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'Captain America: Civil War' -- we need to discuss the ending (spoilers, obviously)

Wait a minute...is Captain America the bad guy?

Marvel Studios

"Civil War" pits Captain America and friends against Iron Man and chums.

Marvel

"Captain America: Civil War" is an absolute blast. It's Marvel firing on all cylinders, packed with old and new faces bouncing off one another for a thrill-packed mash-up. I loved it. But what about that ending?

Despise spoilers? Obviously there will be loads of them here, so only read on if you've seen the movie. Cool with spoilers? Then read on, true believer.

"Civil War" has two main plot lines: the political story, in which Cap opposes legislating the Avengers, and the personal story, in which Cap tries to save his friend Bucky from a nefarious frame job. Seeing as this is Cap's movie, he'll win the day, right?

Not even close.

In the comics on which the film is based, the registration law is eventually repealed. But at the end of the movie version, the Sokovia Accords are still signed and in effect. The heroes who make up the Avengers are still beholden to the United Nations (which doesn't actually sound that bad, by the way). Cap's hissy fit hasn't changed anything about the political situation.

But even if he doesn't win the political war, at least he resolves the Bucky situation, right?

Nope. Bucky is still numero uno on the world's most wanted list. He hasn't been exonerated or pardoned. He hasn't answered at all for the heinous stuff that he very definitely did, brainwashed or not.

OK...well, at least Cap keeps his buddy out of chokey, right? Yes and no.

Throughout the movie, the authorities are all like, "We need to lock Bucky away so he can't hurt anyone", and Cap's been all "Never!" Then Bucky says, "Hmm, actually I need to be locked away so I can't hurt anyone", and Cap's all "Cool with me, bro!" So into the carbonite Bucky goes.

All told, Cap's lost his buddies Tony Stark and the Avengers, turned the world's governments against him and been forced into exile. And for what? A chance to gaze upon Bucky's ridiculous mane one more time. That might delight Tumblr users who ship the "Stucky" pairing, but it's not exactly saving the day, is it?

When Tony Stark tells Cap he isn't fit to carry the shield and Cap drops it, is he agreeing with Tony? Is Cap, in fact, the bad guy?

He certainly doesn't win in the end. Stark doesn't exactly come out of "Civil War" in the best place, but on points I think it's fair to say that Captain America, the guy with his name in the title, actually loses this war.

For all its comic book action and riotously fun superhero showdowns, "Civil War" ends on a real downer. This is Marvel's "Empire Strikes Back" -- and not just because characters variously discover the truth about their parents, lose an arm and get frozen. It's powerful stuff. Which leaves us with one lingering question...

When's the next one?

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