Let's discuss Avengers: Infinity War -- a movie BOUND to make you feel so good!

May 12, 2016

Captain America: Civil War: SummerSlam (Part 2)

How does Marvel keep getting away with it?

Cinematic dominance.  Legions of fans.  Hundreds of millions of dollars with one release after another (typically, and that’s before factoring in stuff like merchandising).  The resources and confidence to be able to announce a buffet line of future movies.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe is on a serious hot streak, and if I had to guess?  Considering that Captain America: Civil War has won a place in the hearts of critics, casual moviegoers, and fans -- including yours truly -- I’d say that the streak’s still somewhere between “blazing” and “infernal” on the thermometer.

It’s easy to look at Marvel and get salty.  Very easy.  It’s not the perfect company, and its products aren’t exactly the apotheosis of art.  It’s hard to look at the MCU and pretend like it hasn’t inadvertently harmed the film industry, i.e. with a glut of superhero movies and forcing competitors (such as they are) to foolishly push their own cinematic universes.  And while it’s not a one-to-one comparison, the MCU has helped codify the idea that recognizable names = huge returns of investment.  Ready for a new Jumanji movie?  Too bad, idiots!  Here it comes!

If we absolutely must think of Marvel as the worst -- as a factory instead of a suite of artists -- then I hope you can meet me halfway and agree that it’s the best of the worst.  The reason why Marvel “gets away with it” is because if nothing else, it follows a fundamental rule proven in Civil War: you can’t spell “character” without “care”.

I was standing on my own
But now I’m not alone

So in the last post, I mentioned what happened when I tried to start a discussion about the merits and faults of the Sokovia Accords -- framed simply as “are you Team Cap or Team Iron Man”.  It didn’t lead to a riveting discussion, seeing as how my mention of “the superhero registration act” was met with a resounding “shut up”.  (I really need to make more friends.)  Apparently, the only rationale behind the choice is “which team has my favorite superhero” or “which team has the strongest superheroes”.  Since Team Iron Man had Spider-Man, the choice seemed obvious to them.

I guess that’s all it really takes.  To be fair, I’m not about to devalue character loyalty or a difference in opinion (as simplistic as it may be).  Still, I’d like to think there are two sides to the argument.  On one hand, paring down everything to such a simple -- even narrow-minded -- level is a disservice to the art the character resides in.  It’s like indirectly saying “I don’t care about the themes, elements, or execution of a story as long as a character I like does things I like.”  And that’s a slope so slippery it might as well have a layer of grease on it as thick as Shaq is tall. 

On the other hand, the ability to generate character loyalty is an important part of any product.  If a story can’t offer up anyone that the crowd can get behind, it’ll lead to one hell of a bad ending before the credits roll.  Being able to feel something for a character, superhero or otherwise, is an end goal in and of itself.  Say what you will about people and their collective ability to empathize with others, but a good piece of art is a surefire way to assert humanity.  People will cheer for a hero who triumphs over evil.  They’ll laugh if he slips on a banana peel.  They’ll cry when someone important to him walks out of his life (forcibly, if need be).  They’ll root for him if he struggles to climb up a mountain.  They’ll ship him with every character under the sun -- and when they run out, they’ll ship him with every character under a sun in another galaxy.

Marvel movies understand that.  What are you in for when you watch an Iron Man movie?  You’re gonna get a heaping helping of Iron Man.  You’ll get to see the armored Avenger firing off his weapons and flying through the air, but you’ll also see him deal with his vices and inner demons along with the bad guys at hand.  You’ll get Captain America in a Captain America movie.  You’ll get the Guardians of the Galaxy in Guardians of the Galaxy.  If you want to see heroes in action -- or simply existing -- you’ll get it.  And seeing as how these movies have to fill up 2 hours of screen time, it’s only natural that they’re given a lot to say and do. 

And maybe I’m being presumptuous here, but something tells me that that’s exactly what moviegoers want -- even if they don’t know it.  So even if Civil War has all sorts of thoughtful moments and deeper meanings, one question remains: does it really matter in the end?  Your mileage may vary, but in a lot of ways, the answer is no.  It’s a movie about the characters, and excels because of them.  So let’s go ahead and get to what actually matters -- in a pointlessly absurd number of words.  Because they’re worth it.


