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Captain America: Civil War movie review – good guy vs good guy becomes bloated blockbuster

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When filmmakers broach the task of creating superhero movies that are “interesting” or “different”, they often fall back onto a familiar concept: realigning the perspective of a story so that caped crusaders are viewed in a different – and usually negative – light.

Superman was an alien threat in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Batman was an NSA-like snoop chased by police dogs in The Dark Knight. Dr. Manhattan exiled himself to Mars in Watchmen in fear his body would radiate cancer. The X-Men are untrustworthy freaks, magnets for allegories about discrimination and prejudice. Poor old James Bond was considered a dangerous cowboy and shut down in Spectre.

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely flog the “heroes might mean trouble” horse again – if not a dead horse, certainly a dying one – for the setup of Captain America: Civil War.

Proceedings begin predictably fast, with a biff-n-boff chase scene through the streets of Lagos, Nigeria between the Avengers and a villain (an angry chap named Crossbones) who looks a bit like Michael from Halloween crossed with The Punisher. It ends badly with the Avengers accidentally bombing a building and killing several innocents.

Soon William Hurt (playing U.S. Secretary of State) has them around a boardroom table, playing a highlight reel of news footage showcasing similar deadly whoopseedos from around the world. A leash-tightening idea is floated in the form of a U.N. agreement that would limit the team’s powers, dictating if and when they are deployed.

Half the ensemble agree and the other half do not, pre-empting scenes where two groups of exactly the same number frown at each other and assume fighting positions. Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is pro-agreement; a rare example of a mega-rich, white dude who wants to be reined in by the government (“if we can’t accept limitations, we’re no better than the bad guys”).

Captain America (Chris Evans) is, appropriately, a dyed in the wool liberal who will do what the powers that be tell him to do only by his cold dead hands. Villain Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) skulks around, plotting to get the group to turn on each other and perhaps instigating something more ambitious.

Despite disappearing for huge chunks of an elephantine (146 minute) running time, the Zemo thread is well executed: a reasonably interesting character with a teased-out backstory, and a plan more compelling than standard blowing-the-world-to-pieces shtick. (Note: I am about to mention two characters who appear in small roles about halfway through; if you consider that a spoiler then skip the next paragraph).

Zack Snyder, director of Batman v Superman, must surely be feeling outstaged — he thought he was making a stuffed-to-the-hilt frenemy smack-down, only to be beaten a month later by ten or so extra heroes. If Snyder helmed Captain America: Civil War, perhaps he would have insisted on a title that really maxed out brand power (Captain America and Scarlet Witch and Falcon and Ant-Man and Hawkeye and Bucky Barnes v Iron Man and Black Widow and Spider-Man and War Machine and The Vision).

Co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo (who helmed Civil War’s predecessor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) stage the action sequences competently, each underscored by what feels like pathological lip service for fans. These scenes tend to progress the plot by bunging an event onto the end, helping to set up the next 20 minutes or so. A civilian dies, for example, or a hero is detained, leading the characters to waffle about their next move.

The core idea of applying government-sanctioned regulation to superheroes initially leads to curious ways to consider Captain America. Uncle Sam got a makeover, beefed up at the gym and now has to deal with the people (nations?) the globetrotting cowboy has pissed off.

To say the film drops the ball on this premise is to put it lightly. Used to create division between principal players, the political allegories are mostly abandoned and swapped for character motivation, as if we should never have bothered to contemplate a second meaning in the first place.

Less a civil war than a dummy spit, the Russo brothers’ bloated blockbuster is probably best appreciated as a junky good-guy-versus-good-guy crossover-fest: a sort of stretched-out Monster Mash for comic book characters.

I lost count of the number of iterations there are of the line “you’re not going to stop, are you?” and the running time is not just inordinate, but almost completely bereft of anything that might resemble narrative efficiency.

There are occasions when Civil War stalls for so long you want to shake the screen and yell “hurry up!” An epic airport brawl provides the most fun when it comes to fisticuffs, but it’s also highly derivative and danger-free; little more than a co-ordinated dance routine. With billions of dollars of franchise moolah on the line, the health and well-being of our heroes has never been more assured, even if play-it-safe films like this preposterously attempt to suggest otherwise.

21 responses to “Captain America: Civil War movie review – good guy vs good guy becomes bloated blockbuster

  1. You completely missed the point of the movie. The plot is completely character driven and the main point is what these two main characters have to go through as former friends who are pitted against each other for what they believe in, each believing they are right, but still completely understanding what the other is going through.
    Yes, there’s a lot of action. It’s ridiculously well paced and choreographed. But the movie succeeds on the emotions of the characters and the emotions of the audience, who has watched these characters for years now, and is completely heart broken to see two people that are equally loved on opposite sides.
    The whole registration act isn’t the main point of the movie whatsoever. It’s an action movie, there will be action. But what puts this above others is that it is more than an action movie. If you don’t like these types of movies, don’t watch or review them. If you can’t get behind this one, how could you possibly get behind any of them?

