Friday, May 6, 2016

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Avengers 2.5 is an entertaining "comic-book movie", with 12 superheroes and one underwhelming villain. I liked the Winter Soldier (2014) much better because it was not just a "comic-book movie"; it had elements from the spy movie genre and a 70's thriller (*). Civil War, however, is a stylized popcorn flick that depicts the ultimate fantasy of kids playing with their action figures.

(*) Of course the gold standard of a comic-book movie that rose to become a masterpiece (of film in general) was The Dark Knight (2008). I'm not even going to compare Civil War with it...

Russo brothers (the directors) have been truly successful in making Captain America (typically a two-dimensional character) interesting in the last two movies. The action choreography has also been breathtaking. I have no doubt that they will do a great job with Avengers Infinity War I and II. But the fault of the movie is mostly with the plot.

In the comics, the event that incites the Superhero Registration Act involves a team of untrained vigilantes whose actions lead to death of 600 innocent civilians. In the movie, Avengers fail to fully contain a situation in Kenya and because of that, the UN suddenly remembers the Chitauri invasion (Avengers I), Ultron's plan to destroy Sokovia (Avengers II), and the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s helicarriers (Winter Soldier), and decides to exert more control on the Avengers. In the comic, recklessness of the so-called superheroes was the reason for that loss and it made sense to put them in check. In the cinematic universe, however, the punishment did not fit the crime. Of course there was collateral damage, but even if the Avengers were controlled by the government, those events (e.g., Chitauri invasion) still would have happened... Long story short, I found the motivation weak.

Now let's put the comics aside and just focus on the cinematic universe: Based on the 12 movies preceding the Civil War, actions of Captain America and Iron Man were contradictory to their character and personality. I didn't expect Captain America - the super-soldier, war propaganda - to go rogue against the government, while the renegade "billionaire, philanthropist, playboy" becomes a puppet... Cap and Iron Man spent a lot of time discussing their points of view with each other (and they had some intersting points), but this 180 degree shift in character didn't resonate with me.

Besides the main two characters (Captain America and Iron Man), the writers put in 10 other heroes in their script and they managed to give each of them some time to shine (and set up their future movies). Among the supporting cast, Ant-Man and Black Panther were the breakout characters. Spider-Man was also great - some say that this interpretation is most faithful to the comics. But I never connected with Spider-Man (whether it be in the movies, cartoons, or comic books), and I know I'm in a minority on this.

The villain of the movie, Helmut Zemo, was a let down. The comic book version of Baron Zemo is a high-ranking Hydra leader with numerous underlings. Zemo in the movie (Daniel Brühl) is a former Sokovian special-ops agent who single handedly orchestrates some of the events that incite the conflict... In general, you need to take a leap of faith to enjoy superhero movies, but seeing this underwhelming version of Zemo be the puppeteer of 12 superheroes required a GIANT leap of faith! Particularly when you remember the first Avengers movie (2012) where only five heroes managed to stop the invasion of an alien race... Were 12 heroes really necessary to get involved with the right or wrongful conviction of Bucky Barnes? I don't think so.

Okay, I've been a little nitpicky, but overall, Captain America: Civil War is a very enjoyable movie. My ultimate measure for escapism (as I've mentioned in some of the previous reviews) is the number of times that I look at my watch during the runtime of a movie. I looked at my watch only once when I was watching Civil War; I thought it was 30 minutes into the movie, but my watch told me it was 75 minutes...

It was an 8/10 for me, and I highly recommend it.

*SPOILER* Obviously this movie is going to be compared with Batman v Superman countless times. I will post a short opinion piece soon on this. But there is one key plot point that both of them use: a son's love for his mother. In BvS, when Superman says "save Martha", Batman stops fighting and suddenly becomes rational. In the Civil War, after Iron Man sees the footage of Winter Soldier killing his parents, he says "you killed my mom", and then goes into berserker mode... In both movies, a character did a 180 flip for mother-love. It would be a double standard to brand one of them ridiculous and the other justified.

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