Film Trailers

Captain America: Civil War – Not the Overstuffed Mess We Were Worried About

Almost exactly one year ago to the day, I published a lengthy essay analyzing the ways in which the Marvel Studios sequels often don’t quite match up with their predecessors, concluding, “When your movie ends on a rally cry, such as Jane Foster making a breakthrough in her search for Thor and Captain American pledging to go after the Winter Soldier, or an emotional breakthrough, such as Tony Stark destroying all of his Iron Man suits and declaring his devotion to Pepper Potts, it’d be nice if your next installment honors that.  Instead, Joss Whedon half-asses an explanation for Thor‘s dangling plot threads in Avengers, Tony’s status-changing catharsis in Iron Man 3 is background noise in Age of Ultron.  Looking ahead, even with all the cool stuff being added to Civil War I hope they don’t completely forget about the Winter Soldier.”

Welll shut my mouth because Civil War, that potentially overstuffed mess which is going to pit hero against hero AND introduce the new Spider-Man AND introduce Black Panther AND further incorporate Ant-Man into the MCU, actually looks like an incredibly solid Captain America movie.  The Russo Brothers have been saying that for a while now as have the people who are actually in the movie, but until this morning I don’t know that I completely believed them.  There was just too much going on Civil War for them to really continue on with such a intense focus on the Winter Soldier and maintain the fact that this is still a Captain America movie, not Avengers 2.5: Age of Infighting.  Heck, pretty much every Avenger other than Hulk or Thor or is going to be in this thing.

Not that you’d really know that from the trailer.  Anyone not named Captain America, Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Falcon or Black Widow is better left seen, but unheard, that is if they’re even seen at all.  Of course, these things can be misleading.  Let’s not forget those Iron Man 3 trailers which seemed ultra-serious and promoted the hell out of Mandarin as a terrorist-like figure lifted out of a Christopher Nolan.  Still, this new trailer is Marvel’s first foot forward in what will ultimately be a 6 month promotional period for Civil War leading up to its May 6, 2016 release.  They want us to know that this movie is going to be Captain America vs. Iron Man, almost entirely because Cap wants to protect his best friend Bucky and Iron Man wants to bring him in to answer for his decades of crimes.

Oh, sure, there’s William Hurt popping up to take charge and throw around words like “vigilante” before passing something called the “Sokovia Accords: Framework for the Registration and Deployment of Enhanced Individuals” across the table to Cap.  So, they are sort of, kind of doing their version of the “Superhuman Registration Act” from the Civil War comics, and heroes will be forced to choose sides.  I imagine that will be a big deal in the actual film.  However, any real sign of a larger ethical conflict is minimized.  Instead, it kind of seems like everyone in the world, including Black Panther (apparently), has a score to settle with Winter Soldier, and Cap’s standing up and declaring, “You’ll have to go through me,” to which everyone says, “So be it.”  The actual film itself will be more complicated, but this trailer is giving us the barebones and making sure we get it – Captain America Vs. Iron Man (aka, Suck It Batman V Superman: Dawn of Whatever).

For Joss Whedon fanatcis, it vaguely reminds me of when Faith crossed over to Angel and then became the person everyone wanted to kill, except for Angel, who at one point physically defends her from Buffy – you know, the love of his life.  It was an awkward moment.

Or at least that’s my initial reaction.  I dig the hell out of it, and if you are the type who wants to see an analysis of every single frame of the trailer Collider (among countless others) has you covered.

I defer to Devin from BirthMoviesDeath at this point:

What’s the best part of the new Captain America: Civil War trailer? Is it the explosion at the beginning? Is it Falcon spin-kicking gunmen while flying? Is it Bucky and Steve teaming up to beat down Iron Man? Well, yes, those are among the best parts. But the best best part, for me, are the characters. When Steve says “He’s my friend,” to Tony, explaining why he has to help Bucky, and Tony says “So was I,” that is just the shit.

If you don’t love these characters you probably don’t like these movies. That, I suspect, is the real dividing line. No, Marvel Studios isn’t making awards bait and they’re not pushing the boundaries of narrative cinema (although more than once they have produced the best pop movie of the year). Many of the complaints people have about these films are, on some level or another, true and founded. But none of those complaints take into account just how much fans – like me – love these characters, and how expertly the folks at Marvel Studios have been advancing their long stories.

The stakes of Civil War aren’t physical (although what a great shot of a demolished Rhodey in Tony’s arms) – they’re personal. It’s that “So was I” exchange. Yeah, none of these guys are going to die (no duh), but their relationships could be impacted. Their friendships strained or destroyed. The fabric that connects these characters could be sundered. And the people who made this trailer understand this.

So if you don’t love these characters, maybe Civil War isn’t going to be for you. But if you love these characters, if what excites you most about the MCU is the way these people interact and the ways their worlds collide, then Civil War looks like a huge gift.


  1. I trust the Russo Borthers after they made The Winter Soldier. Not only did they seed the first CA film with details they put onto the second, there were frequent parallels, callbacks and references to the first film. I expect no less than the same level of attention to detail that they put onto the first two Captain America movies.

  2. Told you so. (Yep, I am in the mood to be totally smug about this). The Captain America Franchise is easily the strongest in the whole MCU, because it has easily the best writing team. Plus the Russo Brothers showed in The Winter Soldier that they either really know how to stage an action sequence or know how to put the right team together to make Cap look really awesome. But they also know when they have to slow it down and just focus on the characters.

    Interestingly the whole franchise has a strong underlying theme of political reflexion. The first one was commenting on propaganda. The second one addressed privacy and the misuse of the spy apparatus for a questionable sense of safety. I guess the third one will address the question of doing what you think is right vs playing by the rules, and if you really should make your own law just because you have the power to do so. In any case, I look forward to this.

    I have the feeling that the trailer only gave is a glimpse on the beginning of the movie.

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