Sunday, November 6, 2016

REVIEW: "Captain America: Civil War" a.k.a. Avengers 2.5: Clashes and Downfalls

This year's slate of comic-book films has shown an ever-growing (and sometimes unconventional) trend in how superheroes and other related characters are viewed in today's culture and world. Are they heroes or vigilantes? Good or bad? Perfect or flawed? Necessary or destructive?

The debatable Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice finds the two most iconic characters in DC history clashing over opposing worldviews following the events of 2013's Man of Steel, which featured a climactic showdown in Metropolis that resulted in polarizing 9/11-like imagery. Even the main characters are made bleak and broken, implying they've fallen from their idealism and are viewed as examples of misguided heroism. X-Men: Apocalypse finds Marvel's mutant team against an adversary team of mutants, headed by the ageless enemy Apocalypse. Suicide Squad finds a rogue's gallery of DC villains (including Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Captain Boomerang) tasked with a deadly mission in exchange for clemency, and who find themselves against other villains such as the Joker. Marvel's Deadpool doesn't exactly count, although it does satirize the superhero craze of the 21st century thus far, what with the titular antihero's fourth wall breaks and unapologetic attitude.

(l-r) Tony Stark, Lt. James "Rhode" Rhodes, Natasha Romanoff, Steve Rogers,
Sam Wilson, Vision, Wanda Maximoff
In Captain America: Civil War (reportedly the beginning of "Phase 3" in the ever-growing and popular Marvel Cinematic Universe), government leaders propose a new act to keep the Avengers and company in check, following global events that have left devastating results both socially and economically. One scene, in particular, finds the character Vision discussing a theory related to similar events that have occurred even before the Avengers assembled (in the 2012 film).

Vision: In the 8 years since Mr. [Tony] Stark announced himself as Iron Man, the number of known enhanced persons has grown exponentially. And during the same period, a number of potentially world-ending events has risen at a commensurable rate.
Steve Rogers/Captain America: Are you saying it's our fault?
Vision: I'm saying there may be a causality. Our very strength invites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict... breeds catastrophe. Oversight... Oversight is not an idea that can be dismissed out of hand.

The story pits and challenges various and specific themes against each other, such as heroes vs. government, submission vs. independence, protection vs. imprisonment and/or control, and also the consequences of war and the aforementioned casualties involved. At the center of this story is a clash in worldviews between "heroic" characters (particularly Captain America/Steve Rogers and Iron Man/Tony Stark), and not so much them against real-world figures and organizations.

What's great about Civil War is that it doesn't go the route of "the world is ending again," but instead focuses on the character developments and conflicts regarding said characters' roles and their motivations. And it equally works as an engrossing and deservedly-praised blockbuster full of impressive action set pieces (including a centerpiece standoff at an airport, complete with constant wit and surprises), as well as developing and engaging characters (Black Panther and Spider-Man steal the show, while Scarlet Witch and Vision are given better depth). By this point, we'll arguably never look at these characters the same way again, and (just maybe) hope that the best is still yet to come. 

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