Captain America: Civil War Opinion - Russo Brothers Outdo Themselves in one of Marvel's finest productions
Summary: The Russo Brothers, who surprised audiences with the superior sequel "The Winter Soldier" and revived the Captain America franchise, outdo themselves in Marvel's finest production since The Avengers with an expert management of a large ensemble of characters.
We were slated for two huge 'versus' production releases this first half of 2016. The first was Zack Snyder's "Batman v Superman". I've already written my thoughts on that film, but to summarise, there's a ton of problems with that film. Seeing how Superhero films are coming around almost every single month of the year (We have X-Men: Apocalypse coming in May too...), I've been getting rather tired of the same old formula that studios like Marvel have been using for several productions now. But seeing that "Civil War" was supposed to be the second versus film of this year, it was easy to be wary of this project, yet I had some hope for this particular film because of the brains behind it. The Russo brothers completely redefined the Captain America franchise with "The Winter Soldier", which was, in my opinion, quite a solid action film with a very important set of events that reverberates throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With this third instalment, "Civil War", the Russo Brothers have demonstrated considerable and effective management of a large ensemble cast, reliable direction and yet another major event that will undoubtedly reverberate through the MCU.
The first good thing in this film for me was the fact that it genuinely wants to deal with the consequences of large scale battles that audiences have become accustomed to in superhero films. I've said this before, but after the first scene of Batman v Superman, just when you think Zack Snyder has listened to people and wants to deal with the large scale destruction of Man of Steel, he just cuts away to another location to get a different plot going. In Civil War, however, the entire plot of the film centres itself on the remifications of a relatively small scale incident. After the Avengers, led by Cap, go into Lagos to intercept the baddies (Led by Rumlow, the soldier who turned out to be a HYDRA agent in The Winter Soldier), when Rumlow chooses to self destruct with a grenade and try to take down Cap with him, Scarlet Witch tries to contain the explosion and send him up and away from people on the ground, but accidentally ends up sending him through a building. The explosion kills nearly a dozen Wakandan (fictional African nation, the place where Vibranium is found) humanitarian workers. While this is still nothing compared to the scale of what occured in "Ultron", this event eventually galvanises the world into a debate of accountability for the Avengers with the consequences of the events of Avengers, Ultron, and Winter Soldier being called on. I thought that we were cool with the events of Ultron, since they insisted that every citizen of Sokovia had been evacuated with the help of Nick Fury ex machina. But the film presents rather believable consequences of the events that transpired in the Avengers sequel, in the form of collateral damage. This is definitely welcome.
From the trailers and posters, one thing you probably took away is that there are an awful lot of characters in the film. You would be right. I count 12 heroes in total, and some of them are not the regulars we've seen in previous Marvel productions. While this could very easily have been the problematic part of this film, I thought the Russos actually did a really good job navigating between the character arcs and storylines of the dozen characters effectively enough to keep a solid narrative tempo going. This isn't the easiest thing to do, I can think of many instances where large ensemble casts in films with loads of characters that have speaking roles end up not giving enough time to each characters and ultimately ruin the narrative flow of the film, but "Civil War" isn't one of them, in fact it seems proud of this fact.
The Russo Brothers are trying to do for the MCU what Chris Nolan did for DC, make an entertaining superhero film for a wide audience that can also deal with serious themes and issues. As far as I'm concerned, I think they are doing a really good job in handling the so-called Phase 2-Phase 3 transition in the MCU. They've made 2 of the most critically acclaimed MCU films that have also been wildly successful at the box office. The amount of pressure that Marvel puts on their creative team is compounded by the limitations they set as well. For some reason, Marvel remains fearful of the prospect of actually killing off a main character for an emotional effect. Some of the emotional moments in this film initially portend to have lasting consequences (And yes, I'm talking about Rhodey's fall to the ground) but actually have minor ones (Possibly none at all given that we see Rhodey doing some physical therapy). This is a problem, because it reinforces this crazy notion that all Marvel characters are definitively immortal, and ruins any dramatic effect of close calls, one of the most important devices of action films, effectively eliminating the tension filmmakers want audiences to feel when their protagonists enter a difficult situation. Other than this, the film gives a lot of great moments, from the laugh riot that was the Stark-meets-Peter-Parker scene to the gut-punch reveal of the true cause of the death of Tony's parents.
One of the main selling points of this film, especially to comic book fans, was the inclusion of Spider-Man. Now no one is more excited than me for a good film Spider-Man. I fondly remember how memorable Spider-Man 2 was to me as a kid, me and my brother would repeatedly re-enact the amazing train sequence. But this is the third Spider-Man iteration in the last 9 years on film, naturally skepticism is required on why Hollywood can't seem to nail this character well enough once but are still desperately trying to to do. I went into the film expecting at best a palatable version of the web-slinger, but I exited thinking to myself, "They are definitely giving Tobey Maguire a run for his money." Say what you will on the acting abilities demonstrated by him in his portrayal, but Tobey Maguire definitely fit the role. This new Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, is the youngest we've seen on the big screen, in his teens, and potentially could bring us a better, relatable version of everyone's favourite super-hero. There's still the movie industry-wide issue of reboots and remakes becoming the norm(Disney, I'm looking at you...), but if they do it right, why not.
Overall this is a yet another solid Captain America film from the Russo Brothers. As far as I'm concerned, they should be involved in some capacity in every single future Marvel production so that we can have some good films coming from them. But this could potentially become problematic. Marvel, along with Lucasfilm (The owners of Star Wars), Pixar (Arguably the most creative studio on the planet), and even Disney Animation Studios, are all owned by the entertainment behemoth Disney. Seeing Disney's lineup of films for the future, which comprises primarily of live-action remakes of ALL of their classic animation releases of decades before, I can only see nothing but film after film being thrown onto us with almost no new creative direction. A majority of Disney's productions come from their tent-pole franchises, and continuing this trend will only make things worse in the long run, as film goers will eventually call them on the bullshit that they are doing and demand that Disney put more money into original ideas. Films like the amazing Disney Animation feature "Zootopia", which has grossed around a billion dollars worldwide, are desperately needed to refresh the movie lineup from what it currently looks like: sequels of well established franchises. But as we move into the third phase of the MCU, all we can do is hope that the writers flex their creative muscles as hard as they possibly can, and that Marvel and Disney invest in creativity, not re-hashery.