A Droid Premiere: Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Last month, DC attempted to launch a franchise by pitting its two most famous and beloved superheroes against each other. ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ turned out to be a bit of a mess. Some good things, and some not so good things. One of its biggest problems was that it felt overstuffed with characters and plot. Now, just a month later, Marvel is bringing us its own overstuffed movie that pits hero against hero. And while ‘Captain Himself: Fuck Everybody Else’ is just as long and just as loud as ‘Batman v Superman’, is it just as much of a mess? Let’s find out.
12 months after the events in Sokovia, the Avengers are still at it. Beating up the bad guys and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. During a mission to stop the HYDRA guy who really hated Cap in the last ‘Captain America’ movie from stealing a bio-weapon, the good guys accidentally blow up a building. Innocent lives are lost and the powers that be want the dog on a leash. General Ross (William Hurt), who is now Secretary of State (I think), is making the Avengers accountable. They have to sign something called the ‘Sokovia Accord’. The details are vague (and by vague I mean absent), but I believe the Avengers would be overseen by a governing body, and therefore answerable to someone. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is all for it. He feels guilty for the deaths of civilians in Sokovia and New York, and feels like a change needs to be made. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) objects. For some reason. I think it’s because he doesn’t trust a governing body anymore because of what happened with HYDRA. It’s unclear. But object he must, because there’s still over two hours of this movie to go.
In Vienna, a UN meeting to ratify the accord is blowed up real good. Among the victims is the King of Wakanda. His son, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is out for revenge. Incriminating footage of the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) surfaces, suggesting he’s back to his old tricks. Cap, who is now persona-non-grata for refusing to sign the accord, tracks the Winter Soldier down and protects him from police, Tony and a mysterious cat-like superhero. Now on the run, Cap and the Winter Soldier enlist the help of a few sympathetic Avengers. Why are they sympathetic? Because the movie needs them to be. Meanwhile, across town, Stark is assembling his own crew of Avengers. It’s gonna be a brouhaha of epic proportions!
That’s the set up. There’s a lot more plot, and way more characters than that in this movie, but in an effort to avoid spoilers I will leave it there. What I will start by saying is that ‘Captain Himself: Fuck Everybody Else’ isn’t much fun. Its biggest problem is also its most inescapable problem. Steve Rogers is a boring, unlikeable character. There’s no getting around it. The first movie managed to minimise this fact to a certain degree, mainly because he was an underdog, the film had a good villain and it was a unique setting. But in the second film and this one he’s got nowhere to hide. Especially now that he’s up against the likeability of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark. Steve Rogers’ dour, self-righteous personality is fully exposed. On the same side it can play quite effectively, in a buddy cop movie type of way, but on opposite sides it’s a no-brainer. Team Stark all the way.
To further compound this fundamental problem is that Tony Stark is in the right and Steve Rogers is in the wrong. In all matters in the movie. The Avengers do need some sort of oversight. Rogers becomes a criminal in order to aid and abet the Winter Soldier. He makes selfish choice after selfish choice. This is probably the most alarming thing about this film, and one that appears to be getting overlooked. Captain America isn’t a selfish character. He’s supposed to be selfless. But in this movie, all he does is make choices for selfish reasons. What happened to the character that threw himself on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers? This guy would kick it in their direction then rifle through the pockets of the dead looking for loose change.
‘Captain Himself: Fuck Everybody Else’ introduces two big characters to the MCU, and both are pretty great. Black Panther is a character I know nothing about, and while I wasn’t completely sold on the T’Challa character (I will reserve judgement until his solo film), Black Panther features in the two best action sequences in the film. Part of the reason they are the best is because of his presence. His speed and cat-like movement and agility, his slashing claws and spinning kicks. It’s a welcome break from the tiresome upright slugfests and flying battles that these movies usually feature.
The other character introduced in this movie is, of course, Spiderman (Tom Holland). His small scene with Tony Stark and then seeing him in action is probably the best thing about this movie. It’s certainly the most fun thing in this movie. For one thing, the character actually looks and acts like a teenager, which helps sell the character. He’s a lot of fun in action and aside from the eyes, which I will need explained before I am sold on them, the suit looks pretty good. But the real stroke of genius here is that Marvel have paired him with Tony Stark. The two have a fun, funny back and forth and are easily likeable. What this movie really does highlight more than anything else is the MCU would really struggle without Robert Downey Jr’s ability to make everyone else around him better.
The centrepiece of the film is obviously the showdown between the two opposing sides of the Avengers. This sequence is largely hit and miss. The hits are almost solely based around the new characters. It’s great to see Black Panther and Spiderman in action, and serves as a promising teaser for their solo films, and Ant-Man is fun and does something surprising that I won’t reveal. But fatigue has well and truly set in when it comes to most of the other characters. Never having to see Black Widow or Hawkeye again would be welcomed with open arms, and having to keep track of multiple flying characters is tiresome. War Machine and especially Falcon should be used sparingly. The worst character of all is Scarlett Witch. Her powers are vague and overpowered and her purpose seems to be as a deus ex machina that the filmmakers can shuffle from place to place as needed.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the films villain yet. There is a simple explanation for this. The character is barely in it. Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) has a grudge against the Avengers and comes to the realisation that the only way to defeat them is to manipulate them into defeating themselves. Which sounds awfully similar to a film released to negative reviews last month. Anyway, Zemo’s motivating factors are unremarkable, and he’s not on screen long enough to develop any character, so he just pops up here to help further the plot along and then tries to kill himself at the end. My knowledge of the comics are very general, but isn’t Baron Zemo a fairly significant villain? Marvel isn’t exactly overwhelmed by good villains so it’s a wonder why they’re being wasted so frequently. ‘Iron Man 3’ used a major villain as a mid-movie joke twist. The first ‘Captain America’ killed off one of the better and more unique villains in comics. And now this movie wastes not one, but two big Marvel villains. If a movie about a hero is only as good as the villain, this goes a long way to explain why the MCU’s ceiling is mediocrity.
Recently, the reviews for ‘Batman v Superman’ were pretty negative. So far, the reviews for ‘Captain Himself: Fuck Everybody Else’ have been glowing. So it goes. For a reason that is difficult to fully understand, the unbathed masses cup the balls and stroke the shaft of every mediocre product Marvel releases. In reality, both films are about as good as each other. ‘Batman v Superman’ is divisive. It took a lot of chances. Some of those didn’t work and as a result it was poorly reviewed. On the flip side, ‘Captain Himself: Fuck Everybody Else’ doesn’t take any chances. It sets up conflict, and the marketing asks ‘Whose side are you on?”, but really you’re not given a choice. You’re on Starks side. I cannot see any justifiable reason why you wouldn’t be.
A lot “happens” in this movie, but it’s nearly all sound and fury. It’s a two and a half hour movie and over two hours of it is spinning wheels. Stuff blows up real good, characters fly around and punch each other but in the end no one dies and everyone still kind of gets along. The most controversial thing here is that Marvel have made a Captain America movie where you are supposed to root against Captain America. But even then they can’t commit. The film ends with an insincere note from Steve Rogers to Tony Stark and a voice-over intended to mend fences. Because there are more Avengers movies on the way and a lot more money to make. Marvel have perfected mediocrity.