The Modern Superhero, Part 2: RYMS Reviews “Captain America: Civil War”
Updated August 21, 2016: Included “Reviewer Scores” section.
On May 6, 2016, Disney and Marvel Studios released Captain America: Civil War to general audiences. A follow-up to both 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, directors Joe & Anthony Russo (Winter Soldier) were tasked with kicking off Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Inspired by the Marvel Comics crossover event, Civil War revolves around a schism between Captain America and Iron Man as they disagree on whether the team requires government oversight after a mission causes more destruction and innocent people die. Things get complicated when the Winter Soldier resurfaces after a bombing in Vienna. But was it any good? And — more importantly — was it better than that other dueling superhero film? (Read that review here).
Inspired by FiveThirtyEight, Brandon (bkesso) had another roundtable discussion with fellow RYMS editors Chris Walker (cwlkr20) and Tim Lewis (obi-don-ginobili) on May 12. The following Slack chat has been edited for format, flow and content.
Note: This review contains full spoilers for the film. Please read at your own risk (or if you just don’t give a f–k).
bkesso: Ok all,
The purpose of this chat is to discuss the recent film Captain America: Civil War. I would like us to focus on a few key areas:
So! Let us begin with the easiest thing here: Characters. Who did you like? Who did you dislike? Who were you surprised to like/dislike? Why?
obi-don-ginobili: It’s pretty obvious who everyone wanted to see: New Spider-Man, Black Panther, and in hindsight, Ant-Man has been a big hit. Almost felt like the Captain America scenes were just filler for the cooler characters.
bkesso: I respectfully disagree: While Black Panther was my favorite and Spider-Man and Ant-Man were awesome, I really felt the entire cast of The Winter Soldier stepped up and were front and center. This includes Cap, Falcon and Black Widow.
cwlkr20: Ant-Man aka Giant-Man was a welcome addition. Really lightened things at times. Also I really wanted to see Giant-Man at some point. I really walked away liking Bucky a lot more too.
bkesso: ScarJo is pretty much begging for a solo at this point. She was definitely the female lead without having to be a love interest.
cwlkr20: They’re giving her one.
bkesso: Correct. And I agree: I loved Bucky a lot more in this film than the previous two.
cwlkr20: Also they had a little flirtation with her and BP. That wasn’t necessary.
obi-don-ginobili: I’ve loved Johansson’s Black Widow from the beginning. The combat scenes she had early in the movie in combination with her overall badness sold me on a solo film.
bkesso: Yes. Black Widow was awesome. Kicked ass from start to finish. Though I don’t know if I interpreted the scene with T’Challa as flirting, @cwlkr20. It felt like he was greeting the co-Leader of the Avengers in my book. But you did say “subtle”.
obi-don-ginobili: Black Widow seems like she flirts with everyone. In Winter Soldier it seemed as if she was pining for Cap’s goodies. I think it’s part of her femme fatale appeal.
cwlkr20: I actually didn’t think about it like that.
@obi-don-ginobili: that’s a different vertical.
obi-don-ginobili: Captain America holds it all together but he suffers of being a character without much personality. It’s not as bad as Henry Cavill’s Superman but he’s no Deadpool either.
bkesso: I think this film highlights a lot of his arrogance and uncompromising attitude. On top of his willingness to trust and pursue his own conscience above all else. I wouldn’t call that a lack of personality at all.
obi-don-ginobili: You have a point. But it predictably ended with a positive light shined on Cap’s overarching sense of morality. I suppose I don’t find him to have the depth and flaws that really draw me to other superheroes.
cwlkr20: @bkesso: Cap sounds a little douchey. So does Stark but still. Like “we have our own morals and we know right better than they do” but the joke is that you’re costing millions of dollars. Do you think you have no one to answer to? Who do you think you are: Donald Trump?
bkesso: That I can agree with. They have to answer to someone.
obi-don-ginobili: Cap is douchey. A holier-than-thou sense of entitlement that gets reinforced by him always standing on the right side of things. At the same time though, it’s what holds his leadership together. I guess I just find him corny. The bad guys need to watch The Karate Kid and learn to “sweep the leg.” He never shields his legs!
bkesso: I think that as a group, the dynamics actually worked a lot better than even in Ultron (one of the few things that film actually did well). Almost everyone talked to each other on a first name basis and it felt like they were actually in disagreement over how to move forward.
