Thursday, May 19, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. It was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.

Markus and McFeely are screenwriting partners who wrote The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, Captain America: The First Avenger, Pain & Gain (eh, you can't hit a home run every time at bat), Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If there's a colon in the title of a film, odds are they wrote it. 

The Russo brothers previously directed Welcome To Collinwood, You, Me and Dupree (again, you can't hit one out of the park every time) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Civil War is the thirteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is a sequel to both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age Of Ultron. In fact it's more like Avengers 2.5 than it is a Captain America sequel, as it features almost every member of the Avengers.

It's loosely based on the Marvel comic book miniseries Civil War, in which the government demands all superheroes register their powers and secret identities or else, and Captain America and Iron Man find themselves on opposite sides of the issue.

It's impossible to talk about Captain America: Civil War without comparing it to Dark Knight V Hopeman, er, I mean Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Especially since they both feature virtually the same plot: Superheroes tricked into trying to kill one another by a lame villain.

THIS is the movie that Dark Knight V Hopeman should have been and desperately wanted to be. Unfortunately for it, Civil War is far superior in every measurable sense.

So why did one fail while the other is an unqualified success? One word: greed.

Back in 2008, Marvel Studios produced a little film called Iron Man. Over the next five years, they carefully and patiently released several more movies starring Captain America, Thor and various other Marvel heroes. The films were all interconnected, as characters from one film would pop up in someone else's, just like in the comics. 

Once they'd established this little cinematic universe, they teamed up their various characters in 2012's The Avengers. Their unique strategy paid off, as the film was a huge hit, grossing over $1.5 BILLION dollars worldwide.

This success was not lost on Warner Bros., owners of DC Comics. They decided they wanted a piece of that sweet, sweet shared world pie for themselves, and started planning their own little cinematic universe. But instead of introducing individual characters and then teaming them up, they went the exact opposite route. They teamed up their characters first, and worried about properly introducing them later. That's how we ended up with the grim, murky and emotionally unengaging Dark Knight V Hopeman.

Civil War works because the conflict between Cap and Iron man is earned. We've seen these two work together as friends (or at least friendly rivals) over the past eight years. So it's tragic when they end up on opposite sides of an issue. We feel it when their friendship is torn apart and they become enemies.

We got absolutely none of that in Dark Knight V Hopeman. We've never seen Batman or Superman together onscreen before. They have no history together, and most importantly, no friendship to be torn asunder. They've never even met before! 
It was like watching two strangers fight. And DC wants us to feel bad when they start trying to kill one another? Who the hell cares? And how the hell could Warner Bros. possibly greenlight such a film?

Once again Marvel makes creating their cinematic universe look effortless, while every one of DC's attempts at getting theirs off the ground looks like this.

The fight scenes in Civil War are better than in any previous Marvel film. I don't know if we have the Russos to thank for this or the stunt coordinator, but kudos to whoever's responsible.

The film also features the first appearance of Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Panther's integration into the film was very well done, and is completely seamless. He has a strong motivation for being in the film and interacting with the characters, and actually has an effect on the plot. I can't wait to see his standalone movie. 

After more than a decade, Spider-Man's finally back at Marvel Studios where he belongs! As hard as it is to believe, back in the 1990s, Marvel Comics was very near bankruptcy. In order to save the company, they began selling the movie rights to their characters to various studios. Blade went to New Line Cinema, the X-Men and Fantastic Four went to Fox, and Spider-Man went to Sony. Fortunately Marvel recovered, founded a movie studio and started making their own films.

Sony actually made a couple of very good and very successful Spider-Man films, directed by Sam Raimi. Then they tried to reboot the franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014. Both were critical and financial failures.

After witnessing Marvel Studios' unprecedented success, Sony made an historic deal with them. They'd retain the movie rights to Spider-Man, but would allow Marvel Studios to actually produce any subsequent films. And that's how Spider-Man ended up in Civil War.

