Monday, May 16, 2016

A 'Civil War' Joint Review!

So yes, I have seen Captain America: Civil War, but I haven't done the review yet because... I planned to review it with a fellow animation writer, Munir A. He writes for the great site A113 Animation, please be sure to give it a visit!

Anyways, the review is SPOILER HEAVY. Don't read on if you haven't seen it, unless you're the type that likes reading spoilers...

Without further ado...

K: Alrighty! So, Captain America: Civil War... What a wild start to Phase 3!

M: Indeed! It was a wonderful experience. Marvel is starting the new phase stronger and more confident than ever.

K: I think, for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was a real game-changer. There has always been talk of things like "superhero fatigue" and such, but I always argued that the superhero movie was in no danger of disappearing, as long as the films remain fresh and satisfy audiences... Civil War is Marvel Studios going against the grain and delivering a story that's more about the collapse of a team than a quest to stop a bad guy.

M: Agreed. I think they started planting the seeds when they destroyed Shield in The Winter Soldier but now it's much more personal because it's the whole Avengers team that gets torn apart. Interestingly, both game changer films are Captain America films which I think cements his status as the driving force behind the MCU. At least for the Earth-bound heroes.

K: It's interesting you bring up The Winter Soldier, the previous Marvel film to be directed by the Russo Brothers and the last Captain America-centric film, because that too really raised the stakes for the MCU as a whole. Civil War, like Winter Soldier, really kicks some doors open. Yet these films stay Cap-centric, and really add compelling arcs to his story.

M: Absolutely. Civil War feels like a natural extension of Winter Soldier (and to a lesser extent Age of Ultron) and despite the amount of characters, it remains Steve's story.

K: At the same it's accidentally a Black Panther origins film, Marvel's head Kevin Feige and others spoke about bucking the origin story trend, and Ant-Man and Guardians already had shades of that, this one literally told an origin story in someone else's movie... Without fuss!

M: But also, one of its best accomplishments is that it gives each character a meaningful arc and they don't appear for the sake of appearing. This is especially true with Tony.

K: Very true. How this 2 1/2 hour film juggled all of that without ever getting sluggish in the pace is nothing short of astounding.

M: Another great thing is that, unlike the comic in which is based on, Tony is not an outright villain. Both sides have good points and there are no easy answers. I'm glad they didn't take the easy route of good vs. Evil. This film has lots of shades of gray.

K: One of the main things I loved about this film, even though I'm TeamCap, Tony had very legitimate reasons for wanting to go the route he chose to go. His guilt is sound, coupled with losing Pepper Potts over his disastrous mess-ups, like the 40+ Iron Man suits in Iron Man Three and the Ultron program.

M: Yup. Tony's story is interesting because since Iron Man 1, it has been about his past catching up with him and him trying to correct his past mistakes.

K: Here we see him really grow as a character, and actually stick with his plan to do better and not repeat the mistakes he had made in Iron Man Three and Age of Ultron.

M: In this film, this reaches its boiling point.

K: A simple scene such as Tony talking to the politician at the elevator really rams the point home, effortlessly. This comes right after the scene where we learn him and Pepper are apart, too.

M: Exactly. In the end he tries to do the right thing and help Cap which makes the final revelation much more gut-wrenching. That fight was intense.

K: It really was. Seeing these friends, who already had something of a stormy relationship, fight like this was part of the film's darkness. This wasn't a beat-you-over-the-head grimdark story, this was direct. It was brutally honest and right to the point. It's all set up nicely. It's very much like Winter Soldier in that it gets a little heavier in tone and tends to get harsh, but it doesn't lose the humor and heart that defines Marvel Studios' films.

M: Both Black Panther and Spidey made quite an impression!

K: Black Panther and Spider-Man STOLE the film. This is also the best big screen Spider-Man yet, combining the best of Tobey Maguire (great Parker, dull Spidey) and Andrew Garfield (underwhelming Parker, excellent Spidey), yet being unique. I like that they kept him a teenager too, and not someone who is close to graduating.

M: I love how that simple scene between Tony and Peter really made him click as a character. We didn't need any tragic backstory or more details to root for Peter.

K: Like Black Panther, his origin is established in mere seconds. I'm glad that he's already active in the MCU between the events of Ultron and this film. Plus audiences now know the Spider-Man origins by heart.

M: And T'Challa's motive may be cliched (dead father) but it was meaningful because Boseman sold Panther's grief, anger and in the end with Zemo, forgiveness.

K: Yeah, the father's death isn't anything new, but how they went about it was fresh and really tied into the film's themes.

M: Zemo. What a villain! At first, I didn't think much of him but upon a second viewing, he may be the best MCU villain.

K: Indeed! Zemo may not have a real presence onscreen, he may not be a Joker or Darth Vader type, but his story is so well thought-out. He's not looking to conquer the world, he's looking for revenge, he's ridden with pain.

M: ... and I like the fact that he doesn't have a mask or costume (like in the comics). He is just a man with a purpose, which makes him very dangerous and in the end, he succeeds.

K: Yes, just a man... A mere man tears the team, longtime collaborators and friends, apart. And yes, his success... He wins. So much so that he tries to kill himself, thinking his work is done. This all the more makes Panther's arc and realization at the end much more powerful, coupled with Tony's anger and desire to kill Bucky.

M: Yes, one thing I was dreading before I saw the film is that in the end, everything would've returned to normal but I was relieved that wasn't the case.

K: It leads you to believe that too, what with Tony realizing that Cap was right about Zemo.

