Captain America: Civil War (2016)

I enjoyed Captain America: Civil War overall. The major theme is choice, taking responsibility for one’s own actions and their consequences.

Some people seem to be reading implications about the role of America in international politics and policing into it, but I mostly think they’re missing the point.

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SPOILERS below, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

My Beat Sheet for Captain America: Civil War

Opening Image
The Avengers are working as a team doing surveillance to stop an attack in Lagos.

Set-up / Catalyst
The Avengers chase a bad guy who’s trying to steal a biological weapon. Bystanders are killed in the process, which is bad PR for the Avengers, and makes them feel sad if not guilty. The Avengers are asked to sign the Sokovia Accords, which would prevent them from fighting without authorization from an international bureaucracy.

Debate / Theme Stated
Some want to sign, some don’t. Stark is made to feel guilty about the death of a young man killed in Sokovia. Captain America, following cues from now dead but still beloved Agent Peggy Carter, insists that the issue is freedom to choose to act according to one’s own conscience.

Break into Two
The building where the accords are being signed is bombed, the King of Wakanda is killed, and Steve’s friend Bucky is blamed.

B Story
Steve goes to find Bucky and rescue him from unjust punishment. There’s a chase and Bucky gets caught. Black Panther, the new king of Wakanda, wants to execute him. A bad guy disguised as a psychologist activates Bucky’s attack protocol. Steve subdues and rescues Bucky.

Promise of the Premise
Both sides assemble teams. The teams fight each other at the airport. Funny dialogue happens.

Black Widow lets Steve escape with Bucky.

Bad Guys Close In / All Is Lost / Dark Night of the Soul
Stark’s friend Rhodes falls from the sky in his damaged suit and almost dies. The rebel Avengers are locked up in an underwater island prison. The team seems pretty destroyed.

Break into Three
When the real psychologist is discovered dead, Stark realizes he was wrong to blame Bucky, and follows Steve to a secret base where there are more mind-controllable soldiers like Bucky in hibernation. Black Panther follows Stark.

The bad guy says he wants to see an empire fall… from the inside, which is why he purposely divided the Avengers rather than just activating the soldiers to fight for him. Stark and Steve fight each other after Stark finds out that Bucky killed his parents. Steve wins. Black Panther refuses to kill the bad guy, thus ends the cycle of revenge.

Final Image
Steve has rescued his friends from prison. Bucky volunteers to be secretly put in stasis in Wakanda. Spiderman is on Team Stark.

Other Thoughts

I liked the black panther character. I thought the villain’s plan was clever. I was glad to see more of Falcon’s awesome wings (aka bird costume). I now wish I’d seen Ant-Man.

The romance between Captain America and Peggy Carter’s niece just seems too convenient. There are lots of nice women out there whose last names aren’t Carter, okay? Move on. Sheesh.

I have always disliked, since seeing the 2002 movie, the Spiderman theme of being responsible for potentially all the bad things that one does not help prevent. That seems like a recipe for limitless unearned guilt.

Stark, Rhodes, and Vision all got beaten pretty badly. Bucky could have taken himself out to spare everyone else. The villain almost succeeded in committing suicide. Therefore, I’m surprised nobody died, apart from the King of Wakanda (and others who were part of the set-up/catalyst) and Peggy (off screen).

I don’t have much sympathy for Stark. I get that anyone would be furious with the person who killed his parents, but Bucky didn’t. Bucky’s operators did. As I understand it, Bucky had no choice—it wasn’t that Bucky was threatened and picked the lesser of two evils when he could have chosen not to kill Stark’s parents. It was that someone was deciding on his behalf, totally circumventing his will. Stark knew that, yet blamed Bucky anyway. The fact that Stark loses the battle with Steve underscores the theme that choices matter. It’s only fair to be blamed for things we freely choose to do.

Related Media

All the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies so far:

  • The Avengers and The Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Captain America (The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier)
  • Iron Man (1, 2, and 3)
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Ant-Man
  • Thor and Thor: The Dark World
  • Guardians of the Galaxy

MCU TV shows:

  • Marvel’s Agent Carter
  • Marvel’s Agents of Shield

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