Unfortunately Spider-Man's introduction isn't as smooth as Black Panther's. Tony Stark stops the movie, puts the plot on hold and pays a visit to Peter Parker to recruit him for his team. The whole scene is very blatant and jarring, and feels tacked on. Even though Spider-Man was one of the best things about Civil War, his scenes feel like they're spliced in from a separate film. You could cut him out of the film entirely and it wouldn't affect the plot one bit.

I enjoyed the fact that we didn't have to sit through two tedious origin stories for Black Panther and Spider-Man. They appear in the film and tell us everything we need to know about them through their actions alone. See, Marvel? You don't have to waste an entire movie on a character's origin.

Sadly, Civil War continues Marvel Studio's long-running tradition of featuring dull and uninteresting villains. Other than Loki, they've pretty much all been washouts, and they seem to be getting progressively worse (I'm lookin' at you, Darren Cross). Helmut Zemo, the ostensible villain of this piece, may be the most underwhelming one yet. He doesn't even have any superpowers! He's just a normal guy with a ridiculously complex revenge plot!

Civil War feels a bit darker than previous Marvel films, which is a fairly alarming development. I much prefer the fun, breezy tone of Guardians Of The Galaxy and Ant-Man, and have no desire to see Marvel go down the grim and gloomy road that DC's paving for itself. I almost wonder if this is an experiment on Marvel's part, to see how the public will respond to a slightly darker film. I'm hoping the tone here is just an aberration due to the "Hero Vs Hero" subject matter, and won't become the norm in future movies.

Now that both DC and Marvel have thoroughly examined the issues of superhero collateral damage and hero vs hero, let's hope this is the last we see of these plots. There's nothing wrong with occasionally using superheroes to reflect real world issues, but enough is enough. Let's get back to the fun and escapism.


The Plot:

In 1991, Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier, runs a car off the road. He kills the occupants of the car and recovers a case from the trunk. Don't worry, this'll make sense later.

In the present, the New Avengers Captain America, Black Widow, War Machine, Falcon, Scarlet Witch and Vision  are in Lagos, tracking Brock Rumlow, aka Crossbones (who we met in Captain America: The Winter Soldier). He and his fellow mercenaries steal a highly contagious virus from a lab. The Avengers spread out and take care of the mercenaries, while Captain America fights Crossbones. Falcon shoots the merc holding the virus. He drops the vial but Black Widow manages to catch it before it hits the ground. Crossbones uses his hydraulic gauntlets to repeatedly punch Cap and get him on the ropes. Cap gets the upper hand and pins him against a wall. Crossbones tells Cap that Bucky Barnes remembers him, and activates a bomb in his vest. Scarlet Witch surrounds Crossbones with an energy shield, but struggles to contain the explosion. She lifts him into the air, where the force overwhelms her shield, partially destroying a nearby hotel. Welp, so much for Crossbones, I guess!

In America, Tony Stark visits MIT and announces he's set up a the Howard and Maria Stark Foundation to fund every student's research proposal. Backstage a woman shows him a photo of her son. She says he was killed in Sokovia during Age Of Ultron, and accuses the Avengers of being a public menace. Tony takes her harsh words to heart.

Later at Avenger's headquarters, Tony Stark arrives with General Thaddeus Ross (from The Incredible Hulk movie). Ross says that the Avengers were responsible for the deaths of eleven people in Lagos, and the public is beginning to see them as vigilantes. He hands them the Sokovia Accords, a thick document signed by 117 countries. The Accords state that starting now, the Avengers will operate under government supervision, if and when it sees necessary (because government involvement solves every problem, right?). He says if they don't sign the Accords, they'll be forced to retire.

The Avengers then discuss the problem, because that's way more exciting than fighting supervillains. Tony's all for being supervised by the government, while Captain America is opposed to it. The other Avengers are undecided. Cap leaves the meeting in disgust.