Might as well start with a fan-favorite, then.  And don’t worry; I’m sure I won’t represent anyone here with a stupid visual pun.

I don’t know much about Hollywood’s inner workings, but damn.  That sure was a quick turnaround from Spidey being a Sony exclusive to web-swinging in a MCU movie.  Well, that was probably in the works long before the news dropped, but I’d like to pretend that Marvel predicted that The Amazing Spider-Man would fall flat and preemptively had their wall-crawler ready.  How true is it?  Probably not very, but it puts a smile on my face.

Anyway, we now have our third Spider-Man on the big screen.  I won’t rank him compared to the likes of Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield (because I’ve got zero experience with the latter), but the best thing I can say about the new Spidey is that he’s a total nerd.  He’s a tech expert and a smart cookie, but he’s easily flustered, goes into geek mode at every opportunity, and constantly ousts himself as the lamest lamer who ever lamed in Queens.  Dumpster diving for old hardware and worrying about what Aunt May will think of him?  That’s nerdy, but endearing all the same.

In fact, I’ll take it a step further: the new Spider-Man is moe.

He’s adorable, and someone that Marvel’s obviously trying to sell pretty hard.  It’s hard not to fall for it, though; as nerdy as he is, he’s an endearing nerd full of spirit and charm.  It remains to be seen what he’ll be and do for his solo movie, since his dialogue (and his presence) implies that the time for his origin story has already passed.  But that’s a problem I’ll gladly set aside for now.  He’s got the jokes, he’s got the moves, and he’s got the heart.

Iron Man pulls him from his tiny room in Queens into the big brawl, and despite the dangers at hand, Peter Parker is all for it.  There’s something strangely endearing about him consistently calling him “Mr. Stark”, and trying his hardest to impress his new “boss” with his sheer moxie.  Note that this is during and after he’s kicked around like a soccer ball by a slew of superheroes.  Spidey may be tough, but it says a lot more about the strength of his spirit than his body when he’s ready to keep jumping into the fray…well, until his body basically gives out at the end.  But A for effort, huh?

Okay, so confession time: as of writing, I haven’t actually seen Ant-Man yet.  I thought it was a non-essential side story, so I didn’t make watching it a high priority.  Now I’m starting to wonder if I misjudged, because boy did I enjoy this guy in the movie.

Granted, he’s not exactly an essential character in the plot -- he shows up way late, and gets summarily taken out of the action once the airport scene wraps up -- but he makes up for it as best he possibly can.  When he’s actually on the screen, he’s comedy gold.  He’s got the nerdy earnestness of Spider-Man, but since he’s already gotten his own movie, Marvel doesn’t have to sell him has hard.  So they don’t, really.  They’re content with making him the butt of many, many, many jokes.

Makes sense, though.  Ant-Man is a joke; whereas other Avengers have some form of enhanced strength, incredible technology, awe-inspiring skill, or godlike abilities, Ant-Man’s power is to turn really small.  And control ants, I guess.  He’s really strong while he’s small, though, so there’s that; still, the sheer absurdity of his very existence makes him the perfect target for some jokes at his expense.  Iron Man basically goes “Who are you?” later on, and Ant-Man’s basically left to shuffle his feet and go “Aw, nuts.”

Then he turns into Giant-Man, and suddenly he’s not so much of a joke.  I mean, he still loses eventually thanks to Spidey drawing inspiration from The Empire Strikes Back (which is a joke they can absolutely make now, since Marvel’s under the Disney umbrella!), but at least he becomes the distraction Team Cap needs.

You ever get that feeling where you’re watching a superhero movie where characters are discussing something important, and then a red-faced cyber superman floats through a wall while wearing a collared shirt and a sweater -- and you end up fighting back the urge to do a spit take?  Yeah.  That was me.  I forgot that Vision was in the movie, and then suddenly, THERE HE IS!  Could’ve warned me first, buddy!

But he is, essentially, a buddy.  It’s not as if the MCU is crawling with smug assholes, but even amidst scores of nice (if snark-happy) people, Vision is a downright gentleman.  He’s doing his best to mesh with humanity, despite his striking looks -- and I’d argue that he looks more striking in civilian wear than his standard costume.  I was not ready for that juxtaposition.

