In case you couldn’t tell from the film’s reviews (both here on CBR and virtually everywhere else), our geeking out over its best bits, and the burning questions the movie left in its wake, we’re big fans of Marvel Studios’ “Captain America: Civil War.”
Really, really big fans.
But for all its jaw-dropping action, charismatic characters and gut-busting banter, there are some frustrating flaws that can be found nagging at the back of your mind once the dust settles. So with a good-natured eye to challenging Marvel to keep the bar high and their movies satisfying, let’s dig into the — admittedly few — “Captain America: Civil War” moments that just don’t work.
It’s fun to get a glance into Tony’s pre-Iron Man past, seeing the genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist share some screentime with his late dad (John Slattery), even if it’s just both of them slinging sarcasm. And hey, props to the CGI team for washing 25 years off of Robert Downey Jr.’s face without pitching him in the uncanny valley. But what is the actual point of the scene?
We already know about Tony’s daddy issues, and even without this scene his rage at Cap (Chris Evans) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) would still make sense in the Siberia climax. Plus, that super expensive tech ($611 million) has no relevance to the plot! It’s ultimately just a mildly inventive way to wedge in a weepy flashback, and establish Tony’s never-before-seen (or relevant) mom (Hope Davis).
They Killed Peggy Offscreeen
Peggy Carter’s death could have been a big, dramatic, Agent Coulson-style blow. Instead, it’s just a bit of a bummer, because she’s old and because it happens offscreen, in her sleep, in the most un-dramatic way possible. Part of me was disappointed one of MCU’s most dynamic characters didn’t go out in a blaze of glory, but I realize that would have been virtually impossible in Peggy’s frail “Civil War” state. Still, it underlines a bigger problem within the MCU that is steadily crippling its stakes.
No one important dies anymore.
I love Hayley Atwell’s Peggy, but her importance is now firmly based in the 1940’s-set TV series “Agent Carter,” not the MCU. And despite being subtitled “Civil War,” none of the Avengers die! Consider the death toll in the comics, and then consider how absurd this survival rate is. Sure, Black Panther’s dad dies, but he’s a new character introduced solely as a sacrificial plot point. When it comes to main characters, Marvel Studios resolutely refuses to pull the trigger and thereby kill a merchandising opportunity. So far, we’ve had the Winter Soldier, Nick Fury, Steve Rogers, Agent Coulson, Loki and (arguably) Rhodey, appear to die and come back. Only Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” has died and stayed dead — and he’s so unimportant to the MCU that even as the Avengers talk about the lives lost in Sokovia, no one mentions him! Not even his sister, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)!
I’m not saying I want to see our beloved Avengers bite it. But we’ve hit a point where it’s ridiculous that none of them do.
Peter Parker As Fake Geek Girl
Sure, it’s cute when Spider-Man refers to “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” as an “old movie.” But how does any self-respecting nerd not know basic “Star Wars” lingo? “Snow planet” and “walking thingies”? Peter, it’s Hoth and they’re AT-ATs (though the pronunciation of the latter is a matter of debate). Get it together!
If you haven’t recently re-watched “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” you may have have forgotten this blonde secret agent all together. But she’s back and wedged in all kinds of awkwardly. Sure, Sharon (Emily VanCamp) is involved in some important plot points, chief among them making sure Cap and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) get their superhero gear back after Bucky’s escape, but the romantic subplot with Cap feels half-hearted. Their tepid chemistry can’t compete with Steve and Peggy’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” connection, and him eying Peggy’s great-niece feels icky in the same vaguely incestuous way it does when Wendy’s granddaughter runs off with Peter at the end of “Peter Pan.”
But is there a more groan-inducing reason Marvel Studios may have made sure Sharon planted a big fat kiss on Cap, and in front of Falcon and Bucky to boot? Countless pieces of slash fic and fan art has been inspired by Bucky and Cap’s intense MCU relationship. And with Cap ready to go to war over the fate of his friend in “Captain America: Civil War,” these gay readings could have been bolder than ever. So, in comes Sharon as the movie’s “no homo.” Cap can’t be into Bucky if he’s kissing a girl in front of him, right?
