Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

With Captain America: Civil War, Marvel Studios embarks on Phase Three of their cinematic universe of films…and boy, do they start with a big one!  More of an Avengers sequel than one for the aforementioned hero, most of the team is involved in this one, as well as a few new members that you may—or may not—have noticed in the final trailer for the film. 

Out of Marvel’s entire slough of comic books, the character of Captain America stands head-and-shoulders above the rest in distinction and valor, always doing what’s right and never putting himself in the forefront.  Let’s face it, he’s the Superman of the Marvel Universe, with a squeaky clean image to uphold as well as the duds for him to advocate.

Now, I’d never considered him a favorite of mine when I was (was?) reading comic books, I probably wouldn’t have even put him in my top ten, but he was always a household name and he’d usually show up in some of my favorite Superhero books.  I’d liked the television movies that had been released in the 70s and I thought the theatrical film (was it theatrical?) that had come out in the early 90s was pretty good, but it wasn’t until Marvel announced their first film featuring Cap that I’d become excited for the character.

As it turns out, so far, the two—now three—Captain America films are probably the best stand-alone films of all the Marvel movies.  They all had their part in building up to the Avengers film and subsequent sequel, but for entertainment purposes, Cap is in the lead.

I know a lot of people don’t like to spoil any type of aspect of an upcoming movie, so much so that they’ll avoid any and all trailers.  Sometimes I’m of that mind, sometimes I’m not.  For Captain America: Civil War, I had decided that I wouldn’t be so careful and went into online news and message boards without precaution, spoiling a few key elements for myself without even batting an eye.  But let me tell you, there are still quite a few surprises in this flick that’ll make you smile, cheer, and hoot.

I can’t help but wonder: Can the rest of the Marvel movies live up to this feature?  What the Russo Brothers created here was a very exciting film with a stimulating story and the question is out there.  Did they set the bar too high?  I sure hope not, because there are a couple of characters that we’ve been told are going to have their own solo movies in the next couple of years and I want—no, need—to see them. 

Well, before I get too far ahead of myself, let me break down the synopsis of the film.

With the actions that had taken place in New York, Washington DC, Sokovia, and—most recently—during an operation by the Avengers to intercept a biological weapon from Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo) in Wakanda where there were unfortunate casualties, the U.S. government, with the backing of the United Nations, introduce to the Avengers the Sokovia Accords—an act to have the government oversee and direct the team.  The new Secretary of State, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), introduces this to Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and he vehemently disapproves, quickly dividing the team as a consequence—one side led by Rogers, the other by Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.).  As The Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), is sought after for a bombing that disrupts and causes many casualties at the Sokovia Accords ratification in Vienna, the team is divided even further as Captain America becomes a wanted man for helping his old friend, Bucky, evade the authorities.  Will the Avengers be divided forever?

Of course, there is a lot more to this film than what I’d synopsized in the paragraph above.  I’m stunned at how well this story was written and how all the characters were given such equal parts of it.  Whether it’s credit to the writers (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) or to the directors (Anthony and Joe Russo) and editors of the film, they gave us a very well-rounded story that did not shortchange anyone.

Let’s talk about who’s back and who’s not this time around.

Really quick—and you’d probably noticed—Hemsworth as Thor and Ruffalo as Banner did not return for this film, which is a good thing.  I mean, if they were included in the fight between sides, all eyes would be on Thor versus Hulk.  And if both chose to stand with Cap or Iron man, it’d be no contest.  So it was the right choice to keep them out of this story.

So, here are the members of Team Captain America: In addition to Bucky Barnes, we’ve got Scott Lang as Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Sam Wilson as The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Clint Barton as Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

On Team Iron Man: Natasha Romanoff as The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Lt. James Rhodes as War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), and Spider-Man (Tom Holland).

Wanda Maximoff as The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is sort of undecided.  She kind of starts off with Iron man, then heads off with Captain America, then fights alongside Iron Man again.  Also, Prince-turned-King of Wakanda, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), shows up as The Black Panther, not appearing to be on anybodys side, just wanting to get at Bucky Barnes.

As I’ve got all that out of the way, I’ve got to say that this film is crammed with action and fast-paced fun.  The stunts, choreography, and special effects are top notch this time around, making for a stupefying visual spectacle.  I usually choose a seat that’s maybe four or five rows from the screen, but maybe I should’ve sit further back because I kept whipping my head side to side to catch everything that was going on.

Being that this film has the disparity of having the fights and battles against one another instead of a common enemy (I mean, there is an enemy featured in this film, Baron Zemo—as played by Daniel Brühl—but he only sets a key element in motion and doesn’t really get into a fight with any of our heroes), that’s what really tugs at your heart strings.  To see all your favorite heroes—or at least characters you’ve grown to admire throughout these series of films—fighting each other, you catch yourself in an inner confrontational quagmire of wanting a certain hero to kick ass, but then you realize it’s at your other favorite hero’s expense.

