Now that Captain America: Civil War has been out for a few weeks, it’s now time to take a Closer Look at quite possibly the greatest Marvel movie yet – in fact, probably even the greatest Superhero movie yet. And that’s not bias talking as there is more than enough evidence to support that.
Besides the usual Marvel humor, this film had incredible depth and made our heroes wrestle with heart wrenching situations. Though even beyond this balance of levity and crushing gravity, the film has to be admired for how it seamlessly balanced so many heroes and not once made anyone feel superfluous. Each hero had his or her time to shine and even newly introduced heroes had their chance to stand out and make their mark.
Though the impressive storytelling and depth doesn’t end there. As such, here is a detailed look at some of the most well-crafted aspects of this film as well as an explanation of what happened, who was right and how this set the stage for Marvel’s Phase 3.
Explaining The Plot Holes – Vision’s Absence, The Accords & How Zemo’s Plan Worked:
Some have pointed to certain plot holes in the film such as: the Avengers are being treated as criminals despite saving people, Zemo’s plan working as flawlessly as it did and why Vision was absent during that initial fight. Now some of these might seem strange; but knowing the Russo brothers, we should give them the benefit of the doubt and ask WHY things played out this way. Just because something didn’t make sense doesn’t mean it’s a Plot Hole. Maybe we just need to take a Closer Look at the film as a whole. In doing so, we not only come to the answers to these questions; but also notice various other story points we may have overlooked. So let’s give it a shot
- Why Vision Didn’t Attend The Crossbones Mission:
As for why Vision Didn’t Attend The Crossbones Mission, let’s take note of how Vision is not only portrayed at the start of this movie, but also how he is for the vast majority of it. Vision is trying to learn his humanity (ie: cooking and wearing sweater vests), and the only time he actually engages in battle it’s only as a last resort. Additionally, we hear about how he fears what the gem in his head is and what it can do. I’ll explore this more later as ‘fearing a piece of you’ is a major theme in this film; but you must realize that the only time Vision does truly engages in battle he gets distracted and severely injures Rhodey. Pairing all this together, it’s not hard to see that Vision is willfully absent from the initial fight because he doesn’t want to be a fighter. He’s trying to be human and is frightened by the power within him. Ultron is gone and he’s no longer “born yesterday”. He’s had a year to begin figure out what he is, and what he is frightens him.
- Why Do People Keep Forgetting & Blame The Avengers?
Now as for why people see The Accords as a necessary form of control, yes General Ross ignores the warhead thrown at Manhattan, Hydra’s takeover of SHIELD and Ultron’s plan to wipeout humanity. Though you must also remember that these aren’t something that were suddenly forgotten in this film. In each film’s aftermath – even within the same film – blame is cast on the Avengers. For New York, people claim it “wasn’t their fight” despite the Avengers fighting to protect them. In Winter Soldier, there’s a hearing the destruction of SHIELD yet no mention of Hydra. The Avengers saved the city each time; but you must also remember that people fear what they don’t understand. In each of these instances, they see the Avengers. Yes, the majority know they save them; but some fear what these powers could be used for. The Avengers need to have a governing control them so that when something bad happens they can “shift the blame”. Cap even mentions this himself. The US and other country’s have been shifting the blame to the Avengers for years, so the Accords is a way to shift it again and make these heroes be subservient. Were the Accords good? Yes and no, and by film’s end we certainly see their true colors – but I’ll get to that in the next section.
The explanation of this Plot Hole is simply “look at the real world”. Everyday, people throw blame and label groups/people they don’t understand. And if there were a group of “powered people” running around usually showing up where trouble arose, you KNOW some would cast them as the unfavorable out of fear and political gain. Civil War and the Sokovia Accords boil down to nothing more than playing politics; and Cap wants no part of it.
- How Did Zemo’s Plan Actually Work?
