On My Shelves: Captain America: Civil War



Shortest review: Damn good Marvel movie. If you've liked the other Marvel movies, this is one of the best.


Still short, no spoilers: While drawing basic inspiration from the comic-book "Civil War" storyline, this movie makes the conflict more personal for the characters, in all directions. As others have noted, while it's titled "Captain America", to a great extent this is the third Avengers movie, picking up a relatively short time after "Age of Ultron". The trailers haven't been too deceptive, though as usual there's a bit of sleight-of-time involved, and the new guest stars (Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Black Panther) all have excellent scenes to bring them into the team; Spidey and Black Panther get the most, since Ant-Man got his own movie, after all.


The villain uses a name but not much else from the comics, possibly the greatest failure from the point of view of more educated-in-comics fans. Most of the other changes make sense, this one somewhat less so.


This is by far the "deepest" of the Marvel Movies and the one with the most genuine conflict and realistic issues between the main characters. Yet it is resolved startlingly well in the end.

Oh, and for Gog's sake DO NOT LEAVE THE THEATER until you have watched all the way through the credits because there are two credits scenes, one after the initial set of credits and one at the very, very end.


     Detailed Review, Spoilers WILL follow:



























Captain America: Civil War is the "meatiest" of the Marvel flicks so far – appropriate for the Captain America series which has as a whole been much more concerned with political and personal issues than just in spectacle. The first contrasted the idealistic patriot with the power-hungry zealot; the second, the questions of corruption and power and the encroaching power of the information state.

This movie is focused on the issues raised by the existence of the Avengers (and others) in the world. The somewhat-reduced team of the Avengers (Cap, Black Widow, Falcon, Scarlet Witch) stop an attempt to steal a bioweapon by a group headed by Brock Rumlow, now AKA "Crossbones". Crossbones carries a not-small grudge against Cap, to a great extent due to the maiming injuries he took at the end of Winter Soldier. Brock attempts to take Cap with him, but the Scarlet Witch contains the explosion and tries to levitate the momentarily-contained Brock to a safe altitude… but loses control of it a few dozen feet up, releasing a blast that kills a number of people, including a few Wakandan emissaries.

This event is the trigger that leads to the majority of nations (over 170 of the roughly 190-200 in the Marvel universe) creating the Sokovia Accords, which amounts to a declaration that the Avengers (and presumably any other superhuman groups, eventually) be subject to oversight and control by a UN task force. Tony Stark (Iron Man) – already shown to be badly affected by the events in the prior movies – agrees with this idea. Steve Rogers (Captain America) is highly reluctant, because if the Avengers are to be sent out only on UN directives (or any other government's, for that matter), not only might they be told not to deal with things that really are properly their province, but also they might be called upon to act in ways they do not agree with. By the rules of the Accords, those who do not sign must retire; it's pretty clear, though, that "retire" is not going to be a likely choice for several of them.

For Marvelphiles there's a lot of stuff of interest in the scene in which the Accords are introduced – the first mention of Wakanda, Black Panther's home country; the fact that the presenter is General "Thunderbolt" Ross, best known for his fanatical pursuit of the Hulk; the initiation of the conflict between Tony and Steve (although the seeds were laid way back in the beginning).

Ross himself gets some excellent lines, not the least being when he challenges the Avengers on whether they actually have any control or direction, asking them if they know where Thor and the Hulk are. When they admit they don't, Ross says "I assure you if I mislaid a couple of thirty-megaton nuclear warheads there would be serious consequences."

The other Avengers are clearly torn on the issue as well, and even Tony and Steve obviously understand the others' position to some extent. This is vastly superior to the situation in the comic book "Civil War" storyline, wherein the government wanted to REGISTER all paranormals and track their activities; I can understand Tony and Cap having an honest disagreement about which way to go in this situation, while in a "we'll register this minority who already [vis-à-vis X-Men] are heavily persecuted and suspected of crimes" situation you'd have to be a total idiot to not agree with Cap's take on the matter.

In any event, Cap chooses not to sign; neither does Sam Wilson (Falcon), Hawkeye or Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch), while the Vision, War Machine, and Black Widow sign. But at the official inauguration of the Accords, a missile attack injures many and kills the King of Wakanda, who was one of the primary movers of the Accords. Video records indicate the assassin was James "Bucky" Barnes, AKA The Winter Soldier.

