Sunday, May 8, 2016

Review: Captain America: Civil War

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.
Some slightly annoying and simplistic views of diplomacy and government aside, "Captain America: Civil War" is a pretty decent summer movie/comic book extravaganza that rolls out many of the expected themes of this series as well as a bevy of characters from various franchises, but also some new faces that nearly upstage the old ones.

Faring much better than the other recent superhero clash - "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice," the third "Captain America" picture and, let's be honest, umpteenth unofficial sequel to the "Avengers," finds its heroes pondering some of the same topics last discussed in "The Winter Soldier" - the concept of safety versus liberty and the like.

The film opens with several of the Avengers battling villains in Lagos, which results in a fair amount of destruction and, accidentally, the loss of innocent lives, in part, thanks to the Avengers themselves. In steps William Hurt as a government bureaucrat who wants there to be some sort of monitoring of the Avengers who have, thus far, gone unchecked. The thing this film's creators fail to understand, however, is: he's sorta right. And so is Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and the rest of the Avengers who agree with him.

But, of course, we're dealing with a Hollywood blockbuster and, so, the government figures are seen as sneering and shifty characters with agendas, while Captain America and his faction of the Avengers who want no oversight are the gods tasked with saving us mortals and, therefore, should be beyond repute. Diplomacy and the United Nations also catch a bad rap here because the filmmakers find a way to make the plot contrive it in the Cap's favor.

Regardless, this sets up a battle between Captain America and his allies - including Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Hawkeye and several others - against Stark and his pals, including Black Widow and War Machine. But the MVPs in this film go to the newbies who bring a breath of fresh air to the proceedings, such as Spider-Man, played charmingly as a motor mouth high schooler by Tom Holland, and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), an African prince who dons the costume and kicks all manor of ass after his father, the king, is assassinated.

There is also, of course, a villain - a Serkovian general named Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) who wants to get revenge on the Avengers for a specific reason that I won't divulge. He's also the one responsible for setting off the titular war between Captain America's and Iron Man's allies. And his whole reason for being sort of justifies what Stark has been arguing - that their unchecked power has, in a way, contributed to - rather than detracted from - the number of villains that constantly pop up in these movies.

There are some solid set pieces in the film, proving that filmmakers Joe and Anthony Russo - who directed the series' second entry, which featured that terrific shootout involving Samuel L. Jackson in a vehicle - are good choices for this franchise. The best sequence, naturally, is the one in which the Avengers battle among themselves, not only because it is exciting and well choreographed, but also because it provides the most opportunities for levity, mostly thanks to Holland's Spider-Man and Paul Rudd's Ant Man, who drops by for a few.

So, while I'm still pretty fatigued on comic books movies - and will likely be more so by the end of this summer season, which promises more - this is a pretty good one. It's fun, well made and acted and has more on its mind than your typical barrage of special effects, even if the way it presents its themes is, on occasion, a bit bungled. It's a decent way to start the summer movie season.

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