But despite his looks, despite his youth (he’s technically, like, a year old, right?), and despite his nature, he’s arguably one of the sagest members of the cast.  He sees the signing of the Sokovia Accords as a sort of higher calling, a chance to take on the responsibility that should come with being a hero.  He wants to prevent a catastrophe, but going along with the government is a means to an end.  There’s a direct line of reasoning and logic that he adheres to, even if he has a sense of warmth to him.

Let it be known, however, that Vision is no pushover.  He’s nice, but he’s also incredibly firm.  He won’t yell at you, he won’t grimace in rage, and he won’t fling his body around while he throws a tantrum.  He’s in complete control at virtually all times, to the point where his “fighting” might as well be called “suppression”.  Maybe that’s the whole point of his character, though; when he’s not in control -- and accidentally shoots down War Machine -- the mask breaks.  He’s hurting, and you know it.  It’ll be interesting to see where his character goes next.

But man.  That sweater.

Scarlet Witch!!
So is Scarlet Witch secretly the strongest Avenger?  I wouldn’t know, since I haven’t had the most exposure to her (once more, I lament the fact that I don’t know comics very well).  But she seems pretty friggin’ strong.  If she can fling people around from a distance, contain and swirl hazardous gases, and effectively fly, then she’s kind of got a leg-up on the competition, eh?

Well, it’s not as if “power levels” are the sole measure of a character’s worth.  Scarlet Witch isn’t as central to the story as Cap or Iron Man, but she does play a critical role: she’s the one inadvertently responsible for pushing the Sokovia Accords into high gear.  And if anyone has to deal with the consequences of her actions, it’s her -- even if she’s been made into public enemy #1 and forcibly (albeit gently and covertly) locked up at HQ.  Or a swanky house, at least.

It’s hard not to feel for Wanda.  Her reaction to causing an international incident in Africa -- an accident that leads to innocent people getting killed -- is so tangible you could’ve pulled it out of the theater screen.  She’s left shaken and remorseful throughout the movie, as she should.  What do you do when you’re the straw that broke the camel’s back, and an unequivocal murderer (however accidentally) among a team that’s supposed to be on the side of justice?  How do you come back from that?

The witch finds a way.  She decides that she needs to get off her ass and do something about it -- a sentiment I’m more or less paraphrasing from the movie itself.  She’s on Team Cap, under the assumption that if she fights for freedom, she can fight for the freedom to make amends.  It’s probably not that simple, but I don’t think she’s wide off the mark; if she played by the government’s rules, would she have ever had the ability to do the right thing?  Again?  Or ever again?  It’s a legitimate question, and I hope that the Accords don’t fade into the ether so that the MCU can provide some strong answers/consequences.

Then again, the next movie up at bat is Doctor Strange, so they’re probably going to sidestep the issue for now.  I’m not sure how I feel about that, but the thought of seeing the Sorcerer Supreme on the big screen gives me the vapors, so I’ll allow it for now.

Black Panther!!
So they got Black Panther’s origin story out of the way in this movie, which is good -- buuuuuuuuuuuuuut there was a part of me that groaned internally at the outset.  Seeing T’Challa decide to go on a quest for revenge after seeing his father murdered gave me flashbacks to Assassin’s Creed (and/or a host of other Ubisoft games).  Maybe the reason they slid the origin into this movie was so they could hurry up and get it out of the way.

I can’t say that I can complain about the character, though.  In fact, I think Black Panther is one of the best parts of this movie -- or at least one of the best heroes.  He’s from a different world, and his persona reflects that; we only get a glimpse of Wakanda at the very end, but he brings a piece of it and his culture into the movie whenever it’s opportune.  But the bigger takeaway here is that, even more so than the Winter Soldier, Black Panther is not someone you want to mess with.  By leaps and bounds, he’s the deadliest and most frightening of the heroes -- to the point where I expected the “menacing” sound effect from JoJo to pop up onscreen.

The Wakandan king has much more going for him than one of Ubisoft’s assassins.  He’s fast enough to run down busy streets, and keep pace with the Winter Soldier (and Cap) even when it turns into a motorcycle chase.  He’s got the agility his superhero name would imply, with the strength and skill to take on both super soldiers -- and as far as I can tell, his whole suit is made of vibranium.  That kind of begs the question of how he puts it on, but I guess someone from the country where the metal comes from knows it best.

