Captain America: Civil War Themes (Spoilers)

civil war3Hopefully most of you have watched my initial reaction review to Captain America: Civil War.  If you haven’t here it is again.

Now I’ve had the chance to see the movie twice and have more detailed thoughts. This is a spoiler filled post so stop now if you have not seen the film.

Captain America: Civil War can certainly be enjoyed on a base level. It’s fun, has great action and quipy dialogue that keeps things from feeling too morose. You have engaging actors and their characters who we have gotten to know over 12 films and some new presences in Black Panther and Spider-man. However, I am going to dig a little deeper and talk about themes of friendship and agency within the movie. If you want to just enjoy the movie then that is great but this might not be the post for you.

cap and bucky
Steve’s friendship with Bucky has been a part of his story from the beginning.

FRIENDSHIP

Friendship is probably the more obvious theme within the film. We even heard in the trailer Steve saying “he’s my friend” and Tony replying “so was I”. Clearly there is a dynamic of friendship that is tested between the 3 main characters- Bucky, Steve and Tony. However, you also have other friendships that are explored- Rhodey and Tony, Natasha and Clint, Sam and Steve, Steve and Peggy, Steve and Sharon, Scarlet Witch and Vision, Natasha and Steve etc. All of these friendships are tested with the Sokovia Accord.

Aristotle said there are 3 types of friendship (yes I am going to relate Marvel to Aristotle deal with it). There are friendships of utility, pleasure and virtue. A utility friendship is one “that can be easily dissolved and done away with when a more useful version comes into place”. You could argue that Ant-Man and Spider-Man are friendships or relationships of utility in the film. They are helpful but not essential to any of the other players.

Then we have friendships of pleasure. “These types of friendships are built around love or passion for similar things”. Most of the Avengers relationships are this type of friendship. They love similar things- mainly avenging- and that bonds them together. I venture to say most of your friends are friendships of pleasure. They are very valuable and are an essential part of a happy life. Black Panther is kind of an outside observer given he doesn’t really have relationships with any of the other characters.

Here’s where things get interesting. The top level of friendship is one of virtue. “This is that rare friend which supersedes friendships of pleasure or utility. This is that bond which is practically sacred it is so special”.

This is where we get the main conflict of Civil War. At the beginning of the film Steve has had to see his most treasured friendship of virtue die. This leaves him with only one left and that is Bucky. Everybody else it turns out is a friendship of pleasure. He values Tony and even Natasha but when push comes to shove he values his friendship with Bucky more.

The same thing can be said for Tony and his parents. It might sound odd to say a parent is a friend but when it comes down to it Tony is willing to do anything to avenge his parents. They are more valuable than any other relationship. Steve even tries to explain to him that Bucky didn’t know but his love or friendship for his parents is stronger than any such logic. You can also tell from his heartbreak that Pepper is one of those virtuous relationships. Rhodey is but not as much as the others.

Steve has had to see all his friendships of pleasure die, and that is why he is so focused on saving Bucky. It’s a survival instinct in a way. By saving Bucky he is in a way saving part of himself.

When Tony and Steve come to blows at the end it is especially heart breaking because they are two people who have lost everything. It’s what makes it so gripping and emotional.

Tony begins to lose control and doubt his decisions early on in his story
Tony begins to lose control and doubt his decisions early on in his story

AGENCY

The other main theme of the film centers around agency. When I first heard that Tony was going to be signing the Sokovia Accord I didn’t know if that made sense with his character. Shouldn’t it be Cap who goes along with the government with Tony being the fast-talking outlaw? This is where looking at their films comes into play.

Tony starts out Iron Man not caring about the ramifications of his choices. He sells arms to terrorists. He lives the high life at others expense and he doesn’t care. Then he is imprisoned and becomes Iron Man. In the second movie he has let the fame go to his head but he has started to take more accountability for his choices. He stops producing arms and is trying to make a difference. Then in the Avengers he faces Loki and has a team to support his choices, but Coulson dies and the battle is only narrowly won.

Iron Man 3 comes next and the stresses of making heroic choices is starting to get to him. He has panic attacks and starts to doubt his abilities. Pepper is hurt and he is fooled by the Mandarin. Then in Ultron he see’s the vision of his dead friends and mass suffering all around him. This inspires him to make Ultron and it goes disastrously wrong. So, think about it. You have a man who’s agency has led to disaster.

