FlixChatter Review – Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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The buzz over the latest Marvel blockbuster has been through the roof. It’s already made over $200 mil internationally before it even opened here in the US, so no doubt it will wipe out any competition here this weekend.

I have to say that despite my increasing superhero fatigue, I was still looking forward to this one mostly because I love the first two Captain America films, and I have faith in the Russo brothers’ direction. Like Zack Snyder with Batman V Superman, Anthony & Joe Russo had the tricky task of not only continuing the thread of the Avenger story, pulling off a large ensemble cast AND help launch/introduce individual standalone films (Black Panther, Spider-man). Suffice to say the Russos did a much, much better job than Snyder in delivering an entertaining Summer blockbuster that’s actually has depth and thought-provoking ideas. Interesting that The Avengers and Superman share a similar predicament in their effort to safeguard humanity, and how the DC and Marvel tentpole movies are dealing with the issue of accountability.

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The ‘Civil War’ in the title stems from an ideological conflict about what should be done in that issue of accountability and collateral damage, and whether a governing body (in this case the UN) should oversee them. Now, the fact that the perceived common enemy happens to be Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) BFF Bucky a.k.a. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), it’s easy to see which side the Cap is on. The events in The Winter Soldier has undoubtedly made Cap wary of big government and how a centralized power could be manipulative and corrupt. So it makes sense that he won’t be so easily persuaded to sign something like The Sokovia Accords that’d essentially put the Avengers under UN control.

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow: Just because it’s the path of least resistance doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path. Staying together is more important than how we stay together.

Steve Rogers/Captain America: What are we giving up to do it?


Whilst the motive behind Captain firmly believing in self-regulation is more clear cut, I’m not as convinced why Tony Stark would support it with little resistance. A cameo by Alfre Woodard briefly reveals the burden of guilt on Tony’s part as the Stark companies supplies most of the weaponry (including Captain himself who was created in the lab of his dad Howard), but still I’d think he’d be more apprehensive about government interference in the Avengers.

I have to say that the film has a pretty slow start. I understand they’d have to establish the conflict and a reason for all the fighting, but it went on a bit too long for my liking and frankly, it all feels a bit tedious. Thankfully, things do pick up as soon as an incident happens at the UN meeting and before you know it, Captain becomes a hunted man wanted by the government along with Bucky. It’s there that we meet new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)’s member Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and he certainly looks the part. This is perhaps one of the most diverse cast in a Marvel film aside from the X-Men franchise.

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I think the fact that the same writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, are involved in the Captain America trilogy so far makes the film flow nicely and has a cohesive storyline. They also did a decent job showing the events in previous films to viewers who might not be familiar with the Avengers story, i.e. the battle in the fictional Eastern European country Sokovia in Avenger: Age of Ultron that caused massive collateral damage. Marvel fans would especially enjoy the references and inside jokes, especially during the actual civil war battle involving a dozen MCU superheroes. This is also the first time we see the new Spider-man (Tom Holland) as part of MCU and he’s definitely a highlight. Spidey is supposed to be a wisecrackin’ teenager and Holland’s captured that. All his comments as he’s fighting the other heroes, like referencing Empire Strikes Back and saluting Cap before he fights him, are a hoot.

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Spider-Man (to Bucky): You have a metal arm? That is awesome, dude.

The intro to the appropriately-aged character is full of good humor as he’s fanboying over Iron Man, who somehow still has time to flirt with aunt May (Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr’s co-star in the rom-com Only You) despite a brief 36-hour deadline to arrest Cap. There’s a lot of fanboy-ing going on in this movie that’s so hilarious. My fave part is when Ant-Man (the immensely affable Paul Rudd) meets Cap which got one of the biggest laughs in the theater.

Scott Lang/Ant-Man: Look, man, I know you know a lot of super people so… thinks for thanking of me.

Captain America: Civil War is commendable for having the right balance of story, character, emotion, humor AND high-octane action. The fight scenes are well-choreographed that you can actually see the action despite the sheer number of people fighting. It wasn’t so bombastic that it’s headache-inducing. The story never feels cartoonish even with SO many characters involved and the battles feel sprightly and fun without being frivolous or silly. When one character is injured, we feel the emotion of fellow team members and the sense of solidarity is definitely there. The Captain America trilogy benefits from the strong base of Steve/Bucky relationship established in the first film. I totally believe why Cap would go to such length to protect his best friend and stand by his side regardless of what he’s done, and I think Bucky would’ve done the same if the situation were reversed. I love Evans and Stan even more as they become more at ease in their respective roles, and Anthony Mackie is always so charming and fun as Falcon. I also have to mention how I appreciate Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow more and more, and the fact that she’s undeniably torn between the two sides is a testament to her intriguing character arc.

