‘Captain America: Civil War’ Is Boring, Frustrating, Perfect, Wonderful Garbage
"I got chills and wept from the feelings I thought had long ago died within me."
All illustrations by Nick Gazin
What's So Civil About 'Captain America: Civil War,' Anyway?
By Nick Gazin, Art Editor
There are some spoilers below but not too many, and you probably want to read about this movie if you clicked on this, right? Don't be a baby.
Wednesday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, so my assistant Helen and I honored the holiday as we do every year, by seeing Captain America: Civil War on its opening night.
Although I grew up reading and loving superheroes, my male power fantasies became more complicated as I reached something resembling adulthood. Now that punching someone I hate in the face is as easily accomplished as punching someone I hate in the face, my empowerment fantasies are along the lines of "learning to drive someday" and "stop hoarding."
All kidding aside, I hate the majority of modern superhero movies and not in a "they're just not for me" kind of way. I think they're a symptom of how broken and infantile our culture is. I don't see these movies as the cause of our problems, just a sad reminder of how our culture has become kidified. We're moving at an alarming rate toward a society that's just like the one Mike Judge portrayed in Idiocracy, a movie that is resembling the dystopian present we're mutating quickly into.
For the most part, the modern superhero movies are a cultural response to 9/11, which is why they all have scenes of buildings blowing up and cities being attacked. It's like the destruction is the real star, and the superheroes are just there to make sure that it happens. I think that's partially why they stay out of costume so much in these films, to not pull focus from the destruction. I recognize that genre fantasy movies have always dealt with real-world issues, but it's typically been through horror films, not colorful action films based on characters that were created to entertain preliterate children.
That said, I thought the first two Captain America movies were extremely watchable with clear plots, good acting, character development, solid relationships, and great visual design.
I showed up to the new Captain America with neither high nor low expectations. I was just glad to be out of the house in the company of a human woman that the other movie-goers might mistake for my wife or girlfriend. In my mind, I imagined the other movie-goers seeing me and thinking I was socially capable and charming. This is another one of my personal male power fantasies, to be likable.
The first half of the movie is the most boring, frustrating garbage I have ever seen in a superhero movie. The second half is the most perfect, wonderful garbage I have ever seen in a superhero movie.
The 3D in this movie was incredible, but most of the first half of the movie was scenes of buildings blowing up intercut with footage of seated, uncostumed people having meetings. It was bleak, dismal, and uninteresting. I found my mind wandering to chores I had waiting for me at my apartment.
The first half of the movie scrapes rock bottom when Captain America and the Falcon are wearing baseball hats and sunglasses in a coffee place, and they just look like how movie stars dress when they don't want to be recognized in public. I started rocking in my seat and sighing loudly like a resentful child on a long car trip at this point.
The government wants the Avengers to only avenge when the US government and the UN ask them too. Iron Man is fine with it, but Captain America wants total freedom. So then they are at odds for the rest of the movie.
The Black Panther/T'Challa is introduced. T'Challa is principled and handsome but joyless and lacks the humanity that makes Iron Man, War Machine, the Falcon, and the other likable characters fun to watch. There are so many goddamn characters in this movie, and so few really have a chance to shine or get enough screen time to have stories or even personalities. The Marvel movies keep on setting up stuff that gets paid off in later movies, so none of them can actually be a whole, complete good movie. They're just a swarm of half-stories, and you have to watch all of them in order or you're totally lost.
It was at the moment where I thought all was lost and the movie was total shit that someone flipped the "good" switch on, and it became like a whole different movie.
Robert Downey, Jr./Tony Stark/Iron Man goes to Queens to recruit Spider-Man in the best, funniest, most human scene in the movie. After flirting with the insanely hot Marisa Tomei in the role of Aunt May, Iron Man reveals that he knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man, and they have a fun back and forth that shows the joy and fun of superheroes that was lacking from the bleak, tedious first half. The new actor, 19-year-old Tom Holland, is the best Spider-Man yet by miles. His personality, dialogue, reverence for the other superheroes, the way the character moves is beyond perfect. I smiled and laughed every time he came on screen. I had that thing where I reverted to a state of childlike glee that I can't usually get from these movies.
A lot of people on Twitter found casting the insanely hot Marisa Tomei as the withered and annoyingly burdensome Aunt May as Hollywood chauvinism. The characters react to this a little in their dialogue, but it's clear in her scenes that this isn't the case. Instead of saying that Marisa Tomei is old, they're giving Peter Parker a cool aunt that he can relate to, one who won't be the deluded-but-sweet nuisance that Aunt May has always been in the past. I really wanted to see her fuck Tony Stark.
