Captain America: Civil War has been out for a few weeks now and the consensus has been set: with 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and just days from reaching $1 billion worldwide, the film is both a critical and commercial success. Many critics are claiming it’s the best Marvel movie ever, but how can one take that declaration seriously when they say it each year about every single MCU film that’s released? I was wary about watching this film; my interest drastically decreased after seeing Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not because it’s a better film than Civil War (which it is) but because critics and fans alike were and still are so adamant about tearing Dawn of Justice down in order to prop up Civil War. Newsflash to those people: it is possible to be excited for both movies and simultaneously like them.
The Captain America movies have only gotten better with each release until now: The Winter Soldier is still the best MCU film to date. Yes, you heard me: The Winter Soldier still holds the crown as the best MCU film and Civil War is a huge downgrade from that near-perfect movie. The reason why The Winter Soldier works so well is because it’s more than a superhero film. Like the Nolan trilogy and even Dawn of Justice, The Winter Soldier delved into the complexities of Steve’s life in this new world. Many forget that he’s in a totally different time period, basically everyone he knew from his past is dead and that he has serious PTSD. He’s more than the old man who hardly understands current cultural references (thanks, Joss Whedon).
He struggles with the fact that best friend “died” before his very eyes and that Peggy Carter, the love of his life, is failing to remember him because she has Alzheimer’s. The few connections he had to his past are close to being cut and soon he’ll be alone in this world that he still doesn’t fully understand. So when Bucky reappears again as the brainwashed Winter Soldier, Steve is overwhelmed. He saw Bucky die—or so he thought, and now he’s back as a ruthless assassin who doesn’t even know who Steve is. This presents so much emotional conflict! How can Steve fight the enemy when the enemy is his best friend?
The ending to The Winter Soldier promised us that the next film would be a continuation of Steve and Bucky’s relationship. If anything, the third film would be even more personal than the second. So how did we end up with this abomination instead? The answer is simple: competition and pettiness. Despite popular belief that the DCEU is frantically trying to catch up with the MCU, there’s been confirmation by the Civil War writers and cast that movie was a direct response to Dawn of Justice. Whatever the original idea (undoubtedly a smaller, intimate film focusing on relationships and not spectacle) was for the third Cap movie got thrown out the window because apparently competition is better than character development. You only sacrificed what made The Winter Soldier stand out from other MCU movies in favor of shoving every possible character into Civil War for essentially The Avengers 2.5.
So what exactly are the problems with Civil War? Nearly everything. What first bothers me about this movie is the fact that it hits the exact beats that Dawn of Justice did regarding society’s doubt towards superheroes but apparently Civil War did it better when both were presented in the same way. I can’t help but bring up Dawn of Justice because every critic is so compelled to let us know why Civil War is the better film. How exactly is it the better film when both movies did the same thing in similar ways? It’s a problem that Dawn of Justice directly addressed the attack on Metropolis (which many people complained about so the film made sure to center the story around that issue) but it’s passable that Civil War did the same thing after the attack at Lagos?
I could honestly make a list of the same things that each movie did but for some reason, critics think Civil War did it better. There’s been a lot of criticism about the “Martha” scene in Dawn of Justice: Batman is ready to kill Superman and in his dying breath, he manages to get out the words “Martha, save Martha.” Batman loses focus; he questions Superman for saying that name because unbeknownst to the both of them, their mothers share the same name. When Batman finds this out, he doesn’t immediately become friends with Superman like most are claiming, he views Superman as a person instead of a threat. Superman may be an alien, but he still has parents who mean the world to him and that’s a humanizing trait for this character who’s viewed as godlike.
A very similar scene happens ten minutes into Civil War: Steve is fighting Rumlow in Lagos and Rumlow delivers a low blow when he brings up Bucky—Steve loses complete track of his mission. Rumlow is able to set off a bomb that’s displaced by Wanda in order to protect Steve and in doing so, the bomb ends up destroying a nearby building. Both Steve and Bruce suffer from PTSD; these characters have suffered through terrible loss and it’s understandable that they would have these reactions, especially because Bucky and Martha are people that mean a lot to them. But no, Bruce’s scene is simply dismissed as a comedic moment for people to make fun of while Steve’s is praised as a traumatic moment. PTSD isn’t a competition, neither should be dismissed.
Another scene would be the huge fight in both movies: because of the destruction that happened a year before in Metropolis, the Trinity (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman) want to make sure that this fight against Doomsday isn’t in the city again. They’re able to lure the monster into an uninhabited island and in doing so, they protect thousands. Civil War does the exact same thing but instead of an island, they fight at an empty airport and destroy it in the process. But once again for some reason, Dawn of Justice is criticized for the line that a government official makes when he says the the island is uninhabited but no one bats an eye when it’s blatantly stated that Tony evacuated the airport so they could have their showdown.
But let’s focus on the biggest problem in this movie: the complete destruction of character development. I knew this film wasn’t going to be for me the second Steve went to Peggy’s funeral and Sam nudged Steve’s shoulder when Peggy’s niece, Sharon, came to the stage to speak. In The Winter Soldier, Steve and Natasha had an inside joke throughout the movie regarding Steve’s lack of a love life: she would suggest numerous girls that she thought Steve should date. Sharon was among those girls but this was never something that was expanded on in the film. It was simply a joke between them that highlighted not only Steve’s continued awkwardness with girls but also the love he still has for Peggy. But in Civil War, we clearly missed multiple scenes between them because their relationship came out of nowhere.
