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Captain America: Civil War in-depth trailer analysis


There's nothing we can't face if we're together. But divided we fall...

Marvel's 'Captain America: Civil War' (2016) trailer analysed in depth

The long-awaited first trailer for Captain America: Civil War came out on Wednesday, and its level of awesome is only matched by its level of melancholy. (To quote from Doctor Who, “I like being sad. It's happy for deep people.”) As such, it arguably calls to mind the much-maligned sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This may seem like an unusual comparison; after all, Joss Whedon's contract with Marvel finished after Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the trailer doesn't share of the key features of Buffy Season 6, such as its generally underrated nature, or its sense of humour. Also, there's no musical episode (unless you count the Marvel DubSmash War, that is).

However, as hinted at by the Ant-Man end credits scene teasing Captain America: Civil War (a similar scene to which starts off the trailer), Captain America: Civil War (or the trailer at least, and presumably the film itself) is tonally very much in keeping with Buffy Season 6. With a deep emotional resonance borne from long-term connection with the characters, it aches with the brokenness of the characters' lives and the rifts opening up between them. None of them want this, and they're mature enough to be aware of that, but it seems inevitable.

Since Buffy Season 6 itself, only a few examples, such as Joss' other shows at their most heart-wringing, and Kurt Sutter's Sons of Anarchy, have managed to attain this level of exquisite empathy. Now, it seems, Captain America: Civil War is also worthy of lifting the hammer of melancholy. (Marvel's metaphorical Mjolnir of melancholy.)

Let's not forget, Captain America has played Buffy's love interest before, in the computer-animated TMNT (2007), where Chris Evans voiced Casey Jones to Sarah Michelle Gellar's April O'Neill.

[Possible spoilers for the trailer and anything from Captain America: Civil War revealed in it, as well as preceding Marvel films and Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, follow.]

The trailer itself is terrific. Though permeated by cool comic-booky action (such as Falcon's nifty flying-spin-double-kick-then-land move, and Cap sending people flying vast distances in slow-motion), it's essentially a dramatic, character-driven trailer, peppered with wonderful character moments, reminding us just how good the actors are, and helping us to invest in the story.

There's the trapped Bucky's (Sebastian Stan) forlorn gaze as he remembers Steve. Then there's Steve Rogers / Captain America's (Chris Evans) slow, deliberate flick of his eyes up to glare in response to General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross' (William Hurt) use of the word “vigilante”. Steve's nervous swallow at being handed the Sokovia Accords. (But the font is so official!) Then he lapses into motionless staircase brooding!

(Interestingly, Ross' challenge to Captain America's leadership was foreshadowed in Marvel's Agents of SHIELD Season 2, where Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) challenged Coulson's (Clark Gregg) leadership. This led to some complex tensions within SHIELD, though later resolved. What will be the ramifications of the Marvel Civil War for Marvel's Agents of SHIELD? Given how wonderfully vivid and loveable the characters are, and how brilliantly angsty the show is already, it's sure to result in exquisite sadness. But please don't put FitzSimmons on opposite sides, for theirs is one of the best fictional friendships ever. That would be too much. Unless they eventually reconcile like Xander and Willow, which would correspondingly be one of the best things ever.)

There's Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow's (Scarlett Johansson) pleading with Cap, “I know how much Bucky means to you. Stay out of this one; please. You'll only make this worse.” Then seemingly a final warning, “You know what's about to happen. Do you really want to punch your way out of this one?” This serves as a continuation of her role in Avengers: Age of Ultron as a more dramatic character with a genuinely caring side, not solely defined by her fighting prowess.

Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) tells Captain America, “If we can't accept /limitations/, we're no better than the bad guys.”, to which Cap responds, “That's not the way I see it.” Then Bucky picks up the first of (as The Matrix put it) “Guns. Lots of guns.”, Cap shoulder-hugs him, and Bucky looks at Cap. This scene encapsulates both the ideological conflict between Iron Man and Captain America, and Captain America's / Steve's friendship with the troubled Bucky. As such, it sets up in microcosm (as the trailer itself does in slightly larger microcosm) both the political and the personal, the big and the small, causes of the Marvel Civil War.

Tony Stark then says, “Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect /teeth/.” (To which Steve glances away, like, whatever.) It's interestingly to note that Tony's enunciated emphasis here is on the word “teeth”, whereas the word that carries the emphasis of his intent is presumably /perfect/. Earlier, he emphasised the word /limitations/, which is arguably the also the one which carried the emphasis of his meaning (though you could make a case for the word “accept”).

