Sunday, May 8, 2016

Captain America: Civil War - movie review

The most significant thing for me about seeing this latest Marvel Studios film is that it's the first one that my wife and I brought my son to see in the theater. He's five, and he's seen pretty much all of them on video. When he sat through Captain America: Winter Soldier, and was absolutely fascinated with the brainwashed Bucky Barnes, I figured that he'd be fine to see the next installment in the theater.

How did he do? He got a bit fidgety during the long bouts of dialogue, but he was pretty riveted whenever somebody was in costume, and he was definitely enthralled every time there was a battle - especially if it involved The Winter Soldier. (Not sure why that character fascinates him so much.)

Here's my son's short review: "It was great and a lot of things happened."

As for my thoughts, anybody who reads my reviews knows that I'm going to find something to like in pretty much every comic book movie, especially the ones coming from Marvel Studios. Sometimes I add special caveats. With this one, let's just say that if you've enjoyed most of them, then you will probably like this one as well and might even include it in your top three. (Which is where I put it. Is it as great as the first Avengers film? Not sure if I'm willing to go there just yet. I'm not even sure if it's better than The Winter Soldier. But I have an easier time saying it's better than pretty much every other one.)

For those who don't know, this film borrows a story right out of the comics, while shifting around some details in order to make it fit a new storytelling format. The basic concept is that the governments of the world want to crack down on superheroes and basically make them accountable to the United Nations. Captain America, burned by his experiences with SHIELD, isn't willing to do that. His good friend Iron Man is, and the two wind up fighting with each one recruiting their own mini-army of like-minded heroes.

This movie does a nice job of picking up threads from both the previous Cap movie and Age of Ultron. Not only that, but there's a real arc with Captain America, who has gone from being a loyal boyscout in the first film to downright cynical of authority. Iron Man has made almost the reverse trajectory, as he's grown such a conscience that he's more than eager to have himself restrained. One could easily see each one of them fighting on the opposite side of this issue in each of their first films. (Think of the scene in Iron Man II where Tony Stark speaks before Congress.)

Another thing that was handled well was all of those characters. Did it make the movie a bit longer than it should have been? Perhaps. But I also enjoyed the big superhero fight where you got to see Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Spider-Man, The Black Panther, etc. all go at it. Did all of this make it feel more like an Avengers movie than a Captain America movie? Maybe. But the focus always came back on Cap, with Iron Man taking a close second.

Anyway, here are some random thoughts:

Spider-Man - Tom Holland is getting a lot of praise in his turn as the webslinger, and it's well-earned. While I wouldn't go so far as to say his appearance in this makes it the "best Spider-Man film" (that still goes to Spider-Man 2) I will say that the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming has the potential to be the best Spider-Man film. It was great to see him as a kid, and even better, a guy who talks way too much while fighting. (And just like in the comics, the other characters are keen to point out that he needs to shut up.) Was his role totally necessary in this film? Maybe not. But just like you could cut out the bit in Hamlet where the Danish Prince interacts with a gravedigger and not have it affect the plot, I can't imagine this film without it.

The Black Panther - King T'Challa was a welcome addition to the story as well, and unlike Spider-Man, his role was far more necessary to the story. He functioned as somebody who was looking at everything from an outsider's perspective, which by this point the audience isn't going to be at. I don't want to say much more in fear of spoiling the plot, so I'll conclude this bit by saying that the action scenes were top-notch. He definitely has a style all his own. Also, he had a character arc that didn't feel forced despite his limited screen time.

Zemo - As an old fan of The Thunderbolts, I'm particularly fond of Baron Zemo as a villain, and I don't feel like this character was close enough to his comic book counterpart to even justify having the same name. Was this guy a decent villain? I suppose, and he certainly could have had more to do. I'm just hoping that maybe he can evolve into something closer to his comic book counterpart.

Ant-Man - Upon repeated viewings of his solo film, the character has grown on me. He was a welcome addition to this one as well. Even though his role was a small one, he nearly upstaged Spider-Man, which isn't an easy feat.

Batman v. Superman - Is it fair to even compare this film with that one? I think so. It's a superhero film. It's part of a bigger franchise. It features a lot of characters and hints at an even larger universe. But here's the deal - even though I gave a fairly decent review to BvS, the more I think about that one, the more I think about its flaws. I still insist that it had a lot of good stuff going for it. (And I'm excited that Ben Affleck is moving forward with his solo Batman film that he will direct.) However, it was a mess. Basically DC/Warner is trying to do what Marvel is doing, only they're not willing to do the legwork that's involved with this kind of universe building. Imagine if Civil War was the film that came out right after the first Iron Man. It's hard to have a lot at stake with Batman fighting Superman when it's their first film. However, it was heartbreaking to see Captain America and Iron Man pound away at each other because we've seen a friendship grow, develop, and evolve before it all went south.

1 comment:

Zach Murphy said...

Great review. I think it's definitely fair to compare this movie to BvS. Civil War successfully accomplished what BvS tried to do, and is better on pretty much every level.

Also, your son's review is spot on, haha.

- Zach