Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
"LAST OF THE MONSTER KIDS" - Available Now on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace!

Monday, July 1, 2019

RECENT WATCHES: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

With the success of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” it became apparent that the Russo Brothers and Marvel made a good team. They immediately went to work on Cap's next adventure. “Captain America: Civil War,” like many of Marvel's films, took a title from a popular comic story arc and applied it to a movie that had nothing much to do with it. In retrospect, it's apparent that “Civil War” was a test run for the Russos, to see if they could take on even bigger assignments. Clearly, they were ready as “Civil War” would become one of the highest grossing movies of 2016. Afterwards, the team would take over the “Avengers” movie and direct Marvel's biggest, most complicated films yet.

Following the events of “Age of Ultron,” the various Avengers have pair off into teams that travel the world, fighting serious threats. While in Africa, Captain America and his team – Black Widow, Falcon, Scarlet Witch – track down the terrorist Crossbones. The mission goes horribly wrong and innocent bystanders are killed. The same day, Tony Stark is approached by the mother of a bystander who was killed in Sokovia. At that point, the U.N. decides the Avengers need some government oversight. Tony, War Machine, Black Widow and Vision agree to sign the papers but Cap and the others back out. At a global meeting to discuss the agreements, an explosion goes off. The Winter Solider is framed for the crime. Steve Rogers hunts down his friend Bucky, still fighting the Hydra programming in his head, and becomes a pursued fugitive.

In many ways, “Captain America: Civil War” is two movies hurriedly shoved together. The first of these films isn't even a Captain America movie. Instead, it's an “Avengers” adventure that awkwardly deals with the idea of superhero accountability. 2016 was a year dominated by the idea of superheroes fighting each other, with the collateral damage from epic battles being a motivating factor. However, “Civil War” really half-asses this element. First off, making Iron Man – someone who has always done whatever he wanted and told the government to kiss off a few movies back – in favor of the Accords while Captain America – a soldier who believes in protecting innocents – against the Accords seems so backwards. As the film goes on, the Accords become nothing but a soon forgotten plot device, an excuse to make the Avengers fight each other.

Because, you see, the second of these two movies has nothing to do with the conflict the Sokovia Accords cause. The second is all about Captain America chasing down his beloved best bro Bucky. With Bucky being framed as a murderer, a whole bunch of good guys go after Cap. After a certain point, this starts to drive the main conflict anyway, making me wonder why they shoved the Sokovia Accords into the film at all. The entire last act, the massive fight between Captain America and Iron Man, is centered entirely around Bucky and has nothing to do with the consequences of enormous supervillain battles.

On the other end of the Thanos storyline, it's apparent that “Civil War” was really another Marvel movie that exists more to set up future films than to stand alone. The movie introduces two major players in the future of the franchise. The subplot introducing T'Challa, the Black Panther, is especially extraneous. We meet T'Challa and his dad only for the King to die a few minutes later, which leads to Black Panther pursuing Bucky for vengeance for the rest of the movie. You could clip his entire role out of the film and it would be almost unchanged. Meanwhile, “Civil War” stops cold in its track to introduce Spider-Man. Granted, the Spider-Man sequence is the among the film's most electrifying. Tom Holland is great as Peter, he immediately has a rapport with Robert Downey Jr., and the film nails every element you associate with Spider-Man. There's a reason he's what everyone who left the theater was talking about... But it's still pretty weird that a “Captain America” movie devotes so much run time to introducing Spider-Man.

For all the points “Civil War” won for introducing these new-ish heroes, as a long time comic fan, I was initially not very pleased with the film. First off, after the excellent build-up to Crossbones we got in “The Winter Soldier,” the movie utilizes one of Cap's best villains for a bad-ass opening sequence... And then throws him away. The villain for the rest of the film is Baron Zemo... But not really. This is Zemo-in-Name-Only. He doesn't wear a purple balaclava on his head, covering a deformed face. He's not even a baron. He's a generic plotter with a personal grudge against the Avengers, a role that could've been filled by any number of villains. Man, I hate it when superhero movies do that shit. Don't use a famous comic villain if you're not going to actually feature any of his trademark elements. (At the very least, the film adds some red to Falcon's costume and introduces Redwing in a super cute way.)

The climax of Zemo's plan, and the point of the entire movie, is when Captain America and Iron Man finally have their big fight. On one hand, yes, there's something very subversive about this. The plot rather cleverly misdirects the heroes and the viewer, leading us to believe gathering another group of Winter Soldiers are Zemo's goal, before bluntly dismissing them. Similarly, not having the heroes overcome their petty differences, not having them come together to defeat the villain, to be torn apart by their emotions, is an interesting idea. But I hate it, you guys. I get that Bucky killed Tony's parents, Steve lied about it, and Tony is pretty pissed. Yet it annoys the shit out of me that these two grown men can't pause and realize they are falling perfectly into the villain's plans. Overcoming stuff like this is exactly what heroes are suppose to do!

Yet I don't think these issues are why “Civil War” would become the highest grossing film of 2016 internationally. There is a ton of action in this movie and it's all pretty damn impressive. The opening action sequence with Crossbones and his men features all sorts of creative uses of the Falcon's wing, Cap leaping through the and deflecting grenades, and Black Widow taking down attackers. The extended chase sequence between Cap, Bucky, and Black Panther is another highlight, featuring an especially impressive stunt involving a motorcycle. It all leads up to the multiple Avengers showdown in the German airport. The amount of awesome sights here – Spider-Man swinging around and webbing people, Ant-Man getting inside Iron Man's armor, the first appearance of Giant Man – is overwhelming. Once again, it's proven that Marvel's ensemble cast is their greatest attribute. The action scenes are incredibly creative but watching these characters verbally spar is just as entertaining too.

So “Civil War” is a film I have a lot of mixed feelings about. I found it worked better for me on this re-watch than it did back in theaters. The film is so overstuffed, moving around existing character's alliances and introducing two other major players, that it was an overwhelming watch. You can adsorb that stuff a lot better on a re-watch. There are many deviations from comic lore that still keep me from fully enjoying the film. However, the sheer enormity of the action is hard to deny. While people have come to mock the constant witty banter in Marvel's movie, it honestly might be what I like most about this one. Ultimately, the third “Captain America' film is a bit of a mess that has hugely successful episodes within it. [6.5/10]

No comments: