Thursday, May 5, 2016

Captain America Civil War Review: Marvel's Latest Blockbuster is Overpowered and Dynamic

It would not be the start of the summer season if a superhero blockbuster was not starting things off. This trend as seen many heroes take center stage for this season's opening month, but none may be as prominent as films of Marvel Studios which has started May with massive blockbusters such as The Avengers. This year things are a little different as the stakes for the Marvel Cinematic Universe are raised for the start of the Studio's Phase 3. Continuing this year's motif of heroes fighting heroes is the long anticipated third installment to the Captain America film series-Captain America: Civil War. Once again directed by the Russo Bros, Civil War is loosely based on the popular comic story in 2005 which pitted Captain America against fellow Avenger: Iron Man. The new movie follows the footsteps of its source by placing the two iconic heroes on different sides; and with appearances from heroes both old and new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this was a summer blockbuster that was hard not to be excited for. So is Civil War the next hit for Marvel Studios or is this installment too overpowered with it heroics?

The story of Captain America: Civil War follows the First Avenger: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans); who now leads a new team of heroes.  After a mission goes wrong, the governments of the world seek to control the Avengers by turning into an asset. It does not help matters that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and a handful of Avengers are eager to sign with the government which creates a wedge between Capt and his teammates. To make matters worse  Steve's best friend, Bucky (Sebastian Stan), becomes the prime suspect of a bombing which makes him a target for the government, Stark and a vengeful Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). This leads to Capt and teammate Sam Wilson (Anthony  Mackie) to help Bucky escape his pursuers which solidifies the rift between Rogers and Stark that leads to an all out battle between heroes.

The story of Captain America: Civil War was definitely one centered on conflict. When it comes to the dilemma between the heroes, the film's plot was absolutely engaging as it delivers the right amount of complexity and drama. However there were two parts to this superhero story. Not does the plot deal with heroes against each other, but there was a mystery surrounding Bucky and the man who framed the Winter Soldier: Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl). When it came to the second half of this story, I found the plot to be underwhelming. While the mystery was interesting and had a decent payoff, this plot point had little impact to film's presentation as it did not have the intrigue or conflict that surrounded the Civil War element. It also did not help the story's structure could be off putting at times. The pacing of the film does work in the matter of building towards the major conflict, but details like how character get from one place to another could feel sporadic. These issues might have been minor, but I felt that they hurt the effectiveness of this massive plot; but fortunately what this story does right it more than makes up for any shortcomings.
There was no denying that Civil War features a massive ensemble. In fact this film may very well feature  the biggest cast that I have seen in a superhero film. While the cast looked great on paper, this ensemble could be a double edge sword. The likes of  Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) Vision (Paul Bettany) and the other heroes made for great supporting characters, but  the additional members to this cast seemed lost in the mix. Characters such as Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) General Ross (William Hurt) and especially Zemo added very little to the movie and is cast. Even Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) felt unnecessary as his character played a minimal part in the movie; though Rudd makes his moments worthwhile.  Thankfully when it came to the performances everyone brought their A games. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr had their strongest performances yet as they both brought new dynamics to both Captain America and Iron Man. While this movie had two strong leads, the real show stealers were in fact Marvel's newest heroes: Black Panther and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Boseman's portrayal of Black Panther was one that effective for the film, and the character as a whole. Then there was Spider-Man. While his time was short, and his purpose a tad unnecessary, I could not deny that Spider-Man lit up the screen when he appeared;while Holland's performance was a fantastic blend for the character that made me eager to see more.

The technical elements behind the Marvel films have always been fitting for their universe, and I feel that Civil War did not stray from this achievement. The effects and cinematography felt appropriate for the film's tone; not to mention the superhero genre as a whole. Though factors like camerawork and the use of text could be distracting, but these issues were quite minor when it came to this factor.  The score by Henry Jackman was good, but I felt like it was missing a distinct theme to make it memorable. While the film's technical elements were solid, they failed in comparison when it came to Civil War's action. This action to this movie was phenomenal as its choreography blended terrifically with the film's sense of spectacle. There was no better example of this then the showdown between the heroes at the airport. Featuring an array of fight scenes and jaw dropping moments, this battle not only rivaled sequences from its predecessor but it is one the best scenes that I have ever seen in a superhero film.

Captain America: Civil War is indeed a solid superhero film, but that does not make this blockbuster invulnerable. The movie is little too ambitious for its own good as the likes of story and characters loose their effectiveness due to their execution. Yet what Civil War does well it definitely exceeds at its strengths. The film features both captivating story elements and great performances; while the action makes this movie a must see for this year. So while Civil War may not be the defining superhero film, this blockbuster is still a dynamic entry for both Marvel Studios and the summer of 2016.

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