‘Captain America: Civil War’ Review

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Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo, Martin Freeman, Marisa Tomei, and William Hurt

Synopsis: Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: I think it goes without saying, stay for the credits*

 

After all the buzz, hype, and anticipation, Captain America: Civil War is here! And boy was it worth the wait. The concept is, of course, taken from the popular storyline in the comics that inspires the events in the film, but not a direct adaptation considering Marvel doesn’t own the movie rights to all their characters, and it would be really, really busy. However, that doesn’t change how great Civil War is, and how it handles its busy lineup.

Captain America: Civil War now follows Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans) with his New Avengers in Falcon (Mackie), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Olsen), and Natasha Romaonoff/Black Widow (Johansson) on a mission in Lagos as they hunt down Crossbones (Grillo) who’s trying to steal something. However, an accident happens that, to the world, is the final straw for The Avengers and causes the UN to create The Sokovia Accords. The Accords is a law that would make The Avengers essentially government agents who will go where they send them, and that’s it. No more Avengers going to a foreign land and acting as our saviors, if they sign, they will go where the UN sends them.

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This causes a rift between the team, more specifically, between leaders Captain America and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey Jr.). Stark believes the Avengers need to be put in check and the cost of innocent lives has become too high, while Cap thinks that the “safest hands are still our own,” and that the Avengers should be free to go where the danger is instead of others. The argument becomes more of an issue when a deadly attack happens and Bucky/Winter Soldier (Stan) looks to have done it. Cap, of course, jumps at the opportunity to protect his old friend and save him despite the circumstances and the Accords. With all that going on, a mysterious figure in Zemo (Bruhl) appears, and has his own plan in mind.

Despite the crowed feel and look to it, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo really make Civil War work. Even with the inclusion of two new big characters in T’Challa/Black Panther (Boseman) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Holland), they give every character their moment to shine, without making it feel forced or unnecessary. That’s a pretty big achievement considering this isn’t really an Avengers movie, but a Captain America movie.

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“Hey everyone”

Not only that, but the concern that many people had when the movie was announced about the Avengers not really having a fight, but just a “disagreement” that would resolve itself by saying “sorry I hit you so hard, man,” is not really there. There are consequences for the actions these characters make and the dynamic has certainly changed among the team, and even the public, just like the events in The Winter Soldier did. Sure there is the quirky back-and-forth between Hawkeye (Renner) and Black Widow during the big brawl, but you kind of suspect that from these two, well, at least I could.

However, here is the big thing McFeely/Marcus and the Russo’s where able to do, that was extremely important for Civil War to work. They were able to make us – the audience – see both sides of the argument. You understand where Tony is coming from and why he decides to sign The Accords, and you can see why Steve doesn’t and chooses to fight them. There is no black and white, there is a lot, and I mean a lot, of grey. Nothing feels forced and everything has its place. Even if you’re Team Cap or Team Iron Man, you can feel yourself being persuaded to switch sides. Neither side is more right than the other, that’s why the film works on the drama and political side of things. It also helps that we’ve come to know the characters. After all these years, you kind of hate that everyone is fighting each other, but that same time, you may not be too surprised. Obviously, the first time we saw Avengers together, they fought each other.

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So when it comes to the cast, everyone is on their A-game. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is still the same Tony, but he’s more matured and headstrong than we’ve ever seen him before. Evan’s truly is Captain America at this point, if there was ever any doubt, it is going to be squashed after watching this. Chadwick Boseman carries T’Challa/Black Panther which such ease, that you forget for a minute that this is the character’s debut. Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo is likely, and already, being called one of Marvel’s great villains in sometime, which is hard to argue. His reasoning isn’t revealed until the very end, but everything he does up until that point is very slow and when it’s revealed why he’s doing what he is doing, you find it a bit genius, and leads to one most impactful moments of Civil War.

