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Movies Review

Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War

note:  some spoilers

There’s a huge reason Captain America: Civil War works and Batman v Superman doesn’t, and that’s emotional investment.  I know Zack Snyder and DC/WB wanted to do thing their own way and not ape Marvel’s so far successful approach, but when you are rebooting two legendary characters and making significant changes, you need to get the fans used to these new versions.  We KNOW Tony Stark and Steve Rogers.  We’ve seen them overcome numerous obstacles, both separately and together.  They’ve fallen on hard times, been betrayed, beaten, come back stronger.  Mistakes were made, characters have evolved, things have changed.  It’s why we can believe Captain America, the guy who wears flag colors and beat the snot out of Nazis and HYDRA for his country, would now decide “the safest hands are still our own”.  Why we can believe Tony Stark, the rebel genius whose not a team player, admonished for his ‘ready-fire-aim’ mentality, would toe the line this time after never even looking for the line before.  Cap, since being unfrozen, was lied to by Fury, found out SHIELD was infiltrated by his greatest enemy, and then had to bail Tony’s ass out after one of his creations came within a hair’s breadth of destroying the Earth.  Tony for his part, finally has to come to grips with the fact that his first impulse may not always be his best.  And this time, it wasn’t just his own life getting torn to shreds, but the entire planet.

Batman V Superman just didn’t have that weight behind it.  WB wanted us to care about them fighting, and spent a lot of words during the movie hyping it up, and trying to tell us how important it was, but during Civil War?  Didn’t need a word of it.  I felt every punch in that final battle especially.  Tony, GUTTED by the horrific video of the Winter Soldier killing his parents, feeling the sting of their death again, the betrayal that Steve knew about it (remember in CA:TWS it was shown by Zola), lashes out.  The battle, which had so far been over an idea, becomes brutally personal.  I was enjoying the movie to that point, but at that point?  Riveted.

She's got her own fan art already! @marcusthevisual
She’s got her own fan art already! @marcusthevisual

Shifting gears a bit, it’s kind of amazing that I can be this far in and only now discussing everything else that happened in the movie.  We meet Spider-Man!  And it’s a poor, nerdy kid whose quippy yet awkward.  Tom Holland nails it.  BLACK PANTHER, I mean, come on.  His moves are unreal, he dismantles Bucky, but even in the midst of righteous anger over the death of his father, T’Challa can step back from his vengeance to serve justice.  What an example for the two sides fighting, eh?  The Russos made Florence Kasumba’s “Security Chief” (gotta be one of the Dora Milaje) more interesting in one scene with one line than BvS did for 90% of the characters in it.

If you are concerned this sounds too heavy, well, it’s got more weight than a lot of Marvel movies, but rest assured, it brings the funny.  Many of the best lines aren’t in the trailers, including the scene with Falcon and Bucky in the car, or Falcon fighting Spider-Man.  Or Ant-Man and the truck.  Even crazier, there was a character building moment or two for everybody.  OH, and much has already been said about the Vision and his dapper look – his relaxed home attire always slays me in his current comic, and I’m glad to see it here, but it’s his interactions with Wanda that are most interesting.  He isn’t yet to “even an android can cry” territory yet, but the groundwork is there.

Zemo, technically the villain since he really sets in motion the acts that get Avengers fighting Avengers, fares better than some of the recent Marvel villains.  Quite different from the comics but built with real, complex motivations.

As for flaws, I think the movie wasn’t as well paced out as The Winter Soldier.  Considering the sheer amount of content, that’s understandable.  With that, Captain America: Civil War can’t quite dethrone Iron Man and The Winter Soldier as my go-to Marvel movies, but it gets massive, Giant-Man sized points for being to pull off as many heroes and storylines as it did.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I’ve been a Marvel guy since I first read my brother’s few remaining comics (the ones my Mom hadn’t tossed, that old story), but Captain America never appealed to me.  The costume seemed like a bit much, and he just didn’t seem to be as much fun as Iron Man or Spidey, and didn’t have the way-out nutso stuff that was happening in the pages of the Silver Surfer.  I’ve come to enjoy Cap as an adult, devouring Ed Brubaker’s run on the Captain America book, including the story adapted loosely in the latest movie, The Winter Soldier.  There will be spoilers from here on out, so for those of you not continuing on, I loved this movie a TON.

WinterSoldierFinishedThe movie starts with a ‘Meet Bro’ scene between Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson, an Iraq vet.  They bond over stories of too-soft beds and lost friends.  Cap gets called away on a mission, where Batroc the Leaper (ze LEAPER!) has taken a SHIELD ship used as a satellite launch platform.  It’s a great action scene, I absolutely loved how acrobatic yet powerful Cap was.  GSP could actually do some ‘leaping’ and actually got a few shots in on our hero.  But why was the ship out there?  Why was Agent Sitwell on it?  And what intel was the Black Widow taking from it?  Cap has those questions, and Nick Fury isn’t answering.  He has trust issues, moreso after he can’t decrypt the data stolen, despite it apparently being locked down…by him.  He heads out to meet Maria Hill, but is ambushed by assassins on the way.  His car gets blown up by the Winter Soldier, but he escapes.  Fury goes to Steve’s apartment, broken and bleeding, and gives him the flash drive with the encrypted data.  He gets shot by a sniper – the Winter Soldier! – and Steve takes off after him, with Agent 13 being revealed as Steve’s neighbor.  The Winter Soldier escapes, after the shield-slinging scene all over the trailers.  Fury is taken to the hospital, where he succumbs to his injuries. (right)

SHIELD exec Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) asks Steve about why Fury was in his apartment, and what he told him.  When he declines, he has his strike team attempt to capture Rogers – which goes as well as you’d expect.  That’s the elevator fight.  Cap meets up with Natasha and they go to a location they found when trying to decrypt the flash drive – Camp Lehigh, where Rogers was training when he became Captain America.  There is a hidden SHIELD base hidden under it now, and within it, old computers.  It’s all very strange until they fire up and you see…Dr. Zola!  He, along with other German scientists, were enlisted to help SHIELD after the war was over (much like what happened in real life), but Zola was secretly still working against them from the inside, placing agents loyal to HYDRA in key places.  When he knew he was going to die, he had his consciousness transferred to a computer to live on.  No crazy robot body, but they may have wanted to avoid that with Ultron being the next Avengers villain.  SHIELD (the bad ones) try to blow up the bunker with a missile but Steve and Nat survive.

