The Speech. For all the good that Civil War brings to us and there is a bunch. The one moment that will always give me shivers and hope is the speech. Now, you might wonder what speech that is in a movie that includes a cast of what seems like hundreds plus of course Robert Downey Jr. The scene that cuts me to the core is Sharon Carter’s words, she learned from Peggy Carter. They are actually Mark Twain’s words that Joe Michael Straczynski used in the the comic book, Civil War. In the comic, the words are used by Captain America to define who he is to Spider-Man and why he is acting against registration. An act that puts him at odds not only with his government and a majority of America, but his friends. In summation the speech is about when you know something is wrong and the force of history is charging towards you, you must make a stand. You have to stand for what is good and right. In the movie, Sharon uses those words to define who Peggy Carter is at Peggy’s funeral. It is also perhaps used to motivate Steve Rodgers to continue his fight. In both, the movie and comic, the words are used to define a person to us. The audience knows who that person is inside and out. It really is the best part of Civil War. Well, the fight in the airport in the movie is pretty great.
So, we get that from the comic storyline plus a few other things like registration. Registration really is the backdrop to this film. Registration is also a nice way to get General Thunderbolt Ross into the film as the Secretary of Defense? This guy? Ok…I guess spending billions on trying to capture the Hulk gets you a seat in this administration which also had ties to Hydra and possibly a link to Roxxon. Both bad things. Anyway, we get registration after Crossbones aka the head Hydra military dude from Winter Soldier, trying to steal a chemical weapon. The New Avengers stop him from getting the weapon. However, he tries to suicide bomb him and Cap. Wanda stops him from exploding by throwing him up in the air where he denotes near a hospital full of Wakanda people. So, of course, the governments have to step in. Minus of course, Crossbones would have killed more people on the ground including America’s greatest hero. I guess the lesson is, let the mad man have the chemical weapon instead of trying to stop him. A Dumb message almost equally has dumb in the comics when a media driven New Warriors fight a living nuclear weapon in front of a school. The message in the comics was never blame the media for anything, because they will just scapegoat the heroes who should have known better. Yes, they should have. Either way, the heroes will either sign up under the new rules or be criminals.
Again, this is all backdrop to the real story which is Captain America’s at times blind devotion to Bucky. Something, I call friendship. A part of that is the loss of Agent Carter from Steve’s world leaving only Bucky from the world he remembers. Bucky, who learn is living in a hovel in some Eastern block country at the time, when he supposedly bombs the place where the new draconian rules are being enacted. The bomb kills the King of Wakanda and the kingdom falls on to his son, T’Challa. We know him as the Black Panther. A Black Panther who tries to straight up murder Bucky when everyone goes after him. The chase eventually leads to the arrest of Falcon, Cap and Bucky. Tony Stark, who has been pushing for the new rules, after Alfrie Woodard tells him about her son who did in Age of Ultron. Tony’s grief and break up with Pepper is driving him in this film. While everyone is picking sides, a new player arrives. It is Zemo. Before, you are like Baron Zemo! or Who the hell is Zemo and why should I get excited. Its not Baron Zemo, immortal bad guy. Its Zemo, who lost is family in the fight with Ultron. Either the writers felt like Age of Ultron was bad or awesome enough to reference constantly in this film. The first Avengers’ film gets brought up twice maybe. Zemo framed Bucky and knows how to mind control him thanks to a Hydra book of codes. After a series of rather convenient events for the villain, Zemo turns Bucky back into the Winter Soldier. Winter Soldier proceeds to kick everyone’s ass until Cap stops him in a rather spectacular helicopter scene.
