joonscribble: (Steve Rogers)
[personal profile] joonscribble
Thus concludes the Captain America trilogy. The final installment, directed by the Russo Brothers stars literally everyone from the Marvel movies, minus Thor and Bruce Banner. Plus we get Black Panther and Spider-Man. Apologies for the long review. The movie itself was really, REALLY long.

I'm pretty convinced that the Russos wanted to make a very different movie to tie up Steve's story before Feige came in with the plans to do the Civil War storyline and shoved RDJ into their path. So instead of getting a story about Steve and Sam finding Bucky and taking down the remnants of Hydra, we get...something else.

To start, I never really thought the Avengers were very tight as a group. Every Avengers movie has them arguing over something. And this movie seemed to finally cash in on all those fractures by having one man destroy the Avengers from within by setting up a very small number of distractions. The action gets kicked off when during a mission in Nigera, Wanda accidentally blows up a building, killing several innocent citizens. This captures the eye of the public who call for there to be some sort of consequence for the Avengers. General Ross (William Hurt) with the full backing of Tony Stark, throws down the Sokovia Accords which basically puts the Avengers under the thumb of the UN. They cannot act without a panel voting yay or nay. Tony is all ready to sign up. Steve, predictably, says no.

Okay, so as an ideological argument, both Steve and Tony make good points. Tony argues that they cannot just act without some sort of oversight since their missions have often ended with casualties. While Steve makes the equally good argument that governing bodies have agendas and what would the Avengers do if they're forced onto a mission they don't agree with or are kept from helping people because of politics? The only problem with the way the movie presented these arguments is that Tony has no business being the poster child for Argument #1. Because the way the film positions him, it's absolutely clear that he's come to this decision out of not being able to handle the guilt and blame being heaped upon him and the Avengers for all the civilians who have died because of them. While I'm sure he's hoping a governing agency would mean less casualties, what it really boils down to is that he wants the blame and responsibility shifted off of him for whatever deaths that might happen. This is in diametric opposition to Steve who makes the hero's argument that basically with great power comes great responsibility and heavy burdens.

I don't necessarily think Steve is 100% correct on his stance because he is asking a lot of the people who choose to try and do the right thing and help: which is they weather all the guilt and hatred that might come down on them if something goes south. That's basically what happens to Wanda. But he's not shying away from taking responsibility for what happens under his watch which puts him at a higher moral ground than Tony. Granted, as someone who isn't Captain America, this can come across as pretty arrogant. And it is. But the difference between Steve and Tony which counts for so much is that Steve is willing to own up immediately when he makes a mistake while it takes Tony forever, if at all.

Anyway, as the UN meets to make the Sokovia Accords official, the building they're in gets blown up. Among the casualties is the King of Wakanda. Early footage shows that the bomber is the Winter Soldier and suddenly the entire world is being upturned to find Bucky who has managed to remain in hiding for two years. Predictably, General Ross orders to kill on sight while Steve and Sam race to find Bucky before anyone else does, including Prince T'Challa of Wakanda out of revenge for the death of his father. It's pretty clear that Bucky's been framed for the bombing but no one seems to entertain this notion other than Steve.

Somewhat shockingly, Bucky is doing pretty well for a guy who has spent 70 years being brainwashed. This movie introduces the fact that a very specific set of words needs to be said in order for the Winter Soldier programming to kick in. Without this code, Bucky seems more or less okay. Not great but certainly not a helpless mess as depicted in several Bucky recovery fics floating around. He's been living low key in Bucharest. What he's been doing for money, how he got an apartment, what he's been up to, we'll never know. The rest of the movie is basically Steve trying to protect Bucky, figuring out why and who is behind this while evading Tony and the government.

My biggest complaint about this movie is really Tony Stark and what I had to sit through with regard to his behavior. Tony dangerously veers toward being the worst kind of character: the hypocritical cowardly one. After the events in Nigeria, he literally locks up Wanda at the Avengers compound and tries to justify it by saying he's protecting the world from her and hey, he gave her a nice room. He manages to bring in everyone on Steve's side, minus Steve and Bucky where they are all promptly thrown into a maximum security, under the ocean prison system by General Ross' orders, which Tony refuses to take any responsibility for. His tactics when faced with someone pointing out that his alliance with Ross is going rapidly pear-shaped is to throw out personal insults, rather than have an adult discussion. He justifies every overreaction as being okay because he's experiencing a Feeling. At the nth hour when Tony finally gets confirmation that Bucky was framed and the real mastermind is someone else, he tries to adult up and help Steve and Bucky find Zemo (the main villain). Unfortunately, this is when Zemo unleashes the truth: that Bucky was the assassin who killed Tony's parents.

