Andy Warhol reviews Marvel's Civil War: "In the future every Marvel hero will be comic-accurate for 15 minutes per film."
Although he wasn't actually in the film, I really felt Peter Parker's grief over the loss of his Uncle Vinny.
When Marvel's The Avengers came out in 2012, I said, this is about seven of the best superhero films ever made. If you love comic characters like Captain America, The Hulk, Thor and Iron Man, you get to see them fighting alongside one another in the same universe. That was something entirely new for film, and entirely due to Marvel Comics taking control of its own film output. Adaptations of comic book heroes to film are normally a crapshoot. Sometimes good, usually bad, but very rarely capturing more than a little bit of the spirit of the comics they come from. A lot gets changed in the adaptation. Well, The Avengers felt like a Marvel comic come to life.
If characters aren't accurate to the spirit of the comics, that screws up Marvel's comic output. They have a vested interest in making these characters come to life and feel as they should, even more than the fans do.
Captain America: Civil War takes that ball and runs with it further than any Marvel film to date. I don't know if that actually makes this a Great Movie or The Best Marvel Movie or anything, but who cares? If you like this kind of stuff, this is exactly what you like. And I do mean exactly. While most superhero films struggle to get even one lead character accurate to what you like about them in the comic, "Civil War" pits more than ten familiar Marvel characters against one another, and guess what? They're all accurate to what fans like about them in both the previous movies and the comics in general. They all get their own little moments to shine, and it's both exciting and heartbreaking to see them fight one another, based on the decisions Steve Rogers and Tony Stark have made.
Where Age of Ultron often stumbled with its characters, dropping the ball on some of them and saddling them with storylines that didn't show them off to full effect, Civil War seems tight and focused.
What this has in common with that film is that this is Steve and Tony's movie.
It says a lot that Thor, The Hulk, Nick Fury and others are missing here, but you don't miss them.
The "Civil War" arc in the comics was heavily criticized. Tony Stark and his side of the "war" were often portrayed as plainly evil and wrong, and frankly out of character.
That's not true here. Both Steve and Tony are 100% in character with everything that's been established in the previous films. There is good and bad about the decisions they make, and their actions and intentions throughout are perfectly understandable.
The other characters don't blindly follow along, either. They all have their own motivations and agendas which are completely clear and consistent with what we know about the characters.
Hey, remember Tony Stark in the previous movies? Trying to make the world a better place but constantly haunted with PTSD from the consequences of his actions? Playing it cool to cover a grief that never heals? Thinking big and making big decisions and big mistakes, while still a big hero who should trust himself more?
Well, in this movie, he's that guy.
Remember Steve Rogers, who trusts himself and trusts a small circle of friends who he'd take a bullet for, but has learned not to trust blindly in government agencies? Brilliant at planning the details and leading a small team into battle. Clashing with Tony because Tony's decisions are too often ruled by guilt and fear. Steve Rogers, who cares so much about Bucky Barnes that he becomes a fugitive from justice to save the soul of the Winter Soldier.
Well, in this movie, that's what you get.
The writing is smart enough that they're both right and they're both wrong. Steve is going to extremes to protect Bucky, who is still a brainwashed murderer. Tony is going to extremes to legitimize the Avengers in the eyes of the US government, and apologize for the death toll from their previous onscreen adventures.
Somewhere in the background, the Scarlet Witch is dealing with her own guilt over what she's done, and wondering if the world will always hate and fear her. And The Vision is developing feelings for her, and feelings in general, while wondering what it means for an artificial man to become more human.
They're minor players in the film but these are very much the characters fans like from the comics. The film understands what's interesting about them, and gives us that.
Same with Black Panther, King of Wakanda. He's very much his own man in the film, only marginally on Tony's "side." It's clear that T'Challa is the main character in his own storyline here, as far as he's concerned. We get a sense of how he thinks and what he values, of his morality, and we get to visit Wakanda.
Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow provides handy support to first Cap and then Tony, but it's also clear that she's on no one's "side" - her decisions are her own, and more rational than either Cap or Tony's. And we see why Cap and Hawkeye trust her a lot more than Tony does. She's been a supporting character for so long that her character often seems to completely change from movie to movie, like that unfortunate stuff in Age of Ultron. I liked the version in the original Avengers, the calculating one who spends her time trying to read her opponents, and make herself seem vulnerable so that they open up for attack and expose themselves. Anyway, this is the version from Winter Soldier, the chilled-out, ready-for-anything master spy who's best friends with Cap and can read a situation for danger the way he does. Which is your favorite or second favorite version of the character. Even the wardrobe's the same.
The Falcon is just as charming as he was in Winter Soldier, supporting Cap's side with his no-nonsense, okay a little nonsense, attitude.
Meanwhile Rhodey would still take a bullet for Tony, and all but does here.
We see both Bucky Barnes and the Winter Soldier in Sebastian Stan's portrayal here. We see that Bucky is still very much there, but so is the deadly assassin, whose actions Bucky can't forgive himself for, and which can be triggered in him at any moment. Completely in keeping with the previous Cap films.
Hawkeye, in his limited screentime, is very much as he was in Age of Ultron. Very much his own man, an everyman looking for a little sanity in his life, and from everyone around him, and annoyed at the nonsense he's caught up in. His established friendship with Black Widow and Scarlet Witch also informs all his actions.
