Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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Fanart from PinkNews. This story would get five stars automatically.

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has some positive qualities.

The franchise effectively straddles mass audience appeal with nerdy, interlocking comic book adaptations. Many of the single-hero films; the first Thor, the first Captain America, the first two Iron Man films; are cheeky fun. Jessica Jones is one of the best shows on Netflix, and I look forward to watching Luke Cage.

However, I don’t think the backlash against their popularity is simply sour grapes (although this review will become very sour); the ensemble films, in particular, are pure formula. The two Avengers films had the advantage of Whedon one-liners, but were also very hackish by his standards (I miss his original works and resent these films for taking him away from them).

Captain America 2 and 3 are dire. Ditching the humour of the series, in favour of ‘gritty’ but utterly thoughtless political commentary, the main redeeming feature of these films is impressive fight choreography (one star for that), especially when contrasted with the DC films’ over-reliance on CGI.

Civil War also benefits from prior good casting (half a star), but the script is an insult (no stars).

I was never a fan of the Civil War concept in the comics, striking me as politically lost at sea, and this adaptation does nothing to improve on that.

In many depictions I enjoy the dynamic between Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Tony Stark (Iron Man). Sincere jingoism meets cynical profiteering; US propaganda meets the US arms industry; two very attractive men who clearly need hate-sex. Lovely.

But this story strikes me as the most wrongheaded, backwards way to bring that erotic tension to a head (cover image is the correct way).

For one thing, the character positions seem bizarrely reversed. Steve Rogers, the liberal patriot and anti-fascist, opposes an attempt at liberal regulation; Iron Man, the self-serving libertarian, fights for the state against his own self-interest. While this is explained through character development, superheroes are archetypes, and the archetypes make no sense here.

The film initially tries for a kind of balance. Beginning with the consequences of the first two Avengers, the choice to regulate is portrayed as making a kind of sense.

However, that balance is ditched almost immediately. In a very similar vein to the equally stupid Batman vs Superman, the plan to regulate of course hides an evil scheme. And the hero of the film, Captain America, fights for the right of superheroes to do whatever the fuck they want.

Heroically opposing regulation of militarised US super-beings makes zero sense. You don’t have to love the state to realise regulating people in these positions of power is just sensible (and the Avengers already act as extensions of the state, see Shield).

One might say that Civil War is ‘just an action movie’, but even aside from the role of pop-culture in ideology, it’s not. The political commentary is overt, deadly serious, and drives the plot.

And it borders on fascistic; supermen are apparently above the law. I’d say it was the perfect superhero film, laying the politics of the genre bare, but the Batman saga has cornered that market.

There is no justice in the world when this is among the top five box office hits of 2016 and gets 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. I haven’t bothered to name cast and crew because nobody deserves any credit for this film, except choreographer James Young.

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