Thursday, November 24, 2016

Captain America: Civil War review

    Well, better than never. Here is my review of Captain America: Civil War or Avengers 3: Electric Boogaloo, depending on how you want to think of it. The latter is a trifle unfair since much of this movie's story comes from the Winter Soldier arc by Ed Brubaker and expands on the character of Captain America immensely. Still, this movie is something of a Rorschach Test for fans of the MCU since just about everyone sees something different in this movie.

    For some fans of the film, this is a straight forward story about Captain America trying to do the right thing and Iron Man doing the wrong out of guilt. My fellow superhero fans have as much faith in Captain America as some people have in Jesus. Captain America is such an overwhelming symbol of good and hope that people genuinely believe the character is incapable of wrong to the point they assume anytime he does is bad writing. I believe Captain America: Civil War is a story about Captain America's philosophy's flaws. But I'll get to that later.

I'm sure everyone is waiting for my review of this film.
    The premise for the movie is complex and full of multiple moving parts interacting with one another. After the Avengers unwittingly unleashed Ultron on the world, the United Nations wishes to create a regulatory body for them around an agreement called the Sokovia Accords. Having seen the government corrupted by Hydra, Captain America is not particularly down with this while Tony's guilt from creating Ultron makes sure he is.

    After a disastrous mission where the Scarlet Witch accidentally kills numerous innocent bystanders, the Winter Soldier apparently blows up a United Nations conference. Captain America goes to rescue his friend from the resulting government kill squads, only to find out everything is being manipulated by Colonel Helmut Zemo. Zemo is a Sokovian with a very personal reason for destroying the Avengers and is using their emotional weaknesses against them. Spiderman guest-stars, which is all most people needed to know to get their butts in the seat. So, did I like it?

Captain America fights for glorious justice--badly.
    Yes, I did. However, I have a bunch of caveats about my like which put me on the other side of fandom as a whole. So much so that I actually held off on writing this review until it was released on DVD. In simple terms, I didn't really like it as much as I did the majority of the MCU movies and my best statement regarding the subject was, "It was okay." Honestly, it would have made a better sequel to the Avengers than Avengers 2: Age of Ultron but that's not saying much. In fact, I still don't think I ever got around to reviewing that movie.

    My first issue is it seems like a step down from The Winter Soldier, which I felt was a nice movie about government lack of oversight and secrecy. This movie places Captain America on the side of those with no real oversight and expects us to trust him without him giving a coherent argument as to why this is a good thing. The Sokovia Accords are also largely unnecessary and really the entirety of the story could have been told about protecting Bucky without involving them. At the end of the movie, there's no real development with them and the plotline seems unresolved.

It's all fun and games until someone breaks their back.
    This is a shame because I really am the kind of guy who thinks superhero movies can talk about really interesting subjects in an intelligent and deep way while also providing epic scenes of colorful people being punched. I can't help but think this movie would have benefited from the presence of Nick Fury, Maria Hill, or (he's alive in the television show) Phil Coulsen. Instead, it's stuffed with crowd pleasing stuff like Spiderman, the Black Panther, and more to the point you can't complain the movie isn't fun but you can't really say its deep either.

    I also have an annoying complaint which is pure fanboyism--specifically, that I'm a huge fan of the Thunderbolts-era Baron Zemo as well as the miniseries Born Better. Basically, the hook of Baron Zemo is that he was raised as a Neo-Nazi by his father but managed to eventually shake that influence off. Unfortunately, he only shook it off to the point of becoming an anachronistic sneering aristocrat who thinks of himself as better than the majority of humanity. Basically, Baron Zemo is the Marvel universe version of Jaime Lannister without the incest and it's a shame that this character has none of that story. He's basically Helmut Zemo in name only.

What's bizarre is comic Zemo's mask is just a ski-mask.
    I also wasn't quite as awesomely blown away by the movie's version of Spiderman as seemingly everyone else was. Certainly, the actor gets the part down right. Spiderman is funny, goofy, entertaining, and badass all together. He's also lacking the usual morbid insecurity and angst which has defined the majority of the character's appearances for the past two decades. However, the Spiderman I grew up with was a thirty-year-old adult married with a possible child on the way. Yeah, that Spiderman is dead and Joe Quesada killed him. De-aging him back to 15 year old and making a super-hot Marissa Tomei as his Aunt is just weird.

    Despite this, I had fun. A lot of fun. The fights in the movie are amazing, the visuals are stupendous, and the moral ambiguity is pretty good. Certainly, Iron Man and Captain America both have good reasons for doing what they do. Iron Man keeps escalating the situation while Captain America refuses to work with Tony out of the fear of compromising on even a single issue. Certainly, the climax of the movie was powerful. I also loved the use of the Black Panther even if that, too, really made the movie too packed.

I admit, this moment was awesome.
    Character beat-wise there's still a lot of really good moments. I liked the funeral of Peggy Carter even though I think Captain America took exactly the wrong message from it. Tony Stark lamenting how his addiction to Iron Man has cost him Pepper. Tony flirting with Aunt May. The Scarlet Witch and Vision's painfully awkward flirting. Even smaller scenes like Clint and Natasha fighting over which side deserves the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, my favorite part of the movie is also where I didn't expect them to go in giving Captain America feet of clay.

    Captain America has always been about being an uncompromising force for good and justice but while that works wonderfully in the face of evil, all it does here is get good people hurt. His philosophy of "no, you move" is problematic as soon as it hits people who follow it themselves. In the words of the Doctor, "You were the Doctor when it wasn't possible to get it right." Which, if you know the context for that quote, resulted in tragedy. The government isn't helping Bucky's situation but Captain America's plan ends with everyone worse off.

Vision really should be his albino version.
    Side-character wise, Spiderman's introduction was awesome as we get everything we need to know about the guy without another death of Uncle Ben. The Black Panther is treated as Marvel Batman and that's not at all a bad thing.

    I find it a bit disingenuous they felt the need to use Civil War as his origin story but he's never anything less than badass and at least gets a resolution to his storyline. Crossbones, Captain America's archenemy just after the Red Skull and Zemo, is also treated as an expendable mook. I feel Emily Van Camp was wasted as Sharon Carter but there's really no time to develop her in relationship to the Captain. Nothing is done to allay the weird creep factor of Sharon Carter being Peggy Carter's niece either--but we can blame the comics for that.

    In conclusion, Civil War is a fine movie. There's great fight scenes, some great emotional moments, and plenty of amazing characters. It didn't blow me away, though. There's a lot of really smart funny scenes, though. I love the way Spiderman and Ant-Man serve as comic relief for most of the movie. It's just too packed and doesn't really develop its ideas very well.


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