Progressive/Nerd/Parent Review: Captain America: Civil War

The epic conclusion to the Steve Rogers / Bucky Barnes bromance trilogy is here and it is glorious.

The real story: Steve helping his best friend Bucky.
Captain America: Civil War

Spoiler Alert: There are no spoilers in this review until the Dad edits section at the end, which contains some non-trivial spoilers, but you only need to read that if your question is “should I take my kid to see this movie?” Also, I will provide another warning before it happens, I promise.

Bechdel-Wallace Score: 1.5/3 – Well, shit. There are at least three significant, named women in the movie – arguably four. I honestly can’t remember if they ever talk to each other except for a few times using a comm link, and even then it is always about a man. So I am scoring Civil War at 1.5 points because earpiece talk about bad guys doesn’t quite count as talking to each other. When I see the movie again (inevitable), I will pay extra close attention and revise the score if warranted. Of course I shouldn’t have to work this hard to remember if they would just represent women more in the first place.

Shukla Score: 2.5/3 – There are multiple named persons of color in the film almost all of whom are black men. If you were as excited as me when you learned Alfre Woodard had been cast to play a role in Civil War, you will be delighted with the content of her moment on screen (she is so good) and not at all pleased that she only has the one moment. All the rest of the Shukla score comes from black men in the movie, who have at least two moments when they are speaking to each other about topics other than race, but no actual scenes to themselves (hence 2.5 instead of 3).

Russo Score: 0/3 – There is no LGBTQ representation in the movie. Goddamnit, Marvel! Do better! Oh how you sully what would otherwise be my unbridled joy and unfettered appreciation for your work by failing to in anyway represent some of the most normal and most special real world people when you make your fantastical movies about normal, special people. Do better!

Kittehs: 😻😻😻😻😻/5 – I just loved it. Certainly this movie, and the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, are due some serious criticism when it comes to representation. And yet if you are going to do a sausage fest, I say do it all the way, and this movie did. Don’t get me wrong, women play some important roles in this movie (see highlights below), but this movie is about men and the relationships between men. Fathers and sons, mentors and proteges, fans and heroes, friendships that can withstand anything, and friendships that must be torn apart because the men in them are too similar not to fight. And each of those kinds of relationships are rendered in a bipolar way, with the most true and the most horrible on display. A lot of movies focus on male characters, but this movie focuses on men qua man in a way that is enriching rather than simply patriarchal (although it is that, too).

Low points: The representation scores are mediocre at best and that is no small thing. Otherwise, seriously, no low points. The Russo brothers really crafted a remarkable movie and the actors all nailed their parts; I’m not going to pretend to have any specific complaint. Civil War is fucking awesome. Personally, I would have liked to have seen more of a focus on the Steve/Bucky relationship, but to some degree that had to be traded in order to give all the (many) other characters enough screen time not to just feel like cameos. Honestly, I’m amazed they got this many characters into the movie without selling any of them short, so I’m not going to complain that they didn’t get more immersed in the bromance. Trade-offs have to be made.

T'Challa owns.
T’Challa owns.
Highlights: Philosophically the biggest highlight is that almost everyone is a good guy. In the original Marvel Comics Civil War event, both Captain America and Iron Man are batshit crazy. There are no good guys in that story. In this movie almost everyone is acting in good faith and with the best of intentions (Crossbones and Zemo excepted, of course). As scenes go, the best moment (I think) comes early in the third act when Steve and Bucky share a memory as friends. As characters go, Black Panther comes in first with Spiderman being a solid second for scene stealing. Scott Lang/Ant-Man is comedy gold, of course. Black Widow gives the proceedings a much needed conscience as she is the good gal with good intentions who is most nobly struggling with the difficult reality instead of just working her own agenda and/or feelings. And last but by no means least, Wanda Maximoff has seriously stepped up her Scarlet Witch game and is a complete badass at multiple points in the movie. I could go on and on – it’s just great fun. Personally, my favorite thing about this movie is that it reveals that the Captain America movies – The First Avenger, Winter Solider, and Civil War – are somehow just a Steve and Bucky bromance trilogy. Civil War is the climax of that trilogy, if not exactly the conclusion of their story, and it is glorious. One last highlight: Helmut Zemo is a very understated villain in the movie with an entirely relatable motive (even if his actions are unconscionable); you have to be dead inside not to feel for the guy, and that is more than you can say for most Marvel movie villains.

Dad edits: Reminder – SPOILERS! this sections has SPOILERS! – so stop reading now because they start after the period. Zemo tortures a guy to death by drowning him (slowly). T’Challa watches his father die in an explosion. Towards the end of the film, you see Tony Stark’s parents brutally murdered in cold blood with almost nothing left to the imagination. This is, without a doubt, the most grown up Marvel movie yet and if your kid is under 15ish years of age I would seriously urge you to see the movie yourself before deciding whether or not to take your child. When this movie is out on iTunes and/or disc, I’ll be able to skip past those scenes without really interfering with the rest of the movie for my kid. In the theater though, there is no way to avoid the harshest moments, and they are brutal. Be careful.

Final Thoughts: I can’t wait to see how they tie the end of this movie into the beginning of Infinity War. Also, big props to the Russo brothers for healing all the wounds I have from Batman v Superman. Now I can be happy again with superhero movies.

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