Captain America: Civil War and Red Herring Overload

170105civilwarWhen I saw Captain America: Civil War in the theatre, something bothered me about the story. It’s not that I didn’t like it. I find Civil War one of the best, most polished films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In my headcanon, Civil War is the actual Avengers 2 while Age of Ultron is Iron Man 4 at best. But still, something about the story just bugs me and the first couple times I saw the movie I couldn’t put my finger on it. (To be fair, that movie gave us plenty to talk about.) Now that it’s out on DVD and I’ve gotten to see it a few more times, I think I can name the problem: red herring overload.

Here’s what I mean. Going into the movie, having seen the trailers, you think it’s going to be about Steve Rogers / Captain America and Tony Stark / Iron Man having a falling out. But it isn’t.

Then the movie starts and you think it’s going to be about Bucky Barnes / the Winter Soldier. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about the blue goo in Howard Stark’s trunk. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about a stolen vial of disease. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about the Sokovia Accords. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about Steve’s relationship with Bucky. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about T’Challa’s quest for revenge and his rise as a hero. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about Zemo and his all-new all-different gang of Winter Soldiers. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about the Avengers splitting up over different ideas of what it means to be a hero. But it isn’t.

Finally, finally, at the end of the movie, we discover what it’s actually been about all along: Tony Stark’s unresolved emotional issues.

I still think that Civil War is an excellent movie and one of the highlights of Marvel’s cinematic work, but this is a serious weakness in its writing. Not only did we not really need another movie about Tony’s unresolved issues (we’ve got four already), but it deflates the narrative power of the story to have so much of the plot either fizzle out or just be left hanging at the end. By the end of the movie, the mantelpiece is littered with unfired guns and instead we get to watch two exhausted, angry men slug each other.

Maybe, if this had been a different movie, that would have been a satisfying ending. But it wasn’t.

Image: Captain America: Civil War still via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

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