Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Avengers Apart: Captain America: Civil War Lives Up To The Hype!

The Good: Morality, Character moments, Good special effects
The Bad: Very basic plot, Repetitive fights to replace some substantive philosophy moments.
The Basics: The film adaptation of Marvel's Civil War storyline is crowded, but cool, with Captain America: Civil War.

As Summer Blockbuster Season hits, Marvel Comics is in a surprisingly solid position. While I was not overly impressed by Deadpool (reviewed here!), the third season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. actually appears to be building something legitimate and the release of Captain America: Civil War comes only a few weeks before X-Men: Apocalypse. In the unlikely event that Captain America: Civil War underperforms to its stellar-high expectations, the licenser is insured by the virtual guarantee that X-Men: Apocalypse will satisfy Marvel Comics fans and those who just love a big film full of spectacle. Fortunately, Captain America: Civil War manages to clear the bar on its high expectations and deliver a generally solid story, while setting up the next two big Marvel Cinematic Universe spin-offs (films for Black Panther and Spider-Man set within the MCU).

The irony of Captain America: Civil War is two-fold. First, despite the essential American quality of the film, it - like Star Trek Into Darkness before it - was released internationally before being released in the United States. Hollywood, truly, is dead. Second, Captain America remains a favorite of many Marvel Comics fans who would associate more with rednecks than Bernie Sanders and yet Captain America: Civil War makes an argument very firmly on the side of personal liberty. Captain America: Civil War is also one of the few Marvel films based, albeit loosely, on source material I have actually read! Captain America: Civil War adapts many of the concepts, issues, and conflicts from Civil War (reviewed here!) for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And the result is generally good, though there are moments the emotional journey of Steve Rogers is sacrificed to devote time to establishing Peter Parker and T'Challa and fleshing out more of a relationship between the Scarlet Witch and Vision.

Opening with a flashback to how Bucky Barnes was programmed to be the Winter Soldier, the present proves to be equally dangerous as Captain America's Avengers attempt to stop Crossbones from stealing a biological weapon in Lagos, Nigeria. Before he kills himself, Crossbones reveals that Bucky Barnes's programming had slipped and he recalled Steve Rogers. At M.I.T., Tony Stark gives a massive grant to the students, before he confronted by a mother whose son died in Sokovia. Shortly thereafter, Tony Stark and Secretary Of State Ross visit the Avengers training facility, where he proposes the Avengers abide by the United Nation's plan known as the Sokovia Accords. The Sokovia Accords would put the Avengers under UN control. Steve Rogers leaves the meeting when Peggy Carter dies and he heads to London for her funeral. While there, after learning that Agent 33 is Peggy Carter's niece, the United Nation's conference in Vienna where the Sokovia Accords are being ratified, is bombed. Among the dead is King T'Chaka of Wakanda. When the Winter Soldier is identified as the bomber, T'Chaka's son, T'Challa, vows revenge and Captain America has to track down Bucky Barnes before T'Challa does.

After finding and confronting Barnes - who denies that he was the bomber - Captain America and the Falcon attempt to rescue Barnes from Black Panther (T'Challa) and the international manhunt going on the Winter Soldier. War Machine is dispatched to apprehend them and in Berlin, they are captured. In Berlin, Tony Stark visits where he pressures Rogers to sign the Sokovia Accords. Rogers refuses, moments before he and his allies realize that the UN bombing was an elaborate plot to get the international community to find and imprison Barnes. The HYDRA leader, Zemo, activates the Winter Soldier's programming and that allows Barnes to escape. Recovering Barnes, Rogers and Wilson learn that Zemo was after the Siberian facility where Barnes was kept because there is more than one Winter Soldier and Zemo wants them for his own private army. While Captain America and Falcon assemble a team to stop Zemo, Tony Stark is given a 36 hour deadline to bring in Captain America, Barnes and Wilson before the military will get involved. Preparing to take down the rest of the Winter Soldiers, both sides square off on an air field leading to an intense conflict between the heroes.

Right off the bat, Captain America: Civil War starts at an odd place. The post-credits scene of Ant-Man (reviewed here!) had Bucky Barnes in custody. How he made it out of Captain America's custody is a bit of a mystery, until almost the middle of Captain America: Civil War. It seems strange that a scene viewers have already seen comes in the middle of the film, right around the time of a wierd recruitment scene that finally adds Peter Parker to the MCU.

One of the aspects of Captain America: Civil War that works surprisingly well is the burgeoning Vision and Scarlet Witch relationship. At the climax of The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Vision and Scarlet Witch became part of the same team of Avengers - essentially The Avengers 2.0. The idea that the members of the new team of Avengers, who now live at a facility together, have relationships is a smart and strong concept and it is best-executed by the way Scarlet Witch and Vision interact. Sadly, Captain America: Civil War, illustrates no similar sense of connection between Brody and Wilson, who would be part of the same team.

The introduction of Peter Parker as Spider-Man is handled about as well as one might expect when bringing a character of such magnitude into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Peter Parker gets almost five full minutes in the middle of Captain America: Civil War for a scene with Tony Stark that kills the narrative flow of the film. Chadwick Boseman gets a better, smoother, introduction into the MCU as T'Challa. T'Challa's story in Captain America: Civil War blends much, much better with the overall stories of vengeance that preoccupy the main characters.

Captain America: Civil War alludes heavily to The Avengers: Age Of Ultron (reviewed here!), while neglecting Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and not alluding to either Jessica Jones (reviewed here!) or the second season of Daredevil (reviewed here!) - both of which paid fealty to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is odd because so much of Captain America: Civil War is spent with wrapping up loose plot threads in the MCU and establishing new launching points for various Phase 3 and Phase 4 Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

The parts of Captain America: Civil War which are focused on Steve Rogers are the highlights of the film. Rogers has an ethical code and he stands by it. Tony Stark's character arc in Captain America: Civil War is a bit complicated. Stark develops from having an ethical position - albeit one that differs from Rogers's vision of how things should be done - to a kneejerk reaction of vengeance to the Winter Soldier. The transition is exceptionally effective and it almost makes Captain America: Civil War more Tony Stark's movie than Captain America's.

Captain America: Civil War features a more opaque villain than prior Captain America films and his motivations fit the film's motif remarkably well. Captain America: Civil War continues the trend in the Marvel Cinematic Universe of leaving everyone alive to use in subsequent endeavors, which is utterly unsurprising to anyone who loves the Marvel Studios films.

The performances in Captain America: Civil War are good, with there being surprisingly few standout moments of acting. The principle characters are all played by actors who have been playing their roles for several films and are familiar with their parts. The newer actors to the film manage to play opposite the established ones well enough to be seamless with the way they integrate with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The special effects in Captain America: Civil War are wonderful and the moments of reversal are very effective and suggest that they will replay well. Ultimately, that makes Captain America: Civil War worth watching.


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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