Cap, Falcon and Bucky on the run after all of this. Then the recruiting begins. Falcon knows a guy in Ant-Man. Hawkeye gets Wanda out of the house arrest that Vision lovingly wants for her. While Tony gets some kid from Queens named Peter Parker. Tony and Peter’s scenes are pitch perfect. Peter is the young and naive kid, we think he is. In the comics, at least for the first few issues, he was a bit of a jerk. Here, we get the idolized young person, every parent would want as a kid and a few of us have been. He is not emo, so big win there for Disney Marvel. Tony even gives a kid, an upgraded suit. After the recruiting is done, we learn that Winter Soldier is not exactly one of a kind. Soviet Russia has about five more hidden in Siberia for someone to come along to wake them up. Zemo knows this and heads that way. So, does Team Cap, but Team Iron Man decides that even though it sorta makes sense this is all happening, we need a fight in Act Three.
A fight we do get. There are no words to describe how awesome this fight is. It is everything a comic book fan or just a fan of these films wants. There are jokes, there are devastating attacks and even a horrific moment involving one of the heroes. It is worth the price of admission just to see the fight. Spider-Man will make you feel a thousand years old though. The big payoff is Ant-Man. After the fight, Cap and Bucky head to Siberia while the rest of Team Cap is locked away on a submarine prison. Here is where the film reaches back to registration and uses it well. Tony has a scene with everyone minus Wanda about what he is actions so far. Hawkeye taunts him for being a futurist that knows all and sees all. Ant-Man brings up Pym’s warning to never trust a Stark. A remark, Tony brushes off, but for a second seems to hurt as much as a punch. We will get back to the Stark family later. Tony finally goes to Falcon with the information that he sorta believes Cap after finding out that Zemo poised as a psychiatrist when Bucky was captured. Falcon tells him about Siberia and off we go to the final act with Black Panther tracking Tony.
The final act is about pain. We learn Zemo killed the other Winter Soldiers, because he wanted less supers running around. His grand plan is once Tony catches up to Cap and Bucky, is to show them a video. Earlier in the film, we have CGI younger version of Tony much like Michael Douglas in the beginning of Ant-Man. In that scene, an older Tony is watching himself never saying goodbye to his parents as they leave on trip that they never return from. It is Tony’s words, a traumatic event that set his life in a chaotic motion that lead him to be Iron Man. The video shows Winter Soldier killing Tony’s parents in a brutal fashion. So, brutal that Howard Stark recognizes who the Winter Soldier is and tries to reason with him to no avail. While registration was a driving force of the film, the main driving force is Tony’s pain. Here, Tony confronts Cap if he knew Bucky killed his family. Cap says he knew Hydra did, but not Bucky. This sets Tony off as he tries to murder Winter Soldier while Captain America keeps getting in the way. While it is a Captain America movie, there is a small part of me that wanted Tony to succeed. In perhaps, a brilliant move during the fight, we get Black Panther confronting Zemo. Zemo apologizes for killing T’Challa’s father. Panther in a great scene states that vengeance even with grief is not true justice. Zemo in a last act tries to kill himself when Panther stops him, because the living world is not through with him.
The Cap/Bucky/Iron Man fights ends in a far better way in the comics. In the comics, Cap is stopped from bringing the shield down on Tony by the ghosts of 9-11. It is perhaps the worst scene in all of comics at least in the modern age. When these ghosts stop Cap, he quits. Remember the Speech. That is thrown out the window in the comics in order to sell us on Iron Patriot and Bucky as Captain America. So, straight garbage. To me, the end of Civil War in the comics is the death of Marvel comics. The ramifications in that Civil War is the dissolution of Peter/MJ’s marriage then rebooting Spider-Man’s world altogether, the beginning of the X-Men being treated like fifth stringers, a whole new crop of heroes pretending to be the Avengers that never caught on including Superman rip-off Sentry, everyone being pissed off at Tony including some of the writers at Marvel, Norman Osborn running Shield ie the world and ultimately the death of Captain America. Here in the movie, Cap’s shield comes down to deactivate Tony’s Iron Man suit. In that moment, the cinematic universe saves itself and all of us those awful series of events. However, there is loss. Cap leaves his shield behind, because as Tony said “Its not yours. My Father made it.”