But what really sells Black Panther isn’t so much his combat prowess or cool moments (he does a Hunting Hawk straight outta Tekken!).  It’s the fact that you can perceive his barely-contained ruthlessness, if not murderous intent, throughout the majority of the movie.  He gets closure for his arc by the end and realizes that his thirst for vengeance has blinded him to the truth, but before then?  Whereas other heroes will sprinkle in the jokes, T’Challa will sprinkle in the terrifying malice.  There’s a scene late in the movie where Black Widow turns on her team and stops Black Panther from catching up to the super soldiers, and her reasoning is that “I said I’d help you find them, not capture them.”

And honestly, I half-expected him to go “I WILL TEAR YOUR FACE OFF.”

Okay, so out of curiosity, how many people are clamoring for a Hawkeye solo movie?  Is there a big market for that?  Is there fan outcry?  I know there’s some noise for Black Widow, but if (or when) that happens, then I’d imagine that Hawkeye would show up as a sidekick or comrade.  I’m not trying to knock the character -- or Jeremy Renner, for that matter -- but it just seems like the role he’s been slotted into over the years.  Also, Hawkeye’s basically just a dude with arrows and good aim.  Something tells me that he can’t exactly go three rounds with Super Skrull.

For what it’s worth, though, he’s proven that he’s at least capable of palling around with the Avengers without needing babysitting or rescue.  Makes sense, of course; if you can’t overpower the bad guys, outplay them.  It really says a lot about his character when he’s able to snag Vision in a nasty trap, however briefly.  If we put things in perspective, then I suppose that Hawkeye is a god among normal men -- or at least a sniper staying high and dry.

Personality-wise, though, it’s getting easier and easier to see why Hawkeye keeps stepping onto the battlefield.  Granted I’d imagine that this time around he joined the fight to help his friend Cap -- a testament to how much clout the Star-Spangled Man holds -- but it’s hard to deny that there’s something rugged about the amazing archer.  Maybe it has something to do with him being a family man, but it seems like he’s less-than-willing to deal with the garbage and angst his pals might get saddled with.  His strongest encouragement for Scarlet Witch was “get off your ass”, after all.

Maybe that’s the kind of player the Avengers need.  He’s always there for support -- in a fight and out of it -- but he does so with pinpoint precision.  The direct approach, so to speak; he’s a guy that’s not afraid to speak his mind, or tell it like it is.  He goes after what he wants.  That’s a point worthy of exploration in the future, what with his status as a family man; he partially goes up against Team Iron Man to get back out there, but is he unwilling or even unable to live a quiet, peaceful life?  Time will tell.

Black Widow!!
Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan.  I never would’ve really considered it before, but in light of Civil War, I think Black Widow’s cemented her status as my second favorite MCU hero.

To be clear, it’s not like I’ve ever had a problem with her.  She’s always been cool, and cooler than Hawkeye IMO.  She doesn’t have any superpowers either, but she can’t just hang back on a rooftop and shoot people.  So let’s not act like she’s the Wendy to the Avengers’ Superfriends; over the past few movies, she’s outrun the Hulk, outsmarted the god of trickery, blasted more than her fair share of aliens and robots, blown the lid open on a sprawling government conspiracy, and shown countless goons some moves she learned from watching old WrestleMania footage (I swear, she must have choke-slammed a goon or two in Civil War).  That’s on top of her being an accomplished spy, which means she has God knows how many more achievements to her name.

I wouldn’t mind Black Widow getting a solo movie.  But let’s not pretend like everything she’s done up to this point is invalid just because she’s not the star.  That’s doing a hell of a disservice to the character.

In any case, I like Natasha for more reasons than her ability to beat up the bad guys (as everyone should, because otherwise we get some real dreck in a tiny miniskirt).  On one hand, she’s doing her best to play the peacemaker on the team, with the intent to keep everyone together and happy.  What likely started as just another mission ended up becoming something more to her -- a family, so to speak, and she likely wants to protect that more than the world around her.  That’s something at odds with her training as a spy (if not her nature in general), and it’s not hard to pick up on.  There’s a level of coldness, detachment, and professionalism about here at virtually all times.

