Captain America: Civil War - The Best Movie to Date (Spoiler Alert)
Captain America: Civil War is one of those movies that is going to garner a mixed response from the audience. For those who were expecting a movie with world shattering implications, thus aligning the movie's plot to something very close to the source material, they will be disappointed. For the majority of viewers who decide to watch this film through the lens of a movie more than an adaptation of graphic literature, I'm sure there will be plenty who agree this is the best movie in the franchise to date and more than makes up for some of the blunders from Age of Ultron. As always, I'll begin with the bad, but its a really short list.
The Name of the Film is Misleading
This is my only real gripe about the movie. It doesn't live up to its namesake. Civil War was the plot of Marvel's 2006 story line. The stakes they were playing for was literally the future of every super powered being, good or bad, and the issues they were fighting for in the movie really don't even come close. In the comics, Tony Stark backs what amounts to a suped up version of the mutant registration act from the X-Men franchise. It forced any and all super powered individuals to register and work for the government. Iron man's reasons for backing the policy in the comics is paralleled in the movie, but the only people who are affected by his decision are the Avengers. Rather than a registration act that would make all super powered people nothing more than weapons of the state, Tony backs a deal that would allow the United Nations administrative control over the Avengers... no one else. It's actually a really good idea in the movie. The last thing anyone wants is a bunch of people who have the power to level governments overnight to operate without any oversight and it is also the rational choice in the comics as well, but the lack of gravitas in the movie downplays what Captain America is really fighting for. The movie's plot presents a Steve Rogers who wont go along with the deal because he is afraid that while the bureaucrats argue about how to use the Avengers, bad things will happen and he doesn't trust them to do right thing. Its easy to agree with Cap in the heat of the moment, but his movie argument is actually insane. Chris Evens pulls off the performance in a way were it seems like Cap is being humble and responsible when in reality he is being incredibly arrogant. Who made Captain America the only person in the world who know's what the right thing to do is? A closer look at his lines in the movies reveals a naive character who's sense of morality hasn't evolved with times and who's decisions get a lot of people hurt. The comic book argument from Cap was about the right to privacy and the loved ones of super heroes who would be caught in the cross fire if they were all forced to register. It was a humanistic argument that gets lost in the movie adaptation and takes away from the impact of why any of us should care about Captain America's position. Despite everything I just said, the plot was fantastic. This movie was phenomenal for a number of reasons that I'm going to get into.
The Plot Drove The Movie, Not The Characters
One of my bigger gripes against Age of Ultron was that there were way too many characters they were trying to focus on during the film. AoU had so many sub plots; Thor's vision quest, the Hulk/ Widow romance, the twins going from bad to good, the Civil War set up between Cap and Stark. It was way too much stuff being crammed into the film for any of it to really be descent. This movie perfectly timed its sub plots and treated them more like Easter eggs, allowing the main story, Cap, Stark and Bucky, to drive the movie forward. Instead of getting an awkward bunch of scenes were Widow and Hulk talk about their romance that never happened, we get subtle flirtations between Scarlet Witch and Vision, who are married in the comics, that don't eat up more than a min or two of the film. Normally I'm much more fascinated by characters than I am by plot, but in a movie franchise where they keep cramming more and more actors into their films, they need to focus on plot or else the movie seems like a disjointed mess of subplots with a frame narrative. The latter works great for comics but not for movies.
Falcon: Way Better Than in The Comics
Falcon is one of those characters that if I were to try and describe his comic book counterpart to someone who has never read the source material their reaction would be something like, "so he reads the minds of birds... that's lame," and I would have to totally agree with them. Falcon was a character who was introduced to the Avengers franchise for two reasons. First, Marvel was introducing a bunch of new African American character's during the 60s in their attempt to up the diversity of their roster and second was they wanted to give Captain America a new side kick after the, cough cough, death of Bucky. His big screen version fulfilled the same roles, but the way they re imagined his abilities for the film really impressed me. Rather than having the mutant power to talk to his pet falcon, Red Wing, the film adaptation has a cybernetic, and I presume to be an artificial intelligent, remote controlled mechanical bird that he can use to gather intel and covertly take out the bad guys. On top of that we get some awesome ground combat scenes were the character utilizes his wings as defensive shields and features an indirect fire missile system. The MCU Falcon has become one of my favorite characters and really serves as a fantastic example as to how well a character can be re imagined when Marvel really takes its time to develop something different that pays respect to the source material.
