Captain America: Civil War Is a Super-Hero Fight Done Right

civil-war-poster3I was a little hesitant to do my third post in a row on a superhero movie, especially since I usually only post on a monthly basis, so I try to keep my topics varied. But then I thought: Well, superheroes ARE pretty much dominating pop culture right now…and this post actually will tie in the last two quite neatly so…I quickly convinced myself to go ahead with it.

And now that the dust has settled from 2016’s third (but definitely not last) superhero box office assault, Captain America: Civil War has surprised absolutely no one by dominating its debut weekend with a domestic gross of $179 million (adding to its already-impressive global tally, which Box Office Mojo reports is currently at $494 million). So now let’s take a look at the other impressive feat the movie accomplished:

Namely, where this year’s other hero vs hero spectacle (Batman v Superman) went wrong, Captain America: Civil War went right. Many times, in fact – so let’s take a closer look. (Fair warning: minor spoilers ahoy!)

The Reason for Conflict

Civil War kicks off with an Avengers mission that results in the deaths of multiple innocent bystanders. This, in addition to civilian casualties from the events in the previous Avengers films, causes the United Nations to say that super-powered individuals need to be kept in check and should not be able to act with autonomy however they please. Thus, the team has a choice: work under the United Nations and only on approved missions or hang up their costumes and retire (or otherwise face arrest). The issue not only divides Captain America and Iron Man and the rest of team, but it is also gives the viewers something to weigh the pros and cons of and see which side they would support.

The conflict of BvS however, was between two superheroes who felt each other needed to be taken down because their methods proved that they were a threat to society. The fact that they were both correct – Superman has his carelessness about collateral damage and Batman’s overly violent tactics lead to many unnecessary deaths – are lost on both of them, and as a result the audience gets no one to really root for or even an issue to side with. Both are in the wrong and it becomes just two thick-headed heroes in grudge match.

The Battle

The big face-off in Civil War is simply glorious. It’s a comic book splash page come to life as each side of heroes charge into battle on a deserted airport runaway in the bright light of day. And while it’s a serious battle, there are still light-hearted moments to be had and even more amazingly, it involves 12 heroes flying and jumping and zapping and punching yet it never feels overcrowded, each hero gets a chance to shine and the action is crisp and clear and easy to follow.

Apparently Hawkeye didn't get the memo about red being Team Cap's signature colour

Apparently Hawkeye didn’t get the memo about red being Team Cap’s signature colour

The muddled big battle of BvS just looks even worse by comparison. Dark and gloomy and set mostly inside crumbling buildings – it’s sometimes hard to pick out exactly what’s going on, even though it’s just a one-on-one battle.

Subplots and Introductions

It wouldn’t be a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie if there wasn’t a set-up for new characters and/or spin-off films, and Civil War keeps the status quo. At the risk of overcrowding a film bursting with returning characters, the filmmakers added two new ones – Black Panther and the rebooted-for-the-MCU Spider-Man – to the mix. But unlike BvS, which shoehorned in a lame side story that went nowhere and had nothing to do with main plot at all in order to tease the future Justice League members, the new debuts in Civil War are more organic and connect to the plot

Black Panther/T’Challa is royalty from Wakanda, the nation which lost a number of citizens in the tragedy depicted in the opening mission and he is present, along with Black Widow, when a bomb goes off at the UN and kills his father, the king of Wakanda. This gives him his own agenda which then crosses paths with the rest of the Avengers.  And Tony Stark, needing to beef up his ranks for the impending smack down with Cap’s own beefed-up team of supporters, heads out to Queens, NY to have a little chat with one Peter Parker – a nervous, techie teen who lives with his Aunt May (hello, Marisa Tomei!). Tony (with the help from many StarkTech surveillance gadgets) has correctly sussed out that Parker is the new spider-themed hero that has been cleaning up crime in New York. A quick recruitment drive later and Spidey is on Team Iron Man (and easily one of the best parts of the big smackdown).

All in all, it’s much more plausible and thought-out  than just having the new heroes  “show up” unannounced to join in a big fight, much to the confusion of the other players – which is exactly how Wonder Woman was brought into BvS (which was very welcome, of course – but still very clunky).

Fanboy Moments and Surprise Twists

Civil War has a number of definite, clear fanboy moments – cool shots or scenes that look fine to the average viewer but hold something more for the seasoned fan (e.g. Hawkeye + Ant-Man…’nuff said).

BvS couldn’t even make a moment out of explaining the absence of Robin by showing his defaced costume in a display case, since it wasn’t even close to recognizable as Robin’s costume in the first place.

Civil War also had an awesome surprise from Ant-Man (that was spoiled for some when it was revealed in a Lego tie-in playset, of all things) as well as a final-act twist that literally had me gasp (although, I never watch the full trailers for movies I’m going to see, so it may very well have been a twist that was already revealed).

But the big surprise in BvS is…Superman dies. And then he gets buried, but the twist is that he may not actually be dead?

Um, yeah – the dude’s in the upcoming Justice League movies and he’s also, y’know Superman…so, I can pretty much guarantee that not one person was shocked by this shocking twist.