Everyone else, like I said that’s their moments, but this is a Captain America movie, so they don’t completely steal the show. Unless you’re Spider-Man. Tom Holland, who has a descent amount – not too much – screen time is great. You get a good feel for what we’re going to expect in Spider-Man: Homecoming. We should save our judgment for what we think of Holland as the character until we actually watch Homecoming, but so far, I really like what we have so far.

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All right, so the big brawl that has been promoted in all the ads was pretty damn great. Matter of fact, all the action in the film is pretty top notch. Not only that, all the action sequences feel and are very personal. I won’t get into why, but watching the film you’ll know why. But the big brawl that happens at the airport is one of the best parts of the whole film, and one of the best action sequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are a lot of surprises in there as well, which I obviously won’t spoil here, but as a fan, I didn’t think they would go there. However, after the brawl, a lot of steam and momentum gets sucked out of the film, which to me, is the only real misstep of the film.

All in all, Captain America: Civil War is one of the best films that Marvel has done. It also shouldn’t have worked with all its moving parts, but what a tremendous job by everyone involved to make it work, to make it fun, and make it emotionally challenging to watch. There a only a couple of missteps, but overall, I would not hesitant a minute to put Captain America: Civil War on my top five best Marvel films of all time. Maybe, even the top five comic book movies of all time.

Missing Spider-Man of course

Missing Spider-Man of course

Captain America: Civil War

4.5 out of 5

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‘Ant-Man’ Review

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Dir: Peyton Reed

Writer(s): Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, & Paul Rudd

Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian, T.I., Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Abby Ryder Fortson, Hayley Atwell, and John Slattery

Synopsis: Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Land must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two post-credit scenes*

Marvel finally released Ant-Man. Yes, Marvel has been working on an Ant-Man film for years now. For those that don’t know, Ant-Man was one of the first films announced back at Comic Con during the very first Iron Man movie. Edgar Wright was attached and working on it for so long, and of course, the big thing was that Wright left due to creative reasons, which is why Peyton Reed came onboard. Thankfully – and rightfully – Marvel kept some of the story details from Wright and Joe Cornish’s script. So, does this long awaited movie work? Or do we feel the delay in the final product? Let’s shrink and see what’s inside.

Ant-Man starts off rather interestingly in that it starts off in the past with a young Hank Pym – played by Michael Douglas in the best looking “de-aging” effect I’ve ever seen – coming into the board of what was once S.H.I.E.L.D and says he’s leaving, for reasons that I won’t obviously get into because of spoilers. The movie then jumps ahead to the present to show Scott Lang (Rudd) getting out of prison after serving serious time after he hacked into his old job’s network to right a wrong. He reunites with his old cellmate Luis (Pena) and tells him about a job, but Scott doesn’t want to do it.

Scott wants to turn a new leaf and go clean so he can be a better father to his daughter, Cassie (the damn adorable Abby Ryder Fortson). It turns out to be harder when his ex-wife, played by Judy Greer, wants him to be a better person and her new husband (Cannavale) is a cop that doesn’t like Scott too much. Scott being an ex-con has a hard time finding a new job and turns to Luis, who says he has an “easy job” for Scott and their crew –Dave (T.I.) and Kurt (Dastmalchian)– little do they know, the easy job happens to be connected to Hank Pym.

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Meanwhile, Hank is dealing with his mentor Darren Cross (Stoll), who has taken over his company and is on the brink of breaking his tech to create the Yellowjacket suit. To make matters worse his estranged daughter Hope (Lilly) is by his side. Or at least it would seem that way. While Hope and Hank don’t get along, they know that if Darren succeeds in getting his suit working, it could cause total chaos. The two work together with Scott, although Hope at first doesn’t believe in him, to help Scott learn how to use the Ant-Man suit and stop Darren at all costs.