The heroes are still under lock and key. Black Widow seems to have gone MIA. Vision who is brilliantly played by Paul Bettany, questions himself after causing Rhoades to be paralyzed during the fight. Rhoades while pissed about having to learn to walk again with machine legs, states the new rules are justified. Which is sorta scary. Especially when Zemo, who is captured by the UN, smiles at the idea he lost. Zemo believes he won and really he did in some ways. Still, there is one last scene, well its a Marvel scene, so really three more last scenes. The first one is Steve penning a letter to Tony delivered by Stan Lee. The letter apologizes for not telling Tony about his parents and opens the door to Tony if he ever needs his friend, he will be there for him. While reading the letter, Tony is called by General Ross about the heroes being freed by Captain America. A message that Tony puts on hold. The two cut scenes involve Bucky being placed back in hibernation in Wakanda and Peter Parker kinda telling Aunt May about the fight with Team Cap. The scene ends with Peter finding some Stark Technology in his suit which may pave the way for his own film.
Lets hit the bad stuff, first………………….hmm….its long, but it needs to be long to tell the story as well as fresh out the characters. Ross is a dick, which is Ross, so…Alright, the big one is Zemo’s plan to get close to Bucky. It involves sending a bomb via European UPS to an electrical grid and pretending to be a psychiatrist who he looks nothing like the real psychiatrist. You would think with the heightened security someone would catch on. Actually, once everything hits the fan, Steve figures out real quick, but Tony doesn’t want to believe. I guess that is the other bad thing in which how easy the fight starts when you would think that everyone here wants to listen to reason. In the fight, there is a bit of bad acting or directing where you can tell that the actors are talking to nothing. However, when the fight starts, it magically goes away. Honestly, that is about it.
The good will take pages to write about. Every character, actor, writer, director and really everyone in the film hits it out of the park. Its borderline, a perfect film. Again, there a few bugs, but really Zemo getting close to Bucky is about as on par as a reporter getting access to all of Charles Foster Kane’s closest friends after his death. Once, we get past that, we can enjoy this film.
Which is not something I planned on doing. As you can tell, I loath the Civil War storyline at least its end. When it was going on, it was compelling, thoughtful and made me a giant fan of Cap. It also made me hate the Tony Stark character. So much that I almost skipped seeing the first Iron Man movie in theaters. That would have been disastrous, because I love Robert as Tony Stark. He is pitch perfect as this character. In this movie, he shines as the guilt ridden soul who tries to make good only to be thwarted by his best intentions. Tony Stark really is the best villain in the Marvel Universe. Vision early in the film lays all of it as his feet when he calculates that ever since Tony put on the suit, the world has seen more Earth shaking events. Now, not all of it is Tony’s fault. Certainly, not Loki leading an alien army in New York or anything done in World War II by Red Skull or even Hydra, yet Ultron is. Ultron while not really mentioned by name is all over this film. Ultron is Tony and to some extant Banner’s Frankenstein. Ultron butchered an entire city with help from the Avengers who were trying to stop him. This film is the interesting take on what happens after Victor Frankenstein stops the monster and deals with the human cost on what he has wrought. I like the writers stating Victor/Tony would continue to make mistakes without really confronting that he is the problem.
The flip side is Captain America. There is one criticism I hinted early on. The Cap/Bucky relationship is a bit one sided. Bucky when its revealed he killed Tony’s family, he never says I am sorry. He never really atones for his sins besides living as a bum. He even lies to Steve early on that he doesn’t know who he is when he remembers everything. Bucky is the high school friend that Steve keeps apologizing for. While a good chunk of this film is Bucky being a victim of Zemo, there are other times when he should at least admit that he as problem. The end fight really is a good example of Cap choosing Bucky over Tony. Granted, Tony blasts him when he was defenseless. Still, Tony sees his parents murdered in front of his eyes, a light slack from Cap would have been good. Heck, Cap even punching Bucky instead of helping him escape would have been nice. Instead, Steve knows some of what he did was wrong. The letter goes a bit of a way showing Cap really is the best friend you could have when you see him smiling as he is letting Falcon out of his prison cell. Captain America does wrong, but he goes out of his way to make up for it. He even has a nice banter with Spider-Man that shows he probably would take a bullet for him and he just meet the kid. While Cap does make bad decisions, he doesn’t go as far as making disastrous ones like Tony did or does in this film.