 

Listen, I’ll always be a DC fanboy at heart, but Captain America: Civil War was just the palette cleanser that was needed after the overcooked Batman v Superman. And it somehow managed to do something pretty amazing, too – it got me actually looking forward to the next Spider-Man film (I KNOW).

 

 

Batman v Superman: Pros v Cons (Part II)

 

batmanvsuperman-headerContinuing my breakdown of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – my last post covered some of the films Pros, so this time around I’m digging into its Cons. Word of warning – my Cons contain deeper dives into the film and its specifics, so if you haven’t seen it yet…Spoilers Ahoy!

Cons

Desaturation – Director Zach Snyder has never met something bright he couldn’t suck the life out of or something pristine he couldn’t muck up with a few handfuls of dirt, and Batman v Superman is no different. It’s a film whose primary colours appear to be brown/grey/blue.

One of Man of Steel’s problem points for comic fans was how dirty and dark Superman’s costume looked. And once the first official images from BvS appeared, featuring a suited-up Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot, it was apparent that this was going to be standard practice going forward. Granted, Superman’s “S” shield in BvS is indeed brighter than the Man of Steel version, but everything else – and I mean EVERYTHING else is sucked dry of colour.

batman-vs-superman-robin-pic

Robin’s costume…or just a pair of greasy coveralls that Batman wears when tuning up the batmobile?

This is done to such a degree that a big Easter Egg in one scene flew right by me unnoticed, even though I was looking straight at it. The scene in question shows Bruce Wayne in the batcave as he walks by a dark costume encased in glass and defaced with a spray-painted taunt from the Joker. I just naturally assumed it was one of Batman’s old costumes (the dude has a thing for saving memorabilia, after all). It wasn’t until I saw a still of that scene a few days later when I realized, “Holy crap – that’s ROBIN’s costume!” (and that makes it a big moment for fans who know that in the comics, Batman’s second Robin, Jason Todd, was brutally killed by the Joker). But, with all of its signature red and yellow leeched out, the Robin costume was barely recognizable, unless you managed to notice the barely discernable “R” emblem (and if you weren’t too distracted with trying to read the Joker’s message).

And then as if things weren’t dark enough, we’re given a final climatic fight with three of the most dour-looking superheroes taking on a CGI monstrosity in the middle of what appears to be a maelstrom of mud, dirt and rock. Ugh.

And this look parallels the feel of the film itself. In fact, the last five major DC films (The Dark Knight TrilogyMan of Steel, BvS) have all been colourless, joyless affairs – and if this is the type of cinematic universe DC wants to create, I’m not sure if I want to be a part of it.

No

No

Lex Luthor – While some problem areas of the film are tolerable, Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Superman’s arch enemy, is not. Who would ever think it would be a good idea to take the confident, arrogant and formidable evil entrepreneur that is Lex Luthor and turn him into a jittery, twitchy, incessantly rambling scientific genius with unresolved daddy issues who constantly appears to be one facial tic away from being fitted for a strait-jacket? The makers of this film, that’s who.

Bodycount Batman – If you’re making a Batman movie, the one thing you for sure do NOT want to do is make your Batman into someone who states that we should just straight-up kill someone even if we are only 1% sure that he could become an unstoppable threat – and then have that Batman soullessly and needlessly gun down, stab and kill a number of hired bad guys who are more or less just in his way. Not cool, Bat-bro, not cool.

The Title Conflict – I have a few big issues stemming from this, so let me break ‘em down for you:

1  First off, the “hero vs hero” is not only a long-standing trope in comics, but as of late, it has become one of the most overused tropes (there’s so much I can say about this, I may actually do another whole post about it). Case in point – Spring 2016 not only brings us Batman v Superman, but also Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, featuring Team Captain America v Team Iron Man, as well as DC Entertainment’s animated release, Justice League vs Teen Titans. *Sigh* can’t everyone just get along? (Answer: Of course not, because comics).

2  Next up, this statement: For generations, comic book fans have always asked – ‘who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman?’  – which has appeared in one form or another in so many pieces about the movie. This seems to infer that the film is finally giving  the fans something they have wanted to see for decades. Well, not so much. Because you know who asks that kind of question? Kids. Little kids ask that question. Older fans don’t ask that question because they know they can find a dozen different instances where that scenario has already been played out in various comics and graphic novels over the years. And the fans also know that while they do tend to make for some good reading, ultimately, they don’t end up mattering in the big scheme of things. That’s what makes the first cinematic pairing of DC’s two most popular heroes so frustrating – because without even seeing the movie we all know that no matter the outcome of this conflict, the end result will be Bats and Supes buddying up going forward (thanks in no small part to DC’s well-publicized announcements of two upcoming Justice League films and a slate of solo spinoffs).

3  Which brings me to this point – the film’s reason behind the “hero vs hero” conflict. Generally these conflicts can make for a good comic book story because they are usually the result of one of the following scenarios:

  • two heroes/teams meeting for the first time and mistakenly think each other is the enemy
  • a hero/team is forced to turn against their comrades (eg., via mind control, or in order to ensure the safety of innocents)
  • a controversial choice is made or stand is taken that divides heroes and ultimately makes them fight for what they think is right.

