Friday, May 6, 2016

Captain America: Civil War What They Got Wrong And What Was Perfect

Captain America: Civil War has finally hit theaters, and I rushed out to see it opening night.  This was easily my most anticipated movie of the year (at least until I saw that trailer for Rogue One) and I was not let down.  It was a really good movie.  But, like every movie, it has its flaws and things that cold have been done better.  So here are the things the movie got wrong, and the things that it got so very right.  Obviously, this will have SPOILERS.

I want to state again that I loved this movie.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I felt like it was totally worth the $40 I paid for 3 tickets.  It was really really good.  But it is rare to get a "perfect" movie, and this movie did have things that could have been done better,  For instance...

The Villain:  Zemo was actually used pretty smartly in the movie.  The problem is, there was no reason for him to be named Zemo.  He could have been any random soldier and it would have worked.  In fact, it might have made it more interesting to have him be some guy we've never heard of before, instead of naming him after a well known Captain America villain and setting up those expectations.  This wasn't quite the bait and switch that Iron Man 3 pulled with the Mandarin, especially since Zemo was next to non-existent in the marketing for the movie, but it felt like they used the name just to use it.Again, I think a name we'd never heard would have made it more interesting and would have been more appropriate, considering this is actually an entirely new character we've never seen before.

The Final Fight:  After setting up for a final showdown with the heroes finally reuniting to take on a group of Super Soldier enhanced assassins and the real villain, they pull a switch and have the Super Assassins all dead before the heroes show, the villain is captured with no struggle and another fight between the heroes.  And the fight felt forced and a little underwhelming after the massive showdown at the Leipzig airport.  I know I invite nerd rage by saying this, but I felt this was one area where Batman V Superman surpassed Civil War.  After the big hero fight they gave a big threat for the heroes to face in order to not lower the stakes.  In this movie Tony loses it after learning Bucky killed his parents, seems to not care that he was under mind control at the time, and goes after Bucky and Steve.  It was a good fight, but again just didn't seem that big after the showdown of the two teams of heroes earlier.

The End:  This ties into the the other points.  The end of the movie was good, but after building up the villain only to have him be captured with no struggle, and then end with a smaller scale fight, it felt like the climax of the movie took place in the middle, with the end having lower stakes.  If Cap and Bucky hadn't chased down Zemo, there would have been zero consequences.  His whole evil scheme relied on them chasing him, and Iron Man showing up and getting pissed.  This also took away the chance for Steve to prove to the world that he was right.  This makes for an interesting end to the movie, but it also seemed a bit of an anti-climax.  I'm a bit torn on this, because it was different to not have a world ending threat be the big payoff, but rather a personal attack on just the Avengers themselves.  I think it mainly just how scaled down it felt after the rest of the movie that made it land just barely on the disappointing side.

The Button Scenes:  The button scenes used to be the most exciting thing about Marvel movies, if we are being honest.  You just got to see comic book heroes that you never expected to see on the big screen in an exciting movie that got nearly everything about the characters right, and then there was a snippet that set you up for the next movie, building your excitement for the next character and the next chapter in the MCU.  This movie carried the tradition of Thor: The Dark World and Winter Soldier of having a first button scene that really should have just been the final scene of the movie.  It doesn't really set anything up, or build any excitement, it just finished wrapping up the story we just saw.  The second button scene teases the Spider-Man movie, and while it was nice to get Peter back on the screen, because he was missed once his part in the movie was over, it wasn't a very exciting scene.  We already knew there was a Spider-Man movie coming, just showing us Peter talking to May and playing with new tech doesn't exactly amp up the anticipation.  Tease a villain, show the costume again, do something to get us hyped.

With all of that, I don't want to give the impression that the movie itself was bad or disappointing, because it certainly was not.  In fact it was really, really good.  So, in order to not leave on the negative, I now want to point out some things the movie got right and did well.  And it did them very, very well.

The Black Panther:  T'Challa was amazing in this movie.  A great introduction that told you everything you needed to know about the character without getting bogged down in 60 minutes of origin story.  His suit is bad-ass. His fight scenes were excellent.  He was just an great addition to the movie.  Not really much more to say here, other than I am even more pumped for the Black Panther movie now than I was before.  Oh, and we finally did get to see the technologically advanced side of Wakanda, so that was nice.

Spider-Man:  Again, perfectly done and introduced, without getting bogged down in a big origin story.  In fact, there is a moment when Peter begins to tell his origin to Tony, and Tony cuts him off.  That's great, because the film makers are telling us, "We know you already know this, there's no need to go through it all again".  Tom Holland is the first big screen Spider-Man to be perfect as both Spidey and as Peter Parker.  He actually looks like he could be in high school.  He actually comes across as a nerdy, somewhat awkward teenager.  In the suit, he talks incessantly, makes jokes, and comes across as a kid.  And when he moved, he moved like Spider-Man.  It was a perfect rendition, and once his part in the movie is over you really miss his presence on-screen.

Giant Man:  They never call him this in the movie, but Lang does use the Pym particles to grow to an enormous size to help fight against Stark and his team.  It was one of the best moments in the movie, and it's a shame that Marvel let the cat out of the bag on this one by using it in one of the tv ads.  It was a really cool scene that was equal parts action, comedy and pure spectacle.  It was really the whole payoff for adding another character to a movie that was already threatened with having too many characters.

The Balance:  Speaking of which, this is a movie that had a lot going on, with a lot of people doing the goings on.  So much happens in this movie, it would been so easy to get lost in the story and have it ramble off into incoherence.  It would have been easy to have characters serve little to no purpose.  But every scene had its place in the story, and every character had their moment or two to shine.  All while bringing two new characters into the mix.  It was really impressive how this was done.  And yet, it remained a Captain America movie when it was all said and done.  He kept his spot as the focus of the movie. The Russos really did something unique in this, as no character felt lost, I didn't feel like there were extraneous scenes, and yet the focus of the movie didn't get shifted.

All in all, I loved this movie,  Sure there are a few things that I feel could have been a little differently, but in taking the route it did the movie subverted expectations and managed to surprise me.  At the end of the day, of my negatives the only one I would say actually hurt the movie was calling the villain Zemo instead of just having him be a random soldier.  And honestly, it's only the fanboys who will notice that.  I hope that this doesn't induce another round of Iron Man 3 like nerd rage, because honestly this is a really good movie.  (For the record, I also like Iron Man 3 for the most part, and actually enjoyed the Mandarin twist.)  It was a slightly more serious direction for the MCU, balanced all the characters better than either Avengers movie (with more characters) and was really fun and exciting.  Hats off to the Russo brothers for making what just might be the best superhero movie yet.  Cannot wait now to see what they do with the Infinity War movies.

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