Marvel Presents this Captain America Movie, (Interrupted by this Avengers Movie),
Interrupted by this Spider-Man Preview
Captain America: Civil War is interesting. It's very enjoyable—in fact I'd be willing to say that this completes the best superhero trilogy ever, surpassing Chris Nolan's "Dark Knight" Batman movies. But, man, some things really bug me.
Uppermost, is the feeling I wasn't watching a movie at all, with a lot of stirring-up going on with few consequences, some conceits that seem VERY convenient for story-telling purposes, and the feeling that this was more of a demonstration film than an actual building block in the continuing story of...anybody. It is one more Marvel Universe sequel that feels like it shouldn't have been made, as, ultimately, nothing of real import happens...except for deal-making in the background—the movie-makers needed product, they front-loaded it with a lot of stars and went to a lot of trouble, but nothing in the story gets resolved. Watching a Marvel movie is beginning to feel like watching "The X-files," with the empty promise of "Yeah, but wait'll NEXT time..."
Thanks, but where's my $10.00? ($14.00 for 3-D).
The movie does not follow the Marvel series of stories except in title and barest of essentials. After a short set-up marked "1991" (in huge numbers that crowd out anything else) set in a frozen waste that serves as Hydra Headquarters—it's either Hydra or 'SPECTRE' considering the octopus logo—in which "Bucky" Barnes' brainwashed Winter Soldier is sent on a fore-shadow mission, we find members of the Avengers (Captain America, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Falcon) in civvies, investigating an "Institute for Infectious Diseases" in LAGOS (in huge letters that crowd everything out), that soon comes under terrorist attack. They go into action—the first of the scheduled three action brawls that have become the norm in the Marvel Universe—and due to the actions of "Crossbones" (formerly a particularly loathsome member of SHIELD under Robert Redford's oversight), a titanic explosion occurs that causes much damage and kills quite a few civilians.
|"Never mind what I did, what about you guys?"|
The alternative to signing the United Nations' so-called Sokovia Accord is retirement (which would have been MY pick with a snide "YOU work out all the disasters from terrorists, your OWN organizations, and other dimensions, and, by the way, say "Hello" to Thanos for me, Jarhead! See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya!").
|At the table, Rhodey, Natasha, Rogers, Wilson, Vision, and Scarlet Witch|
with Stark hanging back (in case any readers are lost)
While Cap is attending the funeral of old girlfriend (from World War II) Peggy Carter, who has passed away, things come to a head in VIENNA (in huge letters that crowd out anything else) at the UN signing of the Sokovia Accord, when the building is attacked by a car-bomb, and evidence points to The Winter Soldier—Cap's brainwashed pal "Bucky" Barnes—as being the culprit. Why "Bucky," with his skills-set, would employ a car-bomb to do the job no one wonders, but Cap (being Cap) goes to BUCHAREST (you already know...) looking for his buddy, suspecting that he was set up. Of course, he finds him quickly, and the two hash out that the whole thing stinks, right before German counter-terrorist forces (in Bucharest?) bust in, Bucky escapes and Cap and Falcon give chase. Mixed in with the chase is another hero "The Black Panther," who is actually T'Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman, and he's terrific, as he was in 42 and Get On Up), the son of the slain King of Wakanda, killed in the VIENNA explosion.
|Falcon (Sam Wilson), Cap (Steve Rogers) and the Black Panther (King T'Challa)|
under arrest—are you keeping up?
|This trick never works...|
Back in the U.S., the Scarlet Witch escapes from her attentive little android Vision with the intervention of Hawkeye (recruited from Cap), but it's the Witch that manages to overcome Vision by dropping him through several miles of the Earth's crust. She is clearly the most powerful member of The Avengers, so what is she doing as an after-thought in a Captain America movie. Along with the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye brings along Ant-Man, reformed thief Scott Lang, at the suggestion of Wilson. Lang is eager to please and clearly has a case of Captain America hero-worship.
More incongruously, Tony shows up at the QUEENS home of Aunt May Parker (who, all of a sudden, is Marisa Tomei, who in no way shape or form, resembles the frail elderly Aunt May of the comics.) Tony's there to talk to May's nephew Peter (now Tom Holland) about a grant from his Stark Foundation (but, in reality, he has somehow heard about the "Spider-kid" flitting around New York and being Stark, tracks him down and verbally jousts with him, and offers him an "upgrade" (which considering he's Spider-man 3.0 makes things very complicated. Now, Tony can track down this "kid" but he can't track down Team Cap driving around in old Volkswagens in BERLIN. Really? With their emission problems?
Okay, enough grousing. Let's get to the good part. This sequence makes no sense unless you're a "fanboy" who "geeks" out on stuff like this. Falcon, Ant-man, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Winter Soldier and Captain America are walking across a tarmac—way out in the open—to get to an Avengers jet to fly to SIBERIA to take care of Zemo and those five winter-soldiers. No flight plan. No official documents. All done undercover.
