FILM REVIEW: Captain America "Civil War"
Handbags at the ready, even more superheroes are squabbling. Captain America, who spends very little time in his home borders, takes a stand against a defiant Iron Man, who wants to see The Avenger’s responsibilities tethered to the United Nations and their interests. In our first film review, seeing as this film has been reviewed to death already, The Hype Train will pull focus on three areas of Civil War: the hype, the actual film, and its current legacy. All aboard the Civil War hype train.
The Hype of Civil War
Civil War is the 13th film enlisted into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so was the film unlucky number thirteen? The Captain’s third has kicked off the ‘third phase’ of Marvel’s big screen storytelling, and just if you’re interested, below we’ve listed all 13 films that have made the cut.
Phase One: Avengers Assembled
Iron Man (2008)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Marvel's The Avengers (2012)
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Building the Hype
With an international release date of April 27th 2016, and a United States release at the later May 6th, 2016 (quite laughable considering the titular character), Marvel began their ramp up of expectation for Civil War with 2 movie trailers, and a bunch of TV spots that elapse 7 minutes worth of the entire movie. The first aired on November 24th 2015 on Jimmy Kimmel.
Trailer 1: Jimmy Kimmel Live (24th November 2015)
Robert Downey Jnr and Chris Evans showcased Marvel's latest outing.
Trailer 2: Marvel's YouTube Channel (March 10th 2016)
A second look of Civil War appeared on YouTube, featuring the first glimpse of a certain web-slinger.
TV Spots & Promotion: Marvel's YouTube Channel
Marvel have currently released 16 official videos regarding Civil War, all in one handy playlist.
Already Making a Profit
Marvel films don't come cheap any more, and with a $250 million budget ($30 million of that just for RDJ's wage), through a relentless marketing campaign to ensure success, Disney have proven again, just as it was with Star Wars, that there is no competing with them at the box office. To go along with the multi-million dollar promotional blitz, Marvel partnered with Coca-Cola, Google, Samsung, Wrigley, Harley Davidson, Audi, Synchrony Financial, Pizza Hut, Kellogg's, Pop Secret, Mouser Electronics and Vivo among other brands.
To compare, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, made $864.3 million at the big screen, and that was with an identical budget of $250 million. Currently, Civil War stands at little over $316.2 million in ticket sales, and as of writing on May 6th, the film has just been released in America. This continues a nine-year tradition, with a Marvel movie airing on the first weekend of May (yes, that is including movies from all of the movie titles they have let go, including Spider-Man and X-Men titles), meaning the figure will rise upwards of $500-600 million almost definitely.
The commercial success should be of no surprise to anybody by now. Marvel has been an ever-present force in the realm of movies and media since the release of Iron Man in 2008. Civil War leads with its two biggest franchise names (in the movie sense) and has the first appearance of a legitimate Spider-Man in the MCU.
But is the movie any good?
The Movie: Marvel's Best Effort?
We're not in the market of saying that this was the "greatest superhero movie of all time" as many a thousand film reviews have chosen to do, but we're also not denying that the film achieved it's primary objective to entertain a large majority of its audience. We live in an age of comparison when this film will be scrutinised and pulled apart by horses, but given that Marvel has shown its formula over and over again, to similar successes, it comes as little surprise that the overwhelming feeling regarding Civil War is that it's a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The original Ant Man and Iron Man films are near mirror images of one another, one example of the Marvel formula. Civil War is anything but a mirror image to what the film is being compared against: the comic book issues of Civil War. We're going to resist the urge to compare pages on a comic strip to the reels of a movie, but Cap's third outing well and truly fits into the Marvel formula.
Following the events of Captain America: The Winter Solider, Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans, The Fantastic Four, The Avengers), is leading the new Avengers across the many battlefields around planet earth, until the rule book is thrown at him by Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt, The Incredible Hulk, A History of Violence), and supported by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr, Tropic Thunder, Iron Man) after finally realising that Iron Man's many technologies actually causes more harm than it does good. We all know the story that Marvel want to tell you by now. The Captain doesn't play by the rules, especially if it means obstructing the justice and freedom of innocent people from all across the world, whilst Iron Man believes that the Avengers need to have oversight, before they are forcefully intervened by the United Nations.
The work of the Joe and Anthony Russo (Community, Arrested Development) as co-directors is the finest example of what is good with Civil War. In particular the cinematography was a highlight, pitting flashy and colourful characters in a gritty, real world that didn't feel like it was forged behind a green screen. The big blowout scene at the Airport felt fleshed out, and actually real, which excels when comparing the CGI-happy Batman v. Superman. There is added invested interest in our favourite Marvel heroes when the consequences feel like they actually have real weight in the world around them. It was easy for us to presume that the members of the Justice League we saw in Batman v. Superman were detached from the meat of their service: protecting the wider population from the scourges of evil. Even the characters in the MCU show penance and hurt when their is devastation, and that is a staple throughout Civil War, right off the bat when Crossbones and his international terrorists gun for the new Avengers. When barraging comparison with Batman v. Superman, there is a lack of empathy with the title characters, they cause a lot of destruction, literally mow people down in fortified tanks, and bringing another city to its knees, without much care until Superman pays the price of his powers.
