Captain America: Civil War (PG-13)
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Ah, the MCU. It moves so fast that being a year late, as I am to this movie (or in many cases, even a few months late) can feel like so much longer. And of course, so much happens in any given MCU movie that it's hard to keep track of all that happens in each one, let alone how it relates to all the other movies and shows in the same universe. (The movie came out near the end of season 3 of Agents of SHIELD, and I didn't get to see it until after the entire fourth season. So... I knew from the show about some things in the movie, mainly the Sokovia Accords, but there was still plenty I didn't know.) Sometimes it's even hard to know how a movie relates to other movies I know are coming out in the nearish future. So... as much as I loved this movie, now that I've finally seen it, I really want to try to keep my review as short as possible. (And I am going to fail.)
It begins in 1991, with a mission Hydra sent the Winter Soldier (aka Cap's old friend Bucky Barnes) to carry out. It involved causing a car crash and stealing some packets of super solider serum that it was transporting. In the present (about a year after the Avengers had defeated Ultron in the country of Sokovia), the Avengers are currently chasing down a group that's trying to steal a biological weapon, in Lagos, Nigeria. After a great deal of badassery from everyone involved, the leader of the bad guys blows himself up in an attempt to kill Captain America. Wanda Maximoff uses her telekinesis to move the explosion away from Steve, but in the process, accidentally causes a great deal of destruction to a nearby building, resulting in the deaths of a number of people from Wakanda, an African nation that has only recently begun ending its isolation from the world. Later, U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) informs the Avengers that the United Nations is going to enact the Sokovia Accords, which would create a UN panel to control the team. Any member of the Avengers who doesn't agree to this will be forced to retire from the team, or else be considered criminals. (And while the movie doesn't really go into this, the TV series "Agents of SHIELD" focuses more on super-powered people such as Inhumans being required to register as such, rather than keeping their status secret.) Oh, and something I just realized from reading Wikipedia is that Ross was previously a general, in The Incredible Hulk... yes, Betty Ross's father. Apparently there's some supplementary material that explains how he became Secretary of State, but I haven't seen that.
Of course before seeing the movie, I knew the Avengers would be split on whether or not to sign the Accords, with Captain America (Steve Rogers) and Iron Man (Tony Stark) in particular opposing each other. I don't remember whether I ever heard or read which side which was on, but if I did, I'd forgotten by the time I watched the movie. And I gotta say, I found it a bit surprising that Tony was in favor of the Accords and Steve was against it. I totally would have expected it to be the other way around. But they did both have good reasons for their respective decisions. Anyway, those siding with Tony include Black Widow and War Machine, while those siding with Steve include Falcon and Vision. Hawkeye retires, and Wanda remains undecided. (Bruce Banner and Thor are both absent for the entire movie, so we don't know which side either one of them would have chosen.)
Meanwhile, during a U.N. meeting in Vienna, there is a terrorist attack, apparently perpetrated by the Winter Soldier. The casualties include King T'Chaka of Wakanda, which results in his son, T'Challa, inheriting the position of king. He also vows to kill Barnes, and we soon learn that Wakanda has had its own superhero, the Black Panther, for generations. And now T'Challa has inherited that mantle, as well. Which certainly means he has a better chance of actually succeeding in his vengeance against the super-powered Bucky than one would expect of an ordinary prince. (Incidentally, when we first hear about the Wakandans that were killed in Lagos because of Wanda's mistake, I thought that would play into the upcoming Black Panther movie. I didn't expect it to become a prime factor in this movie, let alone to see Black Panther himself play such a major role. Again, it's one of those things I might have known about around the time the movie came out, but forgot about by the time I saw it. And while I'm on the subject of things that surprised me about the movie, I want to mention something I should have said earlier in my review, but forgot because I'm trusting Wikipedia to refresh my memory of the movie I watched just last night, but Wikipedia doesn't say everything. So... there was this one scene where Tony was talking to an M.I.T. class, about a grant that was being provided to all the students. But his speech begin with a video presentation of a young man interacting with his parents, played by John Slattery and Hope Davis. I immediately thought the young man reminded me of Tony Stark, before finding out that it was Tony, when he was younger. I definitely thought he resembled Tony, but the reason he reminded me of Tony was his attitude, not his appearance. As for Slattery, he'd played Howard Stark before, but I have no recollection of that, because I always envision Howard as a younger man, in the TV series Agent Carter. Of course, none of this matters, I just wanted to explain that I felt a mix of pride and embarrassment when I learned the person who reminded me of Tony was Tony.)