@obi-don-ginobili: Spidey went for the legs LOL!!
cwlkr20: Cap doesn’t believe in leg day, doesn’t hold a sturdy base.
bkesso: Are we all forgetting the “On your left” from Winter Soldier? Cap kicks like 10 mules at the same time. Home boy is all leg day.
obi-don-ginobili: For me, Black Panther and Spidey stole the show just as I hoped they would. Their personalities, from what we saw, seemed very strong. Casting and character development are two clear strengths of Marvel that seem to be left from the DC genome. I thought it was interesting that Winter Soldier seemed faster and stronger than Cap. Did he get a super serum as well?
bkesso: He did, yes. Am I the only one who had to give Daniel Bruhl props? Because I wasn’t expecting the Zemo that we got but I was perfectly okay with it.
cwlkr20: Bruhl was great. He makes a great villain. He was complex and smart and really someone I would watch again.
bkesso: Yes. It’s nice to have someone so focused as a villain. As opposed to trying to match the larger personalities of the heroes.
obi-don-ginobili: @bkesso I don’t know who the Bruhl dude or even Zemo are but the part was played well. What about Black Panther? Is he super powered as well? I thought he was just a guy in a suit?
cwlkr20: @obi-don-ginobili: Watch Rush. He’s dope in that where he plays an F-1 racer
bkesso: @obi-don-ginobili: Yes, he’s got both physical and mystic enhancements on top of the Vibranium.
obi-don-ginobili: I really need to read that comic lol.
bkesso: @cwlkr20: I agree. Bruhl was great as a villain and actually a lot more captivating than I thought he would be for such an understated antagonist. He wasn’t even marketed but he was one of the standouts for me.
cwlkr20: More Aunt May. For America.
bkesso: YES! More Aunt May!
obi-don-ginobili: Aunt May should get her own movie.
bkesso: Next: Plot/Script. How did you feel about the story? Did the themes feel natural or forced? Did the characters act believably within the context of the plot? How did you feel about the dialogue? Did you like the ending?
obi-don-ginobili: I loved the story. All the dynamics played into one another very well. The introduction of new characters seemed pretty smooth. Of course, they had a solid template to work with.
cwlkr20: It’s slow to start but that worked. It needed build up. A reason BP would be there. Why Cap is really on the opposite side. And that takes time.
obi-don-ginobili: The airport battle, however, seemed to lack any real edge to it. Like it was a glorified sparring match. The only real bitterness was between Stark and Rogers (Cap). Everyone else just seemed kind of there for the ride.
bkesso: That’s true. It’s also kind of the heart of the matter. The real conflict isn’t really about the “war”. It’s about the disagreement between Stark and Rogers and the people who ride with them.
obi-don-ginobili: @bkesso: You’re right. Despite the movie’s title it was all really just about saving Bucky. Who’s a chump. I also wasn’t really sure what they were going for with the Vision/Scarlet Witch romance angle. Seemed to make about as much sense as Bruce Banner and Black Widow in the last Avengers.
cwlkr20: That’s a thing. A really weird and overarching thing. @obi-don-ginobili
bkesso: I, too, loved the story. I thought it made a lot of sense — all things considered — and tied together as a companion piece to Winter Soldier. I agree that the airport scene was fun to watch but wasn’t really what the movie was about. At the heart of it all was a story of friendship and fraternity. How far Steve would go to save one of his own.
obi-don-ginobili: Indeed. Something I thought was somewhat intentional was illustrating the power level of the various heroes. Once again, something Marvel does far better than DC.
bkesso: Yes. You got to see everyone’s strengths and weaknesses quite clearly, even if the weakness or flaw was their own hubris. The thing that really got me was the Berlin civvies fight.
