Movie Review: “Captain America: Civil War”

cap2There’s a “for fans only” feel to the latest “Avengers” movie, “Captain America: Civil War.”

A talky, often ponderous exercise in comic book movie elephantiasis, it overdoses on characters, old and new, sometimes not even bothering to name them.

The script has a villain with a point of view and motivation, though the “Civil War” of the title seems more a plot necessity than anything anyone thrown into conflict on screen actually believes in. And the villain is nobody we can sink our teeth into.

The film lacks Joss Whedon’s light touch with that script, Jon Favreau’s whimsical way with the characters or Joe Johnson’s lump-in-the-throat pathos behind the camera.

And there’s something unsavory about the absence of fanboy punching bag Pepper Potts, more precisely the actress playing her (Gwyneth Paltrow). She’s kicked out of Iron Man’s life in a manner that screams “pandering” or at least “market research.”

“We’re on a break!”

That said, “Civil War” makes for a watchable parable about infighting, hubris and all-powerful “enhanced” personalities who never ever can admit they were wrong. It’s about the limits to absolute power and the consequences of “avenging.”

A parable of America in the drone era of the endless “War on Terror”? Yeah, maybe. A Marvel riff on “The Incredibles”? Most certainly.

The “Winter Soldier” (Sebastian Stan) is still out there, Hydra’s last assassin, and is supposedly behind a bombing at a U.N. meeting. Captain America (Chris Evans) alone is sure his former childhood pal has been set up.

Bureaucrats (William Hurt, Martin Freeman) are all about reining in The Avengers, whose brawls have been cool to watch, but with a body-count and collateral damage only now being brought into question. Iron Man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) are reluctantly willing to accept some limits and responsibility for their “very public mistakes.”

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Cap and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and the unidentified Scarlet Witch (tarted up Elizabeth Olsen) are too high-handed for that. Their sense of certitude has them hunting for answers.

And this African prince (the wonderful Chadwick Boseman of “42”) resolves to don his own “enhanced” superhero suit (Black Panther) to avenge his father’s murder in that U.N. bombing, with or without help.

Meanwhile, this odd Putin-esque presence (Daniel Bruhl of “Rush”) is piecing together old Hydra manuals, digging into the Soviet-linked work that led to The Winter Soldier, pulling the strings.

“I want to see an Empire fall.”

Flashbacks foreshadow where the past — a younger (digitally de-aged Downey) Stark recalls his last conversation with his parents (Hope Davis, John Slattery) — ties into the present. We bounce from Vienna to Berlin, Washington to Cleveland, with every city ID’d with huge, portentous titles.

“CLEVELAND.”

All of which brings the SuperFriends, um, Avengers, to a breaking point, a “Whose side are you on?” rupture.

And that’s where “Civil War” finally finds its sense of fun, dragging in much of the rest of the Marvel universe so that they can all fight it out. Iron Man summons up his Marvel favorites. Captain America has his own superheroes up his sleeve.

Co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo are no better at comedy than they were back with “You, Me and Dupree.” The film’s pacing is slow, thanks mostly to a script that has all these waypoints to hit to reach its title-decreed destination. It takes a good hour and a half to really get going, not that there aren’t a few (action sped-up) fights and chases before then.

They’ve made a film claiming life-or-death consequences for uses of force (Alfre Woodard is given half-a-scene to make that point), without the guts to deliver those consequences. They’ve introduced a villain with a real Magneto-sized beef with the world, but the script and Bruhl never let us see that.

They’ve split up the Avengers with no more thought than they gave the other bone they tossed the fanboys with the removal of the GOOP gal.

“We’re on a BREAK.”

As shown by “Batman v. Superman”and earlier “Avengers,” comic book movies have morphed into the ensemble era with a sense of their own gravitas, with screenwriters determined to freight them with analogies to the state of America and the world. It works here about as well as it did with the Bat and the Man of Steel. Only this series — A”Captain America” movie without the heart, or an “Avengers” movie without the comic sizzle? — strains to find its footing in either tone.

What might be lost without a Whedon, Favreau, Johnson or others of like mind, is a sense of fun, the real marvel of Marvel. And if you’re not having fun with guys and gals in tights and capes, what is the point?

 

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MPAA Rating: PG-13

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Elisabeth Olsen, Don Cheadle, Daniel Bruhl, William Hurt, Paul Bettany and Chadwick Boseman.
Credits: Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. A Marvel Studios release.

Running time: 2:26

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26 Responses to Movie Review: “Captain America: Civil War”

  1. chavocaco says:

    Gweneth Paltrow is too good for this junk.

    • Paltrow wishes she was a bigger part of this massive franchise.

      • Or, she had the guts and integrity that Downey seems to have abandoned, walking away from lucrative material not worthy of her. Just saying it looks as if fanboy feedback chased her out of the movies. These movies are cynical products, not art. Spider-Man is as replaceable as a set of tires, Don Cheadle over Terrence Howard, because any black actor will do. Etc.

  2. Derrek says:

    I’d give this review 1 Star.

