It is unusual for a superhero to be the villain of his own movie, but Marvel managed to do just that with Captain America: Civil War. Just like with the comic mini-series that inspired the movie, there is not much reason to root for Captain America and his team of anti-registration vigilantes. At least this version of Captain America does not openly commit treason by calling on a foreign power to invade his country to stop the Superhuman Registration Act.
Much like the mini-series, there is an effort to force super-vigilantes to register with a government authority after massive collateral damage during a battle. While in the comics the incineration of an elementary school and much of the surrounding neighborhood was brought on by glory hounds filming a reality TV show, the collateral damage here happened while trying to stop terrorists from stealing a biological weapon. The Avengers, then, are not nearly as unsympathetic as the New Warriors were a decade ago.
I am not sure some of the critics are familiar with the source material. For example:
Woodard’s “Who’s going to avenge my son?” shamelessly taps the illusion of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and Tamir Rice as Boy Scouts and potential Rhodes scholars. That’s way out of bounds.
I was looking for this connection when I watched the movie, and it was just not there. It is a figment of a National Review writer’s overly active imagination. It is a very close adaptation of a scene in the comics where a grieving mother accosts Iron Man after her child dies in the blast caused by super-villain Nitro. It is this guilt, in addition to the political realities of superhero registration, that drives his motivation for holding super-vigilantes accountable.
It does make sense given the story that it is the United Nations that will oversee the Avengers, but I think it would have worked better had it been the U.S. government instead. And just like in the comics, Iron Man’s support for registration is a compromise to stop something worse. The “something worse” should have been spelled out like it was in the comics. I knew what it probably was because I have read the comics, but people who have not (the vast majority of the audience) will have no clue what he is talking about.
But even without strengthening Iron Man’s position, the argument basically boils down to Tony Stark arguing that heroes have to be held accountable and under proper supervision, while Captain America (Steve Rogers) basically says that vigilantes are better for the safety of the world than agents of a military or police force. In the real world, if someone puts on a mask to go beat up muggers, he is breaking the law. There’s no reason it should not work that way in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Marvel’s mainstream comic books.
Eventually, we find there is a bigger plot behind the scenes, and our heroes eventually join together to stop it. I found it really interesting that Baron Zemo, while his terrorist actions make him an evil character, has a motivation that is understandable and almost heroic. He is not the son of a Nazi war criminal out to take over the world.
A few short things: There was a big plot hole, because the writers apparently forgot that Scarlett Witch had psychic powers in Age of Ultron, as she does not use them here. Quicksilver was not mentioned at all, and one would think his twin sister would still be grieving his death. I strongly disliked the Ant-Man movie, but I loved the character’s scenes in Civil War. I loved the inclusion of Spider-Man and while I would have loved to see the “Iron Spider” armor there is no way it would have worked here. His quips were great and he was by far the best thing about this movie.
Overall, this is a very good movie and well worth seeing. Final Grade: A-