But none of these hold true for Batman v Superman.

The heroes whole conflict is because Bat-Douche thinks the Son of Krypton is an irresponsible threat to civilians and Super-Smug thinks the Dark Knight is ruthless vigilante meting out his own sadistic brand of justice. They are both aware of one another, but don’t know each other – so of course, neither try to approach the other and say, “Hey dude, we both want to stop evil, but I think you should maybe check yourself a bit, y’know?” Instead, they just start right in with the fisty-punchy ka-pows and the bang-bang-zappy. (Superman does try for one brief second to reason with Batman, but then gets sucker bat-punched and goes off the rails…again).

So, the title conflict is ultimately between two heroes who have both been in the wrong with their actions – but are blind to it. They only think that it is the other who needs to be held accountable for what they’ve wrought, when in fact they both do. There’s no side to root for and no real resolution to their fight. They finally switch from bitter enemies to battle buddies after realizing that they’ve been played by Luthor and trudge off to join what really should have been the title bout of Dawn of Justice:

Wonder Woman v Doomsday!

Final Verdict – Pros v Cons: Cons

 

Batman v Superman: Pros v Cons (Part I)

BvSposterIt has been just under a week since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice punched it’s way to a record-breaking box office debut (as of this writing, the film’s worldwide grosses have just passed the half a billion mark) and a lot of talk has been made about the reception of the film. It certainly hasn’t won over the critics, as the overall consensus has been resoundingly poor (it currently sits at 29% “fresh” on the aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes and has an average score of 44/100 over on Metacritic). There has been a lot of buzz-speak against this fact, and about how the film was “not made for the critics” but is a “film for the fans”.

But is it really? I’m a comic book fan, and while I didn’t think it was a “bad” film, I did think it was really “meh” – because even though it is mostly well-made and has its share of good moments, I found that there were a lot of problems story-wise as well as stylistically – and overall it’s definitely not the type of film I was ever hoping a Batman/Superman team-up would be. And even though the audience may have turned out in droves to support its debut, it seemed they left  mostly feeling “meh” as well (Cinemascore had viewers giving the film an overall “B” rating –  but also noting that this came partly from a  balanced amount of “A” and “C” grades given, and not simply a majority of “B” grades). It would appear then, that just as many movie-goers are enjoying the film as those who are not, while the remaining group doesn’t see much difference either way.

So, in the spirit of pitting two forces against one another, I’m going to dive a little deeper into my own views on the film and do a two-part Pros v Cons of Batman v Superman. Up first, the Pros!

Pros

Addressing the destruction in Man of Steel – By opening the film with a civilians-eye view of the destruction in Metropolis caused during Man of Steel‘s climatic fight between Superman and Zod, the film addresses head-on the biggest problem point of that film – that hundreds, if not thousands of innocent bystanders would have been killed during their battle, and no one seemed to bat an eyelash about it, most especially Superman himself. This time around we see the affect it had on those caught in the catastrophe, including one Bruce Wayne.

Wonder Woman – The long overdue big screen debut of the Amazing Amazon didn’t disappoint – the only problem being that there wasn’t enough of her, with her barely-there subplot only serving to set up future films. But still, when Gal Gadot finally suited up to join the fight against Doomsday, my face cracked the smile that had been absent from minute one of watching the film. And that smile was also due in part to…

Wonder Woman’s theme – Junkie XL collaborating on the score with Hans Zimmer seemed like an odd choice, but when Wonder Woman finally appeared, all armoured-up and backed by this jacked-up, synthesized, pulsating orchestration, it was just all kinds of right.

Batman_v_Superman_Dawn_of_Justice_WW

And just like that, the movie suddenly gets a whole lot better

Alfred – Comic book fans have known for years that Alfred is more than just a butler and surrogate father, he’s a bad-ass dude in his own right. It was refreshing to see Jeremy Irons’ portrayal of him was more as Bruce Wayne’s tech-savvy right-hand man, fully capable of tasks like drone-piloting the Batwing, than just as someone who simply buttles and tut-tuts.

The Batcave – Having the entrance to the Batcave be hidden in the middle of lake that magically parts like the Red Sea when the batmobile launches over it was the kind of stuff we needed more of – it’s a little nod to the past (in this case the 60’s Batman series with the cave entrance hidden behind a false cliffside) that’s also modern enough to give you one of those fun “oh, cool!” superhero moments that are largely lacking otherwise in the film.

The introduction of the other future Justice Leaguers – With every new hero that was announced for this film – Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg – it seemed like DC Entertainment and Warner Bros were so desperate to play catch-up to Marvel’s cinematic universe that they were going to overstuff this movie with too many points of focus. Luckily, these three heroes were all only seen briefly (apart from Flash’s cryptic cameo in the Batcave) on a few minutes of surveillance footage – with only  minimal dialogue and explanation – just a teaser of what we can expect to see of them sometime down the road.

Up next: The Cons!