Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

Avengers reassemble.

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Civil War
Marvel

(Spoiler note: Those wishing to know nothing about a movie prior to seeing it might want to steer clear of reviews before doing so.)

Captain America: Civil War is packed with enough blockbuster super-stuff—scads of characters, oodles of travelogue mileage, and acres of eye-punishing shakey-cam action—to fuel two movies. But Civil War is of course only one movie, and so its excess of just about everything overwhelms its virtues.

As has been the case ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe was launched eight years ago, with Iron Man, this film is another way station en route to some sort of super-duper Avengers movie of the indeterminate future. Whether that galactic wrap-up will ever actually be reached is teasingly uncertain: a pair of purportedly climactic Infinity War films are in the works, but keep in mind that the Avengers' comic-book exploits have been going on for more than 50 years. Anyway, in this third Captain America picture, a crowd of familiar faces is once again assembled. That it's such a large crowd is one of the movie's problems.

Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. are back, of course, still appealing as straight-edge Steve Rogers/Captain America and quip-slinging industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man. Scarlett Johansson returns as the butt-slamming Black Widow, Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle fly in as the Falcon and War Machine, Paul Bettany reprises the charmingly synthetic Vision, Elizabeth Olsen is the telekinetic Scarlet Witch, and Jeremy Renner is briefly on hand as Hawkeye (still standing up to the forces of interstellar evil with nothing more than a bow and arrows). A couple of Avengers are missing in action— Thor is still back home in Asgard and the Hulk is vaguely indisposed—but three newbies do a nice job of taking up the slack. Paul Rudd's Ant-Man features in one of the movie's more inventive action scenes, and Chadwick Boseman's formidable Black Panther adds at least iconic heft to the proceedings. Best of all, perhaps, is 19-year-old Tom Holland's giddy Spider-Man—a character finally freed from his bondage in the foundered Sony franchise.

This time out, the team is caught up in an ethical issue of the sort that comic books are able to present with such simple clarity. The question is pressing: should superheroes be applauded for protecting the world from alien assaults, or are they dangerous vigilantes who need to be reined in? (This conundrum was also addressed six weeks ago, although more glumly, in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.) As fans will know, the Avengers have already wrought extensive destruction in New York City and the Eastern European country of Sokovia; and as the movie begins, we see them notching up more collateral damage in a raid in Nigeria to prevent the theft of a deadly biological weapon. The world has about had it with these people, and there are now calls for the Avengers to be brought under UN control.

The US Secretary of State (William Hurt) advises the team to sign on to this plan, and Tony Stark surprisingly agrees that they should. But the more staunchly libertarian Steve Rogers resists: subjecting the Avengers to the whims of international bureaucrats, he argues, could only prove disastrous. What ensues is not a "civil war," exactly, but Rogers and his supporters in the group do split off to continue their unhampered pursuit of world-threatening malefactors—at the risk of becoming international fugitives.

The plot evolves with the return of Rogers's old friend-turned-enemy Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). He's still in the grip of his World War II brainwashing and has now been reactivated as an assassin by a mysterious figure called Zemo (Daniel Brühl). Rogers gets some unexpected help in tracking these two from former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter (a returning Emily VanCamp), the niece of his lost love of the 1940s, Peggy Carter.

This is a serviceable story, occasionally warmed with sentiment (Rogers flies to London to attend the aged Peggy's funeral) and often flecked with humor (Stark's visit to a Queens row house to recruit budding web-slinger Peter Parker is tartly funny: "So you're Spider-Boy," Stark dryly observes.) The overstuffed cast is a problem throughout, though: Johansson's Romanoff is sadly under-employed (where's her spinoff movie, anyway?), and Olsen's Scarlet Witch and Renner's Hawkeye barely have room to register. Stan's Bucky Barnes has a few heart-tugging moments, but he's still a dull character, as is Brühl's Zemo, who lacks villainous flamboyance.

It's nice that directors Anthony and Joe Russo and their writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, have toned down the usual superhero real-estate-wreckage. But what they've replaced it with amounts to endless mano-a-mano fight scenes, all shot in a clichéd blur of handheld camerawork. There's some rousing action—especially an all-stops-out battle at a Leipzig airport, and a chase through a tunnel thick with speeding vehicles. But the leap-and-kick fisticuffs predominate, and over the course of nearly two and a half hours, they drag the picture down. By the time it wallows to a close, some viewers might feel little more than a sense of relief.

