Do you know something? I’ve started this review half a dozen times, got half way through and ditched it.
Why? I can’t quite get a handle on why Captain America: Civil War annoyed me so much and none of the explanations to myself are quite adequate.
I’m circling in on the reason and I think it probably has something to do with dishonesty. For one thing, I feel slightly cheated. This isn’t a Captain America movie at all! He’s in it, yes. He has a major role, yes, but with Iron Man being the major pro/antagonist and Cap being sidelined by a dozen other heroes in his own movie, this is essentially another Avengers 2.5.
Now before you start whining and saying “But there was no Thor; there was no Hulk!”, Thor and Hulk weren’t always around and most of the best Avengers stories revolved around the Iron Man/Captain America conflicts.
If this movie is anything, it’s an apology for the appalling Age of Ultron.
“Sorry guys. This is what we *meant* to give you but we fucked up.”
In previous incarnations of this review, I explained the Deleuzian cataclysm and the self-referential vortex allowing – indeed demanding – culture to consume itself. I even explained the MCU plot trajectory in purely Derridan terms. However academically clever and correct that might have been; however much such arsewipery that sort of thing got me in terms of my dissertation . . . it doesn’t really explain what it is about the movie that doesn’t sit right.
Let’s get the practical stuff out of the way.
For the last few years, the bane of my movie going has been the reliance on handheld ‘wobbly-cam’. I blame The Blair Witch Project. It made sense in that movie but the lasting effect of that success is that every movie since has had to have at least one sequence where wobbly cam is ‘essential’. I bloody hate wobbly cam. I go to the cinema to be entertained, not to leave with motion sickness and a migraine. Luckily, the vogue for wobbly-cam is subsiding, but has been replaced by an effect that is almost as vomit inducing where the action become jittery and indistinct. I don’t know what that effect it called, so I can’t really elaborate on that one. Unfortunately, the Russo brothers haven’t quite replaced one with the other and yesterday I had to suffer jittery indistinct hand held wobbly cam. It made me so ill, I went to bed early just to stop my head spinning.
And here’s the thing.
It’s a bloody excellent movie.
Despite all the problems it is seriously, seriously good. There were many, many things that could have derailed this movie including:
- Overlong running time
- Overlong action sequences
- Unnecessary Action Pieces
- Introduction of new characters
- Giving an unwieldy ensemble cast something useful to do
- Keeping so many characters and viewpoint coherent.
- Referencing other movies, etc., etc..
But all of the above listed potential disasters were handled so deftly, not one of them detracted.
I can see people scratching their heads. Unnecessary action scenes? Yep. The Black Panther set piece. Brilliant as it was, stunning and breathtaking as it was, it was entirely superfluous. Everything you needed to know about the Panther took place in the conference room and his arrival at the airport scene. Weirdly enough, in purely cinematic terms, it was also probably my favourite sequence. Okay. Second favourite. More of that later.
This is the Spider-man I grew up with. Geeky schoolkid. Elevated Sense of social justice. Smart mouth that never shuts up. Brilliant. For me, it was always a risk taking him out of High School and for my money, only the “Peter Parker: Spider-man” stories really worked after Midtown High (especially when draw by the sublime Ross Andru). So, yeah. Perfect.
Probably the movie’s saving grace was to have a villain who was absolutely bland. His very uninterestingness is what allowed the rest of the characters to shine. By taking out the origin story and overwrought machinations of a cartoon villain, the Avengers were allowed to tell the story in lieu. Zemo was just a bloke. A crafty and knowledgeable bloke; someone who was very well placed and well versed in espionage and Hydra lore, but just a bloke.
He was mostly a MacGuffin.
And that was incredibly refreshing.
The most fascinating aspect of the story, for me was how morally indistinct it was. It wasn’t as simple as #TeamIronman and #TeamCap. Neither viewpoint was wholly correct nor morally sound. It was entirely down to perception and personal choice. This was an unusually complex twist and I found myself, as did Black Widow and Black Panther, switching allegiances and sympathies as the plot developed. Mind you, I started and ended #TeamCap, so I’m claiming a win.
The bit that, if everyone is honest, is the bit everyone went to see was the airport stand-off. Admit it. You just wanted to see two teams of Avengers lamping the crap out of each other, didn’t you? Anything else was just gravy.
It didn’t disappoint.
As an expression of what superheroes are about, it’s up there with Nightcrawlers White House infiltration and Quicksilver’s kitchen shenanigans. It’s fantastic set piece underpinned by surprise, humour and adrenalin fuelled excitement. Also, Ant-man steals it. Absolutely steals it.
But what impresses most of all is that in an ensemble cast, no one is really left out or marginalised. Everyone has their part to play; their point to make. And each point is made well.
A lot of what the Avengers was, for my money, was the on-off and fraught relationship between the Vision and Scarlet Witch. It’s nice to see that relationship being alluded to and rather charming to see it in it’s earliest, tentative stages. With the rumours of Wonder Man arriving soon, this could be quite interesting . .
So, Captain America: Civil War. Probably my fourth favourite Marvel movie so far after Ant-man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America:Winter Soldier.
But it really isn’t a Captain America movie.
I’m still waiting for that.
(Truncated for pretension)