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Face-Off: Captain America: The Winter Soldier vs. Captain America: Civil War

02.13.2018by: Matt Rooney

Ah, it's good to see you, fellow movie geeks! Last time we had an especially intense bout of the Face-Off, pitting one Tom Cruise against another in a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE brawl. Needless to say, I haven't come down from that adrenaline rush quite yet. Taking that into account, as well as the fact the highly-anticipated BLACK PANTHER from Marvel is coming out, let's keep the spectacle-heavy battles going by pitting two Marvel heavyweights against each other: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR.

Both helmed by current Marvel golden sons, Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, these two entries in the MCU are considered two of the best of the whole series, giving Captain America the best trilogy of movies of the bunch. Both movies are quite different from one another and have their own reasons for being tremendous, which means this should be an especially close battle (spoiler, it's SOOO close).

Time to pick a side, and scroll on down!

THE ENSEMBLE
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Scarlett Johannson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Emily VanCamp as Kate/Agent 13
Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlo
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
with Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
and Toby Jones as Dr. Arnim Zola
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Scarlett Johannson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa/Black Panther
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Paul Bettany as Vision
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Cater
Daniel Bruhl as Zemo
Martin Freeman as Everett Ross
with Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlo/Crossbones
and William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross
DIRECTION
I have to admit I delivered the scoff to end all scoffs when it was announced the Russos would be taking on THE WINTER SOLDIER. Not only had Marvel hired a horror movie dude to direct GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, but now they hired TV comedy guys to work on Captain America. What were they smoking at Marvel? Now, as a man of integrity I will admit when I am wrong, and now I find myself at the feet of the Russos and Marvel begging for forgiveness. Hiring the duo was the smartest non-casting hire the studio has probably ever made. The team brought a clear, precise, intellectual vision to WINTER SOLDIER and crafted something no one was expecting. Spectacle was the name of the game until this point, and Russos delivered with their movie a genre-mashing adventure that blended Marvel thrills with action-thriller motifs. In terms of execution, they brought to the table some grittier action that calls to mind the explosive, taut action you would see in Michael Mann's HEAT. Always gripping and filmed with guerilla-style tactics, the energy of THE WINTER SOLDIER is still unlike anything we've seen in the MCU before or since. Mix that in with their goal of telling an equally grounded story that explores that character of Steve Rogers and there's no wonder why fans still continue to fawn over this movie four years later.
Naturally, Marvel was going to bring back the Russos after they kicked the door down with WINTER SOLDIER, and they proved here their first effort was no joke. In terms of action, they improved on their craft, giving the scenes more scope and shooting more intricate scenes over longer takes. Having more characters also means more elements at play in all the action, and the Russos did an excellent job maintaining a sense of space. I always knew where each character was at, what they were doing and how they were contributing to the scene. What helped this was making sure that certain fight scenes took place in smaller, contained environments, vs. massive, CGI-enhanced set pieces. But perhaps more impressive than their ability to handle bigger scope, the Russos were able to juggle a much, much, much wider array of characters and make them feel apart of the story (kudos for that also go to scripting duties as well). Captain America gets top billing in his movie, for sure, but every character evolves on an emotional level as the events take their toll, and as much as we know where the characters are at physically in the more intense scenes, we know where they're at psychologically. There's a reason why each character picked each side, and Russos did an amazing job at making sure each actor got their time and brought their A-game.
STORY/SCRIPT

After the events of THE AVENGERS, Captain America/Steve Rogers started working with S.H.I.E.L.D. in a closer capacity, working to help eliminate threats and go on secret missions. But soon he discovers that peace-keeping organization may not be as peaceful as he thinks, and soon he and those close to him find themselves hunted by the very group they used to fight for. The evil group known as HYDRA has infiltrated, S.H.I.E.L.D., and now it's up to Cap and pals to take the whole mother down.

Marvel mainstays Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely took the characters we know and love even further by letting their egos and morals clash in this ever-absorbing blockbuster thriller. Said characters are given proper motivation and challenges when the issue of global security arises, as the likes of Cap and Nick Fury debate over the matters of freedom and fear. This is heavy stuff for a Marvel movie, but the script does an excellent job of selling the material without making it feel cluttered, leaving plenty of room for the kinds of action and banter Marvel fans love. Makes up for the fact these guys also wrote THOR: THE DARK WORLD.

