Bored Rich Guys in Tights: Captain America: Civil War

captain america - civil war

Captain America: Civil War
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Opens May 6

So our manly men in tights have consciences after all. It’s been mere months since Batman v’d Superman because of the collateral damage the Son of Krypton incurred during his city-razing smackdown with General Zod. Marvel Studios now offers a comparatively sunnier companion piece to that Goth(am)ic sturm und drang with the featherweight Captain America: Civil War, in which Chris Evans’s star-shield-wielding First Avenger finds himself at odds with several superheroic colleagues over their own destructive, if well-intentioned escapades.

The tipping point is dual: Reality-altering mystic Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) accidentally blows up several innocents during a clandestine mission abroad to capture Brock Rumlow aka Crossbones (Frank Grillo). And cocky billionaire Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is confronted by the accusatory mother (Alfre Woodard, lending such raw gravitas to this corporatized silliness that it effectively unbalances all that follows) of a young man killed during the Avengers’s battle with James Spader’s Ultron in Sokovia. (You all saw that movie, right?)

And so an ideological split forms, with Cap on one side, insistent that the Avengers require absolute autonomy, and Stark on the other, resolute in his belief that an accord putting the group under the supervision of the United Nations (and William Hurt’s Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross, in particular) is the best course of action. A mysterious figure known only as Zemo (Daniel Brühl) further deepens the divide, as does the reemergence of Cap’s friend-turned-supersoldier enemy Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

But wait, there’s more! So much more, and so much of it pointless in that very Marvel Studios way. Every single serious moment is undercut by a cheap-seats witticism (or a Stan Lee cameo, here disastrously interrupting a tender moment between Stark and Don Cheadle’s Lieutenant James Rhodes aka War Machine). And every plot point lands with a pro forma thud, paving the way to that Infinity War that’s been teased since the beginning of the decade. (When all is said and done, this series will surely earn the Guinness record for longest throat-clear in cinema history.)

The company men direction by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo certainly doesn’t help matters. Dialogue scenes are pedestrian master shot/close-up assemblages; action sequences are handheld, CGI-augmented mishmashes. Not even the lengthy airport tarmac scuffle between various and sundry Avengers—and featuring the first Marvel series appearance of a very popular web-slinger—carries an iconic kick. It’s just stultifyingly dutiful.

What pleasures there are in these movies tend to come, fleetingly, from the actors. Old hats like Downey Jr. and Evans just seem tired of it all by this point. An early scene in which present-day RDJ shares the stage with a digitally de-aged version of himself is instructive because it’s the simulacrum that seems more live-wire. (It might make you think fondly back to that time Ultron pimped out Iron Man in Less Than Zero.)

But the new faces at least bring a little leavening energy. Chadwick Boseman is a commanding and charismatic T’Challa aka Black Panther; here’s hoping he and Ryan Coogler can get a few more sparks of personality into their upcoming standalone Panther movie. And 19-year-old Tom Holland is a superbly callow Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, though the scene in which Stark recruits him, while lusting after a MILF-ier than usual Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), feels completely out of place, like it was ported in from Kevin Feige’s boardroom while the ink was still drying on the Sony-Marvel character rights contracts. What a tangled brand we weave.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I guess everyone is entitled to thier opinion it just seems the negative reviews go contrary to the overwhelming positive ones. You say the actors appear tired of their roles when most say they are energized and show more depth than ever. You call the airport fight dutiful when most others say it’s the best Marvel action scene yet. You seem more bent on criticizing the Marvel brand than the actual movie. Yes Marvel does have an overall umbrella that the movies must fit under but it’s a pretty big umbrella with room for variety . It may not be your cup of tea, the lighter touch but there is in many of the movies a deeper plot point going on . I understand some won’t buy into the Marvel brand of a shared movie universe of all movies being set in some interconnected reality, it’s a bold huge experiment that is totally unique in cinema. Back in the sixties when I read these Marvel tales, character driven stories, heroes with real life problems all inhabiting a shared universe, with at times, epic interwoven stories I never imagined that they would be brought to the screen with such care and respect . I understand some won’t get it but for the rest of us for the most part they are doing a Marvelous job.

  2. The cynic in me wonders whether it’s worth posting a negative review to a popular movie early on to get you noticed. It’s probably why it’s almost impossible to get a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes nowadays. The newest movie in it’s top ten of all time is E.T. but that’s likely because there is no upside to a critic retrospectively giving a poor review to a movie like that (or others on the list like Wizard of Oz, etc.) whereas there is some notoriety gained by reviewing a new, well received movie, as bad. It is easy to find faults in almost anything and certainly one can find faults in both E.T. and the Wizard of Oz but they are great movies nonetheless. Criticisms of key factors are, of course, fine but they shouldn’t be a reason to try to justify a position that is at least in terms of overall majority opinion largely untenable; that is just self-aggrandisement.

  3. So this movie is by-the-numbers. Gee what a shock. And “..that time Ultron pimped out Iron Man..”. That made me laugh. Good review.

  4. I think he went a bit far to make his point lol But this was my main problem with this good & very enjoyable film. Being that it is Captain America 3, AVENGERS 3, MCU film 13, 2016 hero vs hero film #3 it felt a bit stale and predictable. CIVIL WAR felt like watching a film I had seen before, for the first time.
    However it gets a lot more right than it does wrong, the aura of formulaic film making and staleness just bring it down a few notches.

  5. “Bored rich men in tights” sounds a lot more like Brooklyn than this movie.

    Hipsters gonna hipster I guess.

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