Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Marvel Studios films have been some of the best action movies released in the last decade. Captain America: Civil War fits right in.
I really dislike crowded theaters, so I didn't go to see this movie on opening weekend. By waiting until the first Monday showing, I got into a theater that was only about 1/3 full. Most of that population was a high school class, I assume seeing the movie as a reward of some kind. The teacher had to shush them a few times, but nothing too distracting. And the theater had a few rows of D-BOX seats, a few rows ahead of where I was sitting. I could feel the vibrations all the way back where I was. Can't imagine why you'd want to pay extra to sit in the actual seats, but I suppose there's always someone looking for extras in the movie experience.

Two and a half hours used to be a really long running time for a movie, but it seems pretty average these days. Captain America: Civil War doesn't feel artificially extended like some films, though. The story flows smoothly the entire way through. Nothing seemed totally out of place, disconnected, or felt like a last-minute addition. And it fits in nicely with the rest of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, with plenty of references to previous events.

That story involves a manipulative villain setting the heroes at one another's throats, as you'd expect from a movie with "civil war" in the title. The plot mechanics involving the mystery villain were well executed, neither revealed too quickly nor made too obscure. All that was really secondary to the personal conflicts between the various heroes, though. Primarily this takes the form of Iron Man versus Captain America, with other heroes lining up behind one or the other. It's not always easy to portray friends falling out, and I'm glad to say that all the actors involved pulled it off nicely here. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow was particularly well done in my opinion, as she tries to walk the line between her friendship with Cap and agreement in principle with Iron Man.

Before things get intensely personal, conflict between the two sides is about oversight for the Avengers. The Iron Man position is that superpowers need to be kept in check, no matter how well-meaning the people using them. An international agreement through the United Nations is presented for the heroes to sign, binding them to obey UN direction on when and where they can get involved in world events. Captain America's side fears that such restrictions will put them in a position of being unable to intervene when they feel it's necessary, or worse used as enforcement for corrupt regimes. It's not always smart to put too much thought into the philosophical underpinnings of superhero movies, but in this case I think it holds up pretty well. The tension between using force where required and keeping that force in check is an issue in the real world, not just some larger-than-life super-conflict. I thought Captain America: Civil War did a good job of calling attention to that tension, and showed how each side has positive and negative points. The question isn't ever truly resolved, which is a good thing since you can't fully resolve it in the real world either.

Though I try not to know too much about any movie before seeing it for the first time, I'd already seen some important scenes from this one. All it takes is one trailer or commercial, so I knew ahead of time that we'd see Spiderman and a big showdown between Iron Man and Captain America/Winter Soldier. I understand that the marketing folks want to drum up as much interest as possible, but I wish they'd found a way to avoid showing important late-movie stuff in the pre-release promotional material. The aforementioned showdown is the last big scene, and based just on what you see in the film, you'd think the in-fighting was over and everyone was friendly again (despite still having some disagreements). It kind of spoils the surprise when you know they're going to end up fighting again because it was in all the commercials.

Speaking of commercials, I noticed a good amount of product placement. That's nothing unexpected in today's film world, of course, but it can still be a bit jarring at times. Mostly I just noticed things in passing, such as the (very) old-school Mac in Peter Parker's room, or the VW Bug that Cap drives at one point. But the Vivo logo on smartphones was a bit much, particularly at the top of Tony Stark's super-futuristic holo-tablet. On the other hand, seeing MSNBC on the news reports with Kate Snow anchoring fit in nicely and added a bit of a real-world feel.

A lot of any superhero movie is about action, and there was plenty in this one. I'm sure that I'd find some things to nit-pick after seeing it again, but on first viewing it sure seemed extremely well done. There's plenty of action set in areas all over the world, from an early incident in Nigeria to the final showdown in Siberia. The centerpiece is a big hero-on-hero fight involving every major player on both sides, and it did not disappoint. Every character had an opportunity to put their signature on the fight, from Ant-Man shrinking down to mess with Iron Man's suit to Spiderman talking incessantly through the action.

Even if you haven't seen the previous MCU films, Captain America: Civil War is well worth spending the time to see. If you have, it's even better. Action fans should like it, and superhero fans should love it.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! Thorough enjoyed the movie all around, and I felt like it really held together well. For being 2.5 hours long, it never felt bogged down.