Tony Stark is aware of his own failings and glib overuse of power in the past (e.g. accidentally helping to create a robot that almost wiped out humanity in Avengers: Age of Ultron; his overreliance on the Iron Man tech, and his ego putting Pepper in danger, in Iron Man 3), and so he's now trying (arguably in typically heavy-handed fashion) to stop others from doing the same.

Steve Rogers / Captain America clearly stands for freedom and civil liberties, as we've already seen in Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In this trailer, though, his motivations are also made more personal, with his friendship with Bucky providing the key sticking point for Steve not to be in accord with the Accords.

Arguably one of the central themes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was friendship, with Cap's three main friendships in that film being Bucky, Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, and Sam Wilson / Falcon. We see here that his friendship with Black Widow will become strained, as the two reluctantly end up on seemingly opposite sides.  His friendships with Bucky and Falcon remain intact, though, with them both fighting alongside him. (It would be interesting to watch the three Captain America films as a trilogy, with Steve and Bucky's friendship now becoming apparent as an overriding theme.)

As Sam Wilson / Falcon says, “I just want to make sure we consider all our options. 'Cause people who shoot at you usually end up shooting at me too.” This speaks of not only Falcon's aversion to unnecessary conflict (as with Black Widow earlier), but also his staunch loyalty to Cap, continuing from the last film. He doesn't want a fight, but he's prepared to stand up for what he believes are the right reasons, as with all the characters.

This is summed up perfectly when Steve Rogers / Captain America says, “Sorry, Tony. You know I wouldn't do this if I had any other choice. But he's my friend.” To which Tony Stark / Iron Man responds, “So was I.” It's a powerful moment, underscoring that the (often buddy-comedy tense) friendship of The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron is about to get broken. Two of the key figures in the Avengers line-up (and, in fact, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe) are going to be seriously at odds with each other, as the poster accentuates.

The question (beyond the obvious, thought-provoking one of who's right in this matter) is that of which characters are going to end up on which sides. The trailer seems to provide at least a partial answer to this question. We see a great shot of Cap's team launching themselves into battle, comprised of Sam Wilson / Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans), Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). (Pls don't die, Hawkeye. Kthxbai.)

(Of course, Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie have interacted before, in The Hurt Locker, which thus could be considered a Hawkeye and Falcon prequel or something. Similarly, Daniel Bruhl, who's set to play a role in Captain America: Civil War, co-starred with Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor although he's not slated to appear in this film, in Ron Howard's Rush.)

The end credits scene of Ant-Man seems to indicate that Scott Lang / Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) will be on Cap's team too. As with Bucky, he's been on the wrong side of things, but seeks redemption. Black Widow is also on a similar journey, but seems inclined towards the other side of the fight. How will those who seek to impose the Accords view her, though? Will they accept her?

Iron Man's team seems to include Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), James 'Rhodey' Rhodes / War Machine (Don Cheadle), T'Challa / Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and possibly also Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

Peter Parker / Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is expected to cameo, marking the first time that Spider-Man has appeared in the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe. Which side will he be on? “With great power comes great responsibility.” But should that be external or internal?

It still remains to be seen which side the Vision (Paul Bettany) will take. The best character (of about 5 million of them) in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he's an emblem of nobility, and even explained in that film that it's not as simple as who's side he's on; rather, he's on the side of life.

It's also interesting to note that the trailer features a shot of Captain America desperately hanging onto a helicopter with one hand and the edge of the landing pad with the other, torn between the two. Perhaps this is a metaphor for how the characters in the film feel.

Moreover, we get to witness what would normally be considered a heavily spoilery shot, of a distraught Tony cradling a seemingly dead Rhodey, both of their faces evident. Perhaps this is Tony's inciting incident, making the conflict personal for him too.

(Though in this case, if Rhodey is dead, then Tony wouldn't be able to save him (like Steve could save Bucky), so Tony would be acting out of grief, and presumably trying to prevent that happening to anyone else. Of course, it's highly unlikely that the extremely spoiler-averse Marvel Studios would give away a significant character death in a trailer, so it's probably much more feasible to speculate that Rhodey's not actually dead, just significantly injured or something (which would still motivate his good friend Tony to react).)

Captain America: Civil War should be an epic, hugely dramatic event in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as being an excellent film in its own right. After all, it comes on the heels of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one of Marvel's best films to date, and brings back the directors, screenwriters, composer, cinematographer, and casting director. It's released on April 29, 2016 in the UK, and on May 6, 2016 in the US.


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