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LookingForOctober ([personal profile] lookingforoctober) wrote2016-05-06 09:45 pm
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Captain America: Civil War

Summary: The three main threads in this movie, what I liked, what I didn't like, every thought I have about it, overall judgment. Lots and lots of spoilers.

There were three main threads in this movie, ranging in quality (IMO) from very good to sort of dumb. The first thread (and the first, oh, probably the first third of the movie, perhaps raising my expectations too high) is about the individual's rights and responsibilities and how they can come into conflict with either the rights of others or the rights and needs of society as a whole, in specific, about the destruction that superheroes can create while fighting, even if they are fighting bad guys who might do worse, and who gets to decide when superheroes should act.

I found this excellently done, very well handled, I thought they brought out the questions involved, which I don't think have any easy answers, without implying that there are any easy answers. I sympathized with all the characters during this part of the movie, and really wanted to see where this thread was going.

Sadly, this thread didn't really get a resolution (or at least not one that I think really resolved anything), because the action turned to two other threads: the "everyone fights everyone" thread and the "revenge" thread.

Anyone who has read any of my previous thoughts about Civil War will not be surprised to that I was not excited by the everyone fights everyone thread. The really big fight fell right in the middle of the movie, which makes me think that these movies have a formula where there is a random stupid fight in the middle of all of them for no real reason except to show off the characters' superpowers. All the really stupid plotting in this movie seemed to exist to make that big fight scene happen, too. There was one place where the characters were like "Should we tell the other side about this important reason we have to do what we're doing" only to decide "No, they'd never believe us," which seems patently ridiculous to me. There was no reason at this point for anyone to not believe anyone else.

Though re: plotting, a shout-out to the use of Sharon Carter as Steve's mole within ... umm, whatever organization she belongs to now? for passing along information and making the ease of information-gathering a bit less random and weird than it was in Age of Ultron, in a way that advanced her character a bit as well.

I suppose there might be an argument that the really big fight was actually about the individual vs. society thread, but I have a hard time seeing it that way. It was a fight, half the people didn't seem to know what they were even fighting about, they just got recruited to participate in the fight, another half the people were fighting based on incomplete information and misunderstanding over the seriousness of the issue and the fact that there was an actual danger in the picture too, and basically it was just there to showcase superpowers and relationships.

(Although who fought who was sort of interesting, actually. And some of the little moments were things that I'll mention later under things I liked...)

Then once the fight was over, the story focused down again, but the focus at this point turned toward the idea of revenge. The revenge thread had three main players: the villain (who I'm just going to call the villain because I can't remember his name); T'Challa, who was revenging his father's death; and Tony, was was revenging his mother (or avenging? I think at the end, Tony got to keep "The Avengers" even though Steve got most of the people who used to be Avengers, which seems...sort of appropriate?). (I also liked that it was his mom that he was revenging, not his dad or both of them, btw. Just seems right for the character, really.)

I was really happy with T'Challa as a character (but then I'm a sucker for plots about going for revenge and then realizing that taking things into your own hands is a stupid counterproductive thing to do, and I just really liked the gravity of T'Challa's presence and the feeling that he really thought about things and really meant it).

T'Challa also brought in the idea that revenge is personal but justice is something that society provides (he didn't take revenge but he was determined on bringing the villain to justice), which ties the idea of revenge to the overall theme of individual vs. society.

Tony Stark wanting revenge for his mother... Goodness, I have no idea what to make of this except that the movie was determined to pit Tony against Steve in any way possible. First Tony's like "We need oversight" and then he's like "But really, I just want to take everything into my own hands." The only difference between him and Steve in the end is... umm...

Well, Tony isn't an outlaw right now. But he definitely could be. I suppose...it could be viewed as a nuanced take on the individual vs. society issue stating that every individual has the potential to come into conflict with society, rather than setting the characters on exactly one side or the other? I'm not sure that's the way I actually view it (I tend to see it as a bit messy thematically, really), but I think it's possible, and I probably like it better that way, so perhaps I can make that interpretation stick.

And the villain...the villain is the worst side of revenge, pure and simple. The side that ignores that there is anything else weighing in the balance and just takes what he wants no matter what the cost to others.

Tony reflects this side of revenge too, but that's not all Tony's about in the entire movie.

Steve... Steve is hard, he's got that insistence on taking matters into his own hands, but he's also got an idea that individuals are responsible for their own actions and inactions, and it can't be any other way. Which is hard to argue with, at least when it's stated that way.

Whether everything he wants to take on is actually right for him to take on...another question.

In theory I disagree to some degree with his stance, but events always turn out in such a way that Steve's actions are pretty justified. Which is a bit unfair, really, but he's the hero of this movie, it's not like they're going to sit him down in a situation where his insistence on taking matters into his own hands is going to make him an actual quasi-villain (they reserve that kind of thing for Tony, apparently).