Though the “no homo” slang is modern, it’s a movie move that’s been employed since Steve Roger’s heyday. One classic example came in the 1948 John Wayne Western “Red River,” which is thick with homoerotic subtext including a less than subtle scene where two cowboys flirt by playing with each other’s guns. Then, out of nowhere, the Howard Hawks’ movie introduces a plucky female love interest for the men to fight over. It’s so ham-fisted, it’s hilarious.
Now, I’m not saying Steve and Bucky are gay. I’m saying Marvel seemed to want to make damn sure audiences don’t read them that way, and therefore wedged in Sharon, a substitute for Peggy who lacks passion, sass or much in the way of character at all. And, by the end of the film, she’s totally gone once more. Here’s hoping she stays that way, or if she returns, she’s given a more crucial role to play — the MCU has enough plot threads and characters without forcing in lame love lines.
Zemo’s Scheme Makes Zero Sense
The MCU is often criticized for failing its villains. After the wildly charismatic Loki was such a hit, blah baddies like Malekith (“Thor: The Dark World”), Yellowjacket (“Ant-Man”) and Ronan the Accuser (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) just couldn’t compete. But “Civil War”s Zemo starts off strong. Played with a vibrant menace by Daniel BrÃ¼hl, Zemo has a compelling motive, driven to tear down the “empire” of the Avengers because his family died in the Sokovia showdown in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Not only does it feeds into “Captain America: Civil War”s theme of the sometimes grim consequences of superheroism, but also it set Zemo up as a sharp foil to Black Panther, whose own father was killed as collateral damage in Zemo’s plan.
Unfortunately, that plan itself is ludicrously convoluted, assuming a preternatural understanding of the dynamics of the Avengers.
The first time I saw “Civil War,” I was so enraptured by the character drama and spectacle that Zemo and his plan were an afterthought. They roadmap to the journey didn’t interest me as much as the ride. But the second time, I became plagued with questions about the logic and the execution of Zemo’s plan. Given his studying of the team, I’ll buy that he knew the Winter Soldier was a point of contention, a big enough point that he could be used to wedge them apart. Using the Sokovia Accords to his advantage, Zemo frames Bucky to flush him out. But! 1) How could he be certain that Bucky would be captured and not killed by the Terrorist Task Force? 2) How did he know they’d take Bucky to Berlin? 3) How did he know — before Bucky was even captured — which interrogator the task force would bring in so Zemo could replace him? And once they escape Berlin, things get next-level convoluted.
After the battle at the Berlin airport, Cap’s team is captured, save for himself and Bucky, who find themselves on route to Siberia where they hope to prevent Zemo from waking the other Winter Soldiers. Then Zemo calls the Berlin hotel to reveal the corpse of the interrogator he killed, which alerts Tony that he was wrong for believing Bucky bombed Vienna. (Still with me?) So, to get Tony to Siberia, Zemo was supposed to realize that not only would some Team Cap member be captured that knew where Cap was going (specifically, like the actual co-ordinates of the Hydra base), but also that Tony would need to be trusted to go after Cap “alone and as a friend.”
So, Zemo’s plan included a section where Tony briefly forgives Cap before the murder video reveal, which was the true reason Zemo needed to get to Siberia, where it was stored. Why Hydra would keep such a video and why a camera existed on a random back road, well that’s a whole other question, along with, how is Zemo funding these many flights around the world, electric pulse machine, and where do you even buy Winter Soldier facial prosthetics?
The one part of this plan that did make sense — considering his hatred of superpowered people — was Zemo’s murdering of the other Winter Soldiers. But from a moviegoer perspective, I hate him for this most of all. Making five crazy powerful assassins nothing more than a red herring? That is truly cruel.
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