The world is a different place after the events of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, and the Avengers themselves have added to their ranks. No matter how much good they do, the collateral damage is always a serious concern. After a mission goes terribly wrong the government decides to put the Avengers in check, making the team sign the Sokovia Accords, putting them all underneath government oversight. Not every member of the team agrees with this, and soon the team is split down the center, with Captain America and Iron Man on opposing sides. This puts Cap in an especially tricky scenario when his pal Bucky/The Winter Soldier resurfaces, forcing Cap to test his allegiances, causing a seemingly irreparable rift within the team

The task ahead of Markus and McFeely was the most daunting of any Marvel at that time. Take the biggest Marvel roster yet, pit them against each other in a story that makes sense, and make sure each character has a reason to be there...and make it entertaining. This would be enough to make any screenwriter give up the craft forever and take up baking instead, but the writing duo checked off every box with their script. They did the seemingly impossible job of giving everyone purpose and complexity by doing exactly what we as an audience wanted to see, which was put these characters in rooms with each other and let them play off each other. Sure, it's a lot to take in at first, but so much of this is handled so well, and it's enough to establish hope that AVENGERS 3 and 4 will live up to our expectations.

NOTABLE BITS & LINES

Morning Jog

Cap: "On your left."

Cap and Sam Meet

The List

Natasha: "Hey, fellas. Any of you know where the Smithsonian is? I'm here to pick up a fossil."

The Mission

Natasha: "Do anything fun Saturday night?"

Cap: "Well, all the guys from my babershop quartet are dead, so no, not really."

Leaping From the Plane

Cap Secures the Deck

Black Widow Gets to Work

More Than a Shield

Shady Dealings

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D.

Fury: "Last time I trusted someone I lost an eye."

The Lower Levels

Fury: "Grandad loved people, but he didn't trust them very much."

Shield Upgrades

Cap: "This isn't freedom, this is fear.

Old Woman Peggy

Alexander Pierce

Nick Fury Attacked

Chase Across D.C.

The Winter Soldier

Meet Kate

Fury in Steve's Apartment

Actually, Meet Agent 13

Hot Pursuit

Shield Catch

Goodbye, Nick Fury

Rogers and Pierce

Cap: "Before we get started, does anyone wanna get out?"

Elevator Rumble

Taking Down the Jet

Steve and Natasha on the Lamb

Public Display of Affection

Natasha: [After kissing Steve] "You still uncomfortable?"

Steve: "That's not exactly the word I would use."

Secret Area!

Zola Lives...Sort Of!

Zola Reveals All

Incoming Missle

Pierce and The Winter Soldier

Sam Enters the Mix

Rooftop Discussions

Natasha: "Oh, wait. What about that girl from accounting, Laura, Lisa...?"

Steve: "Lillian. Lip piercing, right?"

Natasha: "Yeah, she's cute."

Steve: "Yeah, I'm not ready for that."

Falcon Spreads His Wings

Bridge Battle

Taking it to the Streets

Steve vs. Winter Soldier

The Soldier Unmasked

Steve: "Bucky?"

Bucky:" Who the hell is Bucky?"

Fury Lives!

Wiping the Winter Soldier

Sam: "Don't look at me. I do what he does, just slower."

Flashback

Steve: "Thank you, Buck, but I can get by on my own."

Bucky: "Thing is, you don't have to. I'm with you to the end of the line, pal."

Suiting Up

Stan Lee: "Aw man, I am so fired."

Steve's Speech.

Steve: "Attention all S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, this is Steve Rogers. You've heard a lot about me over the last few days. Some of you were even ordered to hunt me down. But I think it's time to tell the truth. S.H.I.E.L.D. is not what we thought it was. It's been taken over by HYDRA. Alexander Pierce is their leader. The S.T.R.I.K.E. and Insight crew are HYDRA as well. I don't know how many more, but I know they're in the building. They could be standing right next to you. They almost have what they want. Absolute control. They shot Nick Fury. And it won't end there. If you launch those helicarriers today, HYDRA will be able to kill anyone that stands in their way. Unless we stop them. I know I'm asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it's a price I'm willing to pay. And if I'm the only one, then so be it. But I'm willing to bet I'm not."

