Review: Captain America: Civil War

After an op that goes wrong and a bunch of innocent African people perish, representatives of that African nation head to the UN to express their displeasure with The Avengers. The US Secretary of State (William Hurt) informs The Avengers that nations are pushing for a bill that will require The Avengers to go through the UN before carrying out an actions. This splits The Avengers into two camps, with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) feeling that it’s about time someone pulled them into line and this is better than something even more restrictive. Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America (Chris Evans) is however, vehemently opposed to signing the accord because he doesn’t want to wait for approval before going into battle, in the event that it might be too late. Also, he feels it is like The Avengers signing their lives away to something that they don’t have any control over. Rogers’ buddy Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) agrees, and they go off the grid, risking arrest. Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) re-emerges, as a new villainous threat (Daniel Bruhl) is about to re-program Bucky to cause massive trouble. Rogers and Wilson go to stop this new threat with a few allies, whilst Stark forms his own group who have agreed to the new bill, believing that Rogers and co are now dangerous. On Team America (Yep, I went there) there is Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and new recruit Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). Sticking with Team Stark are War Machine (Don Cheadle), a reluctant Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Vision (Paul Bettany), along with two newcomers. Firstly there’s Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) the angry son of the Kofi Annan-esque African dignitary who is one of the casualties of an attack on the UN. Then there’s the youthful Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who is more like Spider-Boy here. Martin Freeman and Alfre Woodard play a crucial employee of Hurt’s Secretary of State, and a woman crucial to Stark’s thinking about the bill, respectively. Emily VanCamp and a scarred Frank Grillo reprise their roles from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” as former SHIELD agent and Rogers ally Sharon Carter, and the antagonistic Crossbones. Marisa Tomei plays Parker’s flirty Aunt May, who kinda sorta digs Stark.

I’ve never been a comic book reader nor am I a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, either. However, in recent times with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Thor: The Dark World”, “Ant-Man”, and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”, I thought I might’ve been starting to get into the groove somewhat. Nope, this 2016 film from the directing duo of the Russo Brothers (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley (who wrote the first two “Captain America” flicks), proves yet again to be focusing on the comic book nerds and fans of the “Avengers” film franchise at the expense of inviting everyone else to the party. Basically, it’s “The Avengers 2.5”, not really a “Captain America” film, and yet again we’re still introducing new characters into a franchise that already contains far too many to properly handle. Almost all of the “Avengers” crew are here, and we get some new recruits as well, plus several of the ancillary characters from the franchise too, and a few functionary parts on top of that. I love Alfre Woodard and Marisa Tomei, and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is super cool-looking too, but it’s beyond too much for one film to still be introducing new characters at this stage. I’m sorry Martin Freeman, but can you please fuck off from this franchise? You’re not necessary. The continued focus on fitting every film and character into the wider universe/franchise for me results in a film that is too busy being part of a whole instead of making the part work as a whole in itself first. It’s not nearly as bad as the “Iron Man” films, which I had other issues with (to me they were anti-comic book films), but it’s just too unwieldy and left me a little cold. I mean, the entire franchise itself is too unwieldy if you ask me, to the point where we’re so many years and films in that I can’t even remember what Sebastian Stan’s character was like in the first “Captain America” and I don’t much care, either. Depending on how big a fan you are, your mileage may be wildly different to mine but for me they’re gonna have to start killing some fuckers off, numerous fuckers. Put some red shirts on a few of these guys, maybe (Yes, I know more people in Yellow shirts have died in the “Star Trek” universe, but no one else seems to know that).

The opening action is occasionally fun, even if I maintain that a superhero whose primary weapon is a defensive one repurposed as an attacking one is pretty stupid. The shaky-cam by serial offender Trent Opaloch (“District 9”, “Elysium”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) meanwhile, is clearly only there to try to obscure Scarlett Johansson’s stunt double. Yeah, I wasn’t buying that. Take a look at the shots where you can’t see her face, it’s so fake that it’s almost comical. And then you have Johansson’s dopey action-posing performance which is its own hilarity as usual. She can’t do the action, she’s not a good enough actress to hold up that end either, so why cast her at all? Sadly, Hollywood keeps giving her these action roles, seemingly unaware that she’s basically acting like Sigourney Weaver in “Galaxy Quest”. I did rather enjoy the 99.99% convincing CGI cameo by 1985 Robert Downey Jr., though. CGI is getting close folks, real damn close. William Hurt turns up to basically play Alec Baldwin in “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” (though the character is actually in one of the “Hulk” films), and it quickly sets in that this is indeed “The Avengers: Starring Captain America”. Are the politics here interesting? Yes, and unlike the “Iron Man” franchise things don’t get too real-world and depressing. Do I like politics with my superheroes? Not especially, though I suppose “Superman” was always America’s defender.

Getting back to my initial point, for me the problem was simply that I didn’t want to see “The Avengers 2.5” or an extended trailer for the next “Avengers” film. Let me enjoy this film first. Is that so difficult? Apparently so. Daniel Bruhl is as usual quite good here, but this is a clusterfuck that short-changes his villain somewhat. Even though the ‘civil war’ aspect is only small from an action point of view here, it’s very much thematically what the whole thing is about, and it leaves the real villain, Bruhl, somewhat hanging for too long. Meanwhile, Chadwick Boseman isn’t nearly as awesome as his Black Panther costume. I also think he was mistaking what should’ve been an African accent for something more Russian. That was weird, though I reckon a “Black Panther” movie would still be freaking awesome...if they played down the “Avengers” roll-call bullshit a bit. As for Paul Rudd, I love that Ant-Man is an “Avenger” (him growing to giant-size was a bit silly though), but I don’t want him in a film that is called freaking “Captain America”, OK?  Even if I wasn’t already complaining about introducing new characters into this franchise, I’d still say it was a bit weird to have Tom Holland’s youthful new Spider-Man turning up in this before he even gets his own movie. I think it’s a mistake and he seems too effective for a guy who is just starting out, and is younger and far less buff than his opponents. I’m not sure he really fits in here all that well, but Holland seems to at least have more personality than Andrew Garfield, which might bode well for his first stand-alone film. Personally I’m more excited about the gorgeous Marisa Tomei (re-united with Downey, having appeared together twice before in “Chaplin” and “Only You”) being the best Aunt May ever, with all due respect to the wonderful Sally Field. I also hope that the lovely and talented Elizabeth Olsen eventually finds that one role which makes her the big star she deserves to be. She can act, this franchise doesn’t require her to show it much.

On the plus side, Chris Evans has settled nicely into the role of Capn’ OK-USA, and the character is pretty interesting in this one, especially his testy relationship with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. In fact, this is the most interesting Downey and Stark have ever been, too. He’s not as annoyingly glib and ‘too cool for this franchise’ here. He almost takes this movie seriously, and his character seems to finally be maturing, whether you agree with his stance or not. About fuckin’ time, Robert/Tony.

A giant mess that really does exemplify the problem with the MCU for those outside of the already converted. I’m sick of the elitist attitude that these films seem to exhibit. I liked some of this, but for the most part I felt like I was swimming in a whirlpool, trying to find my bearings as more and more characters were being introduced into a franchise that already has too many characters, in a film that should’ve focussed more on being a part of the “Captain America” series, not tying itself so much to the “Avengers” series. By making films squarely aimed at the comic book fans, who may or may not be a ginormous audience, I still feel that these films really do limit their audience as they widen the scope. It’s not bad, but I felt kinda pissed off by the end of it. Comic book movies shouldn’t be this much hard work, people. This is pretty much a long trailer for “Avengers: Infinity War”.

Rating: C+


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