Saturday, April 30, 2016

Captain America: Civil War (2016) movie review


Overall verdict: 8.5/10

The Good: Perfect acting by the main cast, touches on deeper socio-political themes, intense action, more serious tone compared to past marvel movies, good pacing that balances character development with action

The Bad: Relies heavily on past movie continuity and character development, some fake looking action that seems sped-up,  poorly placed humour that kills dramatic mood, Mediocre music, deeper themes slowly sidelined

3D Readiness: Post production 3D conversion. Quick cuts and shakey camera do not lend well to 3D or iMax viewing


Following a series of battles and a fatal error in a Mission that saw much collateral damage, the world finally calls for regulation on the superhero team known as the Avengers. Facing an uncertain future, the avengers are split on ideological grounds with captain America aka Steve rogers opposing regulation and iron man aka Tony stark supporting it. What begins as arguments soon morphs into rivalry, then escalates into conflict and ultimately battles. Into this conflict comes The Black Panther, a superhero from Africa who is after Captain America's Friend the Winter Soldier for involvement in an assassination attempt. As opposing sides deal with this new development, a young man gifted with the powers of a spider is recruited into the fight.

What comes across as amazing is the directors' way for tying all these plot threads together. You have the black panther situation, the growing differences between Tony and Steve, the overarching political debate on accountability, then you have Spiderman being reintroduced into the marvel cinematic universe. With all these characters and subplots, the film never lets us forget this this is primarily a Captain America movie. Steve Rogers is the main focus with Tony Stark as his foil. With a little thinking by the audience to connect the dots, the plot threads fall into place nicely and the stories fit along parallel themes. Our tale is fast paced, going from tense conversation to awesome action and back again.

The tone is, finally, more serious and more grounded, a much welcome departure from the increasingly comedic tones of most marvel movies. There is a true sense that the stakes are high, and the potential for loss is great.  The Russo brothers crafted a serious political thriller in CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER, and now they up that ante in writing, characters and action. Though some of the fights have that "sped-up-in-post-production" look, it is grittier, more brutal and less "dance-like" than most of other marvel movies. The final battle between Tony and Steve stands out as the best marvel movie fight ever not only because of the perfectly shot scenes but in the emotional aspect as well. Conflicts are framed in a "no nonsense" approach, rather than the cartoon-like quip filled play battles of before. Not that there aren't quips but these are from characters defined as such in their original comics, namely Tom Holland's Spiderman.

Easily the freshest aspect of the movie, Tom Holland embodies the youthful wall crawler that comic fans love. His introduction foregoes the usual overly long origin tale and gets him right into the action. Everything is perfect, the way he moves, the way he talks, his emotional journey through the movie that runs parallel to that of the Robert Downey jr's Tony stark and Chris Evan's Steve Rogers. Everyone brings their best to the roles both new and familiar, with the two veterans conveying the emotional anguish and turmoil of two brothers-in-arms forced to opposing sides.

This movie's emotional weight relies heavily on continuity and would be more effective if one had been following these characters from their first movies, through avengers and marvel phase two, right up till now. Without the 8 or so preceding movies, it is difficult to get a grasp on Captain America's or Iron Man's differing ideologies and unresolved interpersonal tension. Their motivations seem propelled by stubbornness and ego which would seem shallow without their relational context as provided by past movies.

Thankfully the magnificent chemistry between this cast who have co-starred together for so long, shines. Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. And the rest all truly become their characters, drawing the audience into this fantasy world where secret Organisations, spies, superheroes and people with powers co-exist. There are some ill timed comedy, especially those that come in the middle of intense scenes. It kills the drama and the serious mood. Thankfully, these are few and lesser in number than previous marvel movies.

The big downside, especially as a fan of the comics, is how different this is from the original civil war miniseries. The original was a tragic tale of good intentions carried out in bad ways, it deconstructed super hero feuds, touched on politics, delved into the philosophical question of freedom or security; themes that resonate with the world deeply entrenched in the war on terror. The movie version downplays a lot of that. Message to marvel: if you are going to use a title, at least respect the source material. This does have a few fleeting similarities but all in all feel like a completely different story which had no business using the name of an existing one. The political themes, touching on the accountability of those in power, are present but never at the forefront. By the movie's end, it does not even feature within the climatic showdown. What could have been a physical and metafictional "fight" between two friends representing opposing sociopolitical ideologies suddenly descends into a weak excuse for revenge.

As a whole this is a tremendous improvement in every aspect over previous marvel team up movie AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON. Comic book movies will be hard pressed to match up to this standard set by CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR. Yes there is ill placed humour, yes they kill a certain amount of the drama with cheap comedy and yes the relatively generic musical score by Henry Jackman seems wasted on such an epic. But the few flaws aside, this is finally the kind of movie that marvel should be making. One that takes its superheroes more seriously, tones down the jokes, and delves into deeper themes both social and political. More focus could have been given to those themes, but this is a very pleasing start to what I hope is the maturing of the marvel cinematic universe.

*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: A
Story: A-
Acting: A
Characters: B+
Music: C
Replay value: B+
"Brains": B-

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