Saturday was my day to finally see the latest Captain America movie though it really wasn’t a Cap movie. It more of an Avengers movie. I liked it — with reservations — and feel like I need to see it again. One thing it did very nicely was start a passionate discussion among the folks with whom I’d seen the movie. What did I like — the new Spiderman was adorable. He really was a teenager. It was fun to see Antman return. The Black Panther — OMG what a gorgeous, interesting man. My heart has belonged to the Captain ever since the first film, and I could look at Sebastian Stan all day. One of my friends rather ironically said it was the best superhero/kung fu movies and he’s not wrong. The fight sequences were gorgeous. Here’s where I stand. I think I need to watch this movie again, but here are my initial thoughts.
Where I ran into problems was with motivations and set ups. What threw me was how Captain America, a man who reached adulthood during the Depression and WWII would suddenly turn into McArthur. The one thing I thought would always be front and center for Steve Rogers is the idea that the military needs civilian oversight. It’s been one of the founding principles of our country since the Constitution was drafted. So now he thinks the heroes (who are like armies in terms of their powers) should make all the calls about when to fight and when to refrain? Is it because it’s the UN and he’s an America First kind of guy? It just seemed odd.
Then there was the cryptic exchange with Tony near the end of the film about how Bucky/Winter Soldier had killed Tony’s parents. Tony asks Steve “Did you know?”, and the Captain says “Yes.” Okay did I blink and miss something during the movie? How did Steve know? He was in the ice when Howard and Mrs. Stark were killed. Did Bucky tell him? Did he see the video? And who shot that? And why was Stark driving around with what appeared to be super soldier serum in the trunk of his car? This guy knew the threats that existed but he just heads off to the airport with a powerful weapon in the trunk of the Impala?
Which brings me to Tony’s OTT reaction when he realizes Bucky was the killer and now Tony goes absolutely Biblical on the Cap’s ass. Tony is smarter than this. By this point in the film he knows he’s been manipulated, they have all been manipulated to fight each other. So now he suddenly sees this footage and he doesn’t go — “Oh, okay, somebody is fucking with me. Well, I’m not playing.” It felt almost as contrived as the incredibly stupid throw down between Batman and Superman in Batman versus Superman (which was a terrible movie. Don’t go see it. See Civil War instead.)
Okay, I’m back. Where was I?
My other question was “who is this movie about?” Ostensibly Captain America, but you could argue it’s Tony’s movie, and then you’ve got Black Panther who ends up being the most mature of the supers along with Vision. It sees like those guys should be put in charge with the authority to send people to their rooms and ground them from superhero play time for at least three weeks.
Ironically by the end of the movie I realized that in many ways this movie was about Zemo, and he was frankly more interesting then a lot of the bickering heroes. He was clearly smarter then they were, but I kept wondering how did he find all these secret documents? I wanted to know more about his journey, his search for the tools to exact vengeance on the people who had destroyed his life.
I think the film does raise really interesting issues and questions. I think some of my disquiet is due to the fact it is just so busy. I’ve found that for me I like these movies more when the are more focused, more about a single individual in emotional pain and conflict. The first Iron Man movie, the first Captain America movie, the second Toby McGuire Spiderman movie, X-Men First Class and X-Men Days of Future Past. I was also watching the movie with friends who aren’t as immersed in the Marvel cinematic universe as I am, and they were utterly baffled. We face this problem with Wild Cards. When have we become too self-referential? When is backstory too much backstory? It’s probably why people keep falling back on origin stories even though I am so sick of them. You aren’t carrying around all this history.
Bottom line — I’m going to see it again, and see if it works better for me. I didn’t dislike the movie. I just found it not as strong as I’d hoped.