obi-don-ginobili: What fight was that?
cwlkr20: The one where BP is in normal clothes fighting a guy with a cybernetic arm and holds his own.
bkesso: Winter Soldier fighting Sharon, T’Challa and the Avengers one on one was tight. Like, Sharon and Romanov tag team him and he rips through them. Right after he knocks away Tony. And then T’Challa gives him the work! Don’t forget: He [Bucky] also knocked Steve down an elevator shaft and took out Falcon (who keeps getting shafted).
obi-don-ginobili: Yeah that shit was hot. Falcon is the weakest.
cwlkr20: This was really his movie at points. Like BP is a backup focal point. The man’s a superhero and a King.
bkesso: Yeah, and he was portrayed as such. He probably had the best arc of the whole film.
obi-don-ginobili: I thought Spider-Man laughing at Bucky’s metal arm was really meant to show off how strong he is. That made me laugh.
cwlkr20: That was smart.
bkesso: Yeah, that was interesting. Especially given that he’s not fully grown up yet. So he’s only going to get stronger.
obi-don-ginobili: It appeared that Scarlet Witch and Vision were the two most powerful characters, but seem to be finding out where they belong in terms of the rest of the squad.
bkesso: Yeah. They’re the two newest to the team technically.
obi-don-ginobili: True. He (Peter Parker) looks to be about 16.
bkesso: Yeah, he’s supposed to be around that age. I think they should have reassured Wanda that she made the right call in Lagos, though. The bombing wasn’t her fault, and she saved more lives than were lost.
cwlkr20: It’s a thing. I forgot Wanda was in this movie at times. Even though she sets off events.
obi-don-ginobili: Yeah she’s just super mentally fragile and I think that will be exploited in an upcoming film. @cwlkr20: anything you found to be ill-fitting about the plot?
cwlkr20: Falcon and War Machine talk about issues with one another and don’t really agree. Like a barbershop convo. Except in a million dollar building.
bkesso: @cwlkr20: Minority Bechdel Test? DING! Plus, they’re both military/ex-military. Like most of the Avengers.
cwlkr20: Which isn’t terrible. It’s odd. Also how do they want to play the Vision/Scarlet Witch thing? Are we getting the twins? Because if we are, I call bullshit.
bkesso: Only if they decide to do House of M, right? Which needs X-Men.
cwlkr20: Nah man. The twins are before that.
obi-don-ginobili: Y’all lost me with your comic book knowledge. Only Wanda I know is from Fairly Odd Parents.
bkesso: @cwlkr20: …Omg you’re right!
@obi-don-ginobili: Wanda is Scarlet Witch
cwlkr20: They get taken by the devil. I think.
@obi-don-ginobili: her and Vision get married in the comics
bkesso: Which is why they’ve been hinting at a bit of a romance
cwlkr20: I have a question for later.
bkesso: I have two things: 1) I really like how the ending fight played out. Really subverted the typical superhero expectation and giant fight. It got very personal.
cwlkr20: Super deep.
bkesso: 2) How the flying duck did Tony figure out Peter was Spider-Man?
obi-don-ginobili: That’s a good question @bkesso.
cwlkr20: I have a theory: Satellites and drones.
bkesso: Good point.
obi-don-ginobili: The ending fight was very personal. I’m curious as to how it changes dynamics in the upcoming Avengers movie.
bkesso: I think it has to even if it doesn’t feel like it based on Cap’s letter. Tony was out for blood, even if it meant killing Steve. But when the tables turned, Steve never wanted to kill Tony. He just wanted to keep Bucky safe. The brother he grew up with, the only person left of his old life.
cwlkr20: His lover.
bkesso: That, too! Complete bromance through and through.
cwlkr20: The gay baiting is fucking hysterical!