Not knowing who else to trust, they head to Sam Wilson’s house, and he wants to help Cap figure out what’s going on.  After grabbing Sam’s Falcon wings, they find Jasper Sitwell, and he spills it after getting thrown off the roof – Zola created a program to sift all of your personal data to determine if you are going to be a threat to HYDRA’s version of order, and will use satellite guided munitions from three new heavily armed helicarriers to blast potential troublemakers (like Tony Stark and Dr, Strange) to bits.  It’s a terrifying vision of the future.  They head out to the Triskellion (SHIELD HQ) but are taken out by the Winter Soldier on the way.  Cap and the Winter Soldier fight, and Steve is horrified when he knocks the Winter Soldier’s mask off…and sees Bucky’s face.  Buck doesn’t recognize him, and they are captured by HYDRA/SHIELD.

But Maria Hill to the rescue!  She’s disguised as one of the SHIELD agents that puts them in a truck, and they slip out when it stops.  They head to another secret hideout, and discover NICK FURY IS ALIVE??? and planning how to stop Pierce’s plan.  They namecheck Bruce Banner as having developed a drug to try and slow his metabolism down as what Fury used, which was a neat reference.  The team has to hit each of the three helicarriers and swap in a device that will decouple them from the satellites (which are targeting hundreds of thousands of people on the ground).  Two carriers get switched, but on the third is the Winter Soldier.  Steve tries to refresh his memory, but it seems to be for naught.  Meanwhile, Natasha snuck in to SHIELD HQ disguised as a member of the Security Council, and they put all of SHIELD/HYDRA’s secrets online.  There’s a struggle, and Fury shoots Pierce, who gets out a final ‘Hail HYDRA’ before dying.  A badly hurt Captain America gets the third helicarrier under their control, and Hill uses the weapons on each one to blast the others out of the sky.  He falls into the Potomac…but Bucky drags him out before leaving.

There’s more, but seriously, that should be enough to get you off the couch.  I loved everything about the movie.  The fight scenes were dynamic, with great use of the shield by Cap.  Natasha’s gadgets come into play, and Anthony Mackie is just so darn likable as the Falcon that I want to see him in every movie Captain America is in.  I wish more could’ve been done with Agent 13, but something probably had to be kept out to keep it under 2.5 hours.  Robert Redford was a bit understated as Pierce, but it kind of worked – he was Fury’s nemesis at the end, not Steve’s.  The Zola reveal was fantastic.  Sebastian Stan was suitably frightening as the Winter Soldier, and looked great.  The final post-credits scene shows Barnes checking out his exhibit at the Smithsonian, remembering, perhaps, something of his past life.

There’s a lot of serious stuff to think on here – even though the Russos stated the NSA scandal wasn’t blowing up until after production had started, this movie says a lot about freedom versus privacy.  HYDRA was playing a slow game, sowing chaos in the world, so that when they came to ‘secure’ the world, no one would stand up to them.  It’s pretty chilling.  There are a lot of Easter eggs for movie and comics fans, such as Garry Shandling’s senator reappearing, and Dr. Strange getting mentioned again.  We meet Baron von Strucker mid-credits, along with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.  They have Loki’s scepter, so you know nothing good is coming (though what that’s going to have to do with Ultron will be interesting to see).  I’m dying to see the rest of Agents of SHIELD now – are any of our team the HYDRA plants?  Will Fury contact them?  It makes sense now why they were set loose to operate more or less on their own.  The movie worked well on so many levels.  Just a blast, and I’m going to have to find my way to it again.

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Featured Movies Review

Movie Review – Captain America: The First Avenger

I went to see Captain America: The First Avenger this weekend, and I have to say, it was a TON of fun.  It comes close, to me, to the first Iron Man as far as quality of the movie.  It does lack some small bit of the emotional impact I felt with Iron Man, but Captain America shades more towards adventure and further away from personal intrigue, which is fine.

 The movie centers around Steve Rogers, a scrawny, asthmatic orphan who nevertheless wants to join the Army and fight for his country.  In his last attempt, he catches the ear of Dr. Abraham Erskine, who recruits Rogers for a secret project led by Tommy Lee Jones’s Col. Phillips to make ‘super-soldiers’.

I won’t go too much deeper into the plot so as not to spoil it if you’ve never read the various Captain America origin stories.  Cap ends up leading the charge against the Red Skull and his Nazi off-shoot organization, Hydra.  It’s worthwhile to see Thor before this, as there are a few references that you will ‘get’ that you may not otherwise.  A friend of mine lamented that Red Skull never seemed to threaten Cap, though I’m not sure about that.  They basically are equals in strength and they do have a solid if somewhat short fight in the endgame of the movie.  I could see how that could be underwhelming, but it worked for me, especially with what occurs after.

All in all, I had a lot of fun watching The First Avenger.  Make sure you stay after the movie, AND after the credits for some more scenes, and a trailer for The Avengers.