Marvel fans will go no matter what critics write, but of the three Captain America movies, “Captain America: Civil War” has an dizzying amount of action, while lightening this superhero heavy outing with a welcome dose of humor. Besides the ever sardonic Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the addition of Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) increase the comic quip load per battle.
The movie begins in 1991 in Siberia. HYDRA revives Sgt. James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) from his chilly slumber. He’s been brainwashed to become an obedient soldier for anyone who utters the trigger words. He then is sent on a mission and told to make it look like an accident and leave no survivors. Roaring down a lonely country road on a motorcycle, he causes a large American car to crash. In the trunk, he takes five blue packages of a super-soldier serum. We don’t see who the passengers are, suspiciously crucial information. We also don’t see how the serum is used.
Flashing forward, we’re in Lagos, Nigeria. I don’t know about your email, but I’ve learned from mine that a deal coming from Nigeria is always an iffy proposition. So it is for the Avengers. It’s a year after Ultron’s defeat and that destructive battle. The world has grown weary of the superhero caused casualties of war and no generals are around to give stirring nationalistic speeches to write them off as patriotic collateral damage. No techie spins out calculations of what-if scenarios comparing the damage and the dead and disasters minus superhero intervention as they do with World War II and the atom bombs.
In this global climate, Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) prevent Brock Rumlow (Frank Gillo) from stealing a biological weapon, but when Rumlow turns suicide bomber, Wanda lifts the bomb away from Rogers, but it explodes in a building. Those scenes might remind you of 9/11 and the Twin Towers. The world has changed for us and it has changed for the Avengers.
Shift to a suspiciously young Tony Stark, talking with his mother and father. Remembering the last time he saw them, trying to replay his memory when he was a sulky, lazy, womanizing teen and they were on their way to a journey they would not finish. It was the last time he would see them. An older Stark appears.
This isn’t a holo deck in a Star Trek movie, but part of a demonstration at MIT (sorry Caltech–you already have “The Big Bang” TV series). Stark is doing a presentation to a packed audience of students, demonstrating BARF, a means of clearing traumatic memories. Stark has given all the students a grant to do their research, asking them to hold true to the MIT tradition to generate, disseminate and preserve knowledge. The reason for his immense generosity is the enormity of his guilt. A woman (Alfre Woodard) he meets adds to that guilt by making it personal and giving it a name: Charlie Spencer. He was a young idealistic man accidentally killed by the Avengers.
While the Avengers were created to save the world and keep the peace, some people are calling them vigilantes. At the Avengers’ headquarters, the Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross calls the Avengers dangerous. The United Nations are going to meet and 117 nations (currently there are 196 real countries–including Taiwan– in the world and 193 countries are members of the UN–not including the fictional ones in the Marvelverse) will be signing the Sokovia Accords which will be a means of monitoring and controlling the superhuman population. Does this begin to sound like the plot of the animated feature “The Incredibles”?
There is no super family here and there’s no disgruntled fan boy. Instead, we have Tony Stark and Pepper Potts having a time out. Captain America’s beloved Peggy Carter dies and at her funeral he meets her niece Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). With no woman to guide them, Tony Stark and Captain America are opposing leaders for a team divided over the Accords.
At the Accords in Vienna, another bombing results in the death of T’Chaka. The bomber appears to be the Winter Soldier. T’Chaka’s son, T’Challa wants revenge. Rogers and Wilson track down Bucky against the UN Accords, but Bucky doesn’t seem to know about the Vienna bombing. The Avengers have fallen into a trap. We know this because the imprisonment pod he’s in is designated D-23. Disney fans will know what that means. The psych evaluator turns out to be the man we saw first in a hotel room with a large bomb who later was torturing a man for the book containing the trigger words introduced in the 1991 sequence.
That is our villain: Colonel Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl ) and he killed the original psychiatrist and disguised as the Winter Soldier set the bomb off in Vienna and he now sets off the human weapon of mass destruction: the real Winter Soldier by saying the trigger words. The two escape from the Avengers.
Now Rogers must make a decision: save his old friend or stay with his team. Despite his background as a soldier, Rogers breaks ranks and the Avengers become divided into law-abiding and outlaws. Rogers and Wilson are able to get Bucky back, but learn that Zemo is heading for the Siberia facility that holds five Winter Soldiers waiting to be activated who are more lethal than Bucky was. To bolster his team, Rogers recruits Ant-Man while Tony Stark recruits Spider-Man.
Team Captain America (#TeamCap) is:
- Captain America
- Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
- Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier
- Sam Wilson/Falcon
- Vision (Paul Bettany)
- Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)
Team Iron Man (#TeamIronMan) is:
- Iron Man
- James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine
- Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)
- Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)
- Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland)
- T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)
The two teams battle it out as Rogers and Bucky attempt to pursue Hemut to Siberia. Spider-Man, with a suit upgrade thanks to Stark, has a gee-whiz wonder of a kid on his first big adventure (His Aunt Mae, played by Marisa Tomei, isn’t an old lady).
While Rogers and Bucky escape, T’Challa pursues them as does Iron Man, both without the permission of the U.N. The rest of Team Captain America are incarcerated in a prison submerged in a stormy ocean with Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), a member of the Joint Counter Terrorism Center, overseeing them.
If you’re color coding, you’ll note that while T’Challa isn’t an official Avenger, each team has a pink member (a woman with long red hair) and a black male. That also goes for the five sleeping Winter Soldiers which includes an unnamed black member and a woman (except the pink member has long blonde hair). One supposes that Vision would count as an AI. This movie cuts out the Latino element in Ant-man. Asian element remains in the animated Marvelverse of Big Hero Six but doesn’t extend to this part of the franchise. Although Asians are 60 percent of the world population and while Marvel does have other ethnic Asian (including East Asian) characters, Asians are not represented in this Marvelverse. In this part of Marvelverse the diversity conversation is still black and white. Otherwise, this is the best of the three Captain America movies. It has humor. It gives Captain America a love interest. It gives a weary Tony Stark/Iron Man angst. It just doesn’t give us real diversity.