Cross Bones Was AWESOME!
When I first heard Frank Grillo's character was going to be Brock Rumlow in the Winter Soldier film, I wasn't very excited about the prospect of Cross Bones being one of the main villains of the Captain America movies. He is at best a C rate bad guy as far as Captain America's villains go, but I was really very impressed by Grillo's portrayal of the character now that he fully transitioned into his super villain moniker. The fight scene between him and Captain America was one of the most enjoyable in the movie and I was actually really sorry to see this character die for good. Much like the Punisher in Netflix's DareDevil, Rumlow turned out to be one of those characters that could have sparked his own spin off or maybe have been in some of the MCU's TV projects down the line. I'm really sorry to see the character and the actor go, but his death does play very nicely into the plot and as one of the last remnants of Hydra, his death also makes sense based on the direction Agents of Shield is going in.
Best Spider Man Ever!!!
If any of you have read my critical review of Batman Vs Superman, you already know that one of my biggest gripes against that franchise was that they keep rehashing Batman's origin story to an audience that has seen it played out eight times on the big screen over the course of the last 26 years. Marvel knew better than to do that again with Spider Man and did very well. The MCU's Peter Parker gets a five minute pseudo-back story, when Stark is recruiting him, that is topped off by a deeper explanation as to the wall crawler's iconic mantra, "with great power comes great responsibility." When Stark asks him why he is throwing on pajamas and putting his life in danger for strangers, Parker replies like the awkward teenager that he is speaking to a celebrity, which was so genuine that it added a mountains worth of character... to the character. Rather than just rattling off Uncle Ben's advice, the wall crawler's response is that when people can do what he can do, every time someone gets hurt, its because he didn't do something about. That's a lot of weight for a kid to put on his shoulders and Tom Holland really pulled it off. Andrew Garfield made a great Spider Man, but Holland is to Spider Man as Bale is to Batman. His fight scene against the other Avengers is carpet bombed with classic Parkeresque satire. Every word out of this kid's mouth is an absolutely hilarious mix of star struck comments and him being genuinely excited at things like the fact that Bucky has a metal arm, as he is crushing it with his freaky spider strength, and that Cap's shield doesn't follow the laws of psychics. What makes it even funnier is that Cap's team is practically coaching the kid as he is kicking their collective behinds. Coupled with Paul Rudd's hilarious one liners as the Ant/ Giant Man, the best fight scene of the movie is equal parts action and hilarity. Spidee's total screen time was maybe 10 minutes, but it left me very excited to see the upcoming stand alone Spider Man movie.
One of the advantages to creating this massive cinematic universe is that by this point, the majority of the character's are established and they don't need to focus a great deal of time on any particular character to build on their stories because, we know them all pretty well. When Hawk Eye asks Black Widow if they are still friends mid-beat down and she responds, "depends on how hard you hit me," followed by Scarlet witch putting widow on her behind and telling Barton, "you were pulling your punches." There really isn't any need to flush out the subtext of the dialogue because the audience has seen how close Barton and Romanov are over the course of several films. This is one example of those Easter eggs i mentioned that add a lot of emotional depth to the story. This was was the first movie in the MCU that wasn't about the heroes taking down some ridiculously powerful super villain, it was about the Avenger's relationships to one another and the lesson you take away from the film is that families may fight, bicker and paralyze each other... but at the end of the day, they are still family. A sentiment that comes full circle by the end of the film when Stark read's a letter from Cap staying despite everything that has happened, if Tony ever needed him, Steve will be there and fight for him just as hard as he fought for Bucky. The film did a fantastic job of highlighting these relationships and provided a fantastic and deep origin story for the Black Panther to build on in his upcoming film, while simultaneously rekindling the brotherhood between Barnes and Rodgers. I whole hardheartedly give this movie 10 out 10 and I can't wait for how they plan to rock the Marvel universe with the introduction of the magical Doctor Strange in November.