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The key in making a huge ensemble cast work is they have to have a reason for us to care for the characters. It’s getting immensely tricky here but I think keeping the focus on just a small group helps. The final battle between Cap, Iron Man & Winter Soldier is not only cool to watch but it also carries a certain emotional weight because there’s something personal that affects the three of them. It’s perhaps one of the most compelling dramatic moments from RDJ that I’ve seen in all the Iron Man & Avengers movies so far.

That said, I don’t think this film is perfect and I don’t think it’s the greatest MCU film so far, as many critics have said. I’ve mentioned about the rather sluggish start, but there are also moments that don’t really work. Daniel Brühl is a perfectly capable actor but he barely makes a dent here amongst an ocean of characters, though I think the character’s motive is a pretty decent one. The romance between Cap and Sharon Carter also feels so obligatory and the lack of chemistry between Evans and Emily VanCamp doesn’t help. Oh how I miss Hayley Atwell‘s Agent Carter who’s such a strong female character who doesn’t need any superpowers to make a difference. I also find the music unmemorable as I barely remember any of it, which is odd given I LOVE what Henry Jackman did with The Winter Soldier.

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All in all, it’s a VERY good film that ties all three Captain American movies superbly well and would rank amongst the best film trilogies. After this, I’m even more confident in the Russo brothers’ directing talent and MCU is definitely in capable hands if they continue to make Marvel movies. I love the end credits of the first two Captain America movies and they did an excellent job here as well. In terms of replay-ability value, this one ranks third after The Winter Soldier and The First Avenger, both of which I actually just re-watched last night and I still enjoyed them immensely!

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So have you seen ‘Captain America: Civil War’? Let me know what you think!

10 Reasons Iron Man 3 Exceeds My Expectations

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Truth be told, this is one superhero film this year I wasn’t really  looking forward to. I mean I LOVE the first film, and I didn’t even hate the second one even with its set of flaws. But I guess I’m just a bit worn out with the character of Tony Stark himself, his snarky cool edge that was so fun to watch before is just getting stale. But thanks to writer/director Shane Black, somehow he manages to win me over with his direction style. Here are just some things he did right:

1. Black and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce came up with a thrilling story that doesn’t dwell too much on the rich-billionaire syndrome. I mean we’ve seen all that, so no need to keep rehashing that fact. We see the frivolous party-animal part of Tony Stark in a flashback at the beginning, but shortly after that, he’s plucked out of his elements. It’s a fish-out-of-water story of sort, as Tony ends up being stranded in a snowy small town in Tennesse.

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Shane Black on the set with RDJ

2. The burning question for this particular superhero, perhaps more so than any other Marvel superhero is this: Does the suit make the man or the man made the suit? In the Film School Rejects interview Shane Black and exec. producer Kevin Feige, the interviewer said, “…you seem as interested in having Tony out of the Iron Man armor as in it”. Here’s Black’s answer:

I want the Iron Man stuff to have impact. And if he’s always in the suit doing stuff, it doesn’t have any impact. If every once in a while he gets just a piece of the suit and POW! he launches a bolt and somebody goes flying 20 feet through the air, but it burns him to do it, that has impact.

I think that’s a wise move right from the get go, having such a strong vision for the character and make him the primary focus once again. I think Black succeeds in creating that delicate balance of seeing both persona of Tony Stark, making the most of Robert Downey Jr.‘s undeniable screen charisma that seems to only get better with age.

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Now, THAT’s the money shot

3. Going back to basicsbut somehow makes the old feels new again. The reason I like the first film was because we see Tony as a real genius who’s seemingly thrive under even the most desperate circumstances with his ability to build something out of nothing. We see that MacGyver side of Tony here, how he somehow can still rise to the occasion outside of his state-of-the-art lab and without his loyal robotic butler Jarvis. Tony Stark actually has to shop at a Home Depot type of store like the rest of us, ahah. The ‘relationship’ between the hero and his Iron suit gets an even more amusing play here, which seems even more hilarious than ever before.

4. Shane Black is no stranger to buddy action-comedies. After all, he was the writer behind the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover action franchise Lethal Weapon. He’s also worked with RDJ in the wacky thriller-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where RDJ and Val Kilmer made a droll and quirky pair.