Except they're walking out in broad daylight in the middle of a very open space—in full costume—and then, they are confronted by Iron Man, Iron Warrior, Black Widow, Vision, and the Black Panther—in full costume. This is going into Susan Sontag "camp" territory, along the lines of Adam West's Batman walking into a discotheque and telling the waiter that he doesn't want to attract attention, while he's wearing a mask and a blue satin cape. 1) Tony chooses NOW to confront them, instead of before if he's so good at tracking people, and maybe when they might be caught unawares? 2) He's doing this without the German anti-terrorist folks who stopped them before anywhere in the vicinity—even as a back-up? 3) He holds his ace card—Spider-man—in hiding until he can bring him in with a dramatic entrance (as "cool" as it is, it's also stupid, strategically).
Okay. Kvetching over. There then occurs, for about fifteen minutes the best part of the movie, where the two teams run at each other ("They're not stopping!" bleats Spider-man) and start fighting, and for a comics geek, this is really fun, especially with the addition of the hyper-active Spider-man, and the nearly ecstatic Ant-Man ("Everybody's got a gimmick now," grumbles Hawkeye), who both employ some surprises about dealing with the opposite combatants in moves that have not been seen before, both sides trying to stop the other, but not necessarily kill them—sort of like a WWE exhibition.
|"You've got a metal arm? That's AWESOME, dude!"|
(He actually says that)
For awhile, it looks like Cap's group is going to get to go to SIBERIA, with Ant-Man doing enough damage inwardly and outwardly to folks' equipment—to the point where they give Iron Man one of the best lines of the movie: "Okay, anybody on our side hiding any shocking and amazing possibilities, now's the time!"
Concern about collateral damage—which is what they're fighting about—goes out the window, as the conflict gets out of hand at the airport. But Cap and Bucky manage to get to a plane to take off, with a malfunctioning Iron Man and War Machine in hot pursuit, the Falcon running interference, and The Vision managing to fire off some blast that Falcon evades and ends up hitting War Machine, sending him plummeting to the Earth, leaving Stark pissed and determined for revenge.
|"By Hrothmar's hammer, you shall be revenged..."|
And yet...things come to light, too conveniently, and with the same lack of story-logic that plagues The Dark Knight and Skyfall—the villain goes to elaborate plans to create situations that he has NO idea will actually occur in the manner that he supposedly supposes. The rest of the film follows Cap and Bucky's trip to Siberia, and Iron Man's pursuit of the truth of it all, which, if he just didn't pursue it, would completely screw up the villain's plans. And it contains, a mood-change moment that is SO convenient that it desrves to be called (after the opposite, defusing attitude changer in Batman v Superman) a "Martha Moment."
And this is where Captain America: Civil War ultimately fails. There is some sharp writing going on in the microcosm, the film is full of great lines without resorting to puns and cultural humor (well, not too much, anyway). But, the picture—what the story is about, the grand arc of the movie—has no real point. One gets the sense, after all, that, for all the build-up and anticipation, the film's a bit of a let-down. It's hollow in the center like an empty Iron Man suit. Ultimately, it's about nothing, and the film ends without much changed...only intensified. Oh, Spider-man gets introduced and that's fun. But, the Avengers? Same as they ever was. The conflicts stay the same, and there's not much there to hold them together. Until another crisis comes along, which will occur, Sokovia Accords or no Sokovia Accords. Nothing, ultimately, is at stake.
|"Civil War's" "Martha" Moment|
|And one more fight that didn't need to happen, except the script formula demanded it|
Revenge is at the core. But CA:CW differentiates between the heroes and the villains with the issue of revenge. The bad guys want revenge. The good guys should not. And yet Stark is susceptible to it—he's merely a millionaire with weapons at his disposal, while most of the others (save Scarlet Witch, Spidey, Vision) are soldiers, they have seen the consequences of war. They know things happen. They have suffered losses (Cap's main motivation lies in the loss of Bucky Barnes during WWII). Everybody may be pointing fingers, but the blame goes to those with the wrong motivations, despite the amount of time spent trying to pin accountability. In their own fumbling way, the writers may have hit on something—the emphasis should maybe be placed more on heroics than action, on sacrifice and restraint, rather than gymnastics. Personal integrity rather than firepower.
It may make the movies less adrenaline-pumping, but it might make them less dreary, less wearying and more inspiring.
One should hope.
|Missing in action—the two punching bags.|
* Those words are: Longing. Rusted. Seventeen. Daybreak. Furnace. Nine. Benign. Homecoming. One. Freight Car. Use then at your own risk and not around anyone with a metal arm.