But does it matter? Civil War is just another stop on Marvel's march toward world super-flick domination, and stand-alone movies featuring Spider-Man, Thor, Ant-Man and Black Panther are already in the pipeline. Exhausted skeptics might wonder where it all will end. Or will it ever? 

NEXT: Nick Gillespie To Talk Trump, Hillary, Free Trade on Bill Maher's Real Time on Friday

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  1. Not going to read it as I’m seeing it this weekend. I usually like Loder’s reviews, but given the praise the movie has been getting so far, I’m looking forward to it.

    1. Those wishing to know nothing about a movie prior to seeing it might want to steer clear of reviews before doing so.

      I think Loder just writes really spoilery reviews.

      1. Really? Here’s a spoiler: If your mind can’t piece together the likely scenario of yet another formulaic comic book movie then you have no capacity for imagination(not one tittle.) It’s like being upset that your friend spoiled the plot of the next James Bond movie by saying “British spy with a great car and lots of fun gadgets bangs a lot of hot chicks while trying to stop a Machiavellian sociopath from taking over the world.” Honestly these movies shouldn’t entice or be found entertaining to anyone older than 16 (unless it’s the Rifftrax version.) Alas, 40 year old men still collect Star Wars action figures and the average voter reads at a 6th grade level so why WOULDN’T movie execs want to continue to crank out this banal drivel?

  2. Scarlett Johansson returns as the butt-slamming Black Widow

    Truly!?!

    1. Deadpool made pegging popular in super-hero movies.

    2. Ass kicking would have been a better choice,and I like her character,and her butt,and lips and,uh,gotta go.

    1. India stretches from Persia to Burma. It may or may not encompass Ceylon

    2. The dispute centers on whether the region that includes modern-day India, Pakistan and Nepal should be referred to as India or as South Asia, to represent the plurality of cultures there

      Well, do they use the same restrooms?

      1. Yes it’s called the river.

        1. I thought they called it a reebah, or is that just in China?

      2. How does changing the name from one regional designation to another represent plurality better?

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  4. There better not be any spoilers in this post.

    1. John Snow got better.

      1. Impossible, he is so utterly uninteresting that I erased him from the show.

    2. It’s like a spoiler on the trunk of a front-wheel drive car…

  5. “a mysterious figure called Zemo (Daniel Br?hl).”

    I bet he’s Lex Luthor in disguise.

    Or maybe The Master.

      1. Excellent!!!!

  6. You know, when I read stuff like this–

    As has been the case ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe was launched eight years ago, with Iron Man, this film is another way station en route to some sort of super-duper Avengers movie of the indeterminate future. Whether that galactic wrap-up will ever actually be reached is teasingly uncertain: a pair of purportedly climactic Infinity War films are in the works, but keep in mind that the Avengers’ comic-book exploits have been going on for more than 50 years

    I realize just how much some people don’t get this.

    There is no ‘wrap-up’. There is only another chapter. This is how comic books work–with incredibly long interwoven stories. And Marvel seems like it’s willing to give comic book storytelling a shot at billions. So far, it’s working.

    Kurt doesn’t comprehend.

    1. I comprehend. The question is, would the comic-book template support an unending series of very expensive movies if the audience drifted away…as audiences sometimes do.

      1. I doubt the market will support the volume of comic book movies that we have now for another 10 years, but Marvel is already setting up a new group of characters (Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel) with new contracts that will carry the torch after Infinity War. And it wouldn’t shock me if something akin to a James Bond style franchise continued long-term, with different actors stepping in and out of the roles of the more popular characters every few years.

  7. But the more staunchly libertarian Steve Rogers

    That’s the staunchly libertarian Captain America to you, bub.

    1. And don’t you forget it.

  8. Ripping the legs and heads off superheroes and eating them in slow fucking motion might stop my thumbs from twiddling during these vacuous flat spectacles. Prob not tho. Yet another filmed formula printed on boring reams of motherfucking statistical puke screed bowed to indeed. And it’s not even that these caped ripped bitches hold no potential- it is that potential processed into numbers erases the metaphysical nature of authenticity and the filmed gaze feebly attempting to magnetize the viewer. Peering beyond the divide and into the dreams of masses.