The next day Black Widow meets with Cap and tells him that she, Iron Man, War Machine and Vision have signed the Accords. Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch are holding out.

In Vienna, world leaders meet to discuss the Sokovia Accords. Among them is King T'Chaka of the African nation of Wakanda, and his son Prince T'Challa. Wakanda is a small but important country, as it's rich in vibranium, the indestructible metal that Captain America's shield is make from. T'Chaka gives the keynote speech, but an explosion tears through the building, killing him. Security footage shows Bucky planting the bomb. Captain America springs into action. He contacts Black Widow and says he has to be the one to bring in Bucky. 

Meanwhile Bucky is in Bucharest, and sees news reports accusing him of the bombing. Captain America arrives at his apartment to apprehend him. The police arrive and Bucky easily battles his way through them. He leaps out the window to the street below, where he's confronted by the Black Panther. Bucky runs down a busy freeway, as Black Panther chases after him. Cap and Falcon chase Black Panther, trying to stop him from killing Bucky. After a fierce battle, War Machine (who signed the Accords) shows up with the police, and arrest Cap, Bucky, Falcon and Black Panther. The Panther's mask is removed, revealing him to be Prince T'Challa.

The four are taken to Berlin, where their weapons and armor are confiscated. Bucky's taken to an undisclosed location. Tony Stark tells Cap that General Ross wants them all prosecuted. He says he managed to talk Ross out of it, but they have to give up their weapons and costumes. Cap agrees to sign the Accords if Tony promises to have Bucky transferred to an American psych ward. Tony agrees, saying this may even help Scarlet Witch, who's confined to Avengers headquarters, guarded by Vision. When Cap hears this he refuses to sign again and leaves.

At Avengers headquarters, Vision tries to make Scarlet Witch's incarceration pleasant. It even seems like he's flirting a bit. Hawkeye breaks in to rescue Scarlet Witch. Vision tries to stop him, and Scarlet Witch uses her powers to increase his mass and cause the android to fall through the floor. She and Hawkeye escape.

In Berlin, Colonel Helmut Zemo impersonates a psychiatrist to examine Bucky. He reads him a list of HYDRA trigger words that will transform him into the mindless killing machine, the Winter Soldier. Bucky escapes the facility, but is confronted by Captain America. Cap subdues Bucky and takes him away. Bucky regains his senses, and says that Zemo was the real Vienna Bomber, and that he's heading to a secret HYDRA base in Siberia, which houses several more super soldiers like him, waiting to be awakened.

Meanwhile, Tony Stark puts the film on hold for a bit as he visits high school student Peter Parker in New York. He tells Parker that he knows he's secretly Spider-Man, and wants him on his team. 

Cap knows he'll never be able to stop Zemo and clear Bucky's name in time if he waits for government approval, so he decides to go rogue. He assembles a team consisting of Bucky, Falcon, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, to go to Siberia and capture Zemo. 

When Iron Man finds out about Cap's plan, he forms his own team to stop him. His team consists of himself, War Machine, Black Panther, Black Widow, Vision and Spider-Man. Iron Man's team intercepts Cap's group at the Leipzig/Halle Airport in Germany. The two superhero teams then clash in an expensive and effects-filled battle. Finally! The reason we all came to watch this movie!

Halfway through through the battle, Ant-Man reveals he can grow as well as shrink, turning into a hundred foot giant. This distracts Iron Man long enough for Cap and Bucky to escape. Black Widow seemingly tries to stop them, but at the last minute turns on her teammate Black Panther. Cap and Bucky fly off in an Avengers Quinjet. War Machine flies after them, as Falcon tries to stop him. Vision shoots at Falcon but misses, hitting War Machine instead. He plummets to Earth and is severely injured. The rest of Cap's team is arrested and placed in the Raft, an underwater prison designed to hold superpowered inmates.