And this all brings us to our final Plot Hole to address: How Did Zemo’s Plan Work? Zemo’s a man with two things – time and a mission. He talks about how he’s studied everything about Captain America and the Avengers for the past year and how he’s carefully planned his revenge. This is how he learned of Cap’s best friend turned Hydra assassin Bucky and that Tony’s parents were assassinated by him. He knew this could be the fracture point, which is why he was looking for the field report from it. Though when he heard of the Sokovia Accords being put into plat, he knew this would add more fuel to the fire and his time to act was NOW. Had the Sokovia Accords never gone into effect, he would have done things differently; but his mission from the get go was to get his hands on the mission report in some way, shape or form and then release it while Cap, Bucky and Tony were all in the same place.
This is why he worked so hard to flush Bucky out and frame him. Whatever happened he knew Cap would side with Bucky. Whether Tony was working against him or not to apprehend him is besides the point. He simply needed those three together, which is why in the end he revealed his own UN rouse. As always he was monitoring the new and knew Ironman and Cap were on differing sides, so by revealing his first deception, he proved Steve right and reunited him and Tony. But of course, this reuniting was only to finish his initial plan: Get Cap, Ironman and Bucky together and drop the bombshell evidence. In the heat of the moment, he knew the Avengers would come to blows over Bucky. That was his mission. That was his aim. As for how everything else worked out in the film, all Zemo had to do was pay attention to the news and the people he’s studied for a full year, and roll with the punches.
Captain America Vs Ironman: Ideologies, Motivations & Who Was Right:
So who was right: Ironman (Pro-Accords) or Captain America (Anti-Accords)? Amazingly, the Russo’s and writers were able to not only balance both of these positions but also give each an incredible amount of credence. Who’s right and who’s wrong ultimately depends on which part of the film you’re in; but before we can look at that ping-pong match, we have to first understand WHY each character falls on their respective side because the inaugural ‘alone time’ with each character is what gives us a wonderful glimpse into their current mental state and motivation.
Take Tony for example, who after that ‘projected flashback’ scene – meant to set up for the end of the film obviously – meets a parent of an innocent kid who died in Sokovia. Add in the fact that he and Pepper have seemingly split up, and you find that Tony is feeling very down right now. He’s back to being the tinkerer he promised Pepper he’d stop being; and the only thing his tinkering has caused is a homicidal robot and countless problems. Hell, since Ironman (2008) we’ve seen how Tony’s good intentions have constantly resulted in death and destruction. So when he’s presented with the idea of the Sokovia Accords, they grant him everything he’s been hoping for: an end to the pain and guilt – or at least a transference. The lone wolf who once tried to “privatize world peace” has learned he’s out of his league and wishes he could just follow an order because making the tough call has only resulted in more pain.
As for Steve, his battle is a two-pronged one: Anti-Accords and Pro-Bucky. The reason Cap is so Anti-Accords is because he knows how politics and organizations can become corrupted. He saw what Hydra masquerading as SHIELD wanted to do, and he can’t fathom why someone would want to put unstoppable weapons into another organization’s hands. The soldier is now the rebel; but you have to remember Cap always had that tendency as his first time in battle was all self-led. He remembers when he was a ‘song and dance war bonds’ boy; and by defying orders and making his own call he saved countless lives and turned the tide of war. If that right is taken away, how can certain battles possibly be won? As for the Bucky component, remember that the manhunt for Bucky come on the heels of the loss of Peggy Carter. Captain America is a man out of time, so when he awoke and found out Peggy was still alive, it gave him something to hold on to and still feel like home. This is also why Steve fights so hard for Bucky in both films. And now that Peggy is gone, Bucky represents the only remaining piece of his former life.
Now that we see WHY each chose their respective sides, let’s look at who’s right. At various points in the film the burden of proof falls to different sides. At the initial signing Tony certainly has the favorable view and Cap seems the wide-eyed dreamer. This is further supported when Cap is just about to sign the Accords but then changes his mind when he learns Scarlet Witch is under house arrest. At the time, Cap’s stance seems almost infuriating; but as the film goes on this begins to flip. Once we confirm that this was all a ploy by Zemo, we see how Cap’s stance is indeed correct. With the risk of high powered killers out there, immediate action needs to be taken but Team Accords is too busy trying to tie up loose ends. Much like Cap did earlier, Tony soon realizes the potential errors of his stance and sees that the Accords tie their hands when need be. This is further supported when Tony sees some of his former teammates in a high security prison. He sees how the Accords doesn’t hesitate to turn on once proud heroes and label them “criminals” just for not following their set rules.