M: For all intents and purposes the Avengers are done, for now at least.

K: Yes, the film's bittersweet ending is a very fitting one. Gutsy, for Marvel or a superhero film.

M: Indeed, and I liked that despite everything, Steve let Tony know that he will be there if he needed him. Because that's who Steve is. It was perfectly in-character.

K: Exactly, really caps the film off perfectly. Steve is Steve, he doesn't like bullies and will remain loyal. Tony's still driven by demons, anger, and such.

M: Indeed. I also liked that despite everyone picking sides and fighting, it wasn't easy for them because they were still friends. Which leads us to that INSANE airport battle. It was absolutely fantastic and very well-handled.

K: Yes... If I had to make a Top 5 Marvel set-pieces, that would be up there, for sure. Every character is given their due!

M: Giant-Man!

K: It's a wonderful mix of both escalating tension and moments that make you grin. Giant-Man, Spider-Man's Empire Strikes Back line, all the exchanges, yet all the fighting.

M: When that happened, I was just ecstatic. It's the perfect mix of high intense action mixed with humor and even heart.

K: They really went ALL OUT here. It has the same level of gleeful fun as The Avengers and Ant-Man's climaxes. To think the Russos could go from TV episodes to a comedy flick to these two powerhouses... Amazing.

M: Yes, and what I liked is that it was very different from the final battle between Tony, Cap and Bucky which was riddled with emotion, grief and anger. The Russos need to stay in the MCU forever.

K: Yes, the climax going a completely different route was a very nice change of pace, and again, one that's fit for this film's finale. It's especially nice coming off of films that had the big set-pieces be the climax, even films that arguably didn't need them, like Iron Man Three.

M: I also like that the two end credits scenes were devoted to the new characters teasing their own films but one thing that annoyed me (and it's really a minor nuisance) is that, in the end, it just said "Spider-Man will return" but they didn't mention Black Panther who is also returning.

K: Perhaps it was just them telling audiences, not so much us, that Spider-Man would be back in a big way, since he's already established and he's so bankable, and audiences are super familiar with him... But I agree, Panther returning would've been nice too.

M: Yeah, it's just a minor detail but it annoyed me a little.

K: The Wakanda mid-credits scene was very nice, hopefully when we actually see that city, it's very colorful and vibrant like it is in the comics!

M: I can't wait to see Wakanda.

K: This talk of Black Panther being a "geopolitical action-adventure" has me really excited. With Civil War, I think Marvel's going to move away from typical "good guys vs. bad guys" stories.

M: ... and I hope Bucky appears in that film. Who was your favorite character?

K: Favorite character? Oh goodness! That's so hard to choose. I really dug Black Panther and Spidey, Cap and Iron Man as well... Scarlet Witch really evolves here too, and Ant-Man was a real joy onscreen.

M: They were all great, but for me it was Natasha. She's been a favorite of mine since The Avengers and her arc here was great.

K: Natasha was once again a force to be reckoned with here, and she's given some of the best action sequences. I also love how she's torn between the two sides, being at Cap's side in Winter Soldier.

M: But I think at the end, she was clearly on his side.

K: She was. Her inner-conflict was very subtle. I like when they use very few words to convey the themes, unlike some other big films out there.

M: I just hope that Feige will firmly commit to a Black Widow movie for Phase 4.

K: I hope so too. I think that Marvel Studio has always wanted to make one, but Ike Perlmutter and that "creative committee" fought against it. All these reports of their ways are coming out, now that Marvel broke away from them. It all speaks VOLUMES.

M: Enough of the "we are evaluating our options". He's no longer under Perlmutter so he can easily approve that film. That Iron Man Three villain thing was so silly. I'm just glad Marvel Studios no longer answers to Perlmutter.

K: Notice how Ant-Man and the Wasp got onto the slate mere weeks after Marvel Studios broke away from them? Also, Black Panther's cast and director, Captain Marvel landing a female director... Probably would've never happened under Ike.

M: That's true.

K: Very much so. Iron Man Three is great to me, but having Killian be a female villain and not some smarmy 80s bad guy would've been fresh.

M: Yeah, Rebecca Hall was wasted in the film. She could've been great. Going back to Civil War, I love Vision and Wanda's relationship.

K: That was also a nice touch, like Wanda coming to terms with how people perceive her, and how Vision becomes more and more human. It also makes for some good comic relief, and the confrontation between the two in the safe house is pretty satisfying.

M: Agreed. I also liked how effortlessly their relationship flowed. It was much more different than the Bruce/Natasha relationship in Ultron. I wasn't bothered by it but it did feel kinda forced and out of nowhere.

K: Agreed. No repeating themselves there. Age of Ultron is all over the place in terms of editing that the Widow/Banner "relationship" seems like it has come out of nowhere, though it's firmly established during the farmhouse scenes... Some hour later.

M: Exactly.

K: In all, Civil War is Marvel's most ambitious film, thematically and in scope. Under the Russos' direction and the consistent writing from the Markus/McFeely team, it functions as a great chapter for Captain America and a game-changing story with no heroes or winners, yet one that is the beginning of something big...

M: Agreed. It might be my favorite MCU film. It's funny, action-packed, it treats all its characters with respect and it's not afraid of taking risks if it serves a good story. I also like the fact that, despite all the characters that appeared, it remained Steve's story and no, it couldn't have been called "Avengers: Civil War" like many naysayers said before its release. This is Cap's movie and it's a great one. I want to conclude saying that the world needs a Black Widow film so please Feige and Co., make it happen!

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