It starts to make sense now. A man who has a history of panic attacks and bad decision making wants to let other people make the choices. That sounds great! He even tries to limit Scarlet Witch’s choices in the guise of ‘protecting her’. In his mind choices are dangerous and prison is safe.

Let’s look at Steve. His growth is a bit simpler. He started with the morality of a soldier. There are good guys and bad guys and he wanted to be a good guy. He volunteers for the experiment and helps defeat Hydra. But not before he saw how governments can be used to control and manipulate- even his own government in some ways.

Then in Winter Soldier he saw a stalwart organization like Shield get infiltrated by Alexander Pierce. No wonder he doesn’t want to give his decision making ability over to the accord. It makes perfect sense.

You can even see how Tony’s decisions in Age of Ultron creating Ultron would make Cap suspect of even his own organization, the Avengers. He says at the end ‘the Avengers was always more yours than mine” speaking to Tony. No, Captain America must be allowed his agency, and he will not give that up to any group or person- even the Avengers.

Why? Well, that’s where we bring it back to Bucky and friendship. Steve has had to see his one remaining friend lose his agency. As the Winter Soldier, Bucky has essentially become a robot and as his friend of virtue that would be incredibly painful to watch. Of course, Steve is going to do anything to save his friend and that means protecting him and bringing back his agency.

Tony and Steve's different stories is what leads them into conflict
Tony and Steve’s different stories is what leads them into conflict

CONFLICT

And so this is where we get our conflict for the film. We have two friends of pleasure that are motivated by deeper friendships of virtue that they will not put aside, no matter what. Then you also have Tony’s history of panic and his poor choices making him seek for control; where Steve has only seen that control go awry.

The two gather friends to their side and punch it out with Steve basically winning because it is his movie after all. 🙂 Now the Avengers are basically a pack of vigilantes which is what Secretary Ross said they were to begin with. It should make the future with Infinity Wars Pt 1 and 2 very exciting.

What do you think of my analysis? Did you see these themes of friendship and agency within the film? Am I overthinking it? Let me know what themes you saw. Thanks!

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Thoughts on Marvel Phase 1 Movies

So last month in preparation for Batman v Superman I watched all the Batman and Superman movies and gave my best shot with a mini review for each film. Even though I’m kind of superhero movie’d out I decided I’d plow forward and do the Marvel movies as well. It’s no secret that I enjoy the Marvel movies much more than DC properties but before Avengers I actually wasn’t into superhero movies at all.

From Catwoman to Green Lantern, it seemed like all I saw were horrible movies, so I was turned off of comic book movies. I didn’t see any of the early Marvel films and had no interest in seeing The Avengers. But my friends told me I had to see it and despite not seeing the earlier films I watched it and to my surprise- loved it.  I liked seeing the formation of the team and all the different personalities.  It had action but it wasn’t too bleak or drab.  It was funny without being stupid and it had a female character that was awesome.

It took me a while to then go back and watch the earlier films, and I enjoyed those as well. I know a lot of people complain about Marvel’s villains but that honestly doesn’t bother me. I guess I like my heroes better than my villains. I’ve yet to see a film from Marvel that I’ve hated.  They just get me!

So I decided to do these mini-reviews Best Shot style like the Batman and Superman posts.  I am going to split these up into 2 posts as it will take me a bit to watch phase 2 and I didn’t want to forget why I picked my phase 1 spots and 13 reviews seemed like a lot for one post. I hope you enjoy them and let me know what your favorite shot or moments are from these films. Thanks!

Iron Man-

Iron Man got the MCU off with a bang and is beloved for a reason. A super satisfying comic book movie with Robert Downey Jr oozing charisma out of every pore. Jeff Bridges is a decent foe but what I like most about this film is how smart Tony has to be. He’s given scraps and is able to build his first suit and then he continually uses his brain to make things better and help more people (and himself). I think you lose a little bit of that scrapiness and intellect as the series continues so it was refreshing to see it again.  I picked this shot because I think it shows Tony thinking and problem solving.

best shot iron manThe Incredible Hulk-

The Incredible Hulk is a weird Marvel movie because it doesn’t really feel like a Marvel movie. It feels like something more out of Birdman than Marvel and in that regard it is interesting.  Edward Norton seems like he is in another movie he is so dark and brooding all the time.  Once Mark Ruffalo takes over you get a little more fun.  There’s also way too little hulking for a Hulk movie.  That said the final showdown is fun and the chemistry between Liv Tyler as Betty is good.  I picked this shot because I thought it was really cool moment in the big fight.