There is a heavy reliance on practical effects with Civil War, given that most of the characters have a background in the military (just think about that for a moment). It's a series of gritty issues regarding the Sokovia Accords that steadily grows until a boiling point is reached with Tony Stark, without the conflict ever getting too out of hand. A little off-key considering the role is called Civil War. Think about it like a well organised, well promoted UFC fight, that has rules and alleged common respect between its fighters. They spar and jostle in the confinement of a cage until somebody is put on their backside. That is essentially the plot of Civil War, without ever exploding into a huge drama that threatens to hinder The Avengers before the upcoming Infinity Wars double parter.
What the idealistic fan-boy in us wanted was a true wildcard, a role that didn't truly reflect the Black Panther or The Winter Soldier in the movie. In fact, there is sympathy on part of the Winter Soldier, given that he's been manipulated and abused for decades, but Tony never sees this, and is all too eager to fight what is in front of him, not the regimes that have caused the hurt. If there is one mild spoiler that we will bring up, it's that despite the promotion of Civil War attempting you to pick a side between Cap and Iron Man, there is the feeling that throughout the flick Stark is wrong about absolutely everything. If you have followed Marvel movies in the past, there is a sense of idiocy attached to Stark, a man who once wanted to keep Shield in check by finding out every dirty little secret the organisation ever had. Not once will Stark hear Captain America out, and he is forced the truth about the Winter Soldier conflict through external means. Even when proven wrong, and uniting with Rodgers in the film (because that is what always happens in these genre movies), Stark is still impulsively wrong when a moment from his past comes back to haunt him at the close of the movie. We know that we are clutching at straws to find imperfection with a very good film, but the sense of conflict created here could have easily been settled if the Avengers had just aired their dirty laundry in a confined space, forced to talk out their issues. But hey, who would pay to watch that?
Too much promotion did its part in an attempt to sully the film, because the film relies solely on what you see in the trailers. It's not even worthy that we place Helmut Zemo in the bracket of villain or wildcard, because his impact given that his roles is to be puppet master in breaking the Avengers is without its killer punch, but how could it ever be when we know that we'll soon be dawned with a two-part Avengers film, featuring both Captain America and Iron Man. Marvel could have done a lot more to surprise us, but with the masses of characters they have, they do a fine good job with what they had to work with, juggling a dozen super heroes, and introducing audiences to Black Panther and Spider-Man. The Disney Principle of playing it too safe nevertheless applies to this film, a tactic that has some times hindered films within the MCU (examples include the Thor's second outing, and Ant Man). The difference is that other films just haven't really been expression to deviate from Marvel's formula. What Civil War does is maximise its potential within the Marvel way, led by excellent directing, and a pulsating soundtrack by Henry Jackman, an orchestral wonder that weaves and changes brilliantly with each hero, each location, and each fight scene.
Civil War's Legacy
Best for last goes out to the new appearances made in Civil War. As seen above, the additions of the Black Panther and Spider-Man were more than welcome additions to the film. Panther in particular was the shining light of Civil War, with Chadwick Boseman (42, Lincoln Heights), and in order for people to get excited for the solo movie in 2018, Panther's unveiling needed to be done right. An ever present in Civil War, the new king of Wakanda was an instrumental driving force for the movie, fuelled with real character development and mystery that kept Captain America and Iron Man on their toes, and the Panther helped propel the fight scenes, giving Cap and the Winter Soldier a run for their money. It also helps that his costume design is eye-catching and complementary to the comic books.
Spider-Man on the other hand doesn't need any selling, everybody already knows about the web-slinger, but it was a little shock to see how powerful Spidey actually was in the movie. Tom Holland's (The Impossible) rendition of Peter Parker didn't get nearly as much screen time as Black Panther, but Parker's wit was refreshing in an otherwise tense conflict between the two sides.
What is it all leading up to? More movies of course. More movies, and more money for Disney to roll around in.
Upcoming Marvel Movies
Doctor Strange (2016) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Black Panther (2018) Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 (2018) Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) Captain Marvel (2019) Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 (2019)
What Marvel has going forward, particularly with RDJ, is that he is opening doors for cinematic expansion. Downey is showing more signs of becoming the actual leader of the Avengers, and not just a place holder. Panther was blooded into the universe exceptionally, whilst Iron Man is actually going to be Spider-Man's mentor when Homecoming hits in 2017.
Whilst Civil War may very well be the last outing for Captain America's film franchise with Chris Evans as the lead (who knows, his contract with Marvel is coming to an end sooner rather than later), there is still a lot of burning light with the Marvel machine, as they gear up for what the studio ultimately wants to be a hit. The Avengers.
Closing Notes on Civil War
There were definitely a few things that we noticed in the film that are worth a footnote at the bottom of this article. We’ll just go ahead and leave a few of them below.
Why doesn’t War Machine get healed using the same chamber device as Hawkeye in Age of Ultron?
Zemo having absolutely no powers, abilities, metal suits, or superior technology, might come as a shock to some viewers who are used to more ‘formidable’ foes, and a much different incarnation from the comic books. The Russo brothers have already stated that Zemo will appear again in the MCU.
General Ross’s inclusion in the film means that The Incredible Hulk film (that Edward Norton one) is now part of MCU Canon.
Biggest laugh of the night belonged to Falcon and Winter Soldier. We won’t spoil it here just in case you haven’t seen the film, and intend on doing so.
There was a distinct lack of Vision in the movie, and perhaps for the best. It’s not that Bettany’s doing a bad job with the character, it’s more the obvious weighting the Ultron creation provides for Team Iron Man. Effective when it mattered.
Freeman's role was completely wasted. Could have been skipped out of the movie without even noticing. We only include this reference because it was reminded to us.
Where art thou, Thanos?