Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Captain America: Civil War Review

This year had quite the showdown scheduled in the comic book movie universe as both Marvel and DC put their big versus movie on the calendar. They were even initially scheduled for the same weekend before Warner Bros. smartly rescheduled Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice for the end of March so it could have a full month in theaters before Marvel got their turn. If you want to know my opinions of Batman v. Superman, I just added the link to my review there for you to check out. I wasn't a huge fan of the movie, but I attribute that mainly to Zack Snyder. He's a style over substance type of guy and I honestly don't think he's very good at putting together a complete movie. But I do love DC. I think this Marvel vs. DC argument is a bit silly in terms of people thinking you can only like one or the other. Yes, I've been very positive about Marvel recently and negative about DC, but if Marvel makes a bad movie, I will have no problem telling you. If DC makes a great movie, same deal. That's just not the case right now. DC is struggling and Marvel is on a roll. No, I'm not a Marvel fanboy, but that continues here. I didn't like Batman v. Superman, but I loved Captain America: Civil War.

Right off the bat, one of the things that impressed me the most is how they managed to still make this feel like a Captain America movie. When I first saw how huge the cast was, my thought was that they might as well call it Avengers: Civil War instead of Captain America: Civil War. But no. Despite there being a total of 12 Avengers in this movie, this is Captain America's movie. He's the hero of the movie. He's the one we care most about. He's the one in the center of the plot. The others are mostly supporting characters to his arc. When push comes to shove, the meat of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the relationship between Steve Rodgers and Bucky Barnes. Two friends who become enemies due to the fact that Hydra has now risen up out of S.H.I.E.L.D. and used Bucky as their weapon after messing up his mind. The meat of Captain America: Civil War is a continuation of that relationship. The end of The Winter Soldier sees Bucky starting to remember who he is. In Civil War he is mostly himself, however we learn more about how Hydra managed to use him as a weapon and if one knows those secrets, they can still use him as a weapon. Captain America's struggle is to figure out the best route to take to help his friend out.

Having seen the movie twice now, that's the story that sticks out most to me and it's an incredible one. Captain America has a lot of really tough decisions to make in this movie, especially after the government has decided to take matters into their own hands by creating the Sokovia Accords, which will essentially put the Avengers in their control. The Avengers can't do anything unless they are authorized by the government. Over 100 countries have agreed to this due to the many negative consequences of the Avengers' major battles. This leads to a strong divide as the group known as Team Iron Man are for the Sokovia Accords while the group known as Team Captain America are against them. Which team do I support most? Well of course I side with Team Captain America. As I said, this is his movie and he's the hero. However, the great thing about this conflict is that this is not a black and white issue. Each of the 12 Avengers in this movie have a specific reason why they choose the side they do and it makes perfect sense for each of their characters. This leads to quite the intriguing political thriller with several well-thought out opinions on both side.

I do have to say, though, that the Sokovia Accords storyline is a very cliche one when it comes to superhero stories, whether it be on the big screen, the small screen, or the comic book page. I mean, how many times have we done the vigilante storyline? You know, the story where the government, the police, and/or the people turn against our hero(s) by saying they need to be stopped, arrested, or controlled because the claim is that they are doing more bad than good, despite whatever the intentions may be. This is followed by the hero(s) making the tough decision to keep doing what they are doing despite them now being considered a criminal or a vigilante. Yes, this is the natural progression of a superhero's story arc and thus is almost necessary to keep the realism of the story. But it still doesn't make it less cliche. I put this storyline in the same category as a superhero origin story. It's necessary to do, but it's been done so many times that it's slightly less interesting to watch the hundredth time around. This is how the first two-thirds of the movie was like. It wasn't bad by any means. It just felt like we had done this before. We're just doing it with Captain America instead of Batman, Green Arrow, Superman, or a whole slew of other superheroes.

Another thing that Civil War does that Marvel has loved to do recently is spend a portion of the movie setting up other future movies. This is not an inherently bad thing, but there is a fine line here that Marvel has crossed a time or two. One of the big flaws of Age of Ultron is that they spent too much time setting up other movies and not enough time focused on the current movie. This time around, there are two movies that Civil War sets up that come out next year: Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming. So along with our political thriller, we essentially see two quick origin stories for these characters. Lucky for Marvel, this works out this time around. Black Panther and Spider-Man end up being very integral to the movie. Black Panther adds a ton to the intrigue of the plot while Spider-Man adds a lot of humor during our major battle. I don't want to say too much about these characters because the trailers do a good job of letting you know they are in the movie without giving away what purpose they serve. Thus I don't want to ruin the element of surprise for those who haven't seen this movie yet, but let's just say that I absolutely loved both of them. Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland are perfect additions to the MCU and I'm now stoked for both of their movies next year.