It doesn’t matter that Ironman and Captain America’s real fight is still yet to come because that battle isn’t about the Accords. In this moment of Tony beholding his once teammates, he realizes that the Accords aren’t a perfect solution and are now an evil he has to work within. In the final moments, when Tony refuses to pick up the phone when Ross is calling, it’s not just a reference to his earlier joke about how he likes to make people hold because he likes the red flashing button; but also to show that he’s not going to ‘Report’ Captain America. Their personal quarrel is over, and Tony knows his place in the Accords now; but that doesn’t mean he won’t still protect his “Secret Avenger” friends. Though even if you’re still Pro-Accords, you aren’t shunned that much. At the end of the day, one is the necessary evil (that Tony will work within to make the correct path) while the other does what the Accords can’t/ won’t allow. Everyone ends on somewhat equal footing. Unless you’re Black Panther, because then you just win!
A Stark Parallel: Civil War As Black Panther vs Ironman – Daddy Issue Induced Vengeance:
The juxtaposition at the center of Captain America: Civil War is of course Cap vs Ironman in how they deal with the Sokovia Accords. That being said, there is also one other key juxtaposition set up through the film: Black Panther vs Ironman in how they deal with the loss of a parental figure. As the film opens, we see firsthand Tony’s adult relationship with his mother and father. Sadly, this is also the altered memory of the last time he saw them alive. Tony never got to really say goodbye to them and furthermore never got to tell his father he loved him.
The other side of this coin is of course black panther, who actually sets the pace for ‘wanting revenge against Winter Solider for the death of his father’. Instead of a memory, we see firsthand the relationship between T’Challa and T’Chaka. Unlike Tony and his father, these two are very close and know how the other feels about them. It’s also important to note that Tony is more upset that Winter Soldier killed his mother rather than his dad. Regardless, seeing T’Challa seethe with rage while hunting down Winter Solider sets us up for how mad Tony will be when he eventually discovers the truth. Although it’s at this point we have to remember those differences and see how their paths are basically reversals of the other.
Black Panther sees the truth and that he’s been manipulated. He calls off his witch hunt and instead goes after bringing the villain to justice. Additionally, the man who wanted to murder his father killer ends up saving/sparing him because he knows that rage and hatred is no good. Meanwhile, despite knowing that he’s being played, Tony lets the rage consume every fiber of his being. Thankfully, after he let’s all the anger out, we see Tony return to normal in the end. This fight was purely the cathartic release of all the anxiety he’s been building up for this whole film. In the end, both Tony and T’Challa arrive the charming genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist; then experience the murder of a parent(s) and go on a revenge-fueled hunt until finally returning to their good old selves (also whilst (re)establishing a relationship with Cap)
Dealing With The Parts Of You That You Fear/Want To Understand – Scarlet Witch, Vision & Bucky:
As I mentioned earlier, one of the big hidden themes of this film was “fearing the parts of you that you don’t understand” and whether or not you want to understand them. As a whole, the film sort of deals with this as the world is fearful of these select individuals who have unimaginable power. Although we actually see this theme directly addressed at several points in the film. The first of which is of course Vision – who I spoke of earlier. Since defeating Ultron, Vision has had time to contemplate what he is and why he is. The answer comes down to the Mind Stone in his forehead which gives him incredible powers, but he doesn’t understand anything about them. And as we see in the film, he is frightened of discovering what they mean. Even his moment of ‘distraction’ begs a question: What distracted him? Were these a hint at feelings for Scarlet Witch and thinking about her. Or was this a hint at the Mind Stone interfering with his consciousness? This remains to be seen.