Paul Rudd's Ant-Man is just as he was in his own film - sly, funny, charming and underestimated, using the powers of Pym particles in surprising ways. Well, that movie was a little generic but still a ton of fun. Same here. Despite his limited screentime, when Rudd is speaking it feels entirely like he's the star of the movie, if only for that moment.
And then Spider-man. It's sort of a shame that a new Spider-man has to deal with being introduced as a minor character in a film which already has so much going on. But for a few minutes this becomes a Spider-man movie, and it's delightful. There's a problem with superhero sequels which change the lead actor, like Batman Forever and The Amazing Spider-Man. Technically they're introducing a new version of the character but they also have to avoid doing stuff the previous film already did, because they're still sort of a sequel to films starring another actor. The most famous villain is already gone. Instead of fighting The Joker, you might have The Riddler and Two-Face both directed to act like The Joker. Or some half-assed version of Ra's Al-Ghul and The Scarecrow or The Lizard or whoever hasn't been done yet.
Well, the deal with Spider-Man is, technically we've seen his origin twice already, in recent memory. We don't have time for an origin here, or any real interest. Now, Spidey's origin suddenly involves working with Tony Stark, because that's what this movie is about. The death of Uncle Ben is hinted at, and it's a great character moment with Robert Downey Jr, one of many in the film.
Aunt May, who in the comics and the still-classic Sam Raimi films was a wrinkled old grandmother, became America's Sweetheart Sally Field in the crap Marc Webb movies.
Well, now she's America's Sweetheart Marisa Tomei, so we have an Aunt May where Tony Stark spends a lot of time talking about how attractive she is. Go for it, Tony. No one would blame you.
Well, Spider-man's been done, and done to death. The Sam Raimi movies raised the bar for comic book films, giving us nonstop action, and a genuinely weird sense of humor - from the director's side more than the character's. Since then the films have tried to give us a "funny, wisecracking Peter Parker." Andrew Garfield's incarnation came off instead as all over the place, his emotions impossible to follow from one scene to the next. Raimi's films felt eerily true to the comics at times. Not always, but their secret weapon were things like J Jonah Jameson seeming like he stepped right off the comic page. To this day, the films haven't tried to replace him.
We've had five Spider-Man features in very recent memory, the last two and a half of which ran the franchise into the ground. It felt like the character should take a break.
What I'll say about Marvel and Tom Holland's Spider-Man, or The Russos' Spider-Man, is that after all that, this version of the character is completely fresh and like nothing we've seen before. And accurate to the comic character in ways we haven't seen previously.
He's a kid. That's the surprise of it. He's young and broke and easy to underestimate. We always see in the comics how Peter is struggling, how tough his life is. How he can't really stand easily side by side with your average Avenger. This version of the character actually accomplishes that. He's so young that it's immediately clear why he's poor and doesn't have his life together. He's not mopey and tortured in an overplayed way, he's a high school kid with a lot on his mind, who's dealing with a lot. As a hero Spider-Man is every bit an Avenger, but Peter Parker, the kid from Queens, is a fish out of water there. We completely understand that. We also get the talkative, wisecracking Peter Parker you know from the comics. It's not forced into the script with a crowbar either. It's just the seemingly natural reactions of a kid who's in over his head in a new and different world.
And then there's Sharon Carter, who I don't care about much. Sorry. As in Winter Soldier, she's a SHIELD agent type and a love interest for Cap to make the whole Bucky thing seem less gay. And no one's buying it. They kiss in this one, for some reason. Cap and Sharon, I mean.
It's Sharon who gets the most famous Captain America speech from the original Civil War comic. She attributes it to Peggy, who's dead now, unfortunately.
I wish we'd gotten Cap doing that speech. I bet there's a script where he did. I bet they even shot it. I figured they were setting that up to pay it off later. But still, it comes back in everything Cap does.
Here's the iconic speech from the comic:
'Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — "No, you move."'
It's a shame that the movie didn't use that. I'm sure there's a lot of stuff you'd wish they'd used.
But Sharon says a version of that early on, which informs Cap's actions the entire film.
The villain here is Baron Zemo. A Nazi supervillain in the comics, here he's just some guy. He's made small because he's not the point. The point is that Cap and Tony fight each other. They fight to destroy one another. At the end of Civil War, the Avengers are in ruins. Battered and wiser and fugitives from the law, a bit like how the Winter Soldier ended.
This isn't a big, happy victory. It's been tragedy the whole time, setting up meaty conflicts between Cap and Tony and the rest of the Avengers as well, and hammering them hard. All great stuff, as a movie.
Not so good for a victory. There is none, and this movie leaves you wanting more. A lot more. It does more superheroes justice than any previous film and you want more of that.
This is by the Russo Brothers, who did Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Also a great Marvel film. And they're doing the next Avengers. Previously they worked on the TV series Community. You got a cameo by Danny Pudi before. Here we get Jim Rash, all but in character as Dean Pelton.
I don't know if "Captain America: Civil War" is actually a great movie, or even a great superhero movie. What it is, is a great installment in the ongoing Marvel saga, like a graphic novel that you want to read the next one of, or a great season of television.
More so than even the Avengers films this is a Marvel comic brought to life and opened up on the screen, with lots of characters behaving just as they should. By its own standards it's a stunning success, and something that no other superhero film has previously achieved to this degree.
It leaves you wanting more, which you'll get next time. It's an Empire Strikes Back, where you hope they'll get the bad guys next time.
Any complaints I have are quibbles. It accomplished what it set out to do. If you like this sort of thing, this is exactly the sort of thing you like. Go see it.