Awards Profile: Captain America: Civil War

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Welcome to the 2016 Awards Profiles series, where we talk about high and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year.  We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not either by quality or being pushed back to the following year.  For the next eight weeks, we will bring you a film every weekday to talk about their potential.  If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below.  If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

Directed By: Anthony and Joe Russo

Written By: Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely (adapted from the comic by Mark Millar)

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr., Sebastian Stan, Scarlet Johannson, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Daniel Brühl, Jeremy Renner, William Hurt, Paul Bettany and Paul Rudd

Synopsis (From IMDB): Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.

Why it Could Succeed:

As critically reviled as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is, it did pave the way for a newfound perverse excitement of seeing heroes go on the civil warpath with each other. Such is the case with this latest Marvel-on-steroids film, which finds Steve Rogers’s Captain America protect the civil liberties of former frenemy turned ally, Bucky Barnes and his fellow Avengers team against government oversight backed by one of their own: Tony Stark aka Iron Man. The Earth defenders’ previous involvement in multiple citywide skirmishes with villainy has resulted in heavy losses and the need for accountability. But the extent to which the government plans to punish the Avengers and other superhumans like them simply does not fit the “crime” of world-saving. Thus ensues a battle of differing political ideologies that’s taken to the streets, ushering in some new voices to the fray that fans can’t wait to hear from.

After the thunderous praise rained down on Captain America: The Winter Soldier (why, I’ll have no idea…), it’s no surprise that the anticipation for this third entry is boiling over past containment. Coupled with the Disney intros of the new Spider-Man (you’re a welcome sight for sore eyes, Tom Holland!) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, make your mark!), there’s simply no way this  MCU entry — many of which fans are referring to as the “real” Avengers sequel after being crushingly disappointed by Avengers: Age of Ultron” — can fail in this or any other parallel universe. Civil War also gives fans the excuse to finally despise Iron Man, a sentiment they’ve been itching to express after enduring two lackluster outings that primarily exhausted one Robert Downey, Jr. quip after the next. If this means no Iron Man 4, then I think I speak for many when I say that outcome would be a huge relief not to experience.

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Why it Could Fail:

Critically and commercially, there’s no margin of error for this film since such an occurrence isn’t written into Disney/Marvel’s DNA. However, the positive buzz for Civil War well in advance might be a tad premature. The biggest complaint the Spider-Man reboots received was having too many cooks in the kitchen who were underdeveloped and thrown in for bigger bang for our buck. Hypothetically, shouldn’t the same concern be raised for CA: CW? You have a slew of new heroes and faces shoved into the mix without considerable nurturing or proper introduction. That could spell for an overcrowded movie in which the entire narrative is strung together by a flashy set of cameos queuing audience applause upon sight.

Also of minor frustration is the emphasis on government oppression of meta humans. That plot line has already been beaten to death in all of the X-Men films and more broadly in the recent Batman v. Superman movie. Are there any new story ideas or concepts that Marvel can come up with before perusing from the recycle bin? We know how this thread plays out, which players the audience is going to support and what is ultimately going to occur when disagreement turns to violence. Maybe my biggest gripe with the MCU is that for all the dazzle and pure delight offered, what’s missing is the constant element of surprise and storytelling innovation. The plot is always rehashed but masked by snappy character dialogue and relentless action moments that nearly make you forget you’ve experienced this all before in another cinematic coating. When good never excels into greatness, you have to wonder if a quality threshold has been reached.

Awards Speculation:

Look, unless by some miracle either Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu or Tom Hooper were to direct a Marvel film – and even then, it’s a long shot – there is zero shot of Captain America: Civil War even flirting with Oscar glory besides the token “Best Visual Effects” nomination, which this film’s predecessor did achieve deservedly or not. I would love to see Chris Evans finally recognized for his performance as Steve Rogers, especially given how effortless he is in the iconic role, but Evans will have to settle for accolades elsewhere. Even adapted screenplay seems an impossible hurdle to jump over, no matter how humorous or pointedly candid the dialogue is. The best this film could hope for is across-the-board tech mentions and perhaps a Critics Choice Award for Evans for “Best Male Action Star.” Yes, eventually after enough MCU films have worn down the curmudgeon Academy maaaayyybbeee a movie will avalanche all the way to the big leagues…but if a universally beloved tent-pole like The Force Awakens can’t garner enough votes for a “Best Picture” mention, Disney’s lesser franchise fare (*mic drop*) should aim their sights lower…like the MTV Movie Awards.

Oscar Potential:
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Film Editing
Best Production Design
Best Costume Design
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Visual Effects

Share your thoughts in the comments or on the message forums!

Check out the first official set of
Year-In-Advanced Oscar Predictions
and see where Captain America: Civil War ranks!