Friday, June 3, 2016

Worth Mentioning - #TeamCap #TeamSpidey

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody marvels at a superhero brawl.


People say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a villain problem. That the films have done an incredible job making the heroes a well-rounded, captivating bunch, but have never had a villain that matches up to them, aside from Loki. While it's true that the heroes greatly overshadow the bad guys in these movies, and that the films have at times even shown a disinterest in following through with creating a compelling antagonist (Iron Man 3), I think people are overlooking the greatest villain in the MCU. Maybe some would balk at the idea that this person is a villain, maybe others just don't think of it because he wears the uniform of a hero. But in my opinion, Tony Stark / Iron Man, as played by Robert Downey Jr., has been the main villain in the films that have followed The Avengers.

Whether through his past or current actions, Tony is directly to blame for a lot of the problems the heroes have had to deal with. Iron Man 3 was his fault. Avengers: Age of Ultron was his fault. He played a part in the tragic past of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). And it's his fault that the Avengers are torn apart in Captain America: Civil War. During the film, Tony mentions the fact that his girlfriend Pepper Potts (played in previous films by Gwyneth Paltrow) wants him to give up being Iron Man, he even destroyed his suits at the end of Iron Man 3 for her, but he just can't stop, even though it's ruining his relationship. Tony, listen to Pepper. Stop. Your continued presence as Iron Man is not helping anything, it's only causing your fellow heroes more trouble. They have plenty to deal with without you messing things up.

Civil War's opening action sequence is an example of this. An effort by The Avengers - with a field team that now consists of Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff - to thwart the terrorist activities of Captain America: The Winter Soldier villain Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo), now in full-fledged Crossbones mode, goes disastrously wrong. Exactly how it goes wrong was a bit disappointing to me, because I always enjoyed seeing Crossbones in the pages of Marvel comics and I was hoping for more from him in the live action MCU.

The collateral damage caused by a mistake with Crossbones gives the Avengers bad press around the globe, and is the last straw for the United Nations. The Incredible Hulk nemesis General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt), now the U.S. Secretary of State, shows up to inform our heroes that the large scale destruction in previous films, especially the massive event at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, has resulted in the writing of the Sokovia Accords, which over 100 countries have put their support in for. When the accords are ratified, the Avengers will have to operate under the control of a UN panel that will decide when, where, and if they will act. They will have no personal say in the matter.

The Avengers are split on whether or not they should agree to the accords, and at the head of the disagreements are Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Steve believes that the Avengers need the freedom to choose what they do and to operate whenever and wherever they're needed. Their ability to help people should not be hampered by any outside forces. Starting to realize how much he has screwed up, Tony welcomes having higher-ups tell them what to do.

Steve's determination to not give in to something he doesn't think is right is bolstered by advice delivered by SHIELD-turned-CIA agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) during the eulogy for her aunt Peggy Carter, the special agent Steve fell in love with during World War II. As their fellow Avengers show support for the accords, Steve and Sam have to go rogue in their continued search for "Winter Soldier" Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Steve's childhood friend who was brainwashed into becoming an super-powered assassin until regaining his memory at the end of the previous Captain America film. Bucky has been on the run ever since, and his importance to Steve is made even greater now that he's his sole connection to his past. Steve and Sam's mission, now illegal thanks to the accords, doesn't go over well with Tony and his cohorts.

Meanwhile, someone is manipulating the situation from the outside. Civil War gives us a version of the comic book villain Helmut Zero (played here by Daniel Brühl) that is much more low-key than the character on the page. He's not a mask-wearing supervillain, he's just a broken man who has a very cunning approach to getting revenge. Part of his plan is to get Steve and Tony to fight over Bucky, which he starts off doing by framing Bucky for the bombing of the UN meeting where the Sokovia Accords are put into action. A bombing that kills a man named T'Chaka (John Kani), leader of the mysterious African nation of Wakanda.

The death of T'Chaka brings in a loose cannon character: T'Chaka's son T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who also happens to be the latest to take on the mantle of Black Panter, Wakanda's costumed protector. T'Challa doesn't care what's going on with the Avengers, he just wants to kill Bucky for murdering his father and will do whatever it takes to get vengeance.

One interesting thing about the story for this film, which was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, a writing team that has been with the Captain America movies since The First Avenger, is that it deals heavily with collateral damage caused during the climax of Age of Ultron, and what makes that so interesting is that fact that Age of Ultron was more concerned with minimizing collateral damage than any other superhero movie I've ever seen. Large portions of the film deal with the heroes struggling to keep people out of harm's way. Tony even purchased a building before smashing it so the owner wouldn't have to deal with the damage. Despite all the effort the Avengers put in, there were still lives lost, and a lot of people are upset with the heroes because of it.