@obi-don-ginobili: It’s going to start slow as fuck. A fight with Thanos. Another fight between heroes in Wakanda. Thanos or a Thanos minion fights everyone. They get it together. They fight Thanos. And lose. That’s Infinity War Part 1.
bkesso: @cwlkr20: I agree with most of that. I think that’s where Captain Marvel comes in, actually. The dynamic with Falcon and Bucky was funny, tho. And no one broke character.
obi-don-ginobili: Falcon is a good personality. The interaction between him and Bucky was great. Kind of like he wanted to say “Steve is my friend now!” The look Falcon and Bucky gave him [Cap] when he kissed the one girl [Sharon] was beyond hilarious. Probably the funniest scene of the whole movie. Classic.
cwlkr20: Who’s the real best friend: The man with the robot wings or the guy with a robot arm? Who wins?
bkesso: Black Widow. She’s his sister at this point. As far as Steve goes for Bucky, he still checks in on Natasha. Which is what still made this feel [more] like a sequel than an Avengers film. Yes, it had most of the team in it, but more of the events were being dictated by the cast of Winter Soldier. I also loved that Clint was the one sent for Wanda. Paying his debt to Quicksilver.
How do we feel about the choices Steve and Tony made? I feel like Tony has been heading in that direction since Iron Man 3. In 2 he joked that he “privatized world peace” but after Ultron he realized that was no longer possible. Or at least that the world wasn’t safest in his hands.
obi-don-ginobili: Tony is tripped up on his own ego, trying to be both a genius and a saint without accepting his own limitations. Cap showed that he is willing to stick to his guns no matter the context which is what makes him great, but also dangerous provided his perception fails.
bkesso: Bingo. Cap is being distrustful after the events of the previous films. But also: Bucky is a shining example of everything Cap doesn’t want the Avengers to become. Practically a mindless drone being sent to reap war and take out the enemies the world thinks are more important than others. An extreme example, though. Like very extreme.
obi-don-ginobili: It’s an interesting point. Of course he also thinks his judgement is better than the vote of the United Nations lol.
bkesso: Lmao that’s also true. I liked that nobody was absolutely right nor absolutely wrong. Because they all had solid points for either side. It was kinda like siblings fighting each other: you want to see who wins but don’t fully enjoy watching them fight.
obi-don-ginobili: Yeah they didn’t want to make any of the good guys into bad guys. It was good for dialog but really hindered the airport fight scene.
bkesso: I get that. I also may have cried when Rhodes hit the ground. I loved that both Tony and Sam dove after him.
obi-don-ginobili: Seemed like Vision went a little overboard on that one. But so did Scarlet Witch when she shot him 1000000 feet underground.
bkesso: Vision is an android. He can handle it xD.
obi-don-ginobili: True. Just seemed a little mean lol.
bkesso: Hahaha. But I think Tony and Sam diving for Rhodes really drove home how much they didn’t want to be fighting each other in the first place. They’re just doing what they thought was right. And they still aren’t all on the same page.
obi-don-ginobili: True. It was symbolic of the whole struggle. Although Rhodes was still trying to ride after his spine got busted.
bkesso: Visuals. Did you like the visual effects in the film? Did the action seem believable? How about the super-powers and super-tech? Did those seem real enough to suspend your disbelief? Was the filtering too bright to watch? Too dark?
obi-don-ginobili: A+ for the special effects. The characters’ powers aren’t so overblown that it becomes tacky. If anything I’m a fan of a dark interpretation of comics. For the sake of realism, you can’t have the action play out like a cartoon or fairytale. I wasn’t impressed with some of the combat scenes at the airport but that’s already been documented.
bkesso: I agree. I think the close-quarter combat scenes were more visually gripping. I also think the shaky cam helped those scenes even though I generally hate shaky cam.
cwlkr20: I like when things go BOOM! Joking aside, it was really good. Not too over done but not too overstated. I rewatched FF 2015 before this and you can tell who got their budgeting right for the special effects
bkesso: LOL. You put yourself through that a second time? You’re brave, Chris. A truly devoted fan.
cwlkr20: I like to watch some movies and figure out where it went wrong. For FF, it’s the mid point
bkesso: Ah. You’re right on that. Good call.
