Captain America: Civil War – A Movie Review

(Spoiler-free)

When it comes to Marvel movies, I am pretty good at remaining objective.  DC movies …  not so much – I’m a fanboy.  I can honestly tell you that if you’re a fan of the super hero genre, it just doesn’t get much better than Captain America: Civil War.  This movie absolutely satisfied on every level.

As you probably know, the premise of the film hinges on the fact that the United Nations wants to oversee the Avengers due to the consequential collateral damage that ensues after their actions.  Tony Stark, due to the series of mistakes he’s made over the last eight years, thinks it’s a good idea.  Steve Rogers, after the Hydra fiasco, only trusts those in his inner circle.  Thus, factions arise.  And when the Winter Soldier, Rogers’ childhood friend, seems responsible for more carnage, those factions go to war.

I won’t go into greater detail than that for fear of spoiling the plot, but rest assured the movie is far more complex than the above synopsis.  There are deeply motivated characters in this film, and each believes their actions are justified.  I think this movie succeeds primarily because there has been a lot of groundwork and characterization developed over the years with these men and women – their conflict feels intensely personal and legitimate as a result.

Furthermore, their conflict is handled with both grace and dynamism.  Everything you want to happen when they fight happens – it is a delight.  And while the movie is deathly serious at times, and while there are real consequences to the level of power displayed, the film, like Shakespeare, knew when it was time to lighten things up.  The one-liners in the movie are hilarious, and certain characters provide the levity needed to keep things fun.  (I’m sure you can guess who those characters are.)

What I also loved about the movie is that every character got a moment to shine.  It’s amazing they were able to cram so much in so deftly.  I know this movie is called Captain America, but this also truly Iron Man 3.5, Avengers 2.5, and Spider-Man 0.5.  They left so much for future movies to explore – I can’t wait!

The amazing action, the emotional turmoil, the “wow” moments, the hints at the future, and the fantastic humor made Captain America: Civil War a joy on every level.

Advertisements

Iron Man 3 – A Movie Review

(Note:  I don’t think I’ve touched on anything that hasn’t been revealed through trailers and commercials, but there are some spoilers if you’ve somehow managed to avoid promotions for the film.)

Too much Iron Man.

I never thought I’d say such a thing, but I really think we’re maybe getting a little too much Iron Man.  I loved the original Iron Man movie because it was unique in a lot of ways, but even it teetered on sabotaging itself with the Iron Monger villain as a simple imitation of the hero.  With Iron Man 2, War Machine came about as well as an entire battalion of “iron men” as villains.   Now, in Iron Man 3, while the villain is an interesting, unexpected character, Tony Stark now commands at least 42 Iron Men through remote connection and we still have War Machine/Iron Patriot.  As is the danger with any sequel, the protagonist is getting watered down and replicated to the point that he is no longer seen as especially distinctive, particularly when taking into account that much of his supporting cast are now “powered” in their own regard.    

Too much Iron Man.

However, even with that being said, there was something else about Iron Man 3 that bothered me a bit.  It just wasn’t fun.  Iron Man was a blast, and Iron Man 2, though it had some storyline issues, was still really entertaining, but Iron Man 3 seemed a little morose and humorless – it certainly didn’t meet my expectations.  I think a large part of the joylessness of it derives from the fact that Tony Stark didn’t really have anyone to talk to through much of the film.  And when he did have a chance to talk, it wasn’t under very humorous circumstances. 

Don’t misunderstand, the action was incredible and the special effects impressive, and I love what they did with The Mandarin and Killian twists, and the story was fairly tight and the motivations straight forward, but it just didn’t have the same “spark” as the previous installments.

One last thing bothered me about the film, and that’s the remote aspect of Tony piloting the Iron Man suit.  This film derived much of its core from the comic book Extremis storyline, and in that, Tony Stark gained the ability to control his suits from afar.  Just as with the book, the film ruined a lot of the adventurer aspect of the character by having him safe at one location while the suit did the heavy lifting.  When Tony Stark was in mortal peril, it was often without the suit.  I love Tony Stark, but I want him in the suit and, in fantasy stories, I need my heroes knee-deep in danger. 

Honestly, I think The Avengers handled Iron Man/Tony Stark so well that Iron Man 3 had a lot to live up to from a character standpoint, and Iron Man 3 might have come out a little too soon. 

Do we need a break from Iron Man for a while?  Perhaps. 

