Fri, 6 May 2016
Consequences. So many comic book heroes and villains have their origins and motivations tied to consequences sometimes from decisions as mundane and innocuous as taking a shortcut home from the movies through a dangerous alley or letting a crook fall into a random vat of chemicals. Tony Stark's career as a leading weapons manufacturer inadvertently leads to his own ordinance turning against him and forcing him to build the first Iron Man armor. Peter Parker letting a criminal go leads directly to the murder of his uncle. But what of the consequences after the donning the mantle of superhero? For every action, there must be an equal or opposite reaction so what's the reaction? That leads us to Captain America: Civil War.
Both this and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice explored the fallout of collateral damage in the midst of fighting for the greater good; Civil War's a cumulative look at The Avengers' alien confrontation in the streets of Manhattan, Captain America: The Winter Soldier's climax over the Potomac, and Avengers: Age of Ultron's Eastern European showdown. An opening incident in Lagos, Nigeria proves to be the final straw with the United Nations who pass a resolution that greatly restricts the Avengers' mobility. This does not sit well at all with our titular hero.
At the center of Civil War are three haunted men. Captain America, literally a former propaganda company man, is haunted by the agendas and machinations of bureaucracy; bureaucracies that tried to nuke NYC in the midst of an alien invasion and allowed the evil of HYDRA to infiltrate and fester within SHIELD, what was supposed to be one of the country's most trusted institutions; he would be damned rather than let agenda-driven bureaucracy run the world again. Iron Man is haunted by guilt, the smug veneer present during Age of Ultron eroded away as the true toll of his creation's murderous rampage weighs heavily on him; learning that with great power there must also come responsibility. Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, is haunted by all those faces he was programmed to kill as HYDRA's ultimate sleeper agent and there's a couple of faces haunting him lately that strike very close to home. These three men are each pursued by their own ghosts and its put them on a collision course for the ages.
What Civil War readily improves over its comic book source material is that both sides are depicted with legitimate motivations and methodologies; in the comics, Tony Stark is laughably antagonistic (For fuck's sake, he builds a Guantanamo Prison for his former friends in the Negative Zone, creates a cybernetic clone of Thor, and recruits Daredevil nemesis Bullseye into the Thunderbolts) while here he's exponentially more relatable. Robert Downey Jr. gives his best performance as the Armored Avenger perhaps ever, certainly since his debut back in 2008. Newcomers Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-Man both compete for stealing the show alongside Ant-Man who fits right into the Marvel Cinematic Universe's ever-expanding cast; to refer to Civil War more as Avengers 2.5 rather than Captain America 3 would not be an entirely inaccurate observation (Steve Rogers is still very much the focal point and driving force of the film). The Russo Brothers directing this three-ring circus have a lot of plates to spin but they do so admirably; Avengers: Infinity War is in good hands.
Captain America: Civil War, despite its exploration on the fallout of heroism, is a joyous cinematic experience and the Avengers flick that most probably wished they got last summer instead of the middling Age of Ultron (Certainly a better superhero brawl than Batman and Superman's recent dust-up). All the performances are spectacular with Robert Downey Jr., Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, and Paul Rudd leading the charge. The marquee showdown at an empty airport (The one splashed over all the trailers) is one of the most fun blockbuster action sequences I've ever seen with everyone getting their due. It doesn't have the laser-precision of The Winter Soldier but it's a hell of a lot more fun and doesn't feel like the 2.5 hours it runs for (Yes, there is a mid-credits and post-credits scene). The typeface for the scene transitions are distractingly large but if my biggest complaint about your movie is font size, you're doing just fine. If anyone was worried about the state of Marvel movies last year, let me assure you they are back on top.
Category:First Impressions -- posted at: 11:43am EDT