Speaking of Spider-Man. I love him. I do love the Sami Rami movies, but they nail Peter especially in the fight. Peter nerding out over Cap is brilliant. Falcon even chides him for talking to much in a fight. The reason, Peter gets to talk is because, he is so much stronger than most of these cats. Winter Soldier who tears through Widow, Tony and even Sharon Carter in one scene is powerless against him. Peter tells Bucky how awesome his cyborg arm is while holding it effortlessly. Just great stuff. While Rudd as Ant-Man steals a few scenes, it is probably T’Challa who really is a central figure. It is his quest for vengeance that leads to the real end of this film. It is a good move to have him stop Zemo by allowing him to live with his crimes instead of killing him. Unlike other super hero films. Really, everyone has moments to shine. Hawkeye getting Wanda away from Vision, because he has a debt to pay. That debt being Quickslive is a master stroke. Vision as the socially awkward robot who is trying to comfort his friend, Wanda, is nice. Elizabeth Olson bring so much vulnerability as Wanda during this, its hard not to want to cook for her. There is perhaps a nugget of foreshadowing with Wanda about controlling her powers. Might the next Avengers film after Infinity Gauntlet be House of M?
I would say Widow, Falcon and War Machine get left behind. Yet, they don’t. Widow is a nice conscious character for really everyone. She is there for T’Challa after his father dies. She tries to convince Cap not to start the fight in the airport. She teases Hawkeye about their frriendship during the fight. Even after the fight, she threatens Tony when all over friends are in Ross’ custody. While she is making these moves, it doesn’t seem out of character at all. It feels rights. Falcon is a nice partner for Cap to bounce ideas off of and to be there when he needs them. I would say Rhoades gets the shaft and he really does. He gets beat up the most for his friend. Yet, he is willing to take the pain, because he also believes what he is doing is right. I would say even Ross is a nice addition by keeping the heroes in custody when Tony figures everything out. While Zemo is the major villain here, Ross has a master manipulator whose ultimate goal was to always to get the Avengers to do what he wanted or least under his supervision is in keep with his character. There is a passing mention of Hulk and Thor by Ross which is a nice callback. Once Sharon Carter reveals who she is to Cap, it allows those two characters to grow in their relationship. Martin Freeman should play a bigger role in Black Panther. I do think he should be the opposite of Ross. Ross continues to have the heroes captured when Zemo is captured, makes me believe we won’t see the last of Ross or Freeman who looks very concerned when Zemo smiles at him. It will be interesting to see if they throw them into a room together or just have Freeman’s character in Black Panther turn a blind eye or a helpful hand with King T’Challa’s new guest.
I really could go on for pages about this. It already looks like I have. Which is what a great movie should make you do. You should want to discuss every second of it. The Russo brothers have done a spectacular job of continuing the work Joss Whedon and JohnFavreau laid before them. There is literally a ton of work written on these character and they figured how to make everything work. They also know when to give the material a break from being bleak and gloomy. Something most people in the superhero business don’t seem to get or get too much. It really is a testament to their work and all of Marvel Studios that they get it. Now, it will be interesting to see what happens to the Avengers in the other Marvel films heading into in Infinity War. It almost feels like we need another film to get us there, but maybe that is what Dr.Strange, Guardians 2, Spider-Man and Black Panther is for. Maybe its time to even call in the Agents of Shield or the soon to be Defenders. Who knows and that is the cool part of all this. That has always been the best part of comic books, the limitless possibilities.
Editors note: Thanks to Joe Michael “Freaking” Straczynski, the lead up to the Speech was Twain, the last panel in the comic is all him. Yeah, the creator of Babylon 5, tweeted to tell me that. Best. Day. Ever.