Launching the Helicarriers

Sam: "How do we know the good guys from the bad guys?"

Steve: "If they're shooting at you they're bad."

Winter Soldier Unleashed

Fury Makes his Entrance

Fury: "I know you erased my password. Probably deleted my retinal scan. But if you want to stay ahead of me, Mr. Secretary... you need to keep both eyes open."

Cap vs. Bucky Round 2

Sam vs. Rumlow

Helicarrier Massacre

Steve: "I'm not gonna fight you. You're my friend"

Bucky: "You're my mission"

Steve: "Then finish it, because I'm with you to the end of the line."

S.H.I.E.L.D. is no more

Fury's Grave/PULP FICTION reference

Brainwashing The Winter Soldier/Road Accident

Fight at the Research Center

Chasing Down Crossbones

Cap vs. Crossbones

Tony Stark Faces the Consequences

Steve: "In this job we try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn't mean everyone."

The Sokovia Accords

Zemo

The Team Debates

Vision: Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict... breeds catastrophe."

Tony: "There's no decision-making process here. We need to be put in check! And whatever form that takes, I'm game. If we can't accept limitations, we're boundaryless, we're no better than the bad guys."

Peggy Carter's Funeral

UN Attacked

T'Challa: "Don't bother, Ms. Romanoff. I will kill him myself."

Stairway Fight

The Black Panther

In Pursuit

Arrested

Sam: "So, you like cats."

Tony's Olive Branch

Tony: "Sometimes I wanna punch you in your perfect teeth. "

Zemo's Moment

The Soldier Unleashed

Bucky vs. Tony, Natasha, Sharon and T'Challa

Cap and the Helicopter

Plotting the Next Move

More Winter Soldiers

Meet Peter Parker

Clint Busts Out Wanda

Bucky: "Can you move your seat up?"

Sam: "No."

Steve and Sharon Kiss

Scott Lang Enters the Mix

Lang: "Thinks for thanking of me!"

Iron Man, Widow and More Confront Cap

Widow: "You know what's about to happen. Do you really wanna punch your way out of this?"

SPIDER-MAN!

Spidey: "Hey, everyone."

THE AIRPORT SEQUENCE!!

The Teams Facing Off

Hawkeye: "Buckled in?"

Lang: "Yeah, no, I'm good. I'm good, arrow guy. Let's go!"

Lang: "Oh, you're going to have to take this to the shop."

Tony: "Who's speaking?"

Lang: "It's your conscience. We don't talk a lot these days."

Spidey: "That thing does not obey the laws of physics at all."

Cap vs. Spidey

Cap: "Where you from, kid?"

Spidey: "Queens."

Cap: "Brooklyn."

Giant Man!

Spidey: "HOLY SHIT!"

Spidey: "Hey guys, you ever see that really old movie, Empire Strikes Back?"

Rhodey Falls

Avengers Locked Up

Zemo's True Intentions

The Starks' Death

Iron Man vs. Cap and Bucky

Zemo: "An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one which crumbles from within? That's dead... forever."

Sheild/Blaster Clash!

Cap: "He's my friend."

Tony: "So was I."

Tony: "Stay down... final warning."

Cap: "I can do this all day."

Iron Man Down

Tony: "That shield doesn't belong to you. You don't deserve it! My father made that shield!"

Steve Drops the Shield

Stan Lee: "Are you...Tony Stank?"

Steve's Message

Steve: "Tony, I'm glad you're back at the compound. I don't like the idea of you rattling around a mansion by yourself. We all need family. The Avengers are yours, maybe more so than mine. I've been on my own since I was 18. I never really fit in anywhere, even in the army. My faith's in people, I guess. Individuals. And I'm happy to say that, for the most part, they haven't let me down. Which is why I can't let them down either. Locks can be replaced, but maybe they shouldn't. I know I hurt you, Tony. I guess I thought by not telling you about your parents I was sparing you, but I can see now that I was really sparing myself, and I'm sorry. Hopefully one day you can understand. I wish we agreed on the Accords, I really do. I know you're doing what you believe in, and that's all any of us can do. That's all any of us should... So no matter what, I promise you, if you need us - if you need me - I'll be there."