Too much Iron Man?

P.S.  Don’t bother sitting through the credits for the final scene.  It was funny, but certainly not worth sitting around the extra time.  Check it out on the DVD.  It’s nonessential. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iron Man 2 – A Movie Review

Interestingly enough, I believe Iron Man is one of those comic book characters that actually translates better on film.  Let’s face it: no matter how great the artist, Iron Man is a hero we want to see blazing through the sky, shooting rays from his hands, and just being generally awesome in live-action.  I think that’s (one of the reasons) why the first Iron Man was so successful.

I’m happy to say that in nearly every conceivable way, Iron Man 2 is just as good as the original if not a tad better.

Let’s get the bad right out of the way.  Certain aspects of the story in Iron Man 2 … well, they were a little clichéd and more than a little fuzzy.  The parts concerning fathers and sons I got; the parts concerning Stark’s new power source and how he discovered it … not so much.  And we have a lot of iron men battling Iron Man, which sort of felt like a retread from the first film and something I hope we’ve seen the last of.

Okay, let’s talk about the good!  First of all, it is undeniably a fact that Sam Rockwell took a great movie and made it better.  I actually couldn’t wait for him to return to the screen during this movie, which says something considering that he played an opportunistic, annoying jerk.  His Justin Hammer was absolutely a blast to watch.  He even outdid the always-entertaining Robert Downey, Jr., whose Tony Stark was not all that different from Justin Hammer in a lot of ways.  For some reason, though, Tony comes off as the cool kid and Hammer comes off as the annoying bottom-feeder.  These two actors were phenomenal to watch.

Mickey Rourke was also amazing, but for the completely opposite reason.  As extravagant and bombastic as Downey and Rockwell were, Rourke was subdued.  His villain, Ivan Vanko, could have been a joke.  A man with daddy-issues tied to the Stark family who uses Stark technology to wage war against Iron Man.  Instead, Rourke took him and made him his own—Rourke made him scary and real.  Of all the characters, Vanko was the one I believed could actually exist, and that’s because they got a top-notch actor to play him.  I loved every scene Vanko had except for at the end of the film when they ruined him just like they did Jeff Bridges in the first Iron Man.  But man, when we first see Vanko’s gear at the road race … that’s the stuff of cinematic legend.

I’d also like to mention that Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts came off as far more likable in the sequel.  I actually found myself rooting for her this time around, and I think that’s because they gave her a meatier role.  Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes also had charm, as did Sam Jackson as Nick Fury and Gary Shandling as Senator Stern.  In fact, this was a stellar cast who brought real charisma to their characters from top to bottom, making Iron Man 2 a fun film to watch.

And, of course, the special effects couldn’t have been done any better.  I even took note that the score was appealing which usually only happens for me with James Horner, John Williams, or Danny Elfman.

I really enjoyed Jon Favreau’s direction.  He seems to understand how to let his actors play to their strengths while keeping the action tight and the shots dynamic.  Iron Man 2 was actually pretty funny in a lot of ways, which makes sense considering Favreau’s background, but it felt purely organic to the characters and not as though this was a comedy masquerading as an action film.  And as much as I love The Dark Knight, I’m okay with a super hero movie having a lighter tone and giving us something to cheer about.  By the way, I would have loved to have seen Favreau directing Downey and Rourke in the same scene.  I can’t imagine two more different men.

So while the story left me scratching my head at some times, the sheer charisma of nearly every actor in this movie, as well as its action, sense of fun, and appealing direction made it a great ride.

P.S.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, make sure you sit through the credits.  It gives a big hint as to the next Marvel film to be released.

New Avengers, Vol. 5: Civil War – A Graphic Novel Review

I had the distinct advantage of reading this collection well after I read the unified edition of Civil War, so I must admit my perspective would be different from someone unfamiliar with the outcome of Civil War and its fallout.

That said, knowing what I know about Nick Fury, Iron Man, and Captain America’s current storylines, this volume of New Avengers was incredibly insightful and pertinent.

Though Brian Michael Bendis is the writer throughout, each separate issue making up the larger volume is drawn by a different artist and focuses upon a different character from the New Avengers.

While I don’t believe any of these issues are “must-reads” in order to understand the larger storyline of Civil War, they certainly help illuminate character’s motivations and set up plots to come in New Avengers and Mighty Avengers.

