Saturday, May 14, 2016


Marvel & Disney's domination over 21st Century popular entertainment continues with CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Despite the title and the mammoth publicity campaign surrounding it, the main theme of this film is not so much superheroes battling each other as it is the consequences of trying to accomplish supposedly good deeds.

The directors of this latest Marvel Universe outing are the Russo brothers, who made one of the best MCU movies with CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. As in that film, the Russos bring a sense of political conspiracy thriller paranoia to the comic book mix, with the United Nations attempting to put the Avengers under bureaucratic control. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is all for it, while Chris Evans as Captain America takes the opposing viewpoint. Each hero establishes his own "team", setting up one of the best and most elaborate comic book movie fights ever, staged at the Berlin Airport.

Many non-comic book fans have complained about the lack of collateral damage in the various superhero epics. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR puts a human face on all the destruction the Marvel film characters have engaged in through the past few years, giving the story a darker edge than the usual MCU fare. (The many, many fight scenes this time around have a bit more brutal level to them.) Don't presume, however, that CIVIL WAR is a depressing slog like BATMAN V SUPERMAN--the expected Marvel humor is very much present, but not enough to make the plot seem silly.

What really makes the Marvel movies work is that the filmmakers have now spent years establishing and refining a group of characters that the audience feels they know and want to watch. There's a ton of different superheroes on display in CIVIL WAR, but if you are familiar with the MCU, you are pretty well already clued in to each person's motivations during the story. It seems to me that Chris Evans doesn't get enough credit in playing Steve Rogers/Captain America, but he should. Being a stalwart, straight arrow good guy, and not coming off as pompous or unbelievable, is a lot harder than it looks. Evans is the rock that CIVIL WAR rests on, even though I thought his absolute devotion to his buddy Bucky AKA the Winter Soldier was misplaced. (Some on the internet have assumed that Cap and Bucky are more than "just friends"--I honestly don't see it that way.) Once again I must point out that critics have constantly mentioned that Superman is too much of a "goody goody" to be properly portrayed on the big screen--yet Marvel has done a fine job showcasing a similar character in Captain America.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man is particularly edgy and angst-filled here--it appears that Stark is back to his self-destructive ways. RDJ does get to show his beloved smarmy side in his interaction with the "new" Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland. This might be the best movie Spidey yet--although it is personally disconcerting that Peter Parker's Aunt May is now played by an actress who isn't that much older than me. Making his Marvel film debut is the Black Panther, impressively brought to life by Chadwick Boseman.

There's no point in me spending a lot of time analyzing CIVIL WAR. It is what it was designed to be--a large-scale genre action movie that provides grand entertainment to the masses. I know that there are some MCU haters out there, who feel that they have watered down the "true meaning" of the comics (whatever that might be). There are also those who try to claim that they are too "sophisticated" to enjoy a movie franchise that makes so much money. All the Marvel movies are well-crafted, and while I prefer some of them better than others, I honestly can't say that I have been greatly disappointed by any of them. I have to say that CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is in my personal top five of MCU entries. The one thing I would definitely like to see from Marvel in the future is a film featuring Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, with a major role in the script for Emily VanCamp's Sharon Carter.

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