MARVEL MUSICAL MASTERY
Though Alan Silvestri did a bang-up job with his AVENGERS soundtrack, the Marvel movies are known for having a lack of marvelous music. Henry Jackman put forth one of the better entries in the canon, however, creating a tense, quick-paced, lively score to match the thriller elements. The soundtrack ranges from big Marvel pieces to compositions you'd hear in something like THE TOWN or HEAT. It has a pulse. There is an eerieness and sense of danger to the musical pieces that accompany Winter Soldier's presence, with echo-y tones being at the forefront. This score has a bigger personality to it than other Marvel scores, which is probably one reason we still love the movie still.
Jackman does a solid job here too, going with a bigger sound to match the larger scope. There are a lot of emotional moments in the movie, and the score does an excellent job of punctuating those moments. For instance, there's the moment when the two teams clash at the airport, or when Tony's beams collide with Cap's shield. Again, another great entry for Jackman, but it just doesn't have the excitement and energy that his work on THE WINTER SOLDIER did.
CHARACTER DYNAMICS
There are some excellent examples of wavering relationships and misplaced trusts, especially between Cap and Fury, and really, between Cap and all of S.H.I.E.L.D. Then there's our hero's new bromance with Sam Wilson, and of course, the returning Bucky Barnes. Steve experiences a lot with all the characters in this movie, even if the rest don't so much with each other. It's Cap's movie, after all, and his relationship grows with some characters in this movie, while he establishes new, firm roots with others.
It would be easy to throw a bunch of Avengers into a room and have them do nothing while Iron Man and Captain America punch each other. But CIVIL WAR didn't do that. No, each character has their place in the story and their opinions on the Sokovia Accords are all voiced. No character feels randomly put there. Sure, some are more important than others. Spider-Man and Black Panther get solid intros, but Tony and Steve have the most to do. Their egos and ideologies clash in ways we have been expecting them to for years, all the way back to when they didn't see eye-to-eye in the AVENGERS. This is why CIVIL WAR was able to have any sort of emotional resonance. Marvel has been building up these characters so well for so many years, so when we see them fight each other we buy the reasons why.
SUPERHERO EXCITEMENT
WINTER SOLDIER took the more grounded approach to its thrills as compared to the likes of IRON MAN 3 and AVENGERS, with those movies often using big, expensive set pieces. But here, the Russos took it to the streets for some intense shoot-out scenes and tons of intimate hand-to-hand combat action. Even now these scenes have an energy and ferocity to them that makes the action truly timeless. But, they have to blow shit up at some point, and the Helicarrier climax is a worthy finale filled with expensive destruction our hearts very much need.
When I saw THE AVENGERS I figured there would be no way any other movie would top that in terms of sheer comic book joy. CIVIL WAR proved me how wrong I was. Seeing so many returning and new characters come together to kick the shit out of one another was too much for my geek brain to handle. I always have a big grin on my face watching this movie, especially during the heroic set pieces. All the characters fit so well into the action, whether it be during a chase scene with Panther, Cap and Bucky, or during a rumble in a city market in the movie's beginning. Then there's the airport battle, which deserves to be bowed to for the rest of time as the ultimate example of nerd pleasure! You got Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Iron Man, Black Widow, Vision, etc. I would not be shocked if numerous nerds fainted in the theater from sheer awesomeness.
THEMES
If there's anything that stands out about THE WINTER SOLIDER it's that underneath all the stellar action are the extremely timely and relevant themes about government surveillance and how far they will go to try and protect us, even if that's via methods we would all oppose. There are also aspects that tackle America's role as a sort of world police, as well as how fear can be a powerful tool is getting people to do what you want. These are timeless themes that can be explored again and again, and they make WINTER SOLDIER far more poignant than anything we had seen in the MCU up to that point, and probably up to now as well.
The political themes continue in CIVIL WAR, this time involving more direct government intervention. How this movie differs is that instead of the themes tackling larger issues that affect everyone, this particular story focuses on how the issues affect the characters. Do these heroes conform so that they can still do some good, or should they be able to act with zero oversight for the sake of fighting the battles they must? This poses the challenging dilemma at the heart of CIVIL WAR, but what makes SOLDIER's themes so much more resonant is that we can examine them in the context of our own world, giving them more weight.
IMPACT ON THE MCU
WINTER SOLDIER changed the game for the rest of the MCU, even all these years later. The collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a HUGE moment in the MCU and one that happened much earlier than probably anyone anticipated. With this massive event, the Avengers lost an integral part of their foundation, putting them in a position that forced them to go into business for themselves. This event even set the stage for CIVIL WAR, and will continue to have an effect on the team after the events of INFINITY WAR. They lost a major lifeline, and who knows what would happen if they lost another (i.e. Tony Stark's money pit).
The point of this movie, in the grand scheme of the MCU, was to tear the Avengers apart so as to put them at a disadvantage for when Thanos arrives in INFINITY WAR. So, yes, the impact is massive. But, for how long? Will the team be back together again after INFINITY WAR? Will the Sokovia Accords even stick around after the government realizes they just need to let the team do their business when aliens and shit come crashing down? Who is to say? The overall impact of CIVIL WAR could be minimal and short-lasting, but for now, it has affected the MCU as we know it.
VILLAIN
WINTER SOLDIER presents us with two main villains in Alexander Pierce and The Winter Soldier. The former is a man who had made up his mind about the world should be run and refuses to change, while the latter is a brainwashed mercenary who has the capacity to come back to the light. Both represent different conflicts to Steve that test him morally and physically. Unlike with past Marvel villains, Bucky allows for a more emotional conflict with our lead hero, which gives the audience a greater investment, and one that carries on into the likes of Civil War. Both the actors do fantastic work, creating great villains who pose great threats, making them elements that further prove why this movie is exceptional.
CIVIL WAR's villain isn't as direct as other MCU baddies. Zemo works entirely from the outside, pulling strings that get the Avengers to fight each other. As necessary as that may be, there's no point in denying it's hard to remember he exists. We are so much more invested in the team fighting with each other than seeing this guy run around rubbing his hands together and stepping back into the shadows. Plot-wise, his actions drive the conflict that pit the team against each other, but what's missing is the presence and memorability, which is not the fault of Daniel Bruhl, who does a fine job in the role. He lives at the end, so maybe we will see much more of him in the future.
AWARDS, PRAISE & MONEY
Oscars:
    Nominated:
    Best Visual Effects
Golden Schmoes:
    Nominated:
    Favorite Movie of the Year
    Best Special Effects
    Coolest Charater: Winter Soldier
    Best Action Scene: "Steve Rogers vs. Winter Solider"
    Best DVD of the Year
    Best T&A of the Year: Scarlett Johansson