    1. “The plot is completely character driven and the main point is what these two main characters have to go through as former friends who are pitted against each other for what they believe in”

      The problem is it’s all based on a massive plot hole.
      The conflict starts because of the ‘Accords’ created because the Avengers are a threat is un-supervised.
      The examples they use are New York in Avengers 1, London in Winter Soldier, Sokovia in AoU, and Lagos from the start of the movie.
      Lets look at these tragedies-
      -New York: An alien invasion is stopped by a goverment sanctioned task-force.
      -London: A rogue goverment agent saves people from a corrupt government group.
      -Sokovia: A billionaire genius playboy creates an AI that goes rogue and takes control of a robot army created by the same genius. The robot destroys a small country. A vigilante group saves as many people as they can.
      -Lagos: A witch limits the casualties from an explosion.

      Why on earth would anyone think that someone like Black Widow should be kept under goverment watch because of that?!
      If they truly wanted to keep people safe they’d monitor genius inventors.

      Tony spends the entire movie blaming Steve, Natasha, etc for the actions of an alien army, the goverment, himself, and a witch.
      After finding out that Bucky was being framed for the bombing he decides to go and help Cap and Bucky. You know how he does that? By sneaking away without the government knowing where he is. But he still thinks the Avengers need to be monitored.
      He then turns on Bucky and Steve again after finding out Bucky killed his parents, Bucky and Steve escape. Days later he gets a letter from Steve saying “Bucky and I are busting that Witch you want to be monitored out of prison” he then receives a call saying that the prison is getting broken into and you know what he does? He lets it happen. Why? Because Steve gave him a flip phone…

      It might have been a better movie is the plot and motivations had actually made sense.

    1. He gave the Boss a better review than Civil War. That fact alone means he represents .00001 % of movie goers.

    1. This review seems honest. the reviewer described the action scenes as danger-free. Marvel can be fun, but not suspenseful. they are always making jokes in the middle of “dangerous” events. It’s so lame.

  2. As the author gets the source of the explosion wrong and the fact that the Russo brothers called in help for the action scenes one wonders what film he was watching.

    I recommend people check the film out for themselves.

  3. It’s character driven psychological thriller not a political thriller,
    That’s the lense to view it through.

  4. Next time when you’ll make a horrible critic like this, at least you should try to right something that has a meaning…

    1. The irony of someone criticising the writing of someone else when they can’t even construct a literate sentence.

  5. As one of the few negative reviews on rotten tomatoes I was curious of the rating scale for the reviewer. After going through past reviews he seems quite honest and fair.

    Though I think the review is more meh than negative.

  6. How in the world can you rate The Boss 3.5/5 a full point higher than Civil War ?
    That’s some next level BS right there. And you dare call yourself a reviewer.

    1. I rate apples 5/5, but Ferraris 3.5/5

      This is what happens when you compare ratings of things so completely different they actually can’t be compared; you look like a fool.

  7. Interesting. This reviewer is bad because he doesn’t like it. He is told he should not review what he does not like. He cannot know he does not like it unless he watches it. Therefore, he should do not try something new for he may not like it.

  8. It feels as if this reviewer either didn’t want to review the movie and that distaste filters through his review, or he really, really hates successful Hollywood blockbuster action franchise movies.
    This is not an Avengers 2.5, it is a Captain America 3,0, building on the premise that was explored in Captain America Winter Soldier. For example two of the characters here (Crossbones and Winter Soldier) were introduced there and their story continues here. Iron Man’s character brings his guilt from the events of the two Avenger’s movies, guilt for the loss of life in both events.
    The issue in this movie is that the villain is smart enough to know that he can’t beat all of the heroes united, so he manipulates them into standing on principle, even when that principle will put them into conflict with their friends. No matter who wins, they lose, but the key is that both sides have defensible positions, well articulated and completely understandable, this is the key to the movie.
    Yes, the action sequences are amazing, particularly the airport battle, but what makes it are the characterisations of noble people placed into an ignoble position by their core beliefs and their attempts to do the right thing, as they judge it from their moral perspective. We may not agree with it, but we can understand it.
    As a psychological thriller its good, as a action movie its very good, as a superhero movie it stands vastly superior to the steaming pile of manure that was the terminally-confused Batman vs. Superman.
    Marvel’s next release is Doctor Strange, not too many franchises can go from a rollicking superhero action thriller to a mystic psychological drama as easily as Marvel. To be honest they haven’t really put too many steps wrong to this point, Captain America: Civil War is a sure step as they continue to build their shared universe and the franchise as a whole while delivering what the fans so obviously clamor for.

  9. Without watching the movie or reading any of the reviews or watching the trailer anybody with half a brain could figure out marvel was going to put out another bland derivative shameless money grab piece of capeshit. But who can blame them, its all they know how to do.

    1. All you know how to do is sit in your basement and bitch about something you don’t even have to watch instead of having a legit criticism of the film. You basically even admitted you didn’t even watch the movie.

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