After the battle, Iron Man finds evidence that Bucky was framed for the Vienna explosion, and realizes Cap was right. He heads to Siberia to tell Cap and make peace with him. Cap and Bucky arrive at the HYDRA base, but discover has killed the frozen super soldiers for plot reasons. Just then Iron Man appears, because apparently in the Marvel Cinematic Universe you can get from one country to another in under five minutes. Zemo then enters, and like all good villains, helpfully explains his master plan. 

Zemo admits he framed Bucky for the explosion, but his real plan was to steal the 1991 surveillance footage of Bucky crashing the car and killing its occupants  Howard and Maria Stark. Gasp! A shaken Iron Man asks Cap if he knew that Bucky killed the Starks. Cap admits that he knew HYDRA was behind their murders, but didn't know it was Bucky. An enraged Iron Man then attacks both Captain America and Bucky. THIS was Zemo's plan all along  to get revenge against the Avengers by manipulating them into killing one another.

In the battle, Bucky's bionic arm is blown off by Iron Man. Cap disables Iron Man's suit. Iron Man tells Cap that he no longer deserves to carry his shield. Cap drops it to the ground and staggers off with Bucky.

Outside, Zemo sits quietly. Black Panther, who apparently followed everyone to Siberia, stands behind him. Zemo tells Panther that his family was killed in Sokovia, so he decided to destroy the Avengers from within. He tries to kill himself, but Panther stops him and takes him into custody.

Back home, we find out that War Machine was paralyzed in his accident. Tony Stark has fitted him with cybernetic leg enhancements to help him walk. Captain America breaks Hawkeye, Falcon, Ant-Man and Scarlet Witch out of the Raft and takes them to Wakanda, where T'Challa offers them asylum. Bucky chooses to be put into stasis until they can find a way to erase his brainwashing. Peter Parker tries out a new pair of Stark-designed webshooters.


• In both the Civil War comic and this film, Iron Man sides with the government, agreeing that superheroes with potentially dangerous powers can no longer be allowed to act on their own and need to be regulated. Captain America takes the opposing view, feeling the government is overstepping its bounds.

This seems completely backwards to me. The movie version of Iron Man has always been a bad boy who plays by his own rules. In fact back in Iron Man 2, he refused to hand over his suit technology to the government, because he thought it placed too much power in its hands. 

Meanwhile Captain America is a former soldier and the living symbol of our nation. It feels like he should fully support any policy the government decrees without question. It seems strange that the two have switched places here. The film attempts to explain their respective points of view, but I'm not sure it was entirely successful.

It doesn't help matters that Iron Man is right. The Avengers are dangerous. Yes, in both their films they've done everything they can to minimize casualties, but they still end up obliterating entire cities. The Vision even points out that their presence seems to draw supervillains out of the woodwork, who then attack them.

 I very much liked seeing the New Avengers working together in the awesome opening scene in Lagos. Everyone had a part to play, and they all used their powers in cool and unusual ways.

I really wish that Marvel understood that this is what people want to see in a superhero movie. Heroes using powers against bad guys. I'm betting very few moviegoers were rushed out to the theater to see the Avengers debate a congressional bill.

• In the comics, the Falcon has a real live actual falcon named Redwing, with which he shares a psychic connection. In the film he uses a flying drone, also nicknamed Redwing, that provides him with video and and long range telemetry. 

I'm actually OK with this change! It's a nice update of the comic character, and it makes sense, given our current fascination with drone technology.

 Crossbones, we hardly knew ye! After all the buildup Brock Rumlo received in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I was expecting to see a lot more of him in this film. Unfortunately he's in it for five minutes tops, before he blows himself up real good.

• I was very impressed with the digital de-aging of Robert Downey Jr. as a teenaged Tony Stark. Marvel Studios dabbled with this last technology year when they "youthened" Michael Douglas in Ant-Man, but they've definitely perfected it here. There was no uncanny valley effect and nothing artificial about the scene whatsoever. It looked like Marvel somehow reached into the past and brought a twenty year old Robert Downey Jr. to 2016 to film the scene.

