Life during wartime
IT’S A TRAP - Jonty Cruz (The Philippine Star) - April 28, 2016 - 10:00am

Captain America: Civil War is both a love letter and a tragic breakup.

It is also the best Marvel movie yet — something I thought would not be possible after being floored by Captain America: The Winter Soldier which, about until four days ago, held the title of Marvel’s Number One. Civil War, despite its grandiose name, trailer and marketing is the most intimate and emotional mainstream superhero movie ever.

The film is about relationships and what happens when all those relationships — be it fathers and sons, lifelong friends, familiar acquaintances or brothers-at-arms — collide. And collide these worlds do, as each scene pushes all our characters towards a truly show-stealing and instant-classic confrontation. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself just a bit. Captain America: Civil War truly begins when a mission in a foreign land ends with unwanted casualties and the global powers that be unite to reform and restrict The Avengers. Some choose to follow this UN-backed accord, led by Iron Man himself, Tony Stark; and of course, others, like Captain America, believe that the safest and most trusted hands are still their own. The ensuing disagreement tenses up and the cracks that had begun to form in past movies finally split wide open, as the two sides of Team Cap and Team Iron Man have no choice but to settle their differences in the aforementioned greatest superhero battle royale ever.

The entire cast and crew (led by directors Joe and Anthony Russo) pull no punches in this movie, giving the film more than its fair share of blockbuster action. But as grand as the spectacular action is, it’s matched and maybe even surpassed by the characters in this film. Civil War touts the largest group of superhero characters and does the seemingly impossible by providing each and every one of them a crucial role and purpose. They aren’t just there for buzz and eye candy. All the characters in Civil War provide an aspect of the film’s central themes and contribute to the advancing of the narrative. And that’s what separates Marvel from all the rest, be it in movies or comics. The brand has made its name by creating characters that truly resonate, that are fleshed out and fragile. Marvel superheroes aren’t gods among men, but as human as any of us. And make no mistake, no one comes out of Civil War truly a hero. In fact, they become even more human because of it. Throughout the film we question everyone’s reasons for choosing their respective sides. Whether it be Captain America or Iron Man, both have something good and something bad to offer and it stems from personal conflicts planted ever since the first Iron Man movie. The central conflict of Civil War isn’t some fantastic McGuffin that will bring balance to the Force, but one that hits as close to home as possible. It’s about the choices that we make and the consequences that come with it. It’s about conscience and compromise and the war that’s within us all.

Captain America: Civil War is a love letter not only to the Marvel movies that came before, but to the characters themselves. Unlike Batman vs. Superman, Civil War stayed true to these characters and allowed them to grow, unforced and unfiltered. Captain America will always be the libertarian soldier with all the pros and cons that come with it. He is a man that has seen real war, understands collateral damage, and the philosophy of no man left behind — the one who stays the course he set for himself. And Iron Man will always be the intellectual driven by his emotions, the futurist who can’t let go of the past, the billionaire who has seen the total cost of his actions. The marquee may say “Captain America,” but this is equally and very much so an Iron Man story and one that has come full circle. The characters and their actions in this film are the sum total of what we’ve seen these last few years. Civil War takes these characters and not only lets them shine, but allows them to fall. From start to finish, Civil War never insults these characters, it doesn’t dumb down the issues, and it doesn’t trivialize what’s at stake. It makes us remember why we love these characters so much and why their flaws resonate with us so deeply.

This movie is also a breakup story. Not just between Captain America and Iron Man, whose relationship will forever be altered, but it’s also a goodbye to the glorious ascent of the Avengers. The honeymoon is over, and the time of earth’s mightiest best friends banding together has come and gone. Now it’s time to see where they go from here. Like Winter Solider before it, the effect of Captain America: Civil War will be felt for years to come. Granted, it is still just a chapter in Marvel’s epic — and a great chapter at that — but it is utterly amazing to see a film risk so much that it almost feels like it could very well be the last. This was Marvel’s most raw and unapologetic film yet. It finally and confidently let all its skeletons out of the closet, baring its heart and soul out to the world. And like the real world, the movie reflects and reminds us that not everything is black and white. Not every solution comes quick and clean. It is a war, after all, and no one is completely the same after it.

Why can’t we be friends: Cap and Iron-Man finally settle the score.

 

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