Saturday, May 7, 2016

Captain America: Civil War - Yep, It's a Marvel Movie (SPOILERS)

There's something to be said about this movie, "Marvel Universe Part 13". Seriously. There's been 13 of these. And you thought there were a lot of Fast and Furious movies.

"Captain America: Civil War" is a movie that does a lot of things right. It's difficult to criticize this movie without coming off as cynical or jaded, but there are things to be said about it. Some of those things are good, but a good portion of those things aren't. Let's start with what this movie does right before we move onto what it tries to do right, but fails.

What Civil War accomplishes is what Age of Ultron didn't: it's a movie containing a ridiculous amount of fully realized super-heroes that doesn't feel stressed for time. It has a plot that can be followed and (for once) a really good, clearly motivated villain (more on that later). The action is fun and easy to watch, and remarkably well choreographed even in the moments where multiple fights are happening at once on screen. This was one of the biggest problems with Age of Ultron. If you were to, say, take your eyes off of Thor for even just one second to look at the cool things Vision is doing, you miss another cool thing that Thor does. It's neat, but it's ultimately disappointing unless you have the at-home ability of stopping and rewinding. Civil War, on the other hand, takes the opportunities it gets to showcase each one of its heroes in single file fashion (though, sadly, not in criss-cross-applesauce).

Civil War also injects our heroes with a good dose of emotional tension, and makes it significantly easier to empathize with these people. Scarlet Witch, who before was the less-consistently-fake-German Maximoff sibling, is now the grieving, independent songbird trapped in a cage by the only person who doesn't fear her. Black Panther (who is phenomenal, by the way), is driven by vengeance for his father, and has his own satisfying story arc within the movie (yay for conclusion). Cap, of course, has his own battle of brotherhood separating his childhood from his manhood in being torn between Bucky and Tony (though, interesting on a thematic level, this movie features the death of Peggy Carter, his childhood love interest, and the romancing of Sharon Carter, his adult love interest). All good stuff.

Where this movie falls short are on many accounts. This movie is overlong with way too many climaxes and build ups. It reeks of generic action movie (despite having a giant guy and a webby guy) that falls in this weird limbo between realism and fantasy. Tonally, it's almost no different from a G.I. Joe movie. Where Marvel movies in the past have had wonderful camera work, this movie was so shaky that my eyes hurt by the end of the movie. In fact, my whole head hurt by the end of the movie. It was physically exhausting to watch because the movie is just a repeating number of sequences of down time between action scenes.

Not much can be said about WB's recent movie on the other end of the spectrum in a positive light, and I hate to make the comparison (but seriously, who isn't going to make comparisons between these two movies), but Civil War left me feeling deprived of cinematic style. This movie is so stylistically devoid, it made me LESS excited to see certain heroes on-screen. Every hero is shot exactly the same way, and were it not for the different power sets and costumes, they're treated like they're the same character cinematically. Whereas, on WB's table, Batman is shot like a horror villain, Superman is shot like a messiah, and Wonder Woman is shot like royalty. That's not to say that all of the cinematic choices listed were the correct ones, but at least they were choices.

As for the villain (who as previously stated is fantastic), his evil, sinister ploy is totally contrived. It relies heavily on coincidence, and had not every detail of his conspiracy worked in his favor, his ENTIRE plan would have fallen apart. His grievances make no sense either. Anybody who saw Age of Ultron both in-universe and out-of-universe understands that the damage in Sokovia was caused entirely by Ultron (and therefore tangentially caused by Iron-Man). Captain America had NOTHING to do with it. Why on Earth would this guy want so desperately to pit these two heroes against each other? Well. I'll tell you why:

This movie is so desperate on two counts.

1. To blow Batman V. Superman out of the water. (Seriously, how similar are these stories? Flagship heroes fight due to the conniving puppetry of a villain!)

2. To adapt a best-selling comic book story.

The last two Captain America movies have been reactionary pieces almost instinctually.  Winter Soldier was very much a response to Man of Steel, just as Civil War was a response to Batman V. Superman, and where it worked insanely well with Winter Soldier, it just feels petty and overstated with Civil War. By instinctual, by the way, I mean that there's no way the Russo brothers saw either of those movies before starting their own, and so, by instincts were reacting to those movies. Well, reactionary cinema is boring.

Lastly, my absolute biggest grievance with Civil War is thus: it suffers from what I've been calling the "Simpson's Syndrome". Absolutely nothing happens in this movie that would affect the overall greater arc of the Marvel cinematic weave. Just like as in an episode of the Simpsons or Family Guy, or any serial cartoon television show, no matter what happens during the episode, when you come back next week, the family will be the same as it's been for almost 30 years. Let's list some things.

1. This movie had so much opportunity to be a satisfying conclusion to Bucky's story arc. It wasn't. Instead of moving forward with his life, and really becoming something of a useful character, Bucky returns to cryo-sleep at the end of the movie, which is exactly where he was between Captain America 1 and Captain America 2. Nothing changes with Bucky.

2. Iron Man and Captain America have this great feud between them, and in fact, the end of their big fight leads you to believe that there will be some long lasting animosity between the two. However, by the end of the movie, Cap is already sending what-might-as-well-be love letters to Iron Man inviting him to join the fight again whenever he's ready!

3. Iron Man is a stooge of the government and has to allow a third party to dictate his branch of the Avengers. Nope, because Iron Man is just going to do whatever the fuck he wants ANYWAYS. The Avengers continue as per usual!

4. Most of Captain America's team (including some Avengers) are held, locked away in a top-secret, maximum security super-prison. Haha, not on Marvel's watch. Cap breaks them all out by the end. Captain America's team keeps on truckin'.

5. War Machine loses the use of his legs! Not according to plot he doesn't, you silly human.

6. Bucky Barnes is wanted for terrorism and is on the run. Nah, he was just framed. Go to sleep, you beautiful piece of super-spy meat.

Literally the only two things this movie contributes to the overall story are the introductions of Black Panther and Spider-Man. Though, I suppose you could say Ant-Man (GIANT MAN) and Captain America are buds now. Though we haven't seen the rest of Marvel's Phase 3 yet, I am almost convinced you could just pluck this movie right out of the list of 13 and pretend like it never existed, and it wouldn't change anything about the stories of these characters.


David Harding is a movie and comic book enthusiast and contributor to the Getting Off Topic Podcast. He is also very sorry to his good friend Evan Gillette who he knows enjoyed this movie a lot and wishes to still be friends with him.

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