A friend just mentioned to me something that rang true. It was something along the lines of: “I think it’s dumb that they made people ‘Pick a side with the whole #Team______ stuff’. Especially if people picked #TeamIronman when you come to find out Tony is running his suits off of puppies.”
That’s where we start this review, Iron Man grinding up puppies for energy, you know this will be a fun one. (A note from Future Darkmovienight, this review is our longest yet @ over 3k words. I talk a lot about other things than the film, so feel free to skip to the bottom and read my recommendation. -Sincerely, a man with sore fingers and bleeding eyes.)
After the disappointing combination of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman in March, it was time to see what Marvel had to offer. Pretty much anyone who had been paying attention the last few years would have known that Marvel was likely to knock it out of the park. And honestly, they did. I will say, Captain America: Civil War, did showcase one of my tenants of films: expectations vs. actual reaction. The expectations were so high for this film, and it met those expectations. This results in just enjoyment of a film. Unlike Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when no one really knew what to expect and it blew the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe into smithereens and left the collective minds of all fans splattered on top of the theater ceilings.
I’m going to do my best to not spoil anything in this film, which might be a moot point since it did $181.8M at the box office this past weekend, so most of you have already seen it and wouldn’t be spoiled. For the rest of you, I really think you’ve either made up your mind to see this film, or you don’t like superhero films. Either way, I’m going to focus on a bit of the argument in general, the standout characters, and some absolutely beautiful effects.
There are a couple things I want to mention about the box office numbers that Civil War brought in this weekend. In May, Marvel movies have completely dominated. Last year, Age of Ultron opened the same weekend and beat Civil War by $10M ($191M opening), and before that, it almost doubled Winter Soldier‘s $95M opening. All gigantic numbers for kicking off the Summer Movie Season. However, I really would like to point out that in March, Batman vs. Superman drew in $166M, a mere $21M less that Civil War. This tells me two things, audiences have absolute zero superhero fatigue and if anyone tries to use that argument, take a used toilet plunger and cover their mouth with it as they don’t know what they’re talking about.
The second thing all these box office numbers tell me is that professional reviews don’t matter. For years, film advertisers have been using little tricks to make a movie look better than it actually is. For instance, if a film has ridiculously bad reviews, they’ll either take the one good review and quote it, or twist the words of a terrible review. Reading my review of Green Room from last week, you know I hated it, but as an example someone could have used this line to change the tone of my review: “Anyway … the movie was filmed well. That does show Saulnier’s talent.” All I had to take out was “…the only thing I can really establish was the movie…” You see how it’s a much different line without my qualifier? Well, that’s how promoters have done it for quite a while. Can’t blame them, they’re just doing their jobs. However, I have seen many a trailer with “Twitter Review” in the TV spots after a film has released. Check out the TV spot for this poor excuse of a comedy “Let’s Be Cops” from last year:
First review on screen is by a Twitterer?, Twittest?, Twit?, who goes by the handle @lanvinpierre. His “reaction is simple “Holy F****** S***”. Then we have the intellectual comments of a one @KKlarl, who has this to say: “Too Damn Funny”. Also don’t forget the amazing film critic @edgar leyva04 (who no longer has an account) which explains the nuances with “A Bada$$ Movie”. I really wish I had made up the “$$” for “SS”, but I didn’t. They go onto add two more to the list. Now let’s see what Richard Brody (Top Critic from the New Yorker) said: “The chillingly gung-ho darkness that Johnson lends his comic riffs would be the story, if only the director, Luke Greenfield, didn’t play the movie solely for laughs, which are few and far between.” I don’t know about you, but any comedy that has laughs “few and far between” is not a good start. Also, getting a 19% on the Tomato Meter and only 51% audience score gives me pause and hurts the immaculate review of @lanvinpierre and @KKLarl.
In fact, Mr. Germain Lussier from Slashfilm had an interesting article regarding initial Twitter reactions. It’s not quite the same topic, but it does address writing a review so concisely. Let me ask our Bleary-Eyed fans, do you want us to give simple impressions of the films we review? I know I’m way to verbose with my reviews, but I do it to give you my opinion and to help you make up your mind if you’re on the fence. Would this be accomplished with a quick: “Dude, Civil War was awesome!” on Facebook? I honestly wouldn’t mind some feedback regarding this subject.