As this technology becomes more affordable, it won't be long before movie stars will be able to act well into their senior years and still look like ingenues!

• During Tony Stark's Holodeck flashback, we get a look at his parents, Howard and Maria. We've seen Howard many times before, but as near as I can tell this is the first appearance of his mother.

For some reason Marvel has two versions of Howard Stark. There's the young version, played by Dominic Cooper, and the old version, played by Roger Sterling, er, I mean John Slattery. Unfortunately the two actors look absolutely nothing alike. Seriously, look at them! How the hell are we supposed to believe those two are the same person at different stages of his life?

I'm betting there's a lot of confused audience members out there who saw Young Howard Stark in Captain America: The First Avenger and wonder who the hell this silver haired guy is supposed to be.

Couldn't they just put some old age makeup on Dominic Cooper and call it a day? That'd be infinitely preferable to casting someone who looks like a thinner Larry Tate. Hopefully now that we've see Old Howard's death, we won't have to deal with the matter anymore.

• After Tony Stark's MIT speech, he's accosted backstage by the dean of the school, played by Jim Rash. 

Rash's character seems very much like Dean Pelton on Community. Not surprisingly, the Russos directed several episodes of Community, hence this cameo.

Dani Pudi, who played Abed on Community, also had a cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

• Backstage at MIT, an angry woman confronts Tony Stark, blaming him and the Avengers for the death of her son in Sokovia. Um… I realize the poor lady's upset, but from what we saw in Age Of Ultron, things would have been much, much worse if the Avengers hadn't stepped in. They risked their lives to save as many civilians as they could. In fact Quicksilver even gave his life to save several others.

Of course the Sokovians wouldn't have needed the Avengers to save them if Tony hadn't inadvertently created Ultron, so… maybe she has a point after all.

• At the Avenger's Headquarters, we see the Vision lounging around in a smart outfit, complete with a sweater vest and ascot. So is he wearing actual clothing here, or is it formed from his body like his superhero costume is? Ew...

Whichever it is, I'm glad he was programmed for modesty (unlike similar character Doctor Manhattan), and doesn't walk around naked with his schlong flapping about.

• Captain America attends the funeral of his old beau Peggy Carter. A couple things here:

At the funeral service, Peggy's niece (and CIA agent) Sharon Carter delivers a touching eulogy, sharing her aunt's favorite speech:
"Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — "No, you move."
That speech was actually given by Captain America in the Civil War comic book. Nice to see it made it into the film somehow.

Secondly, I'm struggling to understand how Sharon Carter can be Peggy's niece. In the Agent Carter TV series, we learn that Peggy had a brother named Michael, who was killed in 1940 during WWII. He never mentioned having a wife or child. According to Peggy's obituary that we saw in the Emancipation episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., she had no other siblings. So how could she have a niece?

This is most likely another case of the movies completely ignoring anything and everything the TV shows set up, and treating them like the second-class citizens of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I bet as far as the Russos are concerned, Peggy has nine or ten siblings, one of whom is Sharon's father.

• Martin Freeman has a minor role in the film as Everett Ross, a State Department official. Freeman sounds really, really odd with an American accent.

• Captain America and Falcon capture Bucky and immobilize him. Cap questions Bucky, and asks if he recognizes him. Bucky stares at him for a moment and says, "Your mother's name was Sarah."

Gah! For a horrifying moment, I thought we were going to get a repeat of one of the stupidest scenes in Dark Knight V Hopeman.

• As Bucky's brainwashing fades, he tells Cap he remembers the two of them going on a double date in Brooklyn in the 1940s. Cap says Bucky's date was a redhead named Dolores, whose nickname was Dot (?). 