obi-don-ginobili: FF was just all wrong. It started when it wasn’t made by Marvel.
bkesso: Mmm while this is a tangent, I disagree. FF had potential surprisingly. But executive meddling… L. The sci-fi horror angle is surprisingly closer to the original comic from the ’60s than the versions we’ve had so far. And would have been interesting had they actually been played out properly. But, Fox xD
obi-don-ginobili: True. I’m being harsh. I actually didn’t think it warranted all of the criticism it got. But it didn’t keep my focus and crossed over to being corny at certain points. The Thing was lame af.
bkesso: (Back to Civil War) I really liked the costumes and the way the powers were displayed. I think those count as visuals.
obi-don-ginobili: While the visuals for Civil War were good it was very dependent on CGI. I love a movie with beautiful natural scenery i.e. Lord of the Rings, but that’s a bit off topic. Costumes were amazing. Everyone is designed so well.
bkesso: Yeah I can see that. Especially given the characters they used, the CGI was apparent in certain parts. It was most apparent with Black Panther’s triple kick lol. To me, at least.
cwlkr20: I liked the city shots. The tunnel fight was great for that.
bkesso: YES. The tunnel and the chase were great.
cwlkr20: I also really like that Tony gave Peter his suit. Specifically because there is no way poor ass Peter Parker is just making a dope suit. NO WAY!!
bkesso: #FACTS!! I loved his really rinky-dink suit until the upgrade haha.
cwlkr20: Yeah that seemed genuine.
obi-don-ginobili: Tony designing the base Spider-Man suit is a great way to tie together the universe. I thought the CGI was pretty obvious during the Black Widow fight scenes. But they still looked badass.
bkesso: Care to elaborate?
obi-don-ginobili: On what specifically?
bkesso: On the Black Widow CGI. I don’t remember that.
obi-don-ginobili: Her fight scenes early on certainly weren’t all choreographed. In the opening action scene. She beat up like six guys with some shaky camera action. To me it appeared some her more acrobatic combat sequences were digitally aided. Could be wrong. She might have just had a super elite stunt double but I remember thinking to myself that it appeared to be some movie magic.
bkesso: I saw it twice and didn’t think it was CGI. I know they had a stunt double but I’d love to see behind the scenes. I know Bucky and Cap trading the shield against Tony was a CGI moment. She fought like mad, though.
obi-don-ginobili: I only saw it once. You could be right. They do such a good job it can be hard to tell. The BP triple kick seemed like it was straight out of a Blade movie.
bkesso: Yeah. I still want to see the behind-the-scenes because you never know. Except the triple kick was undeniably CGI lol. No wire work there.
bkesso: Sound/Score: Did you like the score? Did the music fit the scenes or characters? Which music was your favorite? Did you like the sound effects and mixing? What sounds worked for you? What did not?
cwlkr20: It worked. Jackman knows what’s up.
bkesso: I really liked both Black Panther’s theme and Winter Soldier’s theme. I also liked the sound effects for Winter Soldier’s arm and the Vibranium sound effects overall. I don’t think we got the Cap main theme other than when he bicep curled the helicopter.
cwlkr20: Yeah but this movie is really Avengers 2.5: Civil War. So that would have been really trying not to be what it was.
obi-don-ginobili: I don’t remember any of the music. The explosions and energy blasts and the like sounded convincing enough.
bkesso: They also seemed to change the Marvel Studios fanfare lol.
@cwlkr20: I know, it’s technically Avengers 2.5. Hell, maybe it’s even the real Avengers sequel. But I go back to my point about the Cap 2 cast being front and center with really only Tony taking the other large chunk of screen time. Sharon, Widow, Falcon, Cap, and Bucky are all front and center. The rest of the cast are really playing off them and Tony. Y’ALL KNOW IT’S TRUE!
cwlkr20: That’s true. Rudd is there for a sec. Same as Spider-Man. BP is prominent though.
bkesso: Yeah but BP could have been there even if this weren’t Civil War and Steve was just trying to bring Bucky in. He was prominent, but didn’t take away a ridiculous amount of screen time. His personal vendetta against Bucky and his relentless pursuit gave him that prominence. Other than that, everyone else is like 3rd string support cast or cameo though we got great moments:
Scott Lang/Ant-Man: “Hank Pym always said ‘Never trust a Stark!’”
