplored feelings on her role instigating the conflict, or Sharon Carter’s whereabouts following her embrace with Cap.

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“Alright, guys, we blew half our budget on this battle, so you better give me some razzle-dazzle!”

However, these flaws are minor impairments to enjoying the arcs of the primary players. Although Cap’s goals in the early conflicts can sometimes feel vaguely defined, you never doubt his sincere altruism. Tony, meanwhile, is emotionally ground up by the demands of the world and the desires of his team. A common criticism of Tony in the original Civil War comic book event was that his actions sometimes felt outright fascistic, but I think you’ll see much more empathy for the film version’s impossibly-placed billionare. It’s his own Kobayashi Maru, and the explosion of his pent-up frustration at the film’s climax feels totally earned (extra points for a “mother moment” which completely deflates Batman v Superman’s cheap “Martha” resolution).

Outside of the two principals, the cast is amazing. Give the Falcon and the Winter Soldier their own movie. The chemistry between Cap’s two quibbling pals is great, and some of the funniest moments in the film are instances like Sam refusing to move his car seat up for Bucky. Black Widow, typically, does not have much of a dramatic role to play, spending most of her time furrowing her brow at Cap in concern, but delivers the goods in every action sequence. Paul Rudd is a welcome return as Ant-Man. Together with Spider-Man, the two fanboy superheroes bring so much awkward excitement into the movie that they made the regular cast look Batman v Superman levels of dour by comparison.

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Black Widow’s Riverdance was sort of left-field, but ScarJo is really very talented.

Really, though, let’s talk a little more about Spider-Man. Spider-Man has no reason to be in this movie, and somehow that’s okay. Despite the fact that the movie gives no effort into meaningfully tying him in to the film’s plot (literally, Tony just decides “Hey, I’m gonna go get Spider-Man” and picks him up from his apartment), the reality is that Tom Holland is a joy. He combines Tobey Maguire’s hyper-nervous reticence with a running mouth that makes him possibly the film Peter Parker closest in temperament to the comics. His costume is a fascinating combination of film and comic sensibilities, for instance featuring bug eyes which widen and narrow as a technological function. You almost wish he would stop moving so you could study it more closely. Finally, when his brief tenor in the movie is over, he doesn’t feel forced out, like Evan Peters’ astoundingly good Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past or any sense of fun at all in Batman v Superman.

The movie’s biggest issue is probably its villain, Zemo. A megalomaniacal German aristocrat in the comics, Zemo is here reduced to an ambiguous former soldier type. Outside of a very not-nice murder of another bad guy at the movie’s beginning, we never see him do anything really villainous, and perhaps this is the point; this movie is not designed to have the heroes come together against a common threat at the end (they’re saving that for the Infinity War films). And the conflict between the heroes is so real that Zemo is just using it for his own purposes rather than causing it. Nevertheless, it means the movie spends a decent chunk of time on a character that’s rather colorless and forgettable. It doesn’t help that his plan, on reflection, is riddled with holes. But then, at least he didn’t create a giant monster that he couldn’t control and would surely have killed him without the heroes’ help. Like Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman.

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“Mmm. I look good. I mean really good…HEY EVERYONE! COME SEE HOW GOOD I LOOK!”

Really, the movie is so big it’s hard to crunch down into a single review. Chadwick Boseman’s young Black Panther is fantastic, nursing a righteous anger that never overwhelms his nobility, even if his constant kingly poise can sometimes leave him feeling a little plastic. The Vision looks completely plastic, his unnervingly artificial look down to his dry eyes being a subtle reward of seeing this movie in IMAX. Really, there’s so much more I want to say, but the bottom line is this: it’s so, so much better than Batman v Superman. While, like that movie, it is hardly a triumph of dramatic storytelling, it is filled with likable characters and funny moments, and is well worth the price of admission.

7 thoughts on “Captain America: Civil War Review Where I Take a Dig At Batman v Superman In Every Paragraph”

  1. Erin Stevenson says:

    So, you didn’t like it? I mean, the only positives you can come up with come from comparing BvS to it negatively.

    1. David says:

      I take it you’re a fan of Batman v Superman? It’s fine if you are. I really like that string of Mobile Suit Gundam games from the early- to mid-00s, imagine if people judged me for that.

      1. Erin Stevenson says:

        Just pointing it out, I thought it was odd when it was posted on Reddit that your only positives come from comparisons to Batman v Superman. Your review didn’t need to digs in every paragraph and would have been much better – and read more positively – without them. As it is, your review reads like “well, at least it’s not Batman v Superman,” which isn’t a positive review at all. Take out your digs at Batman v Superman and re-read it, please. It’s a lot more positive without the digs.

        As you said in your opening paragraph, it’s childish. It comes off as the work of a rank amateur film critic though – you could call yourself the Zack Snyder of reviewing though, I suppose.

        1. David says:

          I think that’s an odd thing to say as well, considering this review is stuffed with glowing comments on Civil War and few of them have anything at all to do with Batman v Superman. But the only way this review is getting any more positive is if Disney sends me a check. It’s not on the road to being a great film classic, it’s just a really great, fun show. As far as the hook of the post, well, it makes me laugh, and that justifies it all by itself to me. But Batman v Superman is also a very, very similar movie which turned out much, much worse and the two are begging to be juxtaposed.

          1. Erin Stevenson says:

            Yes, but with the comparison you’re forcing…let’s put it this way. X-Men: First Class is widely considered to be one of the best movies in the X-Men franchise, can we agree on that? Saying that First Class is better than X3 *isn’t* exactly a ringing endorsement when you’re setting the bar *extremely* low coming out of the gate. See my prior comment about how the review would have read better without any of the BvS comparisons.

          2. David says:

            You know what’s funny? I remember really liking First Class, and then I never saw it again. Or even really thought about it. And now I want to talk about things I’ve heard about Apocalypse, but spoilers, so I’ll spare you.

            Anyway, I completely get what you’re saying. I just don’t think Civil War deserves a ringing endorsement. If the comparison causes people to temper their expectations for Civil War’s plot, good. If they brace themselves a little for the dialogue, which is often cute but never clever, also good. These movies are this year’s Antz and A Bug’s Life, so the comparison helps to communicate what people should expect. Some places I *do* mean Civil War’s execution is average.

            And some places it’s just to take a poke at Batman v Superman 🙂

        2. Ben says:

          I have no idea where you’re coming from on this Erin. Feels like your stretching pretty hard to come up with this line of logic, if you can call it that. The article seems pretty clear on both it’s intent and execution.

          My take away was that BvS was (and is) so bad it’s laughable, and thus can be used in the article as a as a punch line when compared against Civil War, a similar superheroes fighting each other crossover movie that was, in contrast to BvS, was fun and did a lot of things right. Perhaps not perfect, but still fun in spite of a few things here and there.

          Looking at each paragraph, it’s hard *not* to see that the author was conveying his positive experience with the movie, but without eagerly choking on its dick with reckless abandon like so many fanboys do.

          And what’s with this “only positives come from the BvS comparisons” nonsense? I mean, have you read the article? He makes a ton of possitive statements that had absolutely no reference to BvS. The performance of Tom Holland as Spider Man, and the chemistry between Cap, Falcon, and Winter Soldier to name just a couple.

          I’m no professional critic, but it seems a bit of the pot calling the kettle black to accuse this article of being amateurish when your criticism has all the professional markings of a child picking around the veggies in his dinner.

          Just pointing it out.

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