Ultimately, Zemo's plan had nothing to do with world dominance or destruction. He just wanted the Avengers gone and knew he had to work it so that they killed each other. He hinged his entire plan on Tony imploding once he found out about his parents. Normally I would say this was a bold move. But after seeing Tony in this movie, it was clearly the smart move. I was really disappointed that the real civil war here is not about ideologies but a personal revenge story. Tony wants to kill Bucky for what he did and flat out does not care that there was brainwashing involved. Steve can't let that happen. And so they fight. I wish I could have mustered up some sympathy for Tony because losing your parents is awful. But somehow in the context of everyone else's tragic backstory, his doesn't quite register at the level the movie is telling me it needs to register at. When he shuts down Steve's attempts to reason with him with, "I don't care. He killed my mom." I actually felt my last threads of goodwill toward Tony snap. He comes across as a child who cannot handle his feelings which might be accurate characterization for Tony but by this film it's no longer charming or cute. He's a middle aged man who has lived a much better life than some but cannot seem to make one mature, adult decision. And if he's all onboard killing Bucky for something Bucky couldn't ultimately help, then Tony better line up for the several Sokovians citizens who are waiting to murder Ironman for what happened in Ultron.

There are moments in this movie that are pretty good and feel like a part of the original movie the Russos had in mind to conclude Steve's story. It's a shame that the last Cap outing got hijacked by this mess which really belongs in an Avengers movie. The quieter moments in this movie are really what stand out as the best. Steve and Chris Evans are both at their most shining when having thoughtful scenes designed to illustrate what Steve fights for and what he values. Steve values morals and doing the right thing. He doesn't value being a Hero as a title which is why he was able to leave the shield behind like it was nothing. This again, sets him up as someone just very different than Tony who at the core, needs love possibly more than doing the right thing. Again, makes sense. But I'm just no longer interested in anything Tony wants anymore.

So to try and wrap up, some Likes and Dislikes.

1) T'challa aka Black Panther was possibly my favorite new character. I genuinely liked his character arc as going from a man bent on revenge to realizing all the damage he had done and will do if he kept on with it. I liked that he did not kill Zemo and did not allow Zemo to kill himself. And I very much appreciated him giving Steve and Bucky sanctuary in Wakanda at the end.

2) Natasha was great in this. She was technically Team Ironman but eventually let Steve and Bucky go to do their thing once she saw how horrific the full on fight between the two sides was going. Also, her ultimate shutdown of Tony when he threw in a cheap dig about her being a double agent was really wonderful. And on a superficial note, she had some of the BEST fight sequences.

3) I'm not glad that they had Peggy die (in her sleep at least!). But her funeral was really a very touching scene and the eulogy was like her leaving final wise words to Steve from beyond the veil. I loved how in the end, she was still the person he could count on to remind him where his feet had to be planted. I actually teared up during that whole sequence because all I could think about was scenes from Agent Carter. You were magnificent, Peggy. RIP.

4) Sam Wilson continued to be the best bro and the best person who was always 100% done with whatever nonsense around him. His reaction to seeing Black Panther the first time was kind of perfect. "So, you like cats?" "Enough, Sam." "Guy shows up dressed like a big cat and you don't want to ask more questions??" Also, he and Bucky had an interesting dynamic going on which so felt like a hilarious echo of how Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan seem to be together in interviews.

5) While not exactly a retcon, it felt like a slight cheat that they threw in the code system for activating the Winter Soldier. Without that, Bucky seems quite functional as a person. I felt like they did this to streamline the action plot since this movie wasn't going to center around Bucky's recovery. But poor Bucky. He just wanted to live in Bucharest, eat some plums, and not murder anyone anymore. I liked that he was the one in the third act who basically said the thing that Steve had been actively trying to excuse: that Bucky did kill people and while he didn't have a choice, he still did do those things. And while sad, I did like it was his decision to go back into cryo until something could be figured out to remove Hydra's conditioning. Bucky did not get to make too many decisions during this movie but I was glad that going into cryo was actually his and Steve did not try to argue otherwise.

6) It feels weird to say that I liked Hydra in this because 1) they are evil and 2) they're not really in this movie. Zemo is not a member of Hydra and has no political loyalties to the group. However, we do see a retired and living in hiding General Karpov which was a nice comic book reference as he was the one in charge of the Winter Soldier project through Department X. And whatever you might say about Hydra, they do create some very loyal members. I really wished that the movie had focused in on this group as the main villain because the 2nd Cap movie made it pretty clear that despite their evil agenda, Hydra is a much more organized and tight knit than SHIELD. And it's also pretty clear based on Karpov's decision to die without giving away a single bit of info that Hydra is more unified than the Avengers.

1) I already talked about Tony at length so I won't retread that ground. But as a question, did Bruce not tell him about General Ross? I seriously hope he didn't because if Tony signed up with the guy knowing full well it's been Ross' personal mission to take down the Hulk, Tony just dropped even lower in my eyes.

2) I wish Steve had gotten an actual character arc, given that this was his movie and all. He spends so much of this movie reacting to things rather than being able to take 3 seconds to be a character. He had such a great character story in Captain America 2, this felt like a bit of a letdown.

3) For anyone who was hoping for some sort of friendship reunion or resolution or discussion of some sort between Steve and Bucky, you best keep moving. So much of their dialogue was devoted to advancing the plot that they never got a chance to say anything along the lines of, "I missed you" or "Hi, how have you been?" By the time we get to the third act, they're kind of back to the dynamic they had in the first Cap movie which felt weirdly too soon.

4) As much as I liked Spider-Man and Ant-Man, they really did not need to be in this movie. They served zero purpose other than to be product placements. Especially Spider-Man since he's about to get his own movie very soon.
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