This leads of course to Cap desperately trying to prevent Bucky from being captured, and to a multi-way high-speed battle involving Cap, Bucky, Falcon, and a startling newcomer in a black-and-silver outfit: the Black Panther, revealed to be T'Challa, former Prince and now King of Wakanda – and obviously out for revenge against Bucky for killing his father. Ultimately the first three are captured. Stark makes an impassioned plea to Cap to just play along, work with them, so that Steve and Sam won't end up jailed for years, but though it's clear that Steve would in some ways like to go along with it, he can't.

This section was very strong; Tony appears to be mostly in the right here, while Steve is acting apparently out of sentiment. But we have also seen another, unknown person trying to obtain information on the Winter Soldier, and finally this person appears … as the presumed therapist and interrogator for Bucky. Naturally, rather than simply asking him questions, our mysterious enemy activates Bucky, using the code phrases designed for that purpose, and sends the Winter Soldier on a rampage.

Cap and Falcon escape during this sequence, and manage to catch up with Bucky, who relapses to his regular self, and even remembers his past now. Sharon Carter (granddaughter of Peggy, Cap's first flame) assists them by retrieving Captain America's Shield and Falcon's wing-costume. Cap and Sharon also share a kiss that's been teased for a while in the movies, and this is also one of the simple scenes that helps finish humanizing the Winter Soldier: we see both Sam and Bucky grinning happily at the sight, and the Bucky we see there is the one we knew before it all began, happy to see his oldest friend finally getting some of the happiness Bucky always felt he deserved.

Bucky, however, does know something terribly important: what the mysterious man's goal is. There were more Winter Soldiers, several more of the superhuman warriors, made with some sort of serum that the original Winter Soldier was sent to retrieve; he did so, catching up with the car transporting the serum and killing both occupants. With the notebook their unknown enemy has managed to retrieve, he can control all the Winter Soldiers.

Unfortunately, the situation has ballooned utterly out of control; there's no longer a chance to quietly discuss the situation with Tony and the others, who have now been given only 36 hours to bring in the renegades. And thus the collision is set in motion…

That main conflict – between the two sets of Avengers and the reserves they have managed to bring in (Ant-Man and Scarlet Witch on Cap's side, Spider-Man and Black Panther on Iron Man's) – is by itself worth the price of admission. It's painful to see the former friends in conflict – and awesome, as well. Tom Holland does the character of a young Spider-Man proud, and both his inexperience and his sheer power are made very clear in the battle. Perhaps the best single scene in that battle, however, is Ant-Man demonstrating that he has the power of one of his other comic-book aliases, Goliath.

War Machine (James Rhodes), alas, becomes a casualty of the battle – not dead, but crippled. This cements Tony's anger against the others.

I also have to make special mention of Black Widow in this film; she plays a pivotal role, clearly torn between the two sides, and is key to the action and choices at several points. MARVEL, IT IS TIME FOR BLACK WIDOW'S SOLO FILM, DO YOU HEAR ME?

In the end, it turns out that the name of their adversary is Helmut Zemo. Now, in the comic-book universe, Baron Helmut Zemo was another of Captain America's former-Nazi opponents (well, technically Helmut was the original Nazi's son, but they were both basically Nazi Villains), and I'm honestly confused as to why they bothered to name this guy Zemo, when none of his motives or background have any connection to the original, and they don’t even use the (admittedly kinda stupid) outfit for him. His name could've been Smith or Jones for all the significance it has.

Zemo's actual motive is not to use the other Winter Soldiers; he is specifically out for revenge against the Avengers, trying to tear them apart from the inside. Not knowing this, Cap and Bucky have proceeded alone to confront him; meanwhile, Tony sees that the ultra-secure prison in which the UN and Thunderbolt Ross are keeping the captured Avengers is far from comfortable and that many of Cap's misgivings appear well-founded; ultimately he discovers that the "Winter Soldier" that made the attack on the Accords meeting was a fake – Zemo, in fact – and that Cap's faith in his friend was obviously one hundred percent correct. He immediately goes as Iron Man to help his friends. Black Panther manages to follow in a fighter jet (the major significance of this, though, isn't revealed until the first post-credits sequence).

But Zemo has planned for this, and reveals that the two people the Winter Soldier killed for the super-soldier formula… were Tony's parents.

The ensuing battle ends only when Cap manages to ram the shield through the chest connection of Iron Man's armor, shutting the suit down. As Cap and Bucky leave, Tony points out (nastily) that the Shield isn't actually Cap's property… and Captain America drops it, leaving it in front of Tony.