Peggy, the actual love of his life, gets reduced to a text message saying that she’s dead and a three-minute funeral scene where Steve spends the entire time ogling her niece like he’s in high school. Did no one working on this movie watch or even remember what happened in the second movie? The film made a point of saying that Steve is still in love with Peggy and he’s depressed because she can’t remember the moments she had with him! There is no scene in Civil War where he actually mourns her! She dies and the next thing he does is have a forced stare off with Sharon so we can understand that they “like” each other. Longing stares at back and forth do not equal character development. Their “relationship” was cringe-worthy and just laughable. And don’t even get me started on that last minute kiss—Sam and Bucky are in the car smiling because they’re happy for him while I’m sitting here thinking, “Where the hell did that come from?!”
Okay, so the movie completely screws up his relationship with Peggy. They can’t possibly do the same thing with Bucky, right? Before the movie’s release, we were told multiple times that the story would focus on Steve and Bucky’s relationship—one of the directors even said Civil War is a love story between the two. Any person with eyes and a brain can see that they flat out lied to us. This is not a Captain America movie—this is The Avengers 2.5 with a strong focus on Tony Stark. I had a bad feeling about the outcome of this movie the moment they announced that Robert Downey Jr. would be joining the cast. My suspicions were later confirmed when it was revealed that RDJ pushed for more screen time despite the fact that this isn’t an Iron Man movie.
The results of that horrible decision were clear as day in the film—instead of focusing on Steve’s closure and Bucky’s redemption arc, we see a focus on Tony’s internal conflict as he deals with the loss of his parents. In an Iron Man movie, this would work. But this isn’t an Iron Man film, this is a Captain America film. I don’t care if it is Civil War, the film is still presented as a Captain America movie, therefore, it should be about STEVE ROGERS. Steve’s story is pushed to the back in favor of Tony’s story, the paper thin subplots between the overwhelming amount of characters, and the unnecessary addition of Spider-Man, which was nothing more than shameless MCU promotion (“Look guys! We got Spider-Man back!”). It’s unfathomable that critics are saying this film treated its characters fairly when the entire movie was nothing but the Tony show.
The only significant scene between Steve and Bucky is when Steve finds Bucky in Bucharest. Steve asks Bucky, “Do you know me?” to which Bucky replies with “You’re Steve.” You feel your heartstrings tug because this is what we were promised at the end of The Winter Soldier and sadly, this scene is less than five minutes and far too short for their supposed “love story.” Bucky’s “redemption arc” is just as insulting as their watered down relationship—in the middle of the film it’s revealed that Bucky isn’t the only Winter Soldier, Hydra created multiple ones and Zemo (the film’s one-dimensional villain) wants to release the rest of them into the world.
Creating multiple Winter Soldiers completely diminishes the actual character of the Winter Soldier. It deems Bucky useless—he is THE Winter Soldier, not A Winter Soldier. Really, writers? You guys couldn’t have come up with a better motivation for the villain so you decided to destroy Bucky’s character for the sake of…what, exactly? There was no logical reason for that decision. The second movie focused extensively on the mystery of the Winter Soldier—“Most of the intelligence community doesn’t believe he exists. The ones that do call him the Winter Soldier. He’s credited over two dozen assassinations in the last 50 years.”
One man being the cause of multiple assassinations is much more impactful and menacing than multiple people doing the job. The fact that Steve’s best friend was the cause of all these deaths is not only a gut punch to Steve, but also the audience. Natasha called him a ghost for a reason—he’s dangerous, he’s unknown and he’s a mystery. Now he’s just one of many “Winter Soldiers” when he should’ve been the only one.
Civil War disrespects the characters it should be focusing on. It brushes over the scenes that should draw an emotional reaction in favor of focusing all of that emotion on Tony in order to build up to the huge reveal: a brainwashed Bucky killed Tony’s parents. I don’t know why this reveal was treated so heavily when it was clearly implied that Bucky killed Tony’s parents during the Zola scene in The Winter Soldier. In fact, Tony should already know that Bucky killed his parents because at the end of the second movie, Natasha leaks all of S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra’s files online. Tony, being the tech-savvy guy that he is, would’ve already known this especially considering the fact that the information was leaked a year before the events of this movie. But I guess all of the critics who contributed to Civil War’s 90% on RT completely dismissed that gaping plot hole as insignificant, right?
Words cannot express my disappointment towards this film. To go from The Winter Soldier to this is just a disgrace beyond itself. If anything, this film just told us what we already know: that the MCU cares more about Tony Stark than it does any of its other characters. And considering the amount of screen time Spider-Man got, he’ll be the second golden boy next to the man who convinced him to fight a war that he doesn’t even understand or have any place in. Peggy Carter deserved better than this movie. Bucky Barnes deserved better than this movie. Steve Rogers deserved better than this movie and the fact that he got sidelined in his own film is an unforgivable sin.