Culture

Civil War is a Genuinely Terrible Movie

Jon Harris

Last weekend I finally went to see the recently released Civil War and to be honest, I regret it. The advertisements leading up to the film’s release portrayed not just an action movie, but a timely film to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, neither of these were accurate. It was not an action movie, and it was also not serious. Honestly, it’s hard for me to think of anything good to say about it except the fact that it eventually ended and I could finally go home.

Despite my misgivings about the film, I thought it worth reviewing to explain, from my perspective, why so many movies with fairly decent, engaging plots end up falling flat, how Leftists conceive of Trump and Middle America, and the nihilistic nature of our entertainment.

Poor Quality

Civil War, directed by Alex Garland, stars Kirsten Dunst as Lee, the numb-to-the-world photojournalist, and Nick Offerman who plays, well, Donald Trump. At least, it seemed like he was playing Trump. More on this later. The story chronicles the journey of Lee, along with Joel (Wagner Moura), Jessie (Cailee Spaeny), and Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson) from New York City to Washington D.C. during a futuristic, dystopian, and unexplained American Civil War. Their goal is to interview the president before the “Western Forces” (WF) of California and Texas (you read that right) reach the Capital and force a surrender.

To say the movie is unrealistic is an understatement. The opening scene shows a protest in New York City where a suicide bomber carrying an American flag runs into a group of police officers killing them. If patriotic Americans had an affinity for suicide bombing wouldn’t they be doing it by now? Garland stretched Left-wing stereotypes to their breaking limit for this film to the point that it’s distracting. Of course, no marauding bands of urban gangs are shown.

The villains are, you guessed it, white males in rural regions (specifically, PA and WV). We learn not to trust them pretty quickly. None of them are friendly. They’re motivated by things like money, mistrust of the media, hatred for ethnic minorities, and willingness to torture their friends for looting. Life is cheap to them.

Somehow NYC hotels are still in operation despite the mayhem. People in small towns and urban areas do not seem desperate for water or food. All this while the roads are empty. Shelves are restocked without semis delivering products. Militia units sport strange style choices, such as snipers with rainbow-colored hair and a man in military fatigues with sunglasses red enough to attract a charging bull. There are a lot of little hard-to-buy details that just don’t encourage someone to immerse themselves in the film.

The movie also doesn’t seem to know what it is. It’s part coming-of-age story, part anti-war film, part war film, and part dystopian fantasy. Character development is extremely minimal and the only moral to the story seems to be: don’t elect a bad president or else you may get a civil war. 

There is no sense of transcendence or ultimate purpose at any point.

I would like to suggest this is the main weakness of not only this film but modern cinema in general. Epic stories from the golden age of cinema often included a sense of divine guidance. The hero’s journey included the discovery of deeper meaning. There was a greater reality behind the scenes of the temporal world guiding the characters toward virtue and truth. Some modern fantasies like Lord of the Rings (is that still modern?) and Dune convey this sense. Civil War does not. Life is meaningless. People are corrupt. Justice is cruel. Life is a bitter struggle. The best one can hope for is a little recognition from the media and some alcohol to dull the pain of a purposeless existence (which the protagonists indulge in frequently).  

If there is any hero’s journey, it’s the story of how journalists are our most intrepid heroes for risking their lives to objectively record events to inform the public. This is in contrast to the WF military, who use a ridiculous amount of firepower (in the few, brief, action sequences we do see) and are thoroughly incompetent to locate the president. The journalists, on the other hand, are smart, resourceful, and courageous. Honestly, the film is essentially a puff piece for journalists.

Political Considerations

We are not told in the film what caused the secession movements of the “Florida Alliance” and “Western Forces” exactly, but we can read between the lines. Nick Offerman, who’s often portrayed as right-wing in internet memes because of his no-nonsense role in Parks and Recreation, is a third-term president who disbanded the FBI, used air strikes against American citizens, banned journalists from the capitol, and exaggerates his accomplishments. Does any of this sound like someone the Left fears getting elected this year? We’re told at one point of a great “Antifa Massacre” that may parallel the air strikes. Even if not, it’s pretty obvious who’s being depicted. It’s Trump.

It seems that Civil War is a film intended to scare audiences away from voting for Trumpian figures during an election year. It’s also intended to boost their trust in journalists. Nothing more.

Cultural Considerations

As noted above, the primary protagonist, Lee (Kirsten Dunst’s character), is a weathered, numb, empty journalist who possesses the most (though minimal) character development. Her detached demeanor is blamed on years of snapping photos of horrific violence committed in riots, wars, and genocides that she “never thought” she’d be taking “back home.” But Lee seems fairly representative of a typical American attitude in 2024, namely, a nihilistic outlook on the state and future of life in the US. 

One of the strange effects of Civil War is that the intended shock value of violence and atrocity just doesn’t quite hit the mark. Instead, it almost feels monotonous, boring, and tiresome. Another character in the film is Jessie. A (very) young wannabe photojournalist who tags along despite Lee’s misgivings about her participation in their cross-country trek. Though she is initially shocked by the scenes of violence they witness, she also numbs to the point that by the end of the film, (SPOILER ALERT) she’s able to simply snap a photo of Lee’s death rather than freeze in the horror of what she’s witnessing.

Skip It

Civil War is just another oncology report on the cancerous nihilism infecting our society. Even horrible, dire circumstances are treated impassively – just another photo to shoot or post to upload.

Ultimately, Civil War is the Ecclesiastes, “all is vanity” without the “remember your Creator.”

My advice: skip the film, you won’t be missing anything.

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