incredible hulk best shotIron Man 2-

Everyone kind of hates on Iron Man 2 and it is a flawed film but I enjoyed watching it. They definitely make Tony too unlikable in this film.  He’s a real jerk and Mickey Rourke is just ok as Whiplash. We also get more of Pepper than we probably need but I don’t hate her like many people seem too.  It’s nice to get our first glimpse of Black Widow in all her Scarlett Johansson sexiness. But the best part of this movie is exploring the idea of a famous superhero.  That’s never really been done in a superhero movie and I found that interesting.  That’s why I picked this shot showing Iron Man playing for the crowd in all his glory.

best shot iron man2Thor-

Thor is probably the character from the MCU that shouldn’t have worked. I mean a Norse God with a giant hammer just sounds so stupid but I actually enjoy this film! First of all, I love the world of Asgard that they build.  It looks beautiful and the dynamic between Loki and Thor is dynamite. I also like how Loki is trying to get the approval of  his father Odin played by Anthony Hopkins.  Where it falters for me is when Thor gets to earth.  Some of those scenes are very amusing but I don’t really love Natalie Portman as Jane and don’t feel that she and Thor have great chemistry. I’m always waiting for it to get back to Asgard. (I also think that Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth are two of the world’s prettiest people so that helps…). My shot for Thor features father Odin and the two sons Thor and Loki- the best parts of the movie!

thor best shotCaptain America: The First Avenger-

This movie could have easily been bland and boring with our origin story of Captain America- the super soldier. However, fortunately for us it turned out to be a ton of fun. In a way it is kind of like the early Indiana Jones movies. The hero defeats Nazis (or in this case Hydra) without it feeling calloused and cheap to real historical tragedies and events.  I love the 1940s touches throughout and the action is really enjoyable. I also like seeing scrawny Steve Rogers turn into the superhero we all know and love. Tommy Lee Jones is also perfect casting as the colonel and I like Hugo Weaving as Red Skull.  I think this shot captures the spirit and joy of the film best. best shot cap 1The Avengers-

As I said above The Avengers brought me back into appreciating comic book movies. It’s one of those movies I can’t imagine not being at least marginally entertained by. I love how the team doesn’t work together or gel immediately. You get their individual stories and journeys to the group so it feels so satisfying when they all do become one. Loki is so much fun as the villain and I love his interactions with all involved. Agent Coulson’s death is emotional and I totally buy it galvanizing all of our heroes. I love each of the Avengers and the witty dialogue Joss Whedon gives them is perfect. I think Mark Ruffalo was a good choice over Edward Norton for the Hulk. The action is tense without being drab or dreary and the special effects hold up. It’s just a great movie, not just a great comic book movie. I love it! It’s probably predictable to pick this shot of our team but it’s honestly my favorite so it’s my pick!

avengers best shot2

Best and Worst of 2014

Overall 2014 has been a great year for movies.  I haven’t seen every movie by a long shot but I have seen my fair share.  I am still planning on seeing Annie, Into the Woods and Interstellar but I figured I’d go ahead with this post anyway.  I will do posts on those movies and add an addendum to this post in the notes.

Remember this is just my opinion.  If you liked movies I didn’t than that is awesome.  I want people to enjoy their time at the movies, so if you saw value in something that I didn’t I think that is great. If I liked something you didn’t I hope you can respect my opinion.

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Live Action

10.  Noah

9. God’s Not Dead

8. Chef

7.  100 Foot Journey

6. Captain America: Winter Soldier

5.  Xmen Days of Future Past

4. Edge of Tomorrow

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

1.  Boyhood.

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Animation

10. Planes: Fire and Rescue

9. Rio 2

8. Book of Life

7. Mr Peabody and Sherman

6. Penguins of Madegascar

5. How to Train Your Dragon 2

4. Boxtrolls

3. Tale of Princess Kaguya

2. Big Hero 6

1. Lego Movie

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And now for the worst of the year.  I try to not see bad movies but I did slog through a couple this year just to know if they were really that bad.

10. Ride Along

9. Tammy

8. Muppets Most Wanted

7. Godzilla

6. Amazing Spiderman 2

5. The Other Woman

4. Transformers: Age of Extinction

3. Nut Job

2. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return

1. Maleficent

Best documentary Life Itself (also the only documentary I watched this year so need to catch up on some!)

life-itself-poster