Before you get your pitchforks out, I loved the newest Captain America movie. There hasn't been such an excellent gathering of superheroes since the first Avengers film. Even with its tonal shifts from a super-powered spy thriller to a battle royale of heroes to a dark and emotional ending, each scene was an absolute delight to watch.
Unfortunately, this movie can't be judged on its own. As the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this marks the beginning of their third phase of movies. In a sequence of films that has grossed over $10 billion, making it the highest-grossing franchise in cinematic history, it is necessary for a critical eye to be cast on the overall effect of this film.
Introduction Of Characters
Honestly, any flaw that can be found in the movie can be refuted by the introduction of Spider-man. With one of the most beloved superheroes of all time being added into the cinematic universe, there was near unanimous praise of just how perfect his characterization was. A teenage Spider-man with a fresh set of eyes and a razor-sharp wit was an excellent addition to an already incredible airport fight.
Ant-Man filled a similar role as his own team's Spider-man. Both were secret weapons, both are witty, both are named after insects. Paul Rudd's Ant-Man definitely isn't anyone's favorite character, but his official induction into Avengers life was definitely welcome.
Finally, Black Panther played a critical role in the film. This is honestly my favorite introduction of a character that I've seen throughout the entirety. With his origin story essentially being shown as an integral plot point of the film, he is characterized mainly through his actions and his relentless pursuit of Bucky. He is also shown to be a just man, showing mercy on Zemo but ensuring his arrest and punishment.
If this movie were only judged based on its character introductions, it would undoubtedly be regarded as the best superhero films. Taking on a story that is essentially dealing with the aftermath of the Avengers adventures, one of the primary focuses is the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America due to their opposing views on the Sokovia Accords.
Unfortunately, the movie doesn't go much further than that. With Bucky coming back to his senses and the unraveling of the conspiracy to frame him, everyone takes one side or the other on whether or not he should be taken in. Some of the more interesting exchanges in the movie focus on some of the philosophy on what it means to be a superhero. Should they be controlled to minimize damage or should they be allowed free reign and higher independence to prevent catastrophes?
This ultimately comes to a head when it is revealed that Bucky murdered Iron Man's parents and Captain America withheld the information. This leads to the climactic battle between the World War vets and the Iron Avenger. Nothing comes of this other than the establishment of a rift that is quickly resolved by Cap leaving a letter stating that they will be available whenever called upon.
If character introductions and Bucky's turn to the light are ignored, this is a film that contributes absolutely nothing to the Marvel universe. There are no major progressions in plot and no new threats that appear. With all the hype and anticipation towards the movie, one might have expected a lasting impact on the franchise. Those who expected something along those lines must have been sorely mistaken.
So what does this imply about the Marvel universe? Well, from a more cynical standpoint, this movie is essentially just a hype machine that is establishing the beginning of Phase 3. That's all well and good, but fans are left with nearly nothing but well choreographed fight scenes and CGI effects, something that leaves much to be desired for the more avid fans of the story.
Going deeper than that, many Marvel movies seem sort of cut and paste lately. There are standout hits such as The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, but many are formulaic. So much so that we're even seeing DC try (and fail) to replicate their movie magic. Eventually, fans are going to grow tired of continuing to see the same movie. Marvel has the chance to make some truly incredible stories with now-beloved characters. Let's hope they don't waste it.