Given a boost by Tony's guilt, ego, and daddy issues, Zemo is able to manipulate the system until we have two groups of superpowered individuals battling each other: Tony, Natasha, Vision (Paul Bettany), War Machine/James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), and T'Challa vs. Steve, Sam, Bucky, Wanda, and Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), who comes out of retirement to lend Cap a hand. Plus, there are two special recruits brought in just for the show-stealing fight sequence. One of them is Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who joins Team Cap. The special recruit on Team Iron Man?

Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, making his MCU debut. Up until now, Marvel Studios had not been able to use Spider-Man in their films because the Spidey rights were at Sony. After the poor reception of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony became open to working with Marvel on making Spider-Man films that might be more pleasing to fans. Spider-Man can appear in MCU movies, Marvel will produce the Spider-Man solo movies made at Sony, and MCU characters will also be appearing in those Spider-Man movies. Holland does a great job playing a very young Peter Parker, I think he's meant to be 15 here, who has only been Spider-Man for six months. From the moment we meet him, he has his abilities, his spider sense, everything, so we don't need to sit through the Spidey origin for a third time. He has created his webs, made the webshooters, the only problem is his costume. Tony gives him some help with that, and the Spider-Man who participates in the Avengers fight is a perfect iteration of the character. He looks great, and he's constantly spouting light-hearted banter, just as Spidey should.

Spider-Man also should have been on Team Cap. In a conversation with Tony, Peter delivers a variation on the famous "With great power comes great responsibility" quote; he says "When you can do the things that I can, but you don't, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you." That is exactly why Steve opposes the accords. If Peter and Steve were able to have a conversation, they would be in agreement in each other.

As I've seen others point out, it was also extremely irresponsible for Tony to drag a 15 year old kid into this fight, no matter what his powers are.

15 years old. That means Holland's Peter was born in 2001. The Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movie came out in 2002. That movie is almost as old as this kid. Time is a bitch.

The Spider-Man deal was off and on throughout the development of Civil War, the character was added to and subtracted from the script at different points, and this had an effect on the way Black Panter is presented. At an earlier stage, the writers didn't intend to have T'Challa in costume in this movie, thinking that would be saved for the Black Panther solo movie that's coming up. When Spider-Man had to be written out of a draft, Black Panther in costume was added. Then the Spidey deal was closed, Spidey was written back in, and now we get both characters in costume and in action. It works out, because T'Challa is a great character with a fantastic arc, and he's very well portrayed by Boseman. I'm really looking forward to seeing the Black Panther movie in 2018.

The big hero fight scene is a delight to watch, even though it shouldn't happen - Steve and his friends have figured out that Zemo is behind everything and Tony should listen to them instead of trying to stop them from doing what's right. What makes it so fun is that most of these people are friends, they don't want to hurt each other, one side just wants the other to give up, and that side wants the other to get out of their way. So they fight and there are some awe-inspiring moments, but it's all in fun.

At least until the end, when something happens that really shocked me.

And then Tony goes along with friends and colleagues being locked up in a floating, maximum security prison. With a hero like that, who needs a villain? Tony becomes substantially more villainous in the climax, when Zemo reveals a secret that gets Tony so emotional that he sets out to kill Bucky and seems perfectly willing to kill Steve in the process. I become more and more disappointed in Tony all the time. RDJ recently expressed willingness to do an Iron Man 4, and that's a movie I do not want at this point. Let the other heroes get their time in the spotlight, because I have had it with Tony Stark. Maybe he'll do something to redeem himself in upcoming films. He'd have to before I could get excited for another Iron Man solo film.

Although circumstances dictated that Captain America: Civil War was the first MCU movie I've had to see by myself (aside from my first viewing of The Avengers, which was in a packed marathon screening), which didn't seem right at all, I did thoroughly enjoy the 2+ hours I spent in the theatre. The Captain America films have consistently delivered, and they now form one incredible trilogy. The Russo brothers were an unlikely choice when they signed on to helm Winter Soldier, but they did an astounding job on that film and this one. I can't wait to see what they do with the Avengers: Infinity War movies.

Civil War is an awesome film that immediately ranks as one of my favorite installments in the MCU. It has a great story, great characters, cool action, was deeply emotionally involving for me, and it was a whole lot of fun.

I'll say it again and again. Make mine Marvel.

Tony, retire.

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