Something that’s very obvious about me is that I’m not (too) much a fan of the MCU, and I much prefer the DCEU way over the “Marvel way.” With that, I want to be clear that I want quality foremost out of comic book movies, and not a oversaturated flick of forced comedy, cheesiness and villains who’d lose to a cardboard box. Now allow me to raise my hand and say that out of the sixteen MCU movies, WINTER SOLDIER is my favorite and it highlights what rut I’ve noticed CIVIL WAR returns the MCU into.
Both movies were directed by the Russo Brothers — Anthony and Joseph — who as big budget tentpole directors lacked any experience when they tackled WINTER SOLDIER, but despite it they turned out a good movie in my opinion. It had this air of reality to it, and a Cold War action thriller rush.
CIVIL WAR on the other hand felt like they wrote a million-dollar check, and only had ten-dollars in the account. It showed (to me) their lack of experience when it came to these massive style of movies I had pointed out, which take place in a gigantic world. I don’t know if Marvel Entertainment or perhaps Disney sets out the basic ground work they want the movies to follow, and there by extension the directors and creative team are to go by– “the Marvel way,” or if the Russo Brothers here simply fell back into the groove that Joss Whedon had dug when digging the trench that is the MCU.
When I watch a CB movie, one of the first things I look for is where the director draws from with the mythos. What he/she decides to utilize, and execute within the realm of the story being told. And when it came to these two movies, there’s a very iconic story for both to use as the foundation to both was laid and where one succeeded, the other failed,
- WINTER SOLDIER: overall, the Russo Brothers took the basis of Captain America (Volume 5) where Ed Brubaker brought back Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier. They managed to take the story and integrate it into the boundaries (the preexisting universe) that no only paid respect to the original, but also lifted what was there with the MCU. It was the first time I saw the MCU do this, whereas previously each movie was just placed into the universe like a solo piece that just happened to exist within a connected universe.
- CIVIL WAR: the limited-series Civil War was one of the most impactful stories on the Marvel Universe, whereas the movie paled in comparison. I understand that in order to do a true to form version of the comic in live-action it would take Marvel owning all of their characters’ rights, and that the Anthony and Joseph had to work with what they had, but this is where it failed. Instead of using what they had to the fullest, they allowed the comic’s title to speak for the product instead of it speaking for itself. The movie’s story lacked much real depth outside the face value of drawing lines from previous catastrophic events that occurred in the previous movies.
Comedy, it’s a factor that critics want a shit ton of in every single CB movie no matter the style of story. For me, I want it, but in a completely different way. Organically. Something that I’ve noticed Marvel has seemingly beat into critics (and the casual moviegoer) is this need for flagrant comedy. That style of comedy is a crutch. It doesn’t force them to delve completely into the story, as well as taking away from serious strides in a character’s development,
- WS: despite the overall tone being quite dark and gritty, the moments of comedy appeared to come like the events were actually unfolding in real life. That’s how great comedy tends to be born, when it just happens. The scene that stands out to me the most in that display is the “On your Left” where CAP keeps passing Sam [Wilson] and says each time, “on your left.” It’s our introduction to Sam’s character, and instead of shoving some one liner down our throats in doing so, they took a moment where they show the physical disadvantage Sam is at against Steve, and used it to give a spark of levity in what was going to be an overall dark toned movie.
- CW: like most Marvel movies, there was a large array of comedy that some of was organic while the majority was hammered in. The moment that keeps drawing my attention is after a very heavy moment was built to from the “Airport Battle,” and [Colonel James] Rhodey was shot out of the sky. A moment like that is a character defining one when fully played out, and allowing the realization of what had happened to follow through, but instead of allowing that, they forced out this moment where Sam lands not even ten feet from the crash site apologizing, “I’m sorry,” but is promptly met with a repulser beam. When I saw it in theaters, the entire mood shifted from shock and sorrow to chuckles and laughs. It destroyed any satisfaction of truly building to that moment, and ruined the immediate image after where Tony is cradling Rhodey’s unconscious body in his arms.
And then the factor that casual moviegoers wouldn’t pay much mind to, but plagues the MCU from my POV… consequences. In a connected universe like the MCU and DCEU, where multiple movies revolving around many characters takes place, something that needs to be instituted to keep a sense of continuity is that the actions in the movies need to have and retain consequences across the board. It’s been one of my pet peeves with the MCU up until WINTER SOLDIER where all of those preceding it lacked much of any consequences, and the status quo always seemed to remain,
- WS: immediately we receive the consequences from (CAPTAIN AMERICA) THE FIRST AVENGER, as a ghost from Steve’s past comes back… Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier. But not only that, we also see at the end of the movie that S.H.I.E.L.D. was irreparably ruined as a result of the events in the movie.
- CW: Baron Zemo‘s entire plan was to rip the Avengers apart, because they “stole” his family from him during the events of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. It’s true that he succeeds at doing so by forcing CAP to choose between Stark and Bucky, as well as unintentionally causing the Registration Act that started the divide between them, BUT when all is said and done after the three — CAP, Bucky and Stark — fight it out in a long since abandoned USSR base, CAP sends Stark a cellphone as a way to communicate with him. After spending 147-minutes dividing Captain America and Iron Man, they threw it away with a cellphone.
There was also other factors that I know played to the downfall of CIVIL WAR for me, like the fact that Black Panther and Wakanda could’ve been replaced with any other country and its dignitary, and the story would’ve unfolded the same way. Or that there was no literal reason to have Peter Parker/Spider-Man in it other than to bank off of his name-power in foresight of going up against a titan in BATMAN V SUPERMAN. Ultimately coming back to what I had said at the beginning with signing a million-dollar check with only ten-dollars in the account, the movie tried to do more than it could. There was plenty of missed opportunities, and an overall lack of character development. Ironically, the same character (Black Panther) I said the movie would’ve been the same without, he had the most (and honestly only) character development throughout the entire movie.
Sadly, the story of CIVIL WAR was diluted with an attempt to introduce and tell a story that could’ve been something good if the right amount of time was taken to fully develop the idea.