I say “virtually”, because the cracks in her mask have long since started to form.  The Black Widow from Iron Man 2 was probably willing to snap Tony’s arm in two just for kicks; the Black Widow in Civil War willingly travels to a London funeral for a person she didn’t even know, all to be there for a grieving Captain America.  She’s there to take him in a hug while he’s trying (and failing) to hold back tears -- and she’s there, again and again, to try and consul her friends in their time of need.  Much like Hawkeye, she has a direct approach to things -- but while his family is safe hundreds of miles away, her family is always under fire.  Always something she’s in danger of losing.

What would she do, and what would she be, if she lost even one of her dearest friends?  I don’t know.  And I doubt she’s eager to find out.

I can’t help but love the fact that out of all the heroes, Falcon might be the most cocksure -- and that’s saying something, especially when he’s just above Hawkeye-tier.  I mean, think about it: his primary ability is to fly, and the only help he’s really got are some good moves in a fight.  Well, to be fair he flies thanks to some fancy tech, which has expanded to include a robot buddy and wings that double as a bulletproof shield.  But just look at his costume!  No helmet, no armor; he’s so sure that you’ll never hit him that he barely needs anything else.

It’s not like he isn’t aware of the risks.  He tells Cap that people that shoot at the super soldier shoot at him too (which would explain the wing-shield), but that has yet to stop him from saying “No, screw you, I’m staying home and eating my breakfast.”  In that sense, maybe he’s becoming (or has become) a modern-day Bucky to the long since thawed Steve Rogers; he’s with our hero till the end of the line, and no amount of danger will change that.

Granted, that’s all helped by the fact that Falcon’s one of the first and loudest to speak against the Sokovia Accords.  He doesn’t trust the government; even if he lived in a world that wasn’t very nearly compromised in its entirety by HYDRA (masquerading as SHIELD), he has reasons to believe that the top brass would hinder super heroics far sooner than they would help.  He’s not inherently wrong, though given that the Accords are likely still in place by movie’s end, we’ll see how much impact they’ll have in the future -- and if Team Cap was right to rebel.

Until then?  Falcon may be the closest thing Cap has to a sidekick right now, but by no means is he stuck in anyone’s shadow.  He gets his moments, he gets his stance, and he gets his identity.  He’s a fun guy to watch -- and only becomes more fun once he has to share best friend duties with Bucky.  Who would’ve guessed that Falcon could have such a strong jealous streak?

War Machine!!
Someone pointed out on another blog that War Machine should’ve been wearing his Iron Patriot colors during the movie, given Iron Man 3.  I can see the line of reasoning, but I’m not sure I can buy into it.  The War Machine colors link back to a soldier whose skill and courage helped resolve some nasty situations (eventually).  The Iron Patriot colors link back to an incident where said soldier and the government ended up bamboozled, with the president’s life on the line at one point.  I don’t know, it seems like you’d want to retire that palette ASAP.

In any case, Rhodey’s back for another round.  He doesn’t get quite as much play this time around, but he at least manages to assert his presence when he can.  He’s one of the first to assert that the Sokovia Accords ARE a good idea, which is to be expected when you’re already a soldier in the government’s pocket.  And he stresses that it’s the government, not HYDRA or SHIELD.  Rhodey may be willing to don a flying suit of armor to fight the bad guys, but he’ll do it under the context of the law.

And really, that makes sense for the character.  In Iron Man 2, he was willing to rope in an out-of-control Tony despite their enduring friendship, and turn in that stolen (or “confiscated”) armor to create a weapon for the government’s benefit.  Is it any surprise that he’d go full tilt in supporting a sweeping regulation that puts limits on superhero antics, knowing full well that his best friend alone is a powder keg soaked in gallons of kerosene, alcohol, and bad decisions?

On one hand, it’s easy to assume that he’s also playing the role of “black best friend”, albeit to Tony instead of Steve -- though he did adopt that role first.  On the other hand, I wonder if his loyalties are truly toward Tony, or to whatever he perceives as a higher power.  Given that Stark Industries gives him a better shot at learning to walk again, I’d say that he’s got someone else to view as a friend instead of a foe -- but if Tony ever jumped off the straight and narrow…well, who knows what would happen?

The Winter Soldier!!
AW SHIET.  They brought back the Winter Soldier’s leitmotif.