At any rate, the difference in box office dollars had about a million variables and depending upon how Civil War does next weekend, we’ll know if anyone cares about critics or others’ opinions. And I want to mention one more thing, I’m actually pretty excited to have seen a couple of trailers using the “Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomato Meter” as a function of success for a film. That’s cool because the producers are starting to realize where people get their news, the web or social media, and are following along instead of being pulled kicking and screaming into 2016.
How about I talk a little bit about the movie? If you’ve seen a trailer, well if you somehow avoided seeing a trailer, then the basic info about Civil War you’ll need is that Iron Man and Captain America have a disagreement over giving the United Nations oversight of the Avengers. Now I have my own opinion, but that’s something I really feel is interesting about Civil War, it was able to take a discussion from a film and bring it into real life. Just like privacy over safety was at the forefront of The Winter Soldier, this one was able to bring an argument over control versus freedom. In the film it is presented as a document called “The Sokovia Accords”, named after the city that got dropped from the sky in Age of Ultron.
The stipulations are that the Avengers are no longer a private organization and are sent in, or not, by a governing body within the United Nations. I find this interesting as it is eerily similar to the argument presented in Batman vs. Superman regarding Superman’s involvement in foreign and domestic affairs. And what is equally hilarious to me is that there are such devout fans of both franchises that will choose to ignore the similarities and denounce Superman as a reckless individual with little care for life or jurisdiction. However, when looking at the Avengers, they’ll spout on how the World needs them, yada yada. I’m not going to pick a side (wow, it’s amazing how that theme runs through a review regarding a movie titled Civil War).
Anyway, so both Captain America and Iron Man take a different stance on the Sokolvia Accords and along with the addition of a horrific, villain induced accident (courtesy of a brilliant Frank Grillo as Crossbones who is criminally underused in this film), a little bit of Bucky blame, and the death of Royalty (T’Chaka, the King of Wakanda), crap hits the fan.
After the cluster of terrible events and asinine decisions by both heroes, sides are taken and lines are drawn. The Vision literally draws a line at one point between the two sides. Like I said earlier, the argument at the heart of the movie is exacerbated by a whole bunch of people not listening to each other and a simple bit of idiocy (why the hell would Hawkeye attempt to take on Vision???) At any rate, the argument is a little silly and could have easily been resolved, but then we wouldn’t have amazing action scenes and it’d be a rather short film. So, in my opinion, the argument here, which is supposed to be central feature in the film falls a little flat, but what it kicks off, and what the directors, Anthony and Joe Russo choose to do with it is simply something spectacular.
As I said earlier, I’m going to talk about a few things in here, but I can’t begin until I dote over the Russo Brothers. Directing episodes of some of the best TV created (Arrested Development and Community) they went on to shock everyone with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and now have been given the keys to the Marvel Kingdom. This comes in the form of them being chosen to direct the “Official” next movies in the Avengers saga: Infinity War Part I & 2. Frankly, I’ve not seen films balance action and story as well as what the Russo’s have directed since another set of siblings directed the original Matrix.
Having the Russo’s at the helm was pretty much the best move Marvel and Disney could have made. Put that together with the incredible cast, wizards with visual effects, and you know you’re going to have a successful film.
Talking about the cast, I have to give a few shout outs to some unsung hero (seriously this phrase is getting tossed around here too much) actors throughout Civil War. While the main focus is on Chris Evans’ Captain America and Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, stuffing about a bajillion more superheroes in the mix makes it to where a couple get lost in the shuffle or even if they have an excellent performance, might not get the credit they deserve.
I’ll try to get through them quickly, but it’s going to be tough since they’re all so good and don’t get near enough spotlight in Civil War. First up are the actors on Cap’s side: Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch & Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. Anthony Mackie brings charm and comedy to his role and is easily one of the most likable characters in the film. While he plays second fiddle to Captain America, I really hope that at some point he gets to take over the shield and portray the Captain America/Falcon hybrid seen in the comics recently. As the only Olsen that got any talent in that family (yeah, the Ashley & Mary-Kate were cute as toddlers, but once you go for the coked-out Lindsey Lohan look, you don’t get to come back). Anyway, Olsen gets to show off her skills, both with invisible magic hand movements (I know Benedict Cumberbatch is going to have to do it soon too, yay for Doctor Strange) and the gravity of having kicked off this entire event along with the meaty scenes she gets with The Vision (Paul Bettany), it’s clear that she is a very talented actor. Attempting not to give into the guilt her character feels along with still getting back up to fight, mirroring one of my favorite scenes in Age of Ultron with her and Hawkeye, she exhibits such a wide range and as films are created (often out of chronological order), she nails every single emotion and ferocity you need from this character. It’s just so well done. Finally I have to talk about Paul Rudd. After being one of Judd Apatow’s personal finger puppets for years, he struck the comedy and heroic balance in last year’s Ant-Man, which Marvel needed to follow up the stellar Guardians of the Galaxy. While the MCU doesn’t lack in comedy, few characters are there to be the comic relief. While I won’t put him on the level of Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, I’ll tell you he gets some of the best parts in the film. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but his HUGE bag of tricks and clever dialogue really put him over the top and in the spotlight for the ten to fifteen minutes he gets on screen.
