Saturday, May 07, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016), the latest installment in the Marvel superhero franchise, is an excellent, action-packed film which Marvel fans are sure to love.

I admit I was rather dubious about the concept, which finds our friends the Avengers lining up on either Team Iron Man or Team Captain America. The Avengers fighting each other? It sounded like a real downer.

Indeed, the story is more dramatically hefty than the typical Marvel film, and the comedy -- while still very present -- is more muted. However, CIVIL WAR spins an engrossing, well-told tale. It really works.

The United States and world leaders, while appreciating the debt they owe to the Avengers, are concerned about the collateral damage which occurs each time the team saves the world, not to mention the fact that a small group with superpowers is pretty much doing whatever they want. The Avengers are asked to sign the "Sokovia Accords," putting themselves under the control of the United Nations.

Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), still smarting from the unforeseen damage inflicted by the computer he created in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015), thinks signing the agreement is a good idea.

Tony is backed by his old friend, military man Rhodey/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and his robot creation Vision (Paul Bettany), with newcomers T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) also allying themselves with Iron Man.

The pragmatic Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) leans in Tony's direction, though she also empathizes with Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), who adamantly disagrees with the Avengers placing themselves under UN control. Natasha also must deal with the fact that her close friend Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is firmly in Captain America's corner.

While Tony believes the group must accept limitations on their power, the libertarian Steve says "I know we're not perfect, but the safest hands are still our own." Steve expresses concern that the Avengers might be sent where they don't want to go, or might not be sent where they're needed.

Steve is joined not only by Hawkeye but by his old friend Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wanda Maximoff/the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).

The group is further fractured by Steve's allegiance to his childhood friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan), aka THE WINTER SOLDIER, an otherwise nice guy who has done unspeakably terrible things when his mind was controlled by Hydra.

The conflict leads to a true clash of the titans, in which the Avengers on each side of the issue sincerely believe they're right. The debate about liberty versus government control is part of what gives the film some real substance along with the superhero fun. This is a film with so many good components, equally thought-provoking and entertaining, that it begs repeat viewing.

The superhero rumble at the airport, blending the serious with the sublimely funny, is sure to go down as one of the all-time great set pieces in the Marvel franchise. Everyone wants to have their way while trying not to inflict permanent damage on their erstwhile friends. Whether it's Hawkeye and Black Widow pausing in mid-fight to ask if they're still friends, a surprising new ability demonstrated by Ant-Man, or a deliciously amusing reference by the new Spider-Man to that "really old" movie THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980), it's a scene which is sure to be enjoyed countless times in the future.

And did I mention the stunt work? Wow.

The superb cast, which includes multiple past Oscar nominees and two past Oscar winners, all deliver the goods. Downey, as the brilliant but humbled Tony, tones down the sarcasm and evinces real pain on more than one occasion; he's impacted by a shocking story reveal late in the film.

Evans continues to be a sincere, honorable Captain America, loved by all even when they're battling him. There's a reason he alone was able to jiggle Thor's hammer in AGE OF ULTRON. (Speaking of Chris Hemsworth's Thor, he must have been in Asgard when all this was going down. Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk is also AWOL from this film.)

A favorite continues to be Jeremy Renner as the sarcastic Hawkeye, whose secret life -- revealed in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON -- provides the source of a couple of good jokes.

I also really like the new additions of Vision and the Scarlet Witch. Bettany, playing the human-like robot Vision who evolved from Tony Stark's computer Jarvis, is endearingly like the original Mr. Jarvis (James D'Arcy) of the AGENT CARTER (2015) series -- even cooking for Wanda to cheer her. Olsen is compelling as the Scarlet Witch; having lost her twin brother and seen -- even caused -- much violence, she has a somewhat fragile demeanor which is balanced by a real strength of character and determination to be on the side of right. I also like Olsen's elegant physical style working her magic.

Also turning up again in this entry are Emily Van Camp as Sharon Carter, William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross, and John Slattery in flashback footage as Howard Stark, with Hope Davis debuting as Tony's mother, Maria Stark. Marisa Tomei is introduced as Peter Parker's Aunt May.

Some critics have complained that the movie's fault is that it doesn't stand alone as a self-contained story. For me, that's the beauty of the series, that the situations and character development flow naturally from one film to the next. Moments in the film such as a funeral, which would be meaningless to a new Marvel viewer, resonate strongly for someone who's watched everything.

Like all good comic books or serials, Marvel fans know the history and want to know what's coming next. At the same time, it's all very accessible. I didn't start watching Marvel films until last summer, and I had no trouble at all getting up to speed; you simply have to dive in. In fact, in addition to seeing all the movies and watching both the AGENT CARTER and AGENTS OF SHIELD TV series, my interest has evolved to the point where I've been reading MOCKINGBIRD, AGENTS OF SHIELD, and BLACK WIDOW comics on my iPad and Kindle Fire.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR was directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. The cinematography was by Trent Opaloch. It runs 146 minutes.

Parental Advisory: Like the other Marvel movies, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is rated PG-13. It is violent but fairly bloodless, with a very occasional swear word.

A side note, the sound levels in the theater where we saw the film were a problem. My husband and I think because the action scenes were so loud, the theater didn't want to have the sound volume set too high. Consequently, the many very quiet, intense dialogue scenes were often muffled and hard to understand. (I say this as someone who watched 15 movies in multiple theaters last weekend without any problem.) I'm going to have to watch CIVIL WAR again as soon as it comes out on DVD to pick up on the nuances I missed. I'm curious whether this will be an issue for those who see it in other theaters.


Coming this fall from Marvel: Benedict Cumberbatch as DOCTOR STRANGE (2016).


Blogger DKoren said...

I was surprise at how much I came out loving this one. I wasn't expecting to going in, as, while I liked the plot and characters of Winter Soldier, the movie itself is unwatchable to me because of the camera/editing bouncing everywhere and leaving me completely nauseated. I was afraid this one would be the same, but other than the first action scene, which made me look away, they settled into something much more stable and smooth, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the movie. It actually felt more like the Avengers than Avengers 2 did, for me. The second half in particular, when more of the humor kicked in. And the fight between all of them was just so well done. It struck just the right note of stop-each-other but not hurt-each-other.

I always wear earplugs in movie theaters, because otherwise they're too loud for me, but I did notice that the dialogue seemed softer than usual in our theater. Not soft enough to make me want to remove the earplugs, but enough that I had to listen harder a few times.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Zach Murphy said...

Nice review. This film was loads of fun.

- Zach

1:56 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Deb! Thanks so much for your thoughts, I'm glad to know you liked it also. I also appreciated your feedback on the sound, I was very interested that you noticed an issue at your theater. I would consider seeing this movie in a theater a second time except that so much of the sound dropped out that it leaves me uncertain. If I did I would definitely try a different theater! But I suspect I'll just wait for the DVD.

Thanks for your comment, Zach!

Best wishes,

11:38 PM  

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