My thoughts on Civil War’s Zemo

I saw Captain America: Civil War last week and had a good amount of time to digest the movie before it came out in the US. Thus flooding the internet with so many different opinions and reviews about it. Just getting it aside, I thought it was great, one of the best movies to come out of the series and a much better Avengers 2 than Ultron was.

There are, however, people who aren’t so hot on the movie. I’m not going to say anyone who didn’t enjoy the movie is wrong, because opinions and yadda yadda. However, one of the things I have seen mentioned I take exception with is people calling Zemo “just another bad Marvel movie villain.” Zemo isn’t in the movie a whole lot, no. But I think lumping him in the same camp as some other underwhelming Marvel villains is selling him short thrift, and I’m going to go into why.


So, I’m going to spoil the end of Civil War from this point on, so only read on if you have seen the movie already.

One of the things I found so brilliant about Civil War was that is had established its characters so well at this point that the movie didn’t need a villain. I mean, the movie is called Civil War, all they needed to do was create a situation that would let their two biggest names butt heads. And that’s what they did. Stark has been on a downward spiral of responsibility and guilt since his first movie, and he has gone to further extremes to try and protect the world as the movies have gone on.

Rogers on the other hand displays a continued naivety and simple urge to do the right thing constantly, despite the people around him trying to manipulate him for their own means. So when the debate arises concerning the Avenger’s accountability, of course they would end strongly on opposite sides, because their characterisation is so strong that I simply understand why they take opposite sides so early in the movie.

The characters don’t need a “villain’ in their movie because they act as each other’s antagonists. And for large portions of the movie, I too wondered why Zemo kept popping up doing “something”. “Who cares why this guy wants information on some old operation in the 90s, let’s seen some dudes outrunning cars.” For so much of the movie he seemed like a distraction, hardly involved with the meat of the movie, till the final act when it comes to light there were a group of soviet super soldiers even stronger than the Winter Solider being held up somewhere.

This is the point in my head where I thought; “Ah, here we are, the reason Stark and Cap stop punching each other and take down their common enemy.” See, this is one of the things that I liked so much about the movie: it pre-emptively knew its audience were expecting this and totally pulled the rug from underneath us.

Had I not known there was another fight scene coming based on spoilerific trailers, I would have totally been thrown for a loop. Zemo’s entire character is one big fake out. You think he is going to be the Lex Luthor/Doomsday of Civil War, the force that makes the heroes team up. Nope. Zemo is the orchestrator of the entire downward spiral that happens in this movie. And he does it, not for power or any personal gain. He just wanted to break the people that broke his family.

Zemo spends the entire movie building up to finding a tape showing Bucky killing Tony’s parents, knowing that it would break any good will between him and Cap. This makes Zemo the first villain in the MCU to actually succeed in their plans. It felt obvious at the end that he intended to kill himself after his work was done, to be at peace, and had Black Panther not known up, he very much would have.

People came to a movie called Civil War, and they got just that. The final fight between Cap and Iron Man is brutal and emotional and leaves everyone drained come the end, a fight with much far more emotional stakes than world threatening ones. And the movie ends with the two very much opposed, with Cap a fugitive. It has him extend an olive branch via letter, but Civil War very much took grittier and darker tone that people had said the MCU movies shied away from.

I can’t speak for his comic book iteration, but Zemo in this movie did exactly what he needed to to spark a difference of opinion into a brutal war. He might not have been an especially deep character, nor a hugely flamboyant one but… I hate to use a cliche, but sometimes actions speak much louder than words.

What I’m trying to say: it just did what Batman v Superman, but SO much better, I mean oh my God…

One thought on “My thoughts on Civil War’s Zemo

  1. Also, a lot of people complain that his plan relies on too many convenience, that he predicted way to well how the characters would react. The thing is though: He didn’t. In the very first scene with him it is established that if something goes wrong, Zemo has always a plan B. If the operative doesn’t give him what he needs, he will stage an incident to get to Bucky. If Bucky is killed during his rampage, great, Cap will loose his mind over this. Zemo didn’t reveal the evidence needed to free Bucky until after he learned that he, Cap and Falcon were on the run. Point is: If the characters had reacted differently, Zemo would have done something else.


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