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Or as Marvel insisted on calling it: Captain America: Civil War
(Photo courtesy of Huffington Post)

Just watched “Captain America: Civil War” and had a few thoughts. And let that be your warning; it’s going to get geeky. Might want to take a pass.

It was an oddly paced movie that in a way reminded me of the second Matrix movie, with long episodes of talking bracketing big or intimate action sequences.

imageMerovingian: “Blah blah blah blah blah…”
(Photo courtesy of Matria Wikia; Monica Bellucci included because why not?)

Luckily, I found the talking portions to be, honestly, fascinating.

Why so? Because these folks have been blowing up cities and parts of cities for a bunch of movies now, and in comic books forever, and there have rarely been consequences. This shows that some problems aren’t easily solved, don’t have black-and-white points of view, are not (in short) “comic book” simple. Honestly, the dialogue among the Avenger characters was so much more nuanced than that of our Presidential candidates—and yes I’m being dead serious here—that it was a little vertigo inducing. Fictional comic book movie characters are actually debating in a rational and realistic way their in-universe problems?

Now it should be said it wouldn’t have been nearly as good without Robert Downey Jr., who honestly is quite remarkable. Somehow that guy has managed to channel his harsh life experiences into his acting. It’s amazing to watch. Chris Evans isn’t a bad young actor, and it’s interesting to see how he’s grown as the films have progressed, but Downey is in many ways the film’s gravitational center, a person obviously wrestling with the paradox of his situation as a hero who may be inviting villians to simply up their game. As a man who deliverately went around “the establishment” now acknowledging government may have a genuine role in life. You may not find it fascinating, but I did.

It certainly helped that he’s surrounded by some high-caliber actors, such as Don Cheadle and Paul Bettany. Not to mention old pros like Martin Freeman, Paul Rudd, William Hurt, and Marisa Tomei. John Slattery! William Hurt! Alfre Woodard, for heaven’s sake!

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Photo courtesy of Romano’s Reviews)

On a more granular level (as we say in tech), I loved they made Spiderman an actual teen. He looks it and acts it, and it was a whale of a lot of fun. Maybe a Spiderman movie will be a relief from all this grim ‘n grittiness.

On the down side, I could hardly follow the action in the “big” fight sequence among the Avengers, because I couldn’t remember who the heck was fighting who, and was perpetually confused.

And as much as I love Paul Rudd, and boy do I, I still can’t stand Ant Man. Maybe he’ll be less . . . out of place if they ditch the shrinking and leave him with his giant thing. But in the meantime, ugh.

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Sorry, Paul (Rudd at the Ant Man Premier)

But to get serious again, to me the moral center of the movie was Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. I’ve made no secret I’m a total Johansson fanboy; I think she’s an absolutely amazing actress, in addition to being multi-talentied, almost ridiculously beautiful, and having one of the sexiest voices since Kathleen Turner did Roger Rabbit. (Would have been a fun nod to Body Heat to have Turner be some computer voice or something that talked to William Hurt. But I digress.). I admit this. But put it aside.

Black Widow is, by far, the most morally-ambiguous character in the film, perhaps in the Marvel Comic Universe (MCU). She was training from a young age as a professional killer, and is one of the very best in the world. That was her job as a spy for the Soviet Union. And then she switched sides to the Americans…and did the same thing for them. Now she’s an Avenger, empowered to act with this group of incredibly powerful people totally beyond the law.

And yet it’s Black Widow/Natasha/Nat who seems to grasp what no one else is able to: That some things can be more important than taking a side. That sometimes, groups can break up, but other times, you need to do whatever you can to keep the group together because it’s just the right thing to do. Even if it pisses off some people. Because to Natasha, having been on all sides, or perhaps no side, it’s the *people* who ultimately matter, the people to whom she has decided to give her loyalty to, after a lifetime of giving it to governments and agencies and higher authorities. It’s Nat who realizes that agencies, authorities, governments, they’re all made up of people, too. And if you can’t be loyal to your friends––and to Nat, her friends are incredibly precious to her––who can you be loyal to at all?

The advertising hook for Civil War is for you to choose a team, and half-joking, half-not I said I didn’t choose Team Iron Man or Team Captain America, but Team Black Widow. Because over more than half a dozen movies, it’s *her* that *I* have learned to trust, and to her I’ve given my cinimeatic loyalty to. And so you can only imagine how surprised I was when I watched the film and found that . . . I had made the right choice. Because neither Cap nor Iron Man were right, and neither was wrong; in the end only Natasha was able to grasp the underlying truth and, while seeming to betray *both* sides, turned out to be truer to not only herself, but the ideals of her teammates.

Which, being me, infuriates me in two ways. First, after telling Stark to watch his back, she *disappears from the film* for the entire final act. Just up and vanishes! WTF, Russo Brothers?

And second it only reinforced what many, many fans have been clamoring about for a while now: This character, played by this (immensely bankable, extremely popular) actress absolutely deserves a film of her own.

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How many times do I have to say it? (Photo courtesy of Medium)

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