5.21.2016

Movies: Captain America: Civil War

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan
Directed By: Anthony & Joe Russo
Written By: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (screenplay), from the comic book by Mark Millar, using characters created by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby
Marvel, 2016
PG-13; 147 minutes
4 stars (out of 5)


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Well, I mean, it's better than Age of Ultron, right?

After so many of these movies—not just the Marvel ones, but all these superhero blockbuster flicks—here are the two things that seem to be key: banter, and seeing how many new and different ways there are to break landmarks, buildings, and other big things. Even before this movie started, we sat through the X-Men: Apocalypse trailer and the Independence Day: Resurgence trailer (movies no longer come without colons, btw), and they looked almost identical. The same stuff getting demolished in pretty much the same ways.

These movies also come in two distinct flavors now. 1. Superhero or team of superheroes fights bad guy or team of bad guys. 2. Superhero or team of superheroes fights another superhero or team of superheroes. It looks pretty much the same either way.

In Civil War we get Captain America versus Iron Man while other Avengers pick sides. The rift begins when the Avengers are asked to sign the Sokovia Accord which allows the UN to decide when and where to use the strength of the Avengers. Given all the collateral damage they've wreaked, it's not an entirely outrageous request that the Avengers adhere to some basic rules and protocols. Tony, Rhodie, Natasha, Wanda, and Vision agree. Steve, Clint, and Sam do not.

Things go further south when, at the signing of the Accord, a bomb goes off and Cap's old friend Bucky Barnes is pegged as the culprit. Cap of course moves to save/help Bucky while everyone else is after him. Cap and Iron Man amass teams, and the shootout begins. At one point they literally stand on either side of a line and face one another. Well, no one ever lauded these movies for their subtlety.

The fight scenes in this one suffer from choppy, shaky action that makes it difficult to admire. The introduction of Spider-Man makes him more annoying than anything else, too. I understand what they were going for—"What would a teenaged superhero do if invited to join up?" The answer: talk too much and be mostly obnoxious. Don't get me wrong, he's perfect for Spider-Man. Just not right for this movie.

On the flip side, I actually did enjoy Black Panther. He felt integral rather than shoehorned in like Spider-Baby.

The plot itself involves a lot of moral gray areas, and while I can commend the franchise for attempting to address these things, they do so in such a glossed over way that it feels more like them trying to balm the critics than really say anything important. The chief villain here is a man who lost his family during the Sokovia fight—he wants revenge and decides the best way to get it is to instigate infighting amongst the Avengers. But he does this in such a weirdly complicated way that one can help but think, "Surely there was a more direct route?"

The deeper allegory here is one of America's place in the world. Should we work with other countries and come to the table to forge accords, or are we better off not allowing various sanctions choke chain our ability to act and react? Are we puppets for other countries' agendas when we agree to rule by committee? And are we tearing our own country apart via the political rift as we line up and take sides for our upcoming presidential election?

I don't know if the writers really meant anything as coherent as all that, but I was desperately searching for something to keep my brain engaged during fight scene after fight scene.

Best moment: Bucky asking Sam to move the seat up in the car. This one could have done with a few more moments like that one.

Most awkward moment(s): Vision's apparent crush on Scarlet Witch. And why does Scarlet Witch wear that pseudo-bustier as her superhero suit? Does it "bust-ier" her powers? Or is she just planning to go clubbing afterward?

All right. I'm done here. In short, it wasn't a bad movie. Telegraphed a lot of stuff, though, and didn't really do anything all that new or interesting. Except split up the team. Because, let's face it, it's getting harder and harder to fit everyone into any one movie. Better to split them into various franchises. More money that way, too.

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