  3. Orlando says:

    Sheesh, well even the best films get lame reviews like this here and there. It’s your opinion, just doesn’t seem like you care for CBM’s too much,,especially smart ones. Here you are complaining about a lack of jokes, buddy the ‘Civil War’ storyline is not about that. ‘Winter Soldier’ should have taught your blind butt as much.

  4. Mark Valenti says:

    Did one of the Russo’s have an affair with your wife or something? It’s almost a willing suspension of the ability to enjoy at play here.

    • Yeah they’re on a really bad streak aren’t they? Not making any money, critics hate all their work & nobody is excited to see what’s next……………LLLLLLLOOOOOOLLLLLLL!!!!

  5. Edd says:

    I really don’t get the point. To me, Marvel movies tend to be brainless fun. You seem to believe this movie is less fun trying to be something more. I don’t get why that’s bad. (by the way, the movie is not serious at all, is fun in the Marvel way. Everytime the emotion or serious matter is growing comes the one liners. At this point I just accept that they won’t sacrifice kids movie tickets so it is what it is, but don’t believe this reviewer, the movie IS BASICALLY FUN)

    • Dear Edd; they wanted their gravitas and jokes, too. AN HOUR AND A HALF BEFORE ANYTHING REMOTELY FUN happens. I timed it. Did you? They want grief and violence with consequences. But they don’t have the balls to deliver that.

      • Casey says:

        Are you serious? THE VERY FIRST SCENE IS FUN. What’s more fun than a well choreographed and exciting action scene to kick off the movie?

      • According to whom? The movie is a big hit at the box office, and has gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews from most critics and fans. You need to humble yourself. Your opinion is not a fact. Don’t bother replying because I won’t be reading.

      • “Nobody went broke ever underestimating the tastes of the American public.” It’s turning out that you can’t make a comic book movie that flops. Even if it blows. Congratulations on being the less than literate, short-attention-span lemmings. Hollywood is making bank off you.

  6. Wierzbowski says:

    “Co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo are no better at comedy than they were back with ‘You, Me and Dupree.'”

    I’m no Marvel fanboy, and you may have valid points in your review, but I have to call bullshit on the above statement. The Russo brothers directed the majority of Arrested Development and Community – arguably two of the funniest, wittiest, most iconic comedy television shows of all time. It’s simply moronic to say they aren’t good at directing comedy.

    • Strictly small-screeners, pal. I would disagree with pretty much everything you said, especially “wittiest.” “Arrested” had its moments, a cult thing thanks to savvy casting. “Community” was sitcom lame.

    • I liked the movie, but saying two cancelled sitcoms are iconic shows is nonsensical. Seinfeld is iconic. Frasier is iconic. Friends is iconic. Community is not. It was canned by NBC, then it was picked up by Yahoo before being cancelled again. The execs at Yahoo who championed it have now been fired because the show lost them over 20 million dollars.

  7. BobbyBoy says:

    Why don’t comments show up?

  8. Personally to me reading these 10 or so negative reviews about this movie and seeing how their points of why they think the movie is bad are directly combatted by the overall majority of critics, (most, if not all, of critics that are termed as “preferred” gave overwhelmingly positive reviews) and just can’t help but laugh! How can a majority be so enthusiastic about a film and then have 10 or so odd jobs give these reviews with each of their points directly muted by other critics?! Just interesting to say the least…

    • Go to Metacritic. Fairly broad spectrum of opinions, less overall enthusiasm is evident there. Far tougher criteria for “top critic,” too. By the way, “everybody” endorsed “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” too. “Everybody” needs to grow some standards.

  9. Michael Wong says:

    I think it is not only the problems of the story but the cinematography.”The Avengers” is more and more enjoybale than “Civil War”! I doubt Russo brothers’ ability to shot the film

  10. yiru43 says:

    Thank god for it lacking “Joss Whedon’s light touch”. He’s proved himself to be a one trick pony who can only write good dialogue but still fails to write a decent story.

  11. A find it very hard to believe that the reviewer rates this lower than Batman vs Superman. Even if the reviewer didn’t like either film, objectively this film is put together in a more coherent fashion where the plot can be followed and the characters motivations are clear (even if you don’t agree with them).

    If the audience needs to grow “Standards” so does the critic.

    And yes I went to Metacritic, 75% there compared with the Top Critic score of 7.5/10 on Rotten Tomatoes seems to sync pretty well, not sure why the reviewer is using Metacritic to illustrate less overall enthusiasm.

  12. Chris Manzoni says:

    Don’t have any problem with this review, cranky and dead inside as it is, it’s just opinion and that’s fine. I should point out though that Terrance Howard was replaced because he was a dick on the set, not because any black guy would do.

    • That’s the story, anyway. Never had a hard time believing it, but Hollywood’s rule, “You always work with talent” was tossed aside. Disposable actors. Kinda like James Bond.
      “Dead inside.” Yeah, bad comic book movies in a nutshell. Pity their clientele is so passionate about piffle.

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