I know I said that superhero movies are the harbinger of the end of civilization, but I will be first in line to see the new Spider-Man movie.
Captain America brings his team of superheroes including Paul Rudd, who is hilarious as Ant-Man, to an airport where they change in a parking garage, and they meet up and have tense chats with Tony Stark and his superheroes, and then they have the best onscreen superhero battle I've ever seen.
The two teams run at each other like on the covers of so many comic book covers, and nothing about it looks fake or boring. It's fun and non-threatening, and everyone's finally wearing his or her beautiful costumes. I got chills and wept from the feelings I thought had long ago died within me.
At one point during the fight, Captain America asks where Spider-Man is from and Spidey says "Queens," which elicited some applause, to which Captain America replies "Brooklyn," and the whole audience roared like when Cyrus in the Warriors yelled, "Can you dig it?" I got chills again. It was a beautiful moment of unified excitement and recognition.
When we exited the theater, we witnessed an enthusiastic pack of tween boys who were horseplaying over whether Captain America or Iron Man was morally correct. It did my heart good to see kids get that energized in a movie.
I give the first half of this movie an F– and I give the second half an A+. I also wish that the movie had ended with Guns N' Roses song "Civil War" playing over the credits. That seemed like a real missed opportunity.
'Captain America: Civil War' Should've Been Called 'Captain America: Messy Bitches Who Live for Drama'
By Helen Donahue, Social Engagement Editor
War, what is it good for? After two hours and 27 minutes of Captain America: Civil War plus extra scenes in between and following credits, I have no fucking idea. This movie should have been titled Captain America: Messy Bitches Who Live for Drama because there was more violence in War of the Roses, and I'm talking about the civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York and the Michael Douglas movie.
There are too many characters in this movie to keep track of unless you've been reading them your entire life, so here's how they were introduced to me: A group of Soviets are literally torturing some greaseball with a metal arm by saying words like "homecoming" and "nine" in Russian. Then the failed Olsen sister is on the phone with the dude who made himself into a human banana split on Not Another Teen Movie, and they're also on the phone with some dude flying a drone, and Scarlett Johansson. I'm probably forgetting someone, but before I can process anything, they're at the Institution for Infectious Diseases, and I hear Chris Evans say Rob Lowe has a biological weapon. They all start fighting, and I'm puzzled how they're able to butcher Rob Lowe and his squad of terrorists while bragging about how many people they've taken out so far. At this point, I wouldn't fuck any of these characters.
Robert Downey Jr. is in the movie now, but he's wearing a ton of makeup that makes him look more like present-day Alan Cumming than like he did in Weird Science. Smartass Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark gives a TED Talk, and everyone's applauding his ass, but he looks sad, and broken-down.
Then every character in the movie sits down and argues around a table for about an hour. They could be controlled by the United Nations, but only if they sign the Whatever Accords. Captain America won't do it, because Avengers don't sign documents, which reminds me I have to sign one for HR.
Anyway, the Avengers keep fucking killing people, so maybe Mr. America should just suck it up and sign with one of FDR's pens that Robert Downey Jr. tried to give him for some reason? The movie could have ended here—I took a bathroom break and almost left Nick in the theater I was so bored.
Finally, something decent happens in the movie—Robert Downey Jr. goes to Peter Parker's house to recruit him to help beat up all his old best friends. Then Jeremy Renner shows up looking like he's about to perform in Much Ado About Nothing. Instead he beats up an emotive robot to kidnap the Olsen sister. Paul Rudd is also involved, which would have been cool if his character had the personality of Andy from Wet Hot American Summer, but he was just a shrinking man with the wit of every Judd Apatow character he's been playing since 2005.
Everyone has chosen a side now, and they meet up at the airport to fight, which, in their defense, is a fantastic place to air grievances. Spider-Man and Captain America have a kind of cool fight, but all of these assholes obviously love each other, so it kind of just seems like if the dorky-ass cast of The New Girl decided to fistfight for an entire episode before hugging and making one another a cold brew.
Then a bunch of stuff happens, and they go to Siberia—originally I wrote a bunch more about this movie, but my editors were like, "Those are spoilers, Helen," and I guess fully grown adults get upset when you describe the plot of a movie online. Anyway this movie is super long, and at the end of it, I hadn't eaten the birthday cake Oreos I smuggled into the theater, and now I have to deal with that whole situation. This is what is known in the business as a "cliffhanger." Bye.