And though I continue to think vigilantes are really problematic, I note that the movie didn't really challenge Steve on this at all.

So yeah. Steve could be a monster, anyone who insists that their opinion of right is the only one that matters could be a monster, but this movie didn't make him one that I could see (though I'm having a harder time with Steve than I used to, I can see how it all comes from the character we've seen so far). And Steve ended up on the side of no revenge in the Steve vs. Tony subplot, which was the most important plot at that point, which is clearly the right side to be on there, no question. He stopped Tony but didn't hurt Tony.

I do think the movie brought out the individual's side and made Steve's refusal to sign the accords from the beginning understandable. Individuals are responsible for their actions (whether or not one signs some sort of accord, you can't sign away your responsibility for what you do). And society can be against the individual in all sorts of ways, and society is not always right any more than the individual is always right...

I also note that Steve came close to signing the accords (which I think is important in showing that it's not the idea of accords but rather specific circumstances that Steve balks at, and that the conflict between the individual and society exists within Steve as well as externally as pressure from various directions.)

...I still can't decide if using both the idea of limiting the Avengers and the idea of revenge in the same movie, putting the two main characters, Steve and Tony, on both sides of the issue of individual vs. society via two these two different plots is illuminating of the complexity of the issue, or just confusing. I think the problem is that revenge isn't clearly enough about individual vs. society (or at least, Tony's revenge isn't, though other instances of revenge are), so you have to work for it to link everything together.

...and while I'm still on the subject of the main threads, a few more thoughts:

I found it disturbing that the Sokovian Accords seemed to be entirely about the Avengers and yet seemed to come as a total surprise to the Avengers. So all these nations negotiated this really long book length agreement in secret and without any input at all from the people who it was supposed to apply to? And the only choice they had was to either sign or not sign? I mean, no wonder it ended up with them splitting up and coming into conflict with each other. This is not good leadership on the part of the UN, sorry.

I suppose it's just a movie thing, but it seemed weird to me that things moved so quickly. One day they're asked to sign the accords, the next day they're criminals, everyone is totally ready to put them in prison, no one gets any lawyers, what the hell?

I found Vision's "equation" (which was really just a correlation, and as everyone knows, correlation does not equal causation) suspect in some way that I can't quite pin down. The idea seems to be that a force, by existing, will create other forces to challenge it seems...weird. (Am I misremembering what he said?) Though it does seem to wrap into the revenge idea a bit more than it wraps into the idea of the accords per se... Or maybe it's about legitimacy? Maybe a force that is not seen as legitimate inevitably causes backlash and resistance? I don't think they really got into the idea of legitimacy very explicitly, though.

You know, by existing as a yes or no question, the Sokovian Accords really shaped the story in ways that aren't clear until you really think about it. Should there be oversight is a very different question from should there be this particular oversight and this exact process for running things, and it sort of all blurred together in my experience of the movie, at least.

It is not clear to me whether the villain's plan of setting Tony against Steve would have worked if Tony hadn't followed them to the Winter Soldier graveyard. I suppose the villain could have always sent Tony an email with a video clip? But if Bucky actually killed Howard, then why didn't he just record Bucky confessing and send that to Tony? Not effective enough? Need the actual death footage? (Need to pretend the big fight in the middle is about enforcing the Sokovian Accords and not personal loyalties and motivations, so Tony can't find out about Bucky's part in his parents' deaths until later?)

I suppose another theme of this movie has something to do with personal loyalties and/or personal motivations, and how everything eventually becomes personal? (Not sure I agree with that, but I think it might be in there.)

I think the main impression I got of this movie was that it was a lot better than I was fearing, but the bones of the movie I was fearing are still in this one. Everyone fights everyone, violence is the only solution and talking is a thing that no one really does to try to resolve differences, a vague feeling that there is oppression either going on or in the wings, and that this is possibly about more than just the Avengers because more and more superpowered people keep showing up and there's no clearly defined way to make them a useful part of society...

I'm actually sort of becoming interested in...whether the MCU will ever actually address how superpowered individuals should fit into society, because I sort of feel like this movie took a look and then dodged the issue.

Is Steve Rogers still a hero? Or more to the point, is Steve Rogers still trustworthy and in line with what is right and good? I keep thinking about Winter Soldier, and how Steve was able to activate SHIELD against HYDRA. Could he still do that? Is he right enough at this point? Is Steve's right enough right to sway the world, or is Steve actually going up against not just authority but society, and is Steve going up against whatever he's going up against for a good reason?

I really have no idea where this could possibly be going next, but I don't feel like Steve's overall story is resolved in the way that I felt about Tony at the end of his trilogy (though Tony being resolved turned out to be untrue, so.)

And considering that I have written and written and still not got through most of my thoughts on this movie...clearly I have way too many thoughts on this movie. Perhaps I will be back with them tomorrow.