I’d also like to say that there is a component to this volume featuring Sentry drawn by Pasqual Ferry that alone makes the entire volume worth buying. I could take or leave Sentry as a character, but Ferry’s rendering of Sentry interacting with the Inhumans is an absolute delight. Certainly Dean White’s colors add to the beauty of Ferry’s art, and I really hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. In my opinion, Ferry is the go-to guy when it comes to interplanetary adventure, as I first learned with his stunning art in Adam Strange: Planet Heist.

New Avengers: Civil War is a great volume if you’re looking for different artists interpretations of some of your favorite New Avengers; it’s enlightening if you desire further character motivation during Civil War; and finally, it’s a nice springboard to new plots in New Avengers.

Had I read this in “real” time I don’t know I would have enjoyed it as much, but with 20/20 hindsight, I thoroughly relished New Avengers: Civil War.

The Ultimates 2, Vol. 1: Gods and Monsters – A Graphic Novel Review

Basically an updated version of Marvel Comic’s classic Avengers lineup, The Ultimates is the closest comic book out there to a big budget action movie. The art is hands down astronomical. Bryan Hitch can draw anything and make it look both dynamic and realistic at the same moment. And Mark Millar (whom is often hit or miss for me) writes snappy dialogue that really sets the characters apart from one another. While his overall plots are nothing terribly original, his new takes on classic characters like Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk have been tremendously entertaining. We now have heroes in very much the twenty-first century, with all the neurosis, greed, naiveté, and self-doubt that comes with being a denizen of the modern day.

As I said, the overall plots are predictable, but it’s the subplots where the genius rests. Each character has their own story, and it’s those personal stories and interactions that prove captivating. However, when it’s time for the big action of the overall plot’s climax, strap yourself in. That’s where Bryan Hitch saves the day with his art and Mark Millar makes it fun with his dialogue.

If you want to experience super hero comics at their <ahem!> ultimate in terms of action and art, the Ultimates is what you’re looking for.

Iron Man – A Movie Review

You don’t need me to tell you this movie has been warmly received by the masses, and for good reason.

When I first saw the trailer many months ago, I knew this movie would be the Iron Man I wanted.  I wasn’t sure it’d be a hit with the general public, but I was fairly certain the comic book fans would leave the theatre drooling.  Happily for me, everyone seems more than satisfied.

Let me first say that the actors and their acting are first-rate.  Robert Downey, Jr. is, without a doubt, Tony Stark.  He inherently captures both the nobility and arrogance of Iron Man’s true identity.  With his charismatic delivery and snide jokes, Downey, Jr. was perfect casting.  Terrence Howard plays Stark’s best friend and was also very good, though he didn’t get to stretch his acting chops much.  Not to worry, if you know the Iron Man mythos at all, you know Jim Rhodes will have his chance to shine (no pun intended).  Gwyneth Paltrow was surprisingly likeable and appeared to have real chemistry with Downey, Jr.  And finally, thank God Jeff Bridges is on the silver screen again.  I love Bridges.  His role wasn’t quite as meaty as I would like, and he fell victim to the superhero formula, but it was fun to see that bald head and huge beard.

The special effects were phenomenal.  Iron Man is a movie that, even five years ago, never would have worked.  Trust me.  It works.  Big time.

The origin of Iron Man is one that works surprisingly well as time goes on.  War is a pretty constant in our society, and so with a few tweaks and twitters, Tony Stark can get his start wherever the war zones are.  Downey, Jr. captured the complexity of a man wanting to do the right thing after a lifetime of living selfishly, and while he delivers true emotion, the story never became heavy-handed.  The first three-fourths of the movie really is quite dramatic and timely, but then falls victim to superhero cliché during its climax.  By no means does it ruin the film or even weaken it, but they don’t really give us anything new in the grand finale, the “big fight.”

Also, I was disappointed by the fact that I’d seen every cool shot of Iron Man in the trailers and commercials.  Luckily, the acting and story were so strong that Iron Man could have been totally absent, but really, I wish they’d saved a few snippets of the suit to surprise us.

The director, Jon Favreau, obviously understands both Iron Man and Tony Stark, as well as everything that makes both of them captivating.  Iron Man is a wonderfully entertaining movie with true drama, tension, comedy, and charm. 

By the way, I absolutely loved the end of the movie, right before the credits.  So Tony Stark.

Oh, speaking of which-for all the comic book peeps, make sure you sit through the credits.  Seriously.  You’ll be furious with yourself if you don’t.