The last Captain America movie left Bucky’s fate up in the air, more or less.  I don’t think anybody doubted that he’d return, but in what capacity?  Would he go back to being Cap’s pal 100%?  Or would he relapse and go back to his life as a remorseless killing machine?  It turns out the answer is both.  Bucky’s trying to live a peaceful life, but his past catches up to him -- as does the brainwashing that lets him go into Murder Mode when he hears the right combination of words.

Bucky reveals during the final battle with Iron Man that he remembers all of his victims.  Not knowing much about brainwashing (and I hope I never get a firsthand account), I wonder if that means Bucky was fully aware of what he did as The Winter Soldier but couldn’t stop himself, OR he simply remembers those murders while struggling with the guilt once his heart resurfaces.  Neither one sounds very pleasant, so I wouldn’t blame him for seeking an escape from it all.

At the end of Civil War, Bucky decides that in order to be free of his brainwashing and the dangers involved, he has to go into what might as well be cryosleep until Wakandan scientists can figure out a cure.  It’s a moment of self-sacrifice, but I wonder: maybe it’s also a moment of cowardice?  Bucky spent most of the movie trying to run, hide, and escape, but it didn’t work; there’s an argument to be made that he actively made things worse every step of the way.  He’s at the center of the tragedy, but the most he can do is try to avoid a future conflict -- to the point where he’d sooner go to sleep than be awake for the treatment he desperately needs.

I’m not about to call Bucky an out-and-out coward for what he does, nor can I blame him.  He already blames himself, after all; it’s a safe bet that he sees himself as a monster, as well as someone that isn’t worth the effort Cap’s putting in to clear his name.  He probably can’t believe that someone would want to save him at this point, but maybe he’s the type that doesn’t want to be saved.  Not at the outset, at least -- but Cap’s dedication to his friend shows Bucky that there’s still a life worth living with his name on it.  He may have (or want) to go to sleep for a while, but he’ll claim it someday.

Iron Man!!
Once upon a time, I didn’t think much of Iron Man outside of someone who would occasionally pull out gigantic laser cannons in the video games.  These days?  Well, I’m not about to say that I’m in love with the character, but I’ve got a hell of a lot more respect -- and even appreciation -- for him than I used to.  That appreciation extends to Civil War, because in my eyes it captures the essence of the character.  Tony Stark, in his suit or out of it, is a flawed, flawed, flawed individual -- and the movies stare those flaws right in the face.

It’s been years since the MCU trotted him out, and look where we are now.  He’s still impulsive.  He’s still rushing in to situations without thinking.  He’s still ruled by his emotions.  He’s still got problems dealing with…well, his problems.  Could it be that everything he says and does is a cry for help?  Maybe.  But on the other hand, the fact that he can function as a relatively-normal person -- and can even get out of bed -- says plenty about the man he is.

Tony Stark has made a lot of mistakes, whether it’s directly in the movies or implied over the course of his life.  But it’s thanks to that spark of heroism in him that he tries to make up for those mistakes.  Does he overcompensate?  Sure.  Does he go to extremes and take shortcuts to wipe away the bad feelings?  Of course.  But he’s still trying to do something.  Anything.  That’s a far cry from the millionaire playboy we once knew him as.  Then again, that should be obvious; even in the original Iron Man, he was willing to put on a super-suit and fight crime personally.  You won’t see Bill Gates doing his best RoboCop impression anytime soon.

You know it’s a messy situation when Tony tries to play the voice of reason -- inasmuch as someone suffering from guilt, anxiety, PTSD, and a crummy personal life can have reason.  But he’s trying, at least.  He’s always trying to do the right thing, even if it’s an unpopular opinion, or even if it ends up doing more harm than good.  Maybe someday he’ll learn to take a deep breath and weigh his options instead of flinging himself headfirst into disaster, but time will tell.

I’ll say this much, though: Robert Downey Jr. kills it in this movie. 

Captain America!!
Remember that time when I implied that there might be a hero in this movie I like more than Captain America?  Guess what?  I LIED.  Granted he’s facing some stiff competition this time around from Black Panther and Black Widow, but this might be the best glimpse we’ve gotten of Cap yet.  The only thing that leaves me scratching my head is that he seems a lot stronger than I remember, but it still makes for some impressive scenes.  And I’m sure the ladies could appreciate that moment where Chris Evans flexes so much, he might as well be on his way toward transforming into the Hulk.

