Civil War is heartbreaking. It’s a much more sombre film than any in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before, walloping you in the stomach with emotional punches. But it is also one of the best Marvel films to date — second-best, in my opinion. Moreover, they do not trivialise the drama that caused the fight between Cap and Tony by tying up matters neatly in a bow at the end of the movie. The contention over who is right regarding government regulation over superhero activities isn’t resolved; neither is the second issue, which can only be healed by time.
There are some laughs as is typical for a Marvel movie, but it is way less quippy and humorous than usual. We’ve never seen Tony so sad, so lonely, so guilty or bitter before. At the start of the film, we find out that he has just broken up with Pepper, his rock of emotional stability. Later, the mother of one of the accidental victims of their avenging activities lays the blame on him, which causes him to feel so guilty that he agrees with former General and current Secretary of State Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (Bruce’s antagonist and Betty Ross’ father in The Incredible Hulk) who wants them to sign the Sokovia Accords that will give the U.N. the right to regulate the Avengers’ activities. Cap doesn’t agree, after seeing how HYDRA had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., and feels that the safest hands are their own. He especially disapproves of Tony keeping Wanda and her dangerous powers under lock and key, because he feels she’s just a kid who deserves to live a normal life.
From there on, the Avengers (except Hulk and Thor, who are M.I.A.) are split into Team Cap and Team Iron Man. The divide grows greater and more urgent when the U.N. building in Vienna is blown up, killing Wakandan king T’Chaka — father of T’Challa/Black Panther — in the process, and Bucky is framed for it by Zemo, a mysterious man with a hidden agenda. Cap believes Bucky of course, but the rest of the Avengers on Tony’s side don’t. This culminates in an explosive battle at the airport when Team Cap tries to get to Siberia to stop Zemo’s nefarious plan, and they have to face off against Team Iron Man.
That airport battle is amazing by the way. Peter Parker’s introduction is handled so fluidly in the film, and it was fun to see Spider-Man interacting with the other Avengers, whom all think he’s an annoyingly talkative kid — even Tony, who recruited him. (Can’t wait to see Spider-Man: Homecoming, which will have creative input by Kevin Feige, maestro of the MCU!) Scott Lang turning into Giant-Man was also hilarious. And watching Clint in hand-to-hand combat suddenly makes me want to rewatch The Avengers for the part where he was fighting against Natasha on the Helicarrier when under mind control.
But it was a heart-stopping moment when Rhodey dropped like a stone from the air, and to see him hit the ground with Tony and Sam just seconds too late to catch him was so awful! Thank goodness he didn’t die! :S Rumours had been swirling around that some Avengers are going to die in this movie, and it was a relief to find out they were all not true. Rhodey getting seriously injured though was one of the things that made Tony angry with Cap’s team, who stayed behind while Cap and Bucky escaped, and he turns them over to Ross, who throws them into prison cells in an underwater maximum security barge.
Tony later finds out that it was all Zemo’s nefarious plan, and he goes to Siberia to help Cap and Bucky. However, it turns out that Zemo never had any intention of carrying out what they thought was his plan, and instead, he wanted to turn the Avengers against each other. And so he showed Tony the video of Bucky killing Howard and Maria Stark while brainwashed as the Winter Soldier.
The fight that ensues is absolutely *brutal* to your heart, as Tony, blinded by grief and rage against Bucky, tries his damnedest to kill him, while Cap tries to stop him. It was SO HARD watching Tony fight it out with Cap, in a to-the-death match, because you know they are friends. But in order to protect Bucky, Steve had to put his all into subduing Tony, because Tony was so blinded by vengeance that he couldn’t stop, especially when he discovered Steve knew the Winter Soldier killed his parents but kept the secret from him too.
This is one conflict that cannot be swept under the rug by the both of them discovering that their mothers share the same name (not that they do), which is what makes the story so poignant. It was so ferocious at the end that it seems like it *will* end up with one of them killing the other, when Steve finally incapacitates Tony. Tony then tells him bitterly that the shield was his father’s, and that Steve doesn’t deserve it. And so Steve leaves it behind, and leaves Tony behind, limping away with Bucky’s arm around his shoulders.
Even Zemo wasn’t completely evil. He concocted this extremely-elaborate,-it’s-amazing-it-worked scheme to tear the team apart from the inside in order to avenge his family, who were collateral damage in the Avengers’ fight against Ultron. He wanted to commit suicide after that, but was stopped by T’Challa, who saw what happens when one is consumed by vengeance and thus gave up his own vendetta to kill the person responsible for the death of his father. T’Challa later takes in Cap and Bucky and offers them a safe place in Wakanda to put Bucky in hibernation again, this time under Bucky’s request.
At the end of the film, Tony is almost alone. He still has Vision (who used to be Jarvis anyway) and Rhodey, but he has lost most of his newfound Avengers family, who now hate him for helping land them in jail. But Cap sends him a regretful letter apologising for his actions, and opens the door for Tony to call on him, should he ever need his help again. It’s comforting to know that he doesn’t abandon him, but neither does he force reconciliation down his throat because he knows Tony needs time to heal from his grief and betrayal. Cap does rescue the rest of his teammates first though, and it’s implied that Tony helps to cover it up. So this is how they will leave things until Avengers: Infinity War, I suppose. At least there’s a slightly hopeful note there.
The top-notch story and emotional feelings it stirs is why I think Civil War is better than Winter Soldier. Winter Soldier is intelligent, and also had an emotional component to it with Cap not giving up on Bucky even though he was brainwashed and couldn’t remember him; but Civil War just wallops you over the head and in the gut with FEELS. (The only thing I felt was off was Steve kissing Sharon Carter, but that’s just the Steve/Bucky shipper in me.) The only reason it doesn’t beat The Avengers in my book as my favourite MCU movie is because that movie was so fun and so wittily written without sounding forced, and ended on a much happier note. I like my happy endings, even though I respect movies that don’t give us that.
It’s so heartwrenching that when I rewatch the film many times, as I’m bound to do when it comes out on home video, I may skip their final battle. No one likes watching friends turn on each other and fight like mortal enemies. :'(