Captain America Civil War Review
(minor spoilers, but mostly generalities. Fair to call it Spoiler free, but you really big fans that are gonna see it anyway might want to skip the review.)
Watching Captain America: Civil War is like listening to your favorite band’s greatest hits album. That album might have all the best songs, set against all the other great songs that might show a band’s stylistic diversity over the course of a long career, so the listener is definitely going to love pretty much every track (as fashioned by record company executives) but the listener might be wishing they heard a particular track in the context of the original album. Sometimes listening to the “greatest” hits all at once can be a bit a jarring once you’ve gotten used to a certain tune from a certain time period in the band’s legacy of music. Similarly, Civil War would very much like to continue the “spy film political thriller” motif that made Winter Soldier a stand-out film, while occasionally shifting gears to be a light-hearted superhero romp, to a quirky off-beat comedy, and even at time, one of those animated comic book adventures that you’d see as a Saturday morning cartoon in the 80’s and 90’s In many ways, each of these different tones was handled reasonably well as it was happening, but each time the tone shifts, the audience has to take a moment to adjust. In that moment, the artifice is broken a bit, and they are reminded that this is only a movie.
And, when it comes down to it, it’s not a terribly original one, despite the fact that Marvel is the king of the live action comic book film genre right now. All these films are using the same beats, the same plot twists, and, like bread, it’s no longer fresh after a while. Whenever there’s an important conference of some kind, you can’t really be surprised that some kind of terrorist explosion is going to cut it short, and that explosion, more than the conference itself, will be what sets the rest of the story in motion. Add to the stack of already played-out plot points are guys that are mind-controlled and did terrible things they really can’t take responsibility for, but they’ll be blamed for it anyway. Or the idea that sometimes the confusion is caused by someone looking exactly like someone else, and the person is blamed for it just the same (and Civil war employs both these really-old-hat tricks with the exact same character that I found myself just wanting to shake these moments off and get to Spider-Man already). What’s more, Civil War involves heroes cracking wise after displaying a superhero feat that only they can pull off, but this time all the heroes are fighting each other so that Marvel can have yet another film where the actual villain was another altogether unmemorable character (Marvel Studios hasn’t really been had all that many interesting villains, have they?) The twist is that this time, as you all know, the heroes are fighting each other.
None of these observations will matter. This movie, as ungainly as it may be, is still going to give the fans exactly what they want. Tony Stark and Captain America are going trade blows because of actual philosophical differences they have with regard to whether or not the Avengers should be regulated by the United Nations – that is, until the end of the film when the audience realizes that one of these characters would be manipulated by mistaken identities, low-res video footage, and revenge. Get this: by the time starts winding down, you realize just how almost irrelevant and unnecessary to the actual story being told that big “airport setpiece” the trailers have been pushing – that big fight scene where all the various heroes actually line up with all their special suits to fight each other in a big showcase that lasts maybe a half hour – or maybe longer – yet has so little to do with the rest of the movie. But it’s really that airport sequence the majority of the Civil War’s audience came for, and if the whole move was that sequence, most people wouldn’t be too disappointed. But, set against the bare-knuckles, hard-hitting thriller tone that the rest of the movie strives for, the “airport sequence” seems a bit too gimmicky rather than essential.
There are a lot of good things in this film. Film-goers are no doubt all sick of spider-Man origin stories by now, so Civil War touches on it as quickly as possible, while offering a version of the character that may be the best we’ve ever had. Oh, and Aunt May was.. .pretty awesome here in a way she never was before in the other film versions of Spider-Man. Despite being Captain America’s film, it kind of shifts near the last act and it feels like both the perspective, and the weight of the film, is Tony’s, and Robert Downey Jr. puts in a good a performance as good as anyone could hope for.
It’s a bit all over the map, and there’s people flying around, other people able to shrug off bullets, while running, flying and levitating makes it easy to wonder why the filmmakers hired so many nameless extras should come to the set carrying machine guns.
You know you are gonna see this, yet when it’s over, you are either going to be invested in every little nugget the film throws at you, or your going to just wonder what all the hub-bub is really about.
My Rating: 2.8/ 5