Friday, June 24, 2016

Film Friday: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

With the Brexit, I thought it would be a good time to review Captain America: Civil War. Oy vey. Where to being? How’s this: I really disliked this film.

Let me start by saying that I’m not the biggest fan of most comic book movies. Many lack depth and interesting characters, and they try to hide this by substituting tired recycled plot points, pathetic teenage-level family “issues,” and a CGI frosting that lasts so long you want to claw your way out of the theater exit to escape.

That said, there have been definite instances where these films have been done right. These are films that involve clever new plot twists, genuine characters with real relationships, and typically a strong sense of humor. The Avengers, like the Iron Man movies and the X-Men films, have generally fallen into this category. DC films, the putrid Fantastic Four and the Hulk movies have generally fallen into the other category.
During Captain America: Civil War, there is a fight at an airport in Germany where the two competing camps of Avengers do battle. Iron Man and his team have come to capture Captain America and his team. The fight is fun to watch. It’s surprising. It’s really funny at times. It highlights the genuine relationships between the characters. And it lets the actors flex the character muscles we have come to love.

The rest of the movie is a dark, depressing pile of sh*t that made me want to walk out.


Turn down the lights and suck the color rods from your eyes, because this is one of those films done in a brown and dark blue pallet. I thought we were rid of that crap, but apparently not. The film begins with a fight you can’t watch because it’s all shaky cam. Apparently, some guy decides to blow up some disease center in Africa (as if) so he can steal a killer virus. But his real plan seems to be to get captured and blow up Captain America. At the time, this makes sense, but it won’t if you think about it later.

Indeed, let me give you the plot in a nutshell. Some guy’s father was killed off-screen in Age of Ultron. Guy decides to blow things up, in the hopes that the Avengers will kill innocent people in the process, which will lead the UN to decide to force the Avengers to accept evil bosses, which will result in the Avengers splitting into two camps who will then fight to the death after Captain America decides to save his frenemie Bucky the Winter Soldier while Iron Man decides to try to kill him. Why go this Rube Goldberg way? Because no one but an Avenger can kill an Avenger.
See any holes in that one? How about every single thought.

Anyways, the guy blows stuff up, the UN is given power over the Avengers, there’s some fake talk about what is right, and Captain America and Iron Man split. The rest of the movie is a chase scene as Iron Man hunts down Captain America’s team and makes them all look sad in prison while we are constantly lectured about all the people who died that the Avengers didn’t care about.
The whole thing ends up in a CGI ice cave as we learn that the whole plot was a red herring just to make the Avengers fight. Yeah, ok.

Why I Really Disliked This Film

This movie is visually and spiritually dark. It is a nine hour two-hour-thirty-minute finger wag in your face stupidly accusing the heroes you have come to like of being cold-blooded murders. Not one single character throughout this film ever points out the millions of lives they’ve saved. Not one character outside the Avengers ever supports them at any point in this film. Not one single character ever gives a speech telling you why it is important that the Avengers be allowed to save people’s lives without first having to clear every sh*t they take with the UN. Even after the UN bureaucrats start imposing Nazi-like surveillance, sanctioning torture, and locking up the Avengers for disobedience no one suggests that they are wrong.
Only Captain America stands against them (with a couple blind followers) and all he does is whine about how bad he feels for everyone he’s killed.
Other than that happiness, the film is a depressing CGI assault of buildings being blown up by terrorist bombs or Avenger mistakes. The UN guys are monsters. The themes we run into over and over are “you killed my family and you don’t even know who they were!”... saw that a dozen times. Or you have Avengers admitting that they can’t control themselves. Or you have Bucky and Captain America talking about how bad things have gotten. Or you have Iron Man dealing with the death of his mother and father, which it turns out is a secret Captain America kept from Stark. You have Iron Man losing Pepper. Cap dealing with the death of Peggy Carter. The Black Panther dealing with the death of his father. How about Don Cheadle being paralyzed? Not a moment of this film, other than the airport, is light-hearted. It is an unrelenting downer trafficking in death, destruction and regret.
What’s worse, it’s all stolen! The film style was taken from Jason Bourne, as were the locations... all of them. The public turning against superheroes for the deaths they cause without thinking about the lives they save is so worn it should be considered abuse to use it. So is the weapon’s lab in the ice cave. Seen the prison too. Seen the vet recovering from being crippled. Seen the dead mentor, the “you killed my parents!,” the “you didn’t even care” and all the other “conflicts” too. Nothing in this film felt original. Nor did it feel organic.