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Here RDJ still has a great rapport with General Rhodes (Don Cheadle), that whole bit about War Machine having a more nationalistic name Iron Patriot delivers some laughs. But when Rhodes is not always around to swap snarky banters with, Black cast a precocious whiz boy (Ty Simpkins) as his sparring partner. The 11-year-old Simpkins is able to hold his own against the veteran actor, and their banter is fun to watch. I love how Tony is still being Tony regardless who he’s dealing with, not allowing anyone—no matter how old—to wallow in self-pity, including himself. It was an unlikely duo that works in the story.

IronMan3_TheMandarin5. Surprising twist on the villain that I didn’t see coming. Having a more realistic ‘real world’ adversary with the terrorism angle works well here instead of simply having another suited-armor nemesis. But there’s more than meets the eye here about the eccentric psychopath The Mandarin that still hit me out of left field. I think comic readers might not necessarily appreciate the alteration but I consider it to be a pleasant surprise that’s sooo entertainingly zany.

Perfect casting of Sir Ben Kingsley in that role, stealing scenes whenever he appears on-screen. The scene of him, Stark and Rhodes is definitely one of the major highlights, but the less I say about the character the better for the sake of your viewing enjoyment.

6. Guy Pearce looking cool and hunky for a change, instead of looking like 200 years old (Prometheus) or some follicly challenged gangster (Lawless). He’s not the kind of villain that takes himself too seriously, Aldrich Killian is a pretty cool name and Pearce plays him as a charming baddie that could easily match Downey’s quick wits. There’s a scene towards the finale that somehow reminds me of his breakthrough role in Memento, I don’t think it’s an homage or anything, it’s just something I picked up on. Pearce seems to have had a good time filming this and it shows!

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7. Fun action set pieces but yet they’re not just some over-the-top and vapid bombastic shoot-em-ups (*cough* Die Hard 5 * cough*). The most memorable one, that you’ve likely seen in the trailer, is the relentless attack on Tony’s Malibu mansion. I remember marveling at that sprawling beach-front property in the first movie, and seeing it being destroyed to bits was wow, I’ve got to admit my heart sank a bit as I watched it.

The eye-popping special effects are to be expected. I still enjoy watching our armored hero shooting off to the sky, but this time, the flying sequence isn’t so much about Iron Man looking hip and cool on the air, but more about what he can do with that gift. Ultimately, it’s Tony’s sharp thinking that does the saving, not simply the power of that suit itself.

8. Robert Downey Jr.’s consistent dedication to the role is one of the main factors the franchise hasn’t lost its juice. Everything we’ve come to know and love about the character is all there, Tony’s flair for the theatrics, his nerdy obsession with his robotic toys, and his snarky prowess is still firing on all cylinders. Yet somehow under Black’s direction, it feels fresh, sprightly, and endearingly self-deprecating. I think the key here is showing the character’s vulnerability and contrast that with his larger-than-life billionaire antics.

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There are countless hysterical scenes where things don’t go according to plan for Tony. Even in the moment he needs it most, his invention can still let him down, and that sense that our hero isn’t always so invincible makes him more human, and in some ways more relatable.

9. But also not ‘too relatable’ as we go to see a superhero movies for escapist entertainment. Iron Man 3 is by no means a dark and gloomy affair (I don’t know why some reviewers equate this with The Dark Knight) as I don’t think it would fit the essence of Tony Stark if they go that route. There are dark moments to be sure, but the mirthful tone is intact and plenty of geeky gadgetry to keep the superhero geek massively entertained. Black & co. never forgets that at its heart, Marvel superhero movies are popcorn entertainment and on that front, it certainly delivers!

IronMan3_RebeccaHall10. The returning characters are given a bit more to do here. Retiring from directing duties (but still serves as exec. producer), Jon Favreau is quite amusing as the head of security of Stark Industries. I wish Rebecca Hall has more screen time but still, it’s nice to see her here alongside Gwyneth Paltrow (who’s not even the most beautiful woman in this movie, let alone the world, heh). That said, I kind of like that Stark’s love interest is not just a damsel in distress in this one which makes Pepper Potts a bit more interesting than in the previous installments.


Perhaps having a tepid expectations helps me enjoy this more than I otherwise would, as the movie is definitely not without flaws. Just to name a few, the motivation of the super-villain’s descent to madness is too much of a stretch and the loud clanging and bombastic mayhem of the third act can be quite dizzying. But overall, those who haven’t become too cynical or jaded by superhero movies would be hard pressed not to enjoy this one.

Though the iron suit sometimes run out of juice in this movie, thankfully the Iron Man franchise still has plenty of that in its third installment. I wouldn’t rate this as high as other stellar “threequels” like the Bourne Ultimatum, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, or Toy Story 3, but it’s certainly a solid addition to the lucrative Marvel canon.


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What did you think folks? Does this one meet YOUR expectations?