On the equal yet opposite end of this spectrum, we find Scarlet Witch who since Ultron has had time to develop her powers as well. The world sees her as a monster and she isn’t quite sure yet what she is. Though the key difference is that she wants to understand and master her powers. And with the support of Cap, Hawkeye and Ant-Man, she is reminded that she is not a monster. This all juxtaposes her more with Vision, and it’s no coincidence that the moment she chooses to accept her powers and not fear them is the moment she completely overpowers him and blasts him miles beneath the Earth’s crust.
Though in the film moments of the film, we realize there is one more person embodying this theme: Bucky. While he’d detained, he see how he fights his programming and yet those words are still able to wipe his mind. Bucky knows that even though Hydra is gone, he’s not free of their or the soviet programming. Unlike Vision and Scarlet Witch, the thing inside him he fears he does understand. It’s not something unknown but rather something he’s had to live with for the past 70 or so years. Additionally, this is something that doesn’t give him strength, but rather needs to be removed as it’s not HIS power but rather a power SOMEONE ELSE holds over him.
This is why he seals himself away at films end, hoping one day the programming can be removed and he can once again be in control of his powers.
United We Stand, Divided We Fall – Tying Together the MCU Thus Far And Setting Up Black Panther, Infinity War & Phase 3:
- As the film opens we see a flashback of the Winter Solider followed by the Avengers in action taking on Crossbones. These scenes of course set up the two key points of Civil War – revenge and accountability – but also serve to legitimize this as the follow-up of Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Bucky’s brainwashing and Rumlow were both key points of that film.
- Similarly, many moments in the film were meant to tie this film back to the original Captain America: Civil War, including but not limited to: Cap saying he’s from Brooklyn as well as Cap getting beaten up and saying “I can do this all day”, which takes us back to the first moments of Captain America: The First Avenger.
- It’s interesting to note that in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ultron tasked Scarlet Witch with tearing them apart from the inside. Whereas she did do that slightly in Age of Ultron, one could argue that she unintentionally accomplished that task in this film – which also explain why she’s ridden with so much guilt.
- We hear Thor and Hulk referred to as ‘two misplaced nukes’. This is not just because they’re the two most physically powerful of the group; but also because they BOTH will be appearing in Thor: Ragnarok – a film that is shaping up to be a mix of the Ragnarok and Planet Hulk stories.
- It seems rather coincidental that one of the words uttered to ‘reactivate’ Winter Soldier was “Homecoming”. Perhaps a nice little nod to the upcoming Spiderman film titled Spiderman: Homecoming.
- It was great seeing that even though the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron are over, Hawkeye still looks after Scarlet Witch, which not only recalls his pep talk to her in Age of Ultron; but also could be his way of honoring her brother Quicksilver.
- Back when Ant-Man first premiered, we called that sooner or later Giant-Man would appear as well since the film ended with Lang using one of the ‘grow’ discs’ in his belt to escape the subatomic realm. If used when not already miniature, this would be how he could take on his famous Giant-Man form – and that was indeed the case – which opens up a ton of new doors for the Phase 3 film Ant-Man and the Wasp.
- Wakanda and Black Panther made perfect sense for this film not only in how related; but also how these issues help set up the Black Panther film. The key points of this film were ‘bringing superheroes into light’ and how ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. Black Panther and Wakanda’s role in the film represent this perfectly as we find Wakanda – a country previously all to itself – slowly trying to join the rest of the world and unite. However, as the film ends, we find that whereas Wakanda had tried to initially join the rest of the world, it sees its own sovereignty and loyalties as more important. T’Challa and Wakanda are now defying the UN Sanctions – thus dividing them from the rest of the world BUT uniting them with Cap’s Secret Avengers.
- By and large, Captain America: Civil War set up for Phase 3 in how it’s primary direction will be how the older Avengers face consequences of all their past actions and how both them and the new generation of heroes can come together and save the day. Captain America: Civil War certainly shows the last part of that phrase (Divided We Fall) but it will be the next pair of Avenger films Infinity War, that shows the other (United We Stand).