Next we have a few hidden gems on Iron Man’s team: Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as the all-new Spider-Man. Now it’s almost unfair that Boseman is in this film. Not only does his Black Panther steal the show every moment he’s in the film, but why does he get to play every single important African American figure in recent history? Boseman is just too talented, from using a brilliant African accent to kicking total ass in the film, he portrays everything wonderful about the character. Even in the end where he gets a chance for revenge for his father’s death (see above mentioned regicide), he takes the high road and delivers some of the most haunting dialogue in the film with complete ease. Hmm, where have I heard about peaceful resolution before?
Last but probably the most important behind-the-scenes aspects of this film is Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. After looking closely at Holland’s credits as an actor, I have no idea what he did to impress Marvel/Disney and Sony (aforementioned most important behind-the-scenes aspect), but the kid did not disappoint. As soon as it was mentioned that Sony had brokered a deal with Marvel and Disney to allow Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there was a collective fan squee and also the silence of a million people not wanting another origin story or thirty year old actors playing High School Peter Parker/Spider-Man. While Holland is 20 now (Tobey Maguire brought Spider-Man to life in 2002 at the age of 27) he pulls off the awkward teenager better than any of those to come before him. I swear in the film you can hear his voice crack. Again, as mentioned earlier, once the Russo Brothers got their hands on the webslinger, they did something special with him. Not only giving Holland a brilliant scene with Downey Jr., making him a pivotal character in the most incredible action scene in recent years, but also allowing him to deliver the best line in the film. If you thought you were tired of Spider-Man, then the moment Tom Holland opens his mouth, you’ll be completely convinced otherwise. The future is bright for Mr. Holland and his solo film, Spider-Man: Homecoming which will also star Downey Jr. and Aunt Hottie… I mean Aunt May who is portrayed by the beautiful Marisa Tomei.
As an aside on the actors, Martin Freeman adds his charm and British-ness to the film with what looks like him taking over as a surrogate Phil Coulson. Even though you can see Coulson every Tuesday on ABC in Agents of SHIELD (seriously, this show is good, I promise). I guess they also needed someone to be Nick Fury-Like until Samuel L. Jackson gets back.
Other than all of the actors, and the standout ones I mentioned above, the real treat in Civil War is the action. In this golden age of Superhero Films, there was still skepticism that an Avengers movie could be made (let alone 2.5 of them, yeah counting this as an Avengers film) or the words “Terrigen Mist” uttered on TV (seriously SHIELD is good), no one could have ever predicted a battle and action sequence that was done in the middle of Civil War. The airport sequence cranks the “War” portion of the title up to eleven and then somehow goes to twelve. I know what you’re thinking, how did they top the NYC battle in the first Avengers? Without spoiling it outright, just think about all the characters involved in this movie and decide for yourself what could be so amazing. There just isn’t any way to describe it without spoiling something. Know it was easily one of the best action scenes concocted in film, period. After a sequence like that, you’d assume they would be out of fuel (and budget), but no, you still have the titular battle between the heavyweights Captain America and Iron Man.
Even with more visual effects that are so subtle they can easily be missed (like the de-aging of Robert Downey Jr. in the beginning of the film), it’s a testament to the power of Marvel & Disney together and an utterly towering bar for any effects team to hurdle in future films. There is nothing else to be said.
Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:
It’s Marvel. You have either already seen Civil War, don’t want to see it, or so broke that you’d have to rob a liquor shop to get the money to watch it in theaters (seriously, ticket prices are nuts and will not stop inflating). Regardless of a dumb setup (just so easily avoided), Civil War shines as the best that Marvel has to offer, especially from extremely weak source material. It’s visually stunning and all the new characters added to the film simply push it to heights that I will go ahead and declare it Marvel’s best film to date. $181M worth of tickets sold last week domestically, let’s see what happens when you add your stubs to the mix. And believe me, it’s worth every penny.