Tony Stark/Iron Man: “Who are you?”
Clint Barton/Hawkeye: “We haven’t met yet.” _Forms bow into staff_ “I’m Clint.”
T’Challa/Black Panther: “I don’t care.”
@cwlkr20: How deep is your BP knowledge? Because I’m racking my brain trying to figure out which dora milaje was in the film.
cwlkr20: I know some tings.
obi-don-ginobili: It was always going to be difficult to have all characters seem integral to the plot. More so we got previews of upcoming Marvel movies.
bkesso: @obi-don-ginobili: True. But I’m glad they didn’t try to force everyone to be integral to the plot. They were just reacting to events but still took part. This kinda goes back to our BvS chat. It felt like there was less forced to work in this film than the former even if the basic premise of both was the same.
obi-don-ginobili: If one thing is clear: This movie made BvS look like shit.
cwlkr20: Oh yeah.
bkesso: Which is really weird. I never thought I’d see the day where Captain America could compete with Superman (Winter Soldier beating Man of Steel), let alone [the] Avengers beating out DC’s Trinity.
cwlkr20: Well I think there’s a big problem in BvS that this movie didn’t have: They made BvS too early. You pointed out that Forbes article earlier today but we’ve had that convo before.
bkesso: Yeah. It’s been a running joke so long it ended up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
cwlkr20: I like Ben Affleck but that took time. I wish I had a better knowledge of what got him to that point. Also WHO THE FUCK IS ROBIN.
bkesso: The movie is only $100 million shy of BvS and it hasn’t been a month yet.
cwlkr20: Which is kinda sad for Warner Bros.
obi-don-ginobili: More people will see this movie more than once.
bkesso: Case and point: I’m going on my third viewing probably tomorrow lmfao. Also, I echo @cwlkr20 on WHO THE FUCK IS ROBIN?
obi-don-ginobili: Hahahahaha I’ll probably go again too.
bkesso: And Ben [Affleck]? He can stay as Batman. He just needs a solo movie that he’s also directing. WB needs to reign in Zack Snyder.
obi-don-ginobili: Ben didn’t do as bad with Batman as I expected. I think the team that designed Bruce Wayne’s /Batman’s personality let us down though.
cwlkr20: Yeah that’s the biggest issue. Also Cavill doesn’t talk. No one has personality.
obi-don-ginobili: And he sucks.
cwlkr20: Actually, Eisenberg does [have personality]. Just not the right one and too much of it.
obi-don-ginobili: But Superman doesn’t have much of a personality according to his traditional portrayal. That’s why some of the new animated films are painting him as being more arrogant and self-absorbed. I actually liked Eisenberg. One of the few who did. But his place in the movie seemed tenuous due to his contrast with the other “personalities.” Kind of like he’s the only color in a black and white movie
bkesso: Superman and Captain America are essentially the same character and yet one has been consistently done right.
@obi-don-ginobili: Kinda like he’s the red and blonde parts of Sin City?
obi-don-ginobili: I don’t think I saw Sin City lol.
cwlkr20: I feel like you’d really like it.
bkesso: You would.
obi-don-ginobili: I’ll put it on the list. Cap and Supes traditionally have that golden boy do-no-wrong disposition. Probably why they both bore me.
bkesso: Yeah. But I think the approaches both studios took in shaking them of the perception speak for themselves. For Cap, they kept his personality and challenged his black-and-white morality in a world of grey. For Supes, they made him brood and depressed without really trying to do anything to change the world he’s in. Even Brood Wayne tries to better his world.
obi-don-ginobili: True. Cap was handled better and put in situations that challenged and gave life to his personality.
RYMS Average: 8.3/10