Now, I’d think that Cap detractors tend to raise a legitimate point: when your character is so good and pure that he has no conceivable way for his arc to make him gooder and purer, what do you do next?  Where do you take them?  Flaws go a long way toward making a character interesting, after all.  And guess what they did here?

It’s symboliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiic~

I wonder how many problems in this movie could’ve been solved if Cap just stopped what he was doing and agreed to compromise.  Probably a few.  To his credit, he was put in a situation where people probably weren’t willing to give him a chance -- he chose to abet a criminal on the international scale and then tried to prove said criminal’s innocence while effectively giving the finger to the law -- but even with my blatant fanboyism, I have a hard time acting like Cap’s the victim here.  He’s the architect of his own fortune, and his stubborn refusal to budge on important issues makes him harder to support.  I’m still ultimately on Team Cap, but it feels like Team Iron Man (Tony in particular) tended to put up a better-articulated argument, compared to Team Cap’s “Freedom!” and “But the government, tho!”

Paradoxically, you could say that the First Avenger is the one that broke the Avengers.  But if I know Captain America, he’s just as willing as Iron Man to do what’s right.  He always tries to do what’s right, and exemplified that even in this movie; his goal wasn’t just to save Bucky, but to find the real culprit (and eventually stop a band of killer supermen) in a world preoccupied with bureaucracy and reeling from terrorist attacks.  His proactive nature is hard to debate, as is his invariable, inevitable drive to be a hero.  Even with everything that’s happened and the consequences he’ll bear for years to come, and even with the bridges he’s burned, Cap is still always ready to repair the bonds he helped break.  He’s always ready to team up with Tony yet again, for the sake of protecting the innocent.

He’s an artist from Brooklyn that hates bullies.  Even if he leaves his shield behind, his drive to protect and serve won’t change anytime soon.

There’s a part of me that’s tempted to leave Zemo out of the equation, because this is a movie with an almost fetishistic focus on the heroes.  With that said, maybe that was the plan from the get-go; people were so eager to see Cap and Iron Man (and ALL THE WARRIORS) punch each other that they didn’t stop to think about who the real threat might be.  It’s misdirection at its finest.  After all, any one of the twelve heroes -- even Hawkeye with two broken arms -- could’ve likely taken out Zemo.  He’s not some superhuman menace, and a far cry from a cosmic threat.  He has his seedy background, but he’s basically just some guy.

But he got exactly what he wanted.  As a refugee from Sokovia who lost everything in the battle there, he opted for revenge of the highest caliber.  Rather than kill off one of the Avengers, he simply created the circumstances to tear them apart -- or have them do the deed, literally, on his behalf.  They may be heroes, but each one of them has foibles ripe for exploitation.  He simply had to flick the first domino in the line, and watch as they all came tumbling down.

That’s kind of devaluing his commitment to terrorism, assassination, and conspiracies, but hey.  He’s a bad guy.  He does bad things.  ‘Nuff said.

Credit where credit’s due: Zemo isn’t an enemy that can be beaten with a well-placed haymaker or laser blast.  In fact, he’s one of a scant few Marvel villains who lives to fight another day (though he’s in prison right now).  He’s certainly one of the only ones to survive, which is definitely something.  Maybe that’s the secret to the villains’ enduring success from here on: just send a normal dude with a grudge out there to wreck the Avengers from the inside out.  J. Jonah Jameson would have conquered the world before lunch time.  Rick Jones would have razed every continent before Thanos even showed up.

I’ll say this much, though.  I’m glad they didn’t just make Zemo into another just according to keikaku character.  Well, he kind of is, but he’s by no means brazen about it.  He’s a background presence, and stays that way as best he can for as long as he can.  He kind of has to, considering his competition; hell, his “face-to-face confrontation” with the heroes puts him behind a massive steel wall.  There’s no bragging, no smarm, no half-baked philosophizing; he just has a plan in mind, and goes for it.  Simple, straightforward, direct -- and successful because of it.

So yeah, gold star for Zemo.  Also, another gold star for the misdirection with the extra super soldiers.  Of course Cap and Iron Man aren’t going to patch things up and fight them in the last ten minutes of the movie.  What, did you think it was amateur hour or something?  Only a true piece of schlock would ever have the gall to do something as stupid as throw in a new baddie without --

You know what comes next, don’t you?


Let’s give it one more shot.  Next time.

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