Saturday, July 2, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

   It's funny to me that complaints like "It relies too much on knowledge of previous entries" orbits Civil War while complaints like "It tries to do too much world building in one outing" orbits Batman V Superman. Strictly speaking, the former complaint is bull. If you haven't been watching the Marvel movies so far, why would you pick this movie as your entry point? Get real. Besides, most of the need-to-know stuff is cleverly recapped in the movie anyways. Batman V Superman on the other hand, while the more interesting movie, is also the clunkier one. Where Dawn of Justice stumbles, Civil War soars.

   Perhaps Civil War gets top marks for something that even Dawn of Justice wasn't ballsy enough to do. Both movies feature beloved heroes fighting each other, only to have a more dangerous villain actually lurking in the machinations of the plot. In Dawn of Justice, it was pretty obviously Lex Luthor, and subsequently his Doomsday monster. Which was... fine, I guess. But, Civil War stays committed to it's hero vs. hero concept right up to the end. Even the villain's big reveal doesn't churn out some massive CGI creature for our heroes to stop bickering and rally against. The big villain behind everything... is just a man.

   In a franchise known for it's flamboyant and colorful comic book villains, Civil War has possibly just delivered it's best one yet, and it's just a man. This villain's motivations should be familiar to fans of comic book cinema, because it's another revenge story. Except we're used to it being told from a protagonist's point of view. What's separating Zemo from say... Batman? Or The Punisher? It is quite simple; he kills innocent people in his efforts to exact revenge. A hero wouldn't abide that, but Zemo's loss was at the hands of superheroes just the same. At one point in the movie, Tony Stark has to face a mother who's son died in the chaos from a previous movie.

    "Who's going to avenge my son, Stark?" she asks him. It's an incredibly powerful moment that shoulders the weight of a whole franchise that was starting to become notorious for ignoring the world-changing consequences of epic, city-shattering, comic book climaxes. People die. That's a very shocking revelation in a movie like this because as an audience we've not been trained to think about the collateral damage outside of what we see. If we're not shown innocent people getting hurt, then they aren't getting hurt. With movies like Man of Steel and The Avengers demolishing entire buildings in massive and well-populated cities, how much longer could we hold onto that concept?

   Civil War brings consequences to the foreground, and it's very shocking. At times, even a bit uncomfortable, but that's when you know the movie is doing it's job. The team is assembled at one point and shown footage from each of their big 'encounters'. It's horrific stuff, people running, screaming, afraid. Total panic and chaos. This is what's happening on the ground level as supermen duel overhead in the skies, and among the skyscrapers. Not everything can simply be OKAY at the end of these movies, but Civil War acknowledges that. Moreover, it embraces that. Whatever it does or doesn't do to service fans, it's taking this material seriously.

   Spider-Man is in this one, and I'll admit it was more exciting seeing him finally share the screen with The Avengers than it was seeing Batman and Superman in the same frame. That's saying a lot, about both movies. Still, regardless, Civil War is about consquence. It's bad guy basically wins in the end, our heroes actually learn something. It's a thoughtful movie, and an introspective one. Yet it never trades in any of it's summer blockbuster appeal. Overall, it's themes and concepts are bigger than it's fan service, bigger than Spider-Man's inclusion in the MCU, bigger than it's cameos, and it's action scenes, and even bigger than Giant Man. Oops. Spoiler...

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