But not all is lost. While Tony tries to put together the pieces of his team and sort everything out, he receives a last letter from Captain America. A message of explanation, a little apology… and a promise that he is always there if Tony calls.

And with a cell phone to make that call on.


As with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, it is that final scene (well, aside from the after-credits scenes) that saves the movie from leaving us depressed and dark. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers may have their differences. They may fight. But in the end they both know that they are heroes, and that they should always be ready to back each other up to the hilt.

As I said, this is by far the deepest of the Marvel films. While I am Team Cap all the way, this movie shows that there are real issues and that one can make a good case for either side. The world is threatened more and more by superpowered beings, and it is obvious that people will fear them – and that the governments of the world have a duty to try to protect their people.

I do feel that they missed the opportunity for one of the Avengers to point out that the reason the Avengers get involved is that the threats involved are not something anyone else can deal with. Or if they CAN, it's by literally destroying the town in order to save it; SHIELD's governing body deployed a nuclear warhead to wipe out Manhattan and hopefully stop the alien invasion in The Avengers. Complaining that there was damage to NYC because the Avengers worked like hell to contain the invasion, when the government's own actions would have resulted in the complete destruction of the entire city is disingenuous at best, complete hypocrisy at worst.

Similarly, while Tony Stark (and to a lesser extent Bruce Banner) has some culpability over Ultron's appearance and later actions, it's still the fact that there was literally no other power on Earth that could have stopped Ultron. Again, blaming the Avengers for the deaths caused by Ultron's attempt at genocide is at best Monday-Morning quarterbacking and at worst a bunch of flat-out lies.

What, exactly, are you going to do, governments, if NONE of the heroes sign your accords and they just walk away… and then your next alien invasion or mad scientist or Abomination appears?


But in the end, this is a minor gripe, more from my RPG background of "well, this is what I would say!" than anything else. This is overall one of the very best of the Marvel movies and well worth seeing in the theater!

Oh, and I reiterate: DO NOT LEAVE THE THEATER until you've seen BOTH after-credits sequences. The first is important to the story, the second is just plain neat, especially for long-time comics fans.



  1. I couldn’t believe how many people left as soon as the credits started rolling. We’re what, 87 movies into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

    I liked the movie a lot, but I still wish it was just Captain America 3 rather than Avengers 3. That said, it wasn’t nearly as dark as I was afraid it would be, and nothing happened that has to permanently turn everyone against each other. Even Rhodey’s injuries, bad as they are, didn’t crush his spirit. “Tony Stank, table for one…” And there’s no reason he can’t continue to be War Machine, once he gets used to things at least.

    I understand the need for some kind of oversight when you’re dealing with walking weapons of mass destruction, but the whole setup of the Sokovia Accords annoyed the crap out of me, fur a couple reasons.

    1) The accords as described wouldn’t have done a single thing to prevent or mitigate the horrible destruction that prompted them. The Chitauri invaded NYC because SHIELD was screwing with something they didn’t understand. DC was destroyed because SHIELD was too stupid to know it was half Nazi. Sokovia was destroyed because Stark was noodling around in his non-superhero capacity. The only affect the Accords would have had on any of those situations would be to have delayed the Avengers response while they waited for permission, leading to the loss of many more innocent lives.Very many more innocent lives, given the fact that SHIELD would have nuked NYC and Hydra would’ve killed tens of thousands of Earth’s best and brightest. Ultron, of course, would have merely destroyed the entire planet.

    2) The supporters of the Accord are hypocrites.Start with Secretary Ross, who was responsible for the destruction of Harlem in the Norton Hulk movie but forgot to mention it. Continue with Stark and T’Challa, who both supported the idea of supervision until they wanted to do something off the reservation.

    The enforcement of the Accords scares me, too. The Raft is serious overkill, especially for Hawkeye, Ant Man and the Falcon. Not a one of them has any superhuman powers once you take away their equipment. Why not keep them in a standard prison? I won’t even go into the idea of imprisonment without trial, since that’s apparently a quaint concept from earlier days.

    I liked the way the end of the movie left things. Half of the Avengers are officially outlaws, which should theoretically lead to more hero vs. hero clashes as they keep doing good without authorization. In reality, of course, I don’t expect more than a slight nod to that idea (at most) in the first Infinity War movie before everyone teams up to fight the real bad guys. Just like in the comics!

Your comments or questions welcomed!