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I know that’s pretty vague and comic book fans will probably read over that and say why aren’t telling us everything. Here’s the thing. Ant-Man is a pretty much lesser known property. Yes, there are fans out there, but to the “mainstream” audiences Ant-Man is at the very bottom of list. One of the things that I liked about the movie is that is works a bit as an origin story, but also a passing of the torch story. In the comics, Hank Pym is the original Ant-Man and the mantle of the character has been passed on to others, with Scott Lang being one of them. Here, we see Scott Lang not only becoming the Ant-Man, but also go through a journey that takes him from low-level criminal to a man looking to do good by his daughter and become a hero. I guess you can also call Ant-Man a bit of a redemption story, although it more about Scott finding redemption in the eyes of his ex-wife – in terms that he can be a good father and has left the past behind him.

But it doesn’t start off that way. Ant-Man starts off and keeps the beats of a heist film. Hank and Hope want Scott to go in and “steal some shit.” You have the crew each with their own unique skill set and quirk. They lay out the plan and have to overcome an unexpected obstacle during the plan. More importantly, they all have their part to play and they look after each other. However, it’s not the perfect heist film, and some of the other aspects and themes overpower the heist film arch that you sometimes forget that is one the main points of the movie.

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However, if I was going to let you guys know what to expect from Ant-Man is, and you can probably tell from reading so far, is that this is different kind of Marvel movie. The movie is set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe – with an Avenger showing up in what is easily one of the best scenes in the movie – and makes a reference to the future of the MCU. But, director Peyton Reed, who deserves a hell of a lot of credit for pulling this off, does manage to make this movie a smaller (pun intended) movie. Yes, the action sequences are awesome – more on that in a moment – but the people of the movie are what stands out. The relationships they all have with each other matter and play a role in not just the movie, but with who they are and what they will become.

Now the action in the movie is pretty damn cool. The first time we see Scott use the suit is a pretty great wild ride. But it’s when Scott starts to learn how to use the suit and is able to communicate with the ants is when it becomes even better. There is one highlight for me when Scott is dodging bullets and it sounds like he’s in war zone. Honestly, anything with the ants was great. I almost don’t want to give anything away just so you can enjoy it yourself. But, I will say the heavily promoted Thomas the Train Engine sequence is fun to watch. It’s not just the action that great, it’s the humor. I didn’t think I would laugh as much as I did, but I did. The great thing is that Ant-Man isn’t cracking jokes every second, as one would assume since Peyton Reed is known as a comedy director. The humor comes naturally and doesn’t feel forced.

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However, Ant-Man wouldn’t work without its cast. Rudd is likeable and someone you can root for in the movie. Michael Douglas doesn’t phone it in but brings some levity to Hank Pym, a man that is dealt with a lot and finally has a chance of his own redemption. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne is pretty feisty and her relationship with Douglas’ Hank is one of – if not –the emotional core of Ant-Man. The supporting cast of T.I., David Dastmalchian and Michael Pena was fantastic and Pena is easily the scene stealer of the movie. Seriously, Pena is a highly underrated actor and if people didn’t know about him before, they will now.

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As for Cory Stoll’s Darren Cross/Yellowjacket, Stoll does the best he can with what he has. It’s been said by many that with exception of Loki, Marvel’s movie villains don’t work or are lackluster. Personally, they are only half right. Marvel nailed it when they casted Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Stoll, however, isn’t a close second, but is pretty unnerving in his own way. There is one scene, early on, that shows you who Darren is and how far he is willing to go to get what he wants. His motivation and actions are somewhat clear, but Darren is more of threat and menacing before he puts on the Yellowjacket suit. Don’t get me wrong, if I saw someone in the Yellowjacket suit and using it, I’d run in the opposite direction as fast as I could. But by the end, Yellowjacket is just there for Ant-Man get fight.

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All in all, Ant-Man is a different kind of Marvel movie. Instead of the jam-packed action – there are some of those in here – we get a more grounded and human story with great relationships. Ant-Man won’t be for everybody, but it shouldn’t take away how great and different it is, especially after all the trouble it took to get it made.

Ant-Man

4.5 out of 5

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