    When crowds learn to yearn for temporal intimacy with their hyper-charged car-tossing icons the buttresses of apathy will dissolve into intellectual delight drizzled over the buttery fields of popcorn orgasms. Reality becomes molecular and transplants the brazen biology of fantasies roiling like sun flares into sizzling passions of induced awe that tumble dream over dream from the transfixed.

    1. Damn AC? You’re a little negative this morning.

    2. Glad you’re back.

      Seriously, Reason, give AC a stipend and a column. I don’t know a mind more free than his.

      1. He’s just upset Batman vs Superman sucked, dashing hopes for his retarded namesake character in future Justice League movies.

    3. Ah yes, I remember my first year of college…

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  12. Seems like the characters are on the wrong side of the ideological divide. Millionaire entrepreneurial inventor playboy Tony Stark seems like the Libertarian, while rah-rah army boy Rogers ought to be the one who believes in fealty to his elected Commander in Chief.

    1. One of the things the movie is getting credit for is how those roles have flipped in a believable way over the course of all these Marvel movies, because a while ago you would have been correct.

      1. Yes, this especially happened in Winter Soldier when Rogers ended up choosing principle and liberty over loyalty to authority.

    2. “You want my property, and you can’t have it!” — Tony Stark, Iron Man 2

    3. Yeah, that’s what struck me, too. Although, really Stark and Rogers could easily go either way, but for different reasons. Given that, it sort of undermines the “starkness” of the conflict between them.

  13. Just got back from seeing it and I loved it. I’d bet, from the fast pace, that they left like 30 minutes of footage on the cutting room floor. So far Marvel has managed to deliver the hits with the MCU even if some of them are less well thought out than others…*cough*Thor: The Dark World*cough*.

    Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (John Hurt) is definitely the true sleazebag in all of it in my opinion and far less sympathetic than even Zemo. Nothing like a hypocritical dirtbag bureaucrat to set as the counterpoint to Captain America. I mean, we are talking about the same character that gave a nutbag the Super-Soldier Serum and then got him Hulked out (Abomination) who has the gall to bitch about the damage the Avengers did in New York….which, remind me again, how were they responsible (as it was Loki and a fucking army from space that wrecked New York)?

    1. I mean, we are talking about the same character that gave a nutbag the Super-Soldier Serum and then got him Hulked out (Abomination) who has the gall to bitch about the damage the Avengers did in New York

      Blonsky only became Abomination in the movie after he forced Sam Stern to juice him up. And Stark is actually the one who brought Ross in on the Avengers initiative, if you remember the credits scene from Incredible Hulk. SHIELD is the one who fucked up by not giving the Tesseract back to Thor straight away (which made sense later on when it was revealed that HYDRA was actually controlling SHIELD), allowing Loki the chance to steal it.

      Tony getting involved in the superhero registration is really more a function of the guilt that he’s been grappling with since Iron Man 3. Given Ross’s history with the Hulk, it’s actually understandable that he’d want to bring superheroes to heel.

      1. And let us not forget that Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross is the Red Hulk.

        or that Blonsky’s in that prison.

    2. The Avengers had been working with SHIELD under the direction of the World Security Council, but now both of those are blown to hell after “Winter Soldier.” Why would anyone expect Captain America to willingly work under another international organization dedicated to world peace and security after the last one was proven to be run by murderous totalitarians?

  14. “Best of all, perhaps, is 19-year-old Tom Holland’s giddy Spider-Man”

    Every fan I know considered Spider-Man among the *worst* parts of the film. I don’t know anybody who wanted a Spidey that looks and sounds like he’s 12 years old.

    And complaining about mano-a-mano fight scenes? Really?! Do you even comic, bro?

    (Yeah, I’m trolling/teasing you just a bit, but this kind of thing is why I find reviews by fans much more useful than those of general critics.)

    1. Fan of what? football? ‘cos Spiderman got actual applause when he showed up in the theater I was in.

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  17. The Black Widow character is miscast and just a token.

    1. Strongly disagree

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  19. I thought it was a pretty fun movie.

    I think Spiderman was hit or miss, depending on who you ask. It was absolutely forced into the plot to give Tony Stark a potential future outside of Iron Man films.

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