Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

I thought I was going to post a few thoughts on Facebook about this movie but ran out of time Sunday. So, assuming you haven't already seen it, here a few reasons to see Captain America.

Three main characters of Civil War: Bucky Barnes A.K.A The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Tony Stark A.K.A Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and Steve Rogers A.K.A Captain America (Chris Evans)

The fight sequences are very, very well done. The entire opening sequence works as a kind of James Bond before the credits set-piece but is high-energy, tightly paced, and has stakes that far exceed anything I've seen in recent Bond movies. Full disclosure - I was convinced to see this movie in "4-D," which I'm not sure if I'll repeat. I enjoyed it. 4-D certainly didn't take away any of my enjoyment, but it's a lot of money to spend for a movie like this that would have been just as exciting on a non-quaking chair.

Last year the idea of "Bayhem" or "Chaos Cinema" got a lot of attention. Fury Road's acclaim, in part, came from  the classically blocked and choreographed fight sequences that flowed from cause to logical effect. Call Civil War a kind of middle-ground between Fury Road and Transformers. The opening had lots of quick cuts and whip pans to keep the action moving but sacrificed comprehensibility in favor of rhythm. I suspect this is the kind of movie that might squeak past purists, though. The airport fight - which I'll discuss in a second - was even more impressionistic. Character swooped, jumped, charged, and straight up hovered where ever needed from moment to moment. It was cool but I defy you plot out exactly how Black Panther got from one place to another.

But you know what? Who cares? This movie had heart and laughs. Early on in the opening sequence, Black Widow zapped Crossbones with a taser dart to no effect. "I don't work that way no more," the villain growled. It's a throw-away line but the delivery hinted at the playfulness that threaded throughout the movie. In a story about revenge and the messy consequences to best intentions, it was nice to see Marvel heroes and villains embracing the pulp fun of their source material.

The big set-piece for the movie was the airport confrontation. The Civil War of the title comes from the clash of two sides of heroes, and featured extended cameos from Ant-man, Black Panther, Black Widow, War Machine, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Spiderman. In contrast to last year's second Avenger movie, none of these characters seem wasted or pointless. Each character gets his or her three to five minute character development point, their moment to shine.

The airport fight itself is awesome because other than the two big set pieces from the Avengers movies, this is the first time we get to see a full-out superhero versus superhero battle. And man, is it glorious. Straying from classical action techniques probably helps here because it allows the audience to focus on the characters, not so much the this-then-that. I guess another way of saying this is, each superhero causes the movie to behave in a certain way; the camera loping after the athletic Black Panther, swooping past along with Spiderman and pulling way back for Ant-man's big surprise.

I loved the way this movie introduced two new heroes - Spiderman and Black Panther. Tom Holland is absolutely my favorite version of Spiderman I've seen so far - garrulous, inventive, and generous, I cannot wait for "Homecoming," the hero's first movie in MCU.

Black Panther is just as impressive. Black Panther is an interesting character. He's not quite the standard Marvel superhero but he's also not really an anti-hero like Wolverine or The Punisher. The relationship Black Panther has with his country, history, and abilities brings a complexity I'm not sure many other Marvel films have explored before. The idea of a hero who is also a king and a defender of an ancient tradition promises some unique conflicts that I hope his debut movie embrace. From what I saw, Chadwick Boseman is going to an amazing job in the role.

Finally, I appreciated that for all of the action, fighting, and bombastic set-pieces. The final confrontation between Captain America is constrained and kept human-sized. In the last Cap movie, the climax involved heli-carriers falling out of the sky onto downtown D.C. Here, we get a small room, and two men backed into a fight neither can afford to lose.


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