The story is pretty well-told in the trailers, as the heroes are asked to sign on with this new administrative act to have them report and be commanded towards a governing body to keep them in check.  It’s hard to take sides while watching this film because you can see both sides—either the heroes sign on to have some sort of assemblage and authority to keep them in line or to be in charge of themselves and use their own discretions when cause for them to act comes into play.  Giving into this will trigger repercussions either way.  You really can’t go into this or come out of the movie thinking you’re on Cap’s side or Stark’s side…it’s a true dilemma.

We all know how each actor played their parts in the preceding movies and they performed equally as well in this one, keeping their characters personified and believable (though, Elizabeth Olsen really needs to work on her accent).  Instead, I’ll focus on the newcomers—Chad Boseman and Tom Holland—and how they brought their characters to life. 

Boseman was awesome as Prince T’Challa, with some terrific—yet short—moments with John Kani who plays T’Chaka, father of T’Challa and King of Wakanda.  As The Black Panther, I was in awe.  I don’t know how much of the character was portrayed by Boseman in a suit—which was awesome—and how much of it was motion captured CGI, but the end result was perfect and makes me anxious to see the standalone film in 2018.

Now, for my favorite all-time comic book hero—Spider-Man... 

We all know that Sony has really screwed up as the rights-holder to this character in the last three or four years, but they’d really made up for it by making the deal with Marvel Studios to share the character.  By the looks of it, Sony is really giving Marvel free-rein in the look and depiction of Spidey.  I’d really liked Tobey Maguire in his run of films with Sam Raimi, but hated Andrew Garfield in the role.  Although I had liked The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a little, I could easily see the franchise was heading in a downward spiral.  In the Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, I was afraid that I was going to have the feeling of “Another reboot???” in my mind, but Tom Holland changed that instantly.  In the early comics, as his alter ego and despite being a high school kid, he was mouthy and not as sure of himself as he gets into the superhero gig, wanting to make money with it…and here in his role in Captain America: Civil War, they…get…it…RIGHT.  The look, although altered, is still reminiscent of the old Spidey comics and it was just great to see him portrayed perfectly on screen.  Even as Peter Parker, Holland made the character his own.  I cannot wait for the solo film!

The Russo Brothers sure have made a name for themselves within the pantheon of Marvel movies.  With this being their second film in the three phases of films (I’ve got to admit, I don’t know what the difference is between the phases or why Marvel calls out that these movies are in phases), they’ve rose to the occasion and earned themselves the directors chairs for the Holy Grail of superhero films: Avengers: Infinity War.  After watching Age of Ultron (which I admit I liked a lot, but admit it had its problems), I was worried about the next Avengers film, feeling that Joss Whedon might not be up-to-snuff with such a big outing the next one’s aiming to become.  I think we’re in good hands with the Russos.

Henry Jackman (any relation to Hugh?) puts out a reasonable score within this film.  It’s nothing memorable by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets the job done.  In no way could I remember any cue or track so I really can’t critique it one way or the other.  Maybe I’ll pay more attention to it the next time I see this film.

Finally, do yourself a favor and don’t pay the extra money to see this in 3D.  It adds nothing but a headache from wearing those glasses, so just watch it in standard viewing.

Let me just stop myself here and give my final “bit” on Captain America: Civil War before I give too much more away…

I’ve heard some people say that this is the best that Marvel has put out so far, but I don’t know if I can agree with that.  The first Avengers film still wows me and gives me chills from time to time (especially when the team all form a circle and Hulk roars out at the aliens), so I can’t say that Civil War is better than that film.  All the films have their own look and feel to them so it’s really not fair to compare them all to each other.  But this film does kick ass and keeps your focus on the screen the whole time, wondering what’s going to happen and who’s going to show up and who’s fighting who…man, it’s exciting!  Like I’d said earlier… Captain America: Civil War is going to be hard to top.

Oh, and don't forget...there is a mid-credits scene and a post credits scene.  You're going to want to stay for both.

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1 comment:

Eric said...

Good film, lots of story and character evolution, relationships, etc.
The opening fight seemed to be sped up, as if frames were missing. Too fast for me, couldn't tell what was going on and the movements didn't look realistic. Thought the entire film was going to look this way but fortunately it did not. Spidey intro and talkative personality was great. AT-AT reference was perfect, and I predicted it a few minutes before it happened.
Ant-Man worked better in this group dynamic than he did in his stand-alone, IMO, kinda like The Hulk.
Iron-Man 1 and Avengers 1 are still the tops for me.