And then we have the villain. Villains are not Marvel's forte. That seems to be a universally accepted idea, even among Marvel fanboys. Ultron? Ronan? Malekith? The Mandarin? The list of sub-par Marvel villains is quite long. Even the ones that are better than the four that I mentioned aren't amazing villains. In terms of great Marvel villains, we have Loki and... who else? Like seriously, can you name a second Marvel villain that is a great villain and justify your response? I would honestly like to hear that. In Civil War, the first viewing I thought we had yet another useless Marvel villain on our hands. But not so fast. Upon further review, Zemo is actually one of the better Marvel villains. But before we get to him, I have to mention Crossbones. They spent all of The Winter Soldier building this guy up and I was excited to see him in action. But wow. I won't spoil what happens to his character in the opening scene, but it legitimately made me angry. Onto Zemo. I don't want to say too much about him in this review, but pay attention to his character. I didn't understand him the first time around because much of what he does is almost in passing. The second time around, I really bought this dude. He may not be ominous or intimidating. Sure, you can even call him replaceable. But he's smart and has some dang good motivations behind what he does.

Up to this point, I've covered much of what happens in the first two-thirds of this movie leading up to our epic showdown that you've seen in every trailer and every poster. It's even alluded to in the title of the movie, so if I tell you that the Avengers fight, you better not be surprised. But the overall movie before this wasn't Marvel's best movie. Yes, it was entertaining. Yes, they did give us a few appetizers throughout. Yes, the political intrigue of the movie was interesting. But the story was cliche and I wasn't sure at that point how I felt about Black Panther and Zemo's place in the movie. And the pacing was a little off. It wasn't as bad as Batman v. Superman, which I swear went like an hour and a half before doing anything. But still, this wasn't as evenly paced as a lot of other Marvel's films. In fact, overall I was thinking this would end up like Age of Ultron for me, but slightly better. Don't get me wrong, I still like Age of Ultron, but there was a lot of issues that held that movie back from being as great as the first Avengers. It ended up in the bottom half of my MCU rankings that I posted after Phase II officially ended. If anyone out there thinks I'm a Marvel fanboy, you better be listening up  because I was about to go against the grain and say this movie wasn't as good as everyone has been saying.

But then it hit. There's two moments that turned this movie from good to great. Moment number one is the epic showdown. There's been a lot of positive buzz about this airport battle and for dang good reason. I kid you not, this is one of the most entertaining scenes in superhero movie history. It's the type of moment I wanted from Batman v. Superman. That battle was only like five minutes long and was a complete letdown, especially with how it ended. "Oh, your mom has the same name as my mom? Cool! I was about to kill you, but now we're besties!" Yeah, lamesauce. The Civil War battle was definitely no letdown. I don't know how long it is, but whatever the time frame, it's perfect. You just have to sit back, relax, shove some popcorn in your face, and watch these 12 go at it. If I were to nit-pick this battle, I would say that the stakes weren't very high. All 12 of them were still friends and they didn't want to actually hurt each other. Team Iron Man just wanted to stop Team Captain America and bring them in. Not once in this battle did you fear for the life of any of them, even though one of the characters does die in the comic book version of Civil War. But like I said, that's a nitpick because this battle is epic. Spider-Man and Ant-Man are probably my two favorite characters in this duel, but every one  of them has some great moments.

Even after this epic showdown, I still felt slightly empty. The showdown definitely kicked the movie up a few notches in my book, but the movie still wasn't completely satisfying. However, enter big moment number two. This comes in the fourth act of the movie. And by fourth act, I mean that this movie kinda has a second ending. Most movies follow a three act formula. Think of that curve you learned in your English classes when it came to storytelling. This follows that curve, but then adds a second smaller curve. Beginning, middle, end, second ending. Sometimes this is a bad thing. But not always. The Dark Knight does this same exact thing as the Two-Face showdown is a second ending and that worked big time. Same thing here. The culmination of Zemo's plan is our second ending here and it is phenomenal. If I were to do a spoiler review of this movie, which I don't think I will, I could spend at least three or four paragraphs on this second ending because it was so good that it alone turned this into one of Marvel's best movies. I'm not going to spoil this ending, but if you've seen the movie, you'll know that there is a "holy crap" moment in this movie that is followed by some pure, raw emotion that had my jaw dropped for the whole final scene. I called the Avengers showdown one of the most entertaining scenes in superhero movie history. This scene is one of the best scenes in superhero movie history. At the very least, it's the best moment in the history of the MCU.

I could go on. There's more stuff I want to talk about when it comes to this movie. I'd like to talk more about Crossbones, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Zemo, and Tony Stark, but I won't here so find me in person and we'll talk. For now just know that I loved Captain America's arc with Bucky. Know that I also loved Tony Stark's arc in the movie. No, this is not a perfect movie. It had more pacing issues than most of Marvel's movies have had and the Sokovia Accords storyline is your cliche vigilante storyline that we've seen a thousand times. But the political intrigue is interesting nonetheless. There's fair points made on both sides and I really bought everyone's individual reasons for making the choices they did. This all led to an extremely entertaining duel between the 12 of them that is followed up by an ending that is definitely the best overall moment in any MCU movie. I'd have to think hard about where this fits in my MCU rankings, so I'm not going to give you a definite answer at this time, but I'm thinking top five. As the kick-off movie for Phase III, this set a very high bar and I'm excited to see where they go from here. I'm giving Captain America: Civil War a 9/10.

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