Some fans believe this is an Agent Carter reference, as Peggy's nemesis is a member of the Black Widow program named Dottie Underwood. Eh, I think that's a stretch. For one thing, Dottie's a blonde, not a redhead (yes, I'm aware that wigs exist, but still…). Plus as I mentioned before, the movies tend to completely ignore the TV shows.

• Tony Stark takes time out from the movie's plot to visit Peter Parker and recruit him for his team. He chats with Peter's Aunt May as he waits for him to come home. 

Boy, oh boy, Aunt May seems to get younger and younger as the years go by. In the comics she looked like she was ninety if she was a day. In the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies Aunt May was played by Rosemary Harris, who's currently eighty eight years old. In the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films she was played by Sally Field, who's currently sixty nine. Now Aunt May's being played by Marisa Tomei, who's just a babe of 51. It won't be long before Peter Parker and Aunt May are the same age.

By the way, you have no idea how depressing it is that Aunt May's now being played by an actress who's younger than I am. Where's my rheumatiz medicine?

• The airport battle between Team Cap and Team Iron Man was absolutely awesome. I never thought I'd live to see a battle like this between ten different superheroes on the movie screen! What a time to be alive!

• At the airport, Ant-Man rides atop one of Hawkeye's arrows as he fires it toward Iron Man. This is an homage to Avengers #223, in which Ant-Man did the exact same thing.

• Speaking of homages, there's a shoutout to Arrested Development in the airport battle. At one point you can see the Bluth family's stair truck in the background (at left above). The Bluth logo is missing, but the truck features the exact same paint scheme as the one in the show.

Once again, the Russos directed several episodes of Arrested Development, hence the truck's cameo appearance here.

• When it appears Iron Man's side is winning, Ant-Man reveals an astonishing new power— by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow or something, he can grow as well as shrink!

Believe it or not this happened in the comics as well. Ant-Man (along with the Wasp) was a founding member of the Avengers, and in Issue #2 of the Avengers comic he suddenly gained the ability to grow, becoming Giant Man. I always sort of assumed Stan Lee did this because he realized a guy who could shrink wasn't all that mighty.

• Ant-Man's new ability to grow as well as shrink was the highlight of the airport battle. Too bad it doesn't make a lick of sense though. I brought this up in my review of Ant-Man, but it bears repeating here. In Ant-Man, Scott Lang asks Hank Pym how the shrinking process works. Hank says it "reduces the space between the user's molecules." Unfortunately that wouldn't affect mass. If Ant-Man weighed 180 pounds at six feet tall, he'd still weigh the same at half an inch. That means he's a 180 pound man running along the top of a goon's revolver, or riding on the back of a flying ant. Nope!

I assume just the opposite happens when Scott becomes Giant Man— he's increasing the distance between his molecules. This is still problematic, as he's now a hundred foot tall man who weighs 180 pounds. He'd be like a Thanksgiving Day parade balloon! There's no way he'd be able to damage a plane by stepping on it, or pick up a truck and hurl it. In fact a stiff breeze would probably be enough to blow him away like a kite!

Am I being pedantic here? Probably, but Marvel brought it on themselves. By trying to explain how the shrinking process worked, they opened up a huge can of worms, inviting criticism and analysis. They should never have tried to explain the shrinking process at all, and just had Hank say, "I've never understood just how it works. Something to do with quantum physics."

• By the way, I am not a fan of the new Ant-Man that debuted in this film. His original costume (on the left above) had lots of interesting textures and a cool, retro look. This new one has a very Power Rangers look, and seems more like a cheap Halloween costume to me. Why the heck did they change it? To sell more toys? I hope he goes back to the original one in Ant-Man 2.

• This is some more hardcore nitpicking, but whatever. During the airport battle, Spider-Man has an plan to defeat Ant-Man, by taking him down like an AT-AT. He prefaces his idea by saying, "Hey guys, you ever see that really old movie, Empire Strikes Back?"