A lot of people compared this film to Batman v. Superman, but that’s actually not the right comparison. This film is not Batman v. Superman... it’s Watchmen. This is a film about a group of corrupted superheroes who do the corrupt government’s bidding and find themselves banned because they scare people and now live in a dark cynical world.

Between this, the angry Fantastic Four and the trend toward “adult” (read: 30 year old man-child) storylies, this all bodes poorly for Marvel, which has seems intent on ending a golden age premised on films built around the interactions of fun, likeable characters as they fight villains who are destined to lose.


PikeBishop said...

Doesn't matter "14 year olds and adult morons" (to paraphrase you) will still line up in droves to see the films, they will clear 200 million internationally and more will be made. Sigh

ArgentGale said...

Good to know... I was suspicious of the film since I thought it might be referring to a heavily politicized comic series where Captain America fights an oppressive right-wing government. This doesn't exactly sound any better, though. I wasn't planning on seeing it anyway, but thanks for reminding me that my entertainment money was better spent on the Steam Summer Sale than this!

- Daniel

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, They will. I suspect it will benefit too from not being Batman v. Superman.

AndrewPrice said...

Daniel, I've enjoyed the prior Avengers movies and I had hopes for something good, but the film was just wrong.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. In terms of politics, I didn't see an particular politics in this one. It was more of an anti-human, anti-hero theme.

ArgentGale said...

I gathered that. I didn't think they would use that particular storyline for a movie because it would be guaranteed bomb, but I could have sworn that the storyline in question had a similar name. Either way it sounds depressing and I think we can all agree that's the last thing I need more of right now!

- Daniel

ScottDS said...

[standard reply] I'll see it eventually. :-)

Ya know, aside from the Dark Knight movies, the only superhero movie I've seen in theaters in the last decade is the first Avengers. They're all fun but I don't consider them high priorities at all - at this point, you can set your watch to the set pieces and character beats.

What's your take on superhero fatigue? Marvel seems to have no problem making money year after year while DC seems to be learning some lessons from Batman v. Superman. Then you have outliers like Deadpool that seem to do everything right and debacles like Fantastic Four where the behind the scenes drama is better than the movie!

But how long can this last? Some people mention the longevity of westerns and to them I reply, "But you didn't need to see one to get a reference in the other! They didn't sacrifice narrative clarity in True Grit to shoehorn in a character from The Searchers!"

AndrewPrice said...

Daniel, Depressing is the last thing any of us need. Now, don't get me wrong. There are some great depressing films and a film like this necessary must depress you to become effective. But this one basically does its best to depress you and then switches to CGI to finish the film. That's not good.

PikeBishop said...

I don't get this Batman v. Superman made over 800 million dollars and they are spinning it as some kind of failure? I don't get that. They will make more and 14 year olds and adult morons will lap it up. Sorry for the repeat.....sorry for the repeat

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think superhero films are riding a lucky wave right now because of the lack of competition. For one thing, there are no action films at the moment. At the same time, the comedies are crap. They are all about obnoxious thirty-year olds who spill bodily fluids on each other, and that's about it.

Enter the superhero film. The good ones squeeze right into this gap as action films with a good sense of humor with characters you like. In fact, the humor in these films is typically much stronger than anything in an Apatow film because it's organic to the story and the characters and you like the characters, so the jokes feel more personal. By comparison, Apatow's characters are despicable and they are trying far too hard to get to the punchline, i.e. feels like a setup.

I think the golden age of superhero films will fade once worthwhile actions films and/or comedies start being made again. In the meantime though, the films that fit into these categories of action/comedies will continue to do well, and the films who don't do this well (like DC films) will continue to fail.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, It was a failure. It was a failure in two ways. First, they expected it to far exceed a billion dollars worldwide and it didn't come close to that.

