Marvel’s ‘Civil War’ adaptation has fans picking sides

Image from Michael Saechang on Flickr

On the list of Marvel heroes that people label as the coolest and absolute best of the movie-verse bunch, Iron Man seems to come to mind consistently. Tony Stark was the guy to jump-start the comic book universe for the silver screen with his film debut “Iron Man” in 2008 so this label is not unfounded.

There are fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe who argue that better movies have come out of the franchise since then. To be more exact, the “Captain America” franchise has soared in recent years, becoming one of most critically well-received trilogies Marvel has produced, while Iron Man’s sequels have lacked both critically and commercially.

Marvel’s latest installment, the third act for the First Avenger, “Captain America: Civil War” is proof that while Steve Rogers’ traditional “freedom for all” heart and image doesn’t beat out Iron Man’s edgier and cooler vibe, it doesn’t mean Cap can’t give us a compelling story.

It’s debatable whether the “Captain America” trilogy is Marvel’s best series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise, only because its first installment, “The First Avenger” is widely considered dull. We could go back and forth about the now famous Steve versus Tony playground that Marvel has us playing in but ultimately, reducing it to that doesn’t do this movie justice.

“Civil War” is a rough adaptation of a Marvel Comics event of the same name from the past decade, wherein the United States government wanted to force superheroes to register in order to continue their acts of heroism. Anyone who didn’t sign up was branded a vigilante and hunted down as a criminal.

Captain America was one of the few who didn’t sign the superhuman registration act, and in fact, led a movement to reject the new law while Iron Man led a group of superheroes that supported the act. The two teams inevitably clashed together for a hero-on-hero war that was so cataclysmic-ally awesome and devastating that it ended with Cap being assassinated, members of the Fantastic Four retiring and Tony Stark becoming the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This review will remain spoiler-free, but I will say the movie borrows from its comic counterpart minimally and mostly only conceptually. It’s to be expected; the comic event involved everyone in the comic book universe but Marvel Studios, unfortunately, cannot afford those same luxuries.

In its place in the Cinematic Universe, “Civil War” picks up where last year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” left off. It’s been a year, and the Avengers have been doing their best to help the world since the destruction in Sokovia by Ultron’s doing. A strike taking place in Lagos, Nigeria by Captain America, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Falcon goes wrong as they are in pursuit of former S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra agent Brock “Crossbones” Rumlow. Scarlet Witch causes an isolated explosion that kills a lot of people, and it kicks off the final decision by all the governments of the world: make the Avengers subject to being regulated in their good deeds.

The Sokovia Accords states that the Avengers will continue to fight, but under the strict supervision of the United Nations. An idea Tony Stark is on board with, after the mess in Sokovia was his in the first place. However, Rogers isn’t convinced it’s the wisest decision, distrusting of politicians with their own agendas. But this isn’t nearly the heart of the conflict – only the meat on the bones of a bigger discussion questioning what we’re willing to sacrifice for our safety.

Not long after, a bomb goes off near the U.N., killing the king of the technologically advanced African kingdom of Wakanda and it’s assumed that former Hydra assassin, the Winter Soldier (aka Bucky Barnes, Steve’s only living friend from his past), is the cause. Unearthing a new suspect for the crime, Steve not only decides to reject the Accords, but also to defect from the Avengers on his own in order to prove his best friend’s innocence.

Going up against Iron Man himself, he has to assemble a new team. The only real question at this point is, what is going to push each side to a death match that nobody wants?

The teams are divided evenly: Iron Man teams up with Black Widow, War Machine, the Vision and newcomers Black Panther and Spider-Man; Captain America assembles the Winter Soldier, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and fresh off his own solo debut, Ant Man.

While the most blatant conflict that draws attention is the epic superhero showdown, the core of the movie is rooted in Cap’s relationship with Tony, and how it falls apart. The writers turned what we were sold in trailers -actually superficial distractions- and brought it down to a more personal issue for these two characters, that is what makes this movie so brilliant.

The movie acted as an induction ceremony for three new Avengers: Ant Man who, as previously stated, had his own outing in his super suit; Black Panther, formerly Prince T’Challa of Wakanda who has a nasty vengeance out for Bucky and Spider-Man, who has only become the result of the first ever deal between Marvel and Sony to include “Spider-Man” characters in the MCU.

Spider-Man’s third incarnation brings back Peter Parker, but skips the origin story. Tony Stark comes to Peter after observing his heroic acts for some time, offering an updated suit and updated hardware.

Spider-Man was a standout, as far as characters go. The angle with this re-imagining was to make him a teenager, experiencing cool superhero action right before his very eyes. It brought new life into the MCU, namely when he gave us the realest thing a nerdy teenage boy could say, “You have a metal arm? That is awesome, dude!”.

The inclusion of T’Challa gave us a glimpse at our first Black protagonist in a solo superhero film, who goes by the warrior name “Black Panther”. T’Challa has a major story arc and progression that sets the foundation for the deeper message of this movie. We also get a glimpse at his fictional home kingdom, Wakanda.

The movie is dark and somber, as it needs to be. Nothing good happens in this movie. Even after the climax ends, we still don’t leave the theater feeling better about the bleak outlook of the universe. While there are some funny moments and tension breakers, this is probably the most depressing Marvel movie, as it emphasizes that the Avengers will be fractured for a long while.

“Civil War” is the result of everything the MCU has been working toward. Every high point and every low point has been leading up to this conflict. Remember all those times everyone said “Look at all that destruction those darn superheroes are causing”? This movie builds upon those events and puts all of our arguments to the test. Exactly what is the right answer, when we can visualize a “real” world full of mighty superheroes, what’s the right course of action? This is how a franchise’s world building pays off.

“Captain America: Civil War” is out now, being followed by “Doctor Strange” in November of this year. The biggest question after seeing this movie is: what happens now, where do our favorite heroes go from here? The Avengers are broken, and we can assume that any super not complying with the Sokovia Accords will have a target on their back. How does this affect everyone else in the universe (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”)? How can this universe bounce back from something as globally crippling as this? Only time will tell.

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