OK, it was a fun line, but why the hell would he ever word it like that? I could understand it if he said, "Hey guys, you ever see that really old movie, Birth Of A Nation?" But this is a Star Wars movie he's talking about. Yeah, Empire's almost forty years old, but it's part of a cinematic phenomenon that's still going strong and releasing films. Everyone knows about Star Wars at this point. See, I told you it was hardcore.

• As I mentioned earlier, Zemo is a particularly underwhelming villain. In the comic he's the son of a Nazi, who fell into a vat of experimental adhesive that permanently glued his mask to his face (Comic Book Science!).

This is the Zemo from the film. Wow, scary. He looks for all the world like the world's dullest accountant, or a particularly uninterested insurance agent!

Zemo's master plan seems a bit murky too. His family was killed in Sokovia, and of course he blames the Avengers. Get in line, pal! To get revenge against them, he blows up a building and frames Bucky. I guess he's hoping that Iron Man will go after Bucky, and Cap will try to stop him. Lucky for him they did! Then Iron Man finds out that Bucky killed his parents, and goes ballistic. Cap tries to stop them, and this drives a wedge between the two friends. And that's Zemo's whole plan! No world domination, no blowing up the planet. Just getting two guys mad enough to kill one another.

The Sokovia Accords don't seem to have anything to do with Zemo, so I guess that was just a happy accident in his favor!

• Zemo shows Tony Stark surveillance footage of Bucky killing the Starks. What are the odds that their car just happened to crash in front of a security camera? Especially in 1991, when there weren't as many of them around?

According to the footage, the brainwashed Bucky ran the Starks car off the road and into a tree, injuring but not killing them. Howard Stark is thrown from the car, and Bucky pummels him in the face with his bionic arm, killing them. He then reaches into the car and snapped Maria's neck (did Zack Snyder direct this sequence?).

So... was there no forensic science in 1991? Surely the coroner had to have recognized that the Starks didn't receive their fatal injuries in the crash. What, did he look at the suspiciously hand-shaped bruising on Maria's neck and say, "Yep, she got these by hitting her head against the dashboard."

• Zemo flies off to a secret HYDRA base in Siberia, where five more HYDRA super soldiers are kept on ice. I was expecting an epic battle between the soldiers and Iron Man, Cap and Bucky. Unfortunately when they arrive in Siberia, they find Zemo's killed all the super soldiers while they slept in their cryochambers! Talk about disappointing! Even worse, they were all killed offscreen!

• During the battle in Siberia, Iron Man knocks Cap on his ass, and orders him to stay down. Cap struggles to his feet, wipes the blood from his mouth and says, "I can do this all day."

He said the exact same line twice (in similar situations!) in Captain America: The First Avenger. It's fast becoming his catchphrase.

• I very much liked the scene in which Black Panther sat with Zemo, prevented him from killing himself and said, "The living are not done with you yet."

This scene really demonstrated T'Challa's regal bearing, and showed an uncommon maturity as he saw what vengeance did to Zemo, came to his senses and abandoned his own quest for revenge. 

• After their battle, Iron Man says that Cap doesn't deserve his shield. Cap drops it to the ground and walks off.

Um… did Cap really just abandon his one-of-a-kind vibranium shield? Isn't that kind of his main weapon? What the heck's he going to do without it?

Maybe he'll have his pal Blank Panther whip up a new one for him, since Wakanda owns all the world's vibranium.

• So I guess there are now two teams of Avengers? A public one and a secret, off the books one? It certainly looks that way.

There really is a Secret Avengers in the comics, so that's what the movie's shooting for.

Captain America: Civil War is yet another successful film for Marvel Studios, who at this point have perfected the art of making crowd-pleasing superhero movies. I'm dropping the score down just a bit though, due to the lackluster villain and the ominous fact that the movie seems to be dipping its toe into the brackish DC grimdark pool. Keep your movies fun, Marvel! I give it a B+.

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