Monday, 9 May 2016

Captain America 3: Civil War


Image result for captain america civil warThe third Captain America film, and arguably the true end of Phase Two, Civil War takes the simmering backdrop of political disapproval that's been part of the MCU since the first Avengers film and puts it centre stage. The film opens with a disaster in Lagos, which serves as a kicker to the events of the movie, and to the MCU's expansion into new territory, bringing the mysterious kingdom of Wakanda into focus for the first time (after only being mentioned as the source of Vibranium in Age of Ultron), and lets events expand from there.

As the team is confronted with the collateral damage that their actions have caused, it is, oddly, Tony Stark who takes up the cause for greater control, completing the arc from self-absorbed millionaire playboy to, um, self-absorbed, but guilty, millionaire playboy, who'll do whatever he can to keep things going. He very much plays the role of 'the pragmatist' in this film, but his role jars when you consider that this is the man who Fury didn't want in the Iron Man suit. Robert Downey Jr carries the role well, but I feel the plotting isn't quite right and even after the Battle for New York, Tony Stark as a repentant sinner doesn't quite sell itself to me, even with the added frisson of him screwing up despite his best intentions.

It's left for Cap to take the other side in the debate, bringing the frenemy relationship he and Iron Man have had since the first Avengers film to its natural conclusion. Marvel, to their credit, deepen the score by really emphasising the theme of family, revealing that Tony's father filled his head as a young man with nothing but praise for Cap, presumably to the point where he was sick of it.

This then sets the stage for the film, as an act of terrorism drags the Winter Soldier back into the spotlight and provides us with the next step in Marvel's world building project, as the Black Panther steps onto centre stage. Again, the theme of family becomes very much the focus of the film (they more or less shove your face in it, screaming 'this is what this is all about'), and it's only late in the film that it's revealed what the 'prime mover', Zemo is up to. In this the film is quite refreshing, because it adds a different dimension to the proceedings, making something other than a 'bash the toys together film'. To be fair, the Captain America films have managed to have a strong subtext throughout and in many ways this feels as if it might be Marvel's Bourne film (where Winter Soldier was a 70s Cold War spy flick).

The fight scenes are well choreographed, and it's a delight to see the new characters get extra time to establish themselves during the airport scene, and to see what happens when Cap and Iron Man go toe to toe in the end.

Despite this I feel there were some missteps, the Pro-Reg side lost points for me when they seemed to support imprisoning a teenage girl, and I was horrified by Wanda's imprisonment on the Raft. Marvel's world building feels like it's missed a few powerful, if not necessarily cinematic beats (where was the team's PR, why don't they have someone like Maria Hill on oversight, watching over what the team does in the field and providing backup and liaising with the local security services.

The situation with Wanda is another problem, with Sokovia destroyed in Ultron, is she now a US citizen or is she stateless? As a teenager, should she not be kept off the battlefield (pretty sure letting her be an Avenger would count as child endangerment)? I get that it's a movie but these things ended up bugging me, even if putting teens in body condoms and throwing them out to fight bad guys is a superhero tradition, going all the way back to 1938.

None of these quibbles really make much difference to the film, but it would have been nice to at least to have a hat tip to them, a confirmation that the MCU works the way the real world does.

The film does leave us in an interesting situation; presumably, a new Avengers team will arise from the ashes, all with Stark's seal of approval (the fact that it may resemble Marvel's Illuminati more than anything else is interesting, especially if Dr. Strange gets recruited) while the renegade Avengers will probably pop up all over the place, doing their thing. There are all sorts of questions to ask, though, is Steve still Cap, or will he be Nomad now? If the latter, does that mean we'll see a new Captain America, possibly a harder edged one who is more part of the 'spirit of the time', than a man out of it? Does it mean the entry of a figure like Henry Gyrich, to supervise the Avengers and snitch on them to the UN? Where does Fury fit into all of this, too?  I don't watch Agents of SHIELD, so have no idea if anyone actually believes he's dead now, but I can't see the powers that be in the MCU being happy about him running about in deep cover.

It's interesting to see the new movies for Phase Three, and the way they're branching off into new territory, down to the street with Spider-Man (presumably with 'Uncle Tony' as a mentor), the mystical with Dr. Strange, and into the wider world with Black Panther. Of these only the last feels as if it might carry on the overall political trajectory. We'll just have to wait and see I guess.

For myself, I just hope we see a British superhero soon - come on Marvel, give us Union Jack or Captain Britain (assuming he's not tied up in the Fox license); or dip into the 1990s stuff Marvel UK came up with to serve up some goodies from the Overkill comic. Please?