Thursday, May 5, 2016

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

It was the summer of 2006. Fans keeping up with the Marvel storyline were introduced to Civil War, a story arc that lasted seven months and ended on a high note... not to mention the end of an era. After a horrific tragedy (an explosion killing the children of an elementary school) is televised, the U.S. Government initiates the Superhuman Registration Act, requiring anyone with extra-ordinary powers to register so they can be accountable for any destruction that remains after battle. This raised a moral question which continues in today's news (iPhones encryptions and personal privacy) and each side of the debate is justified supporting or opposing. Longtime Avengers teammates Captain America and Iron Man end up on opposite sides of the argument, ultimately leading to blood spilled on both sides. The fighting between many super heroes led to the middle of Times Square. At the climax of the battle, as Captain America was about to deliver a finishing blow to Iron Man, he was tackled by several emergency workers. Realizing the damage the war was doing to the city and its civilian population, Captain America surrendered. He would rather go to prison than see wanton destruction. Before his arraignment, Cap was shot multiple times through the heart on the steps of a Federal Courthouse and killed. 

It was when I reached the conclusion of this story arc in January of 2007 that I realized Marvel did not know how to close a chapter. Villains who were thought long-dead kept coming back in various forms (robots, computers, ghostly spirits). Peter Parker, during Civil War, chooses to unmask during a press conference. When Peter changes his mind about the Superhuman Registration Act, he moves his family from Stark Tower to a motel. An assassin hired by the Kingpin tries to kill Peter Parker, but hits Aunt May instead. Peter takes his dying Aunt to a hospital where she has lapses into a coma and is likely to die. However, Aunt May receives a radioactive blood transfusion from Peter, which he hoped would save her life due to his mutated healing factor. The demon Mephisto offers to restore Aunt May's health in exchange for erasing Peter's marriage from history, and Peter and Mary Jane agree. May lives, and Spider-Man's identity is once again a secret. Peter Parker and Mary Jane are not married, have no children and his life took a step backwards by three decades. And I was asking myself, "When will this ever end?" It was a soap opera that never closes with a final chapter. For the death of Captain America at the conclusion of the Civil War story arc, I decided that while the story may continue for decades to come... I was done. At Comic Cons I keep up with what is happening in the Marvel Universe. Bucky took over as the new Captain America, Red Skull came back (again), and recently Sam Wilson (The Falcon) became the new Captain America (red, white and blue wings instead of a shield) and Captain America returns as an aged, old man.

With all this in mind, you can understand why I say the Civil War was the last great story Marvel put out. When Captain America was shot dead on the steps in front of spectators and reporters, I consider that the end of an era. Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven split the Marvel Universe in two as friend fought friend. Sure, The Avengers had their squabbles and issues but those were petty and momentary. And when innocent life was threatened the heroes shelved their differences for the greater good. And learning over a year ago that the subtitle for the third Captain America movie was "Civil War," I was excited. This was going to be epic. My expectations grew.

The question of how much liberty an American is willing to sacrifice in exchange for security and safety has become a hot topic since 9-11. Captain America went back to the issues of the 1940s, fighting for liberties he believed in and not against agents of Hydra. There are two sides of the fence regarding what to do with a topic still being fought today. And Marvel created the Civil War story arc, providing readers to choose sides themselves. It made for a great story. And it was that same story that makes up the meat and potatoes of the political thriller that premiered this weekend, Captain America: Civil War. Yes, there is another Hydra threat (not a spoiler, this is indicated in the opening shot of the movie) but this threat is secondary to the primary concern: fighting for principals and standing ground.

Don't worry, I will not provide any spoilers here. 

A superhero registration act (here called the Sokova Accords)? Check. 
Superheroes choosing sides and hand-to-hand combat? Check. 
Captain America choosing a side for principals and sticking to them? Check. 
Spider-Man? Check.

After watching Captain America: Civil War, I cannot stop for a moment and wonder if Disney executives felt creating a popcorn movie would be more profitable and receptive than an allegorical interpretation during an election year.

Accountability and the moral complexities of modern warfare were predominant in key scenes but the movie instead deals with exploring the characters and their motives. Almost every superhero dealt with some form of inner battle. Could innocent people have been saved had they made a different decision? Could someone good in heart, possessing uncontrollable powers, be a real threat to the outside world? And in the end almost all of the destruction, fist-fights and explosions could have been prevented had everyone stopped for a moment and sought forgiveness in their heart. And that is the underlined moral you are reminded of when this movie concludes.

Dialogue is sharp and top-notch. Special effects were at times cartoonish (Disney needs to spend more time adding realism in some of those special effects, especially the opening sequences). There were two nods to the Star Wars franchise, not just the usual one. And if you are expecting a hand-to-hand death match between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers... you will not be disappointed. The combat scenes are truly lots of fun -- fan boys and young children will want to debate who is stronger, Captain America or Spider-Man? Tom Holland as Spider-man steals all of his scenes and makes Robert Downey, Jr. look like a second-rate straight-man (proving how versatile the talented Downey is on camera). Marvel hopes the third time is the charm and Holland's take on Spider-Man is dead on. 

For parents concerned about violence, vulgarity and death... all I can say without giving away spoilers is to shelve your concerns aside. It is perfectly fine to take the youngsters to see this movie. Disney wants to differentiate the Marvel movies from D.C./Warner Brothers and this certainly plays like a Disney movie. They want parents to bring their children to the theaters. There are no elementary school students getting killed in this rendition.

There are two post-credits sequences to watch after the movie so you do need to stay all the way to the very end of the closing credits. The very end.