Where was I? Oh yes, the terrorist attack in Vienna. Of course the authorities try to find and kill Bucky, but Steve finds him and protects him, because of their old friendship, and because he knows that Bucky isn't necessarily responsible for his actions, because of Hydra having brainwashed him. But protecting Bucky will also mean protecting him from Black Panther. And it means Captain America becomes a criminal, and Iron Man will become his enemy. (Even if Tony mainly wants to get to him before the authorities, in the hopes of taking him in peacefully.) Well... a whole lot happens, and I'm sure that even now, a day later, I can't remember nearly all of it, or the order in which it all happens. But it turns out that Bucky wasn't actually the one who attacked the U.N. meeting. That was a guy named Helmut Zemo, who does a lot of terrible things in this movie, with the ultimate goal of turning the Avengers against each other. He has a tragic and understandable reason for his desire for vengeance against them, but I don't want to spoil that. I will say it does eventually help Black Panther realize he must set aside his own desire for vengeance. But before all that, there is a pretty epic battle between former teammates. Cap gets Hawkeye to come out of retirement to help him, and to break Wanda out of the Avengers compound, where Tony had Vision keeping her under a sort of benevolent (and very comfortable) house arrest until she decided which side she was on. (Whether her forced captivity in a place most of us could only dream of living was for her own protection or the protection of everyone else is debatable.) Also, each side recruits some new heroes to help them. This is, incidentally, the first movie in Phase Three of the MCU; the last movie of Phase Two was Ant-Man, in which Falcon had a small role. And he now recruits Ant-Man to join Cap and himself. Meanwhile, Tony is somehow aware of the identity of a recent YouTube-famous vigilante in New York, Spider-Man. (So, this movie marks the introduction of the third feature film incarnation of the character.) He pays young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) a visit at his home, where he lives with his surprisingly young aunt, May Parker (Marisa Tomei), who apparently has no idea that Peter is Spider-Man. (Incidentally, I want to mention that Tony and Pepper Potts are "on a break," which kind of makes me sad, but also frees Tony up to act a bit flirtier than he might otherwise. Not just by commenting on how attractive Aunt May is, but also, later on, coming close to flirting with his new female-voiced A.I., FRIDAY, who replaced JARVIS, since that AI is now part of Vision.) So, anyway... yeah. Huge, awesome battle between all these different characters, as Tony's team tries to stop Cap's team, while Cap and Bucky are planning to go to Siberia, for a reason I don't want to spoil.
And... there are some other characters I should mention. There's a CIA agent named Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who appeared in the previous Captain America movie, though I didn't mention her in my review of that. It's in this movie that it's revealed that Peggy Carter was her great-aunt (though I'm sure I read that somewhere long before I saw this movie). So... she's technically on the side of the authorities, but she ends up helping Cap's team, so I guess she has to go into hiding, at the end of the movie. There's also a character named Everett K. Ross (presumably no relation to Thaddeus Ross), who is played by Martin Freeman. (The actor is best known to me from Sherlock, which I find amusing, because the other star of that show, Benedict Cumberbatch, also stars in the next MCU movie, "Doctor Strange." It's also amusing to see- and hear- Freeman playing an American.) Everett Ross is Deputy Task Force Commander of the Joint Counter Terrorism Centre. There's also a brief appearance by the Dean of M.I.T., who is played by Jim Rash, which I find amusing because he's most familiar to me as the Dean from Community.
Well, I'm leaving tons of stuff out, to avoid spoiling... you know, tons of stuff. A lot of people have said this is more like an Avengers movie than a Captain America movie, and they're basically right. But even so, I do kind of understand why his name is in the title. It is more directly about him than any of the others, on a personal level. Although it also becomes very personal for Tony, for a reason I won't spoil. And while the movie is amazingly cool for how much thrilling badassery it contains, what makes it truly great is the drama of it all. As fun as it is to see superheroes battling each other, it's also heartbreaking. Because they're not just people with super powers (or super technology), they're friends, who have been put in an impossible position, forced to make choices no one should ever have to make. (Of course, the movie also has its fair share of humorous moments.) Anyway, it definitely whets the appetite for the upcoming "Black Panther" and "Spider-Man" movies, as well as the next actual "Avengers" movie. (As if anyone's appetite for more MCU movies ever needs whetting.) And... I guess that's all I can think to say, for now.
Except of course, there are bonus scenes both mid-credits and post-credits.