by Kevin Muller
Joss Whedon, the geek savior of television and movies, hit it big with 2012’s ‘The Avengers.” It was a buildup of not only the super heroes, but the promise of what everyone was waiting for, a team movie that would fulfill so many dreams of the loyal fans of these characters. Whedon hit it out of the park giving us great acting and snappy dialogue to make the movie a massive success both critically and financially. We all anticipated the phase 2 Avengers movie that we had to wait three years to drop. Fast forward three years and three solo films later, and you would’ve thought that Whedon created a cinematic abortion with “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
Though the film wasn’t as strong as the first, it didn’t deserve the utter hate that some people gave it. Whedon quickly exited after a highly publicized nasty split with Marvel. Some of the problems in that film seem to be forgiven here under the direction of the Russo Brothers who revitalized the Captain America series with the utterly fantastic “The Winter Soldier.” Has their magic worked again or are they going to go down the same path as Whedon did?
One wouldn’t be so foolish to think that this was another Avengers movie. It is so chock full of characters, both new and old, that it does slightly take away from the power of the story. The plot, which is buried under some fan servicing and introductions, is quite interesting when it isn’t getting distracted by the annoying same things that people seemed to hate about ‘Ultron.” The government is starting to get annoyed by our heroes. Many civilians are getting as nervous when the Avengers come to save the day because of the amount of collateral damage they leave behind. It ranges from buildings being destroyed to people actually dying. A plan is set in motion to lay accountability for their actions. While Tony Stark, who was confronted by one of the victim’s mothers early in the movie, seems to think this is a good idea, Steve Rogers thinks that by placing restrictions on them, it will only hurt their cause. How can they truly do their jobs if all they are concerned about is if they are violating some code of ethics written in a contract form? Rogers’s concern also stretches far beyond the documents since his friend Bucky, also known as The Winter Soldier, is wanted for the bombing of an African government building.
One of the victims of the bombing in Africa is King T’Chaka, who is a big supporter of the documents that are in play. His peacefulness and diplomatic nature are not shared by his son Prince T’Challa, especially when the blast kills his father. As with Captain America, he dons a disguise and wants to bring justice for his father’s death by any means possible. T’Challa is played by Chadwick Boseman, who has portrayed both baseball legend Jackie Robinson and singer James Brown. Both of those roles required an extremely charismatic actor to pull them off and Boseman went far and beyond. When it was announced that he would play Black Panther there was a collective sigh of relief from the fans of the character since he would be in great hands. His freshman outing is so impressive and gives a lasting effect that it makes his solo movie, coming out in 2018, something to look forward to.
The film also sets up an interesting future for the rest of the characters and story too. Falcone is much more important and big in this movie. Anthony Mackie really does give the character a great bravado and sense of loyalty to Rogers. Paul Rudd, after starring in his own film last year “Antman”, is quite good here being Paul Rudd. His inclusion into the movie is the one that does feel a bit forced. The charm of Rudd is that he is able to be the everyday man equipped with a comedian’s sense of humor. That quality does go overboard a bit and does negatively affect the rest of the cast. Not everyone has to be funny. The movie, especially during the beautifully staged airport battle, thinks that everyone has to spout out a wise cracking line. It is something people hated in “Ultron” but seem to give a pass here. Since Disney now owns Marvel, you can feel to need for the executives to cater to the families that are shelving out the money to see these things.
One of the criticisms of “Ultron” was that it gave all those one liners to the main villain of the movie and it resulted in him appearing far less menacing than he should’ve been. In this movie, the villain isn’t a constant jokester but someone who is hell bent on destroyed the unity of the group. Daniel Bruhl, a German actor, who was absolutely fantastic in 2013’s “Rush”, see it if you haven’t, gives us a villain who is quite frightening but very human. General Zemo is determined, dark, resourceful, cunning, smart, and everything else a proper villain should be super powered or not. It is a quiet performance that many have looked over since he isn’t showboating in a movie that is full of it.
The Russo Brothers, with their background in television, definitely have a grasp over handling a cast with many actors. While the action scenes, including the airport scene, are beautifully staged, it is there work with the drama that is very impressive. When the movie isn’t concerned with catering to its family orientated audience, it actually is very human in a way that made “The Winter Soldier” such a pleasure to watch. The conflict plays out well and both sides are given suitable arguments for their views. Though every time the movie gets too serious, it has to resort back to its cutesy humor that takes away from the dramatic impact of the overall story.
Evans and The Russo Brothers have taken what was one of the weakest of the original Marvel films and made two fine movies out of the character. They understand the complexity of a character who believes in doing the right thing and how hard it is to constantly follow that standard. It is something Synder failed to do with Superman in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Even though the constant quipping is irritating, they understand of ramifications of what would happen if these heroes did it exist. They have made Captain America, a very bland character, into something special and someone we can root for and sympathize with but disagree with at times. Evans is the heart of the movie and his struggle is perfectly captured on screen. The movie maybe flawed but Evans and the Russos respect for the character so much that it does cover some of the flaws.
“Captain America: Civil War” is a grand and epic movie that still does many of the things right that other comic book films fail to do even half as well. Though it is getting crowded in these films, they still contain a great sense of fun and just the right amount of drama to sell all of it right.