MCU Retrospective: Captain America: Civil War
Welcome back to our weekly Marvel Cinematic Universe retrospective series. We are taking you through each of the Marvel films as the MCU pushes further into the beginning of Phase 3. Captain America: Civil War is the first film in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the thirteenth installment in the franchise. Directed by the Russo Brothers, Civil War pits heroes and friends against each other on both sides of the ideological war surrounding the implementation of the Sokovia Accords.
The film features the most heroes in any MCU film to date, but while most of the Avengers, their friends, and some fresh faces take their sides in the war, the film is still very much a Captain America-centric film. At times, it feels like we’re watching Avengers 2.5 rather than a solo movie, which goes to show that the Russo Brothers know how to balance such a large amount of heroes on screen. While the film revolves around Cap and his perspective regarding the Accords, each Avenger is able to shine and has their own complete and sometimes complex arc to fulfill.
Civil War was the first comic series I ever read as a kid, so seeing some of the panels come to life on screen was an experience I will never forget. Every gunshot, punch, kick to the face, web in the eye, and explosive arrow is earned. Every single film in the MCU has led us to this point, and it doesn’t feel like Cap and Iron Man suddenly don’t get along. As far back as The Avengers, we’ve been seeing little seeds being planted that have brought us to this point of the Avengers being a broken team. One thing that is important to note is that the Avengers have never been perfect – Loki attempted to exploit this during the Battle of New York. The Avengers not being the perfect team, though, is what makes them so relatable. They’re a family, and the truth of the matter is that families fight and argue – this family just happens to be comprised of miracles, master assassins, and super-powered individuals.
Newcomers Black Panther and Spider-Man make welcome first-appearances, and in case you ever doubted, Spidey is finally home amongst the rest of his Avenger friends. Spidey and Black Panther join Iron Man’s pro-Accords side including Black Widow, War Machine, and Vision. Cap’s anti-Accords side includes Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Falcon, Winter Soldier, and Wanda Maximoff.
The opposing teams are evenly matched, for the most part, with each side having a powerful, heavy hitter like Vision and Wanda. The now-famous Battle at Leipzig Airport is my personal favorite scene in the entire MCU as it gives each team member their time to shine and show off their skills. The directors – with the assistance of John Wick directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch – craft a beautifully intricate but coherent fight sequence that pits our favorite heroes against each other. BFFs Black Widow and Hawkeye battle it out. Cap and Iron Man don’t pull their punches. Even through this fight, though, comedy is not lost. Pop culture references from “that really old movie,” and surprise abilities from Ant-Man keep most of the battle light-hearted. In this scene – no one is intentionally trying to physically hurt anyone. Team Iron Man’s main goal is to take Team Cap into custody before Thaddeus Ross does things his own way. After a mostly consequence-free battle, Black Widow switches sides and helps Cap and Bucky escape on the quinjet. As Bucky and Cap make their getaway to stop Zemo, the mastermind behind the entire Avengers squabble, War Machine takes to the skies to try to stop them in the air. The Falcon flies, too, to try to make sure his friends get away. Iron Man calls on the aid of Vision to stop the quinjet, but Vision is distracted and accidentally hits Rhodes with a blast from the Infinity Stone in his forehead and sends Rhodes plummeting to earth without any power in his suit. The friendly fire leaves Rhodes severely injured.
When Iron Man visits the rest of Team Cap in their prison, Falcon tells him that there’s a bigger threat to worry about – Zemo and his plan to wake up Soviet-era super soldiers. It’s in this moment when it’s evident that the Russo Brothers know how to balance action, comedy, and gravitas and know how to do it well. The official reveal of the Winter Soldier as the one who murdered Tony’s parents in devastating, and the fact that Cap knew about it the whole time made it all the more painful, even for us who went into the theater fully Team Cap.
The battle between the Winter Soldier, Captain America, and Iron Man that follows is one of the most violent and personal battles we’ve seen in the MCU, and with scenes directly from the panels of the comics, it’s one that we’ll never forget.
Captain America: Civil War is not only a culmination of all films and shows leading up to its release, but it’s also a stepping stone that sets the tone for the rest of the MCU leading up to and beyond Avengers: Infinity War. Next week we delve into the last and most recent MCU film: Doctor Strange.