**5 Wins & 50 Nominations (per IMDB)**

Praise Money:
    $259 million domestic ($714 million global)
Golden Schmoes:
    Won:
    Breakthrough Performance: Tom Holland
    Best Action Sequence: "Airport Battle"
    Nominated:
    Favorite Movie
    Most Overrated Movie
    Best Special Effects
    Coolest Character: Black Panther
    Coolest Character: Spider-Man
    Best Trailer
    Best DVD & Blu-ray
    Most Memorable Scene: "Spidey's Arrival"

**16 Wins & 65 Nominations (per IMDB)**

Praise Money:
    $408 million domestic ($1.153 billion global)
CIVIL WAR

This was, legit, one of the hardest Face-Offs I, and I assume anyone else, has ever done. I love both of these movies and they stand toe-to-toe on my all-time Marvel list. What makes it so challenging is that they both feel like very different films, and they each handle everything brilliantly. In the end, CIVIL WAR takes the crown. But that doesn't mean WINTER SOLDIER is the noticeably inferior choice. Far from it. But what I get from watching CIVIL WAR is not only a phenomenal comic book movie but one that honors the character in the title: Captian America. Even with all the added folks, this is still his movie, and what the movie does is continue his story and challenge him with ideas that rock him to his core, sending him on a quest that causes rifts among his friends and fellow Avengers. His actions force the other characters through emotional ringers, creating a movie that is equal parts spectacle and drama. Joe and Anthony Russo brought the epic story to the big screen with added ambition and confidence, taking a massive story and turning it into a breezy, funny, spectacular and emotionally palatable comic book movie. Hey, I know some of you love WINTER SOLDIER immensely, but much like CIVIL WAR, I expect you all to take sides and duke it out.

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