Secondly, it had a huge burst because people wanted to see the idea of Batman fighting Superman. But it had an historic collapse after the initial weekend because people hated the movie.

So while it made money, it didn't make what it was supposed to. It didn't have longevity. It has no set DC up for a guaranteed franchise. And it left the spinoffs on shake grounds.

Basically, DC shot their ultimate bullet to try to create a franchise with dozens of spinoffs and it looks like they missed the target almost entirely. In fact, Captain America, Jungle Book and Zootopia all beat it, and Deadpool beat it domestically, but lost by a hair internationally. That's not supposed to happen with the Holy Grail of comic book films.

PikeBishop said...

Franchise? Personally I have always found the idea of Batman v. Superman to be ridiculous. You have to handicap the "God on Earth" so much, he's not the same character. Frank Miller did it in the 80s, but we can't have nuclear weapons going off all the time.

AndrewPrice said...

Yeah, DC is jealous of the franchise success that Marvel has -- Avengers, X-Men, bazillion spin offs. DC has Batman and Superman, but Superman is shaky and Batman is finished again and everything else has failed. So they want to create this Justice League stuff and spin offs for Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern and a few others. They saw this film as the launching point for that. They're still doing it, but B v. S's historic collapse has shaken all of that.

I never wanted to see it either. I struggle even to see Superman and Batman being in the same universe, much less being enemies. And logically, there is no way Batman can last even a few seconds in tht fight unless he strikes first and captures Superman with kryptonite before Superman realizes what is happening.

Kit said...

Reads the first paragraph. My response: LINK

Allena-C said...

Excellent review Andrew!
I had many of the same reactions you had to the movie. Firstly, even the premis
the movie follows is stupid.

Bad guys kill civilians and the Avengers can't possibly stop them all without civilians getting hurt or killed, so they blame the Avengers?

That's the exact argument extremist lefties make about our troops killing terrorists. Any civilian casualties at all and they blame America and our troops for it, Not the bad guys who would be murdering civilians REGARDLESS whether anyone tries to stop them.

Oh, and to add to this idiocy, these same idiotstell us that if heroes didn't try to stop the bad evil terrorists/aliens/Loki/robots/etc., there wouldn't be an increase of bad/evil people, because somehow, trying to stop evil makes it grow or something.

Yeah, sounds like an entertaining and interesting idea. Not. Good grief.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Opinions may vary. :)

AndrewPrice said...

Allena, That's the liberal mindset: bad guys are only bad because they are forced to be bad because they fear the good guys. You'll see that same argument from the anti-nuclear crowd: if the US would only disarm, then the Soviets wouldn't be so scared that they need to be aggressive.

At one point, Vision even makes this point when he suggests that all the things the Avengers had to fight were the result of the Avengers forming.

Kit said...

I'm sorry, I enjoyed this movie.

AndrewPrice said...

You're allowed, Kit. It's no big deal. Opinions can vary.

TJ said...

I enjoyed it as well. I especially liked the airport scene with Spider-Man.

AndrewPrice said...

TJ, I did like the airport scene a lot. I especially like Antman's surprise and Spider Man's being star struck.

tryanmax said...

All the plot holes and convolutions, I write off as soap opera. Given the history of comic books, I think that's the only sensible approach. That said, the huge, glaring hole is that Zemo's goal is to create a rift in the Avengers where there is already one forming. He could have sat back and let the Sokovia Accords to the work. Or better yet, he could've positioned himself as a victim-spokesperson for the Accords.

The tone of the film is what it is. "Superhero" is a genre in the same way "Western" is, it's more like a setting. In a world...where super humans guard the planet...

I have a hard time telling what the writers of this film meant to convey. On one hand, you've got this whole oversight agenda being driven hard with no one but Cap so much as speaking against it. On the other hand, reality intervenes and it all blows up rather spectacularly. In the end, Cap evades jurisdiction and Stark takes to being managed as expected, which is not at all. Oversight is an immediate failure.

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