The Movie Scab: Captain America: Civil War
"The scab you're picking at is called execution."
--American film producer Scott Rudin.
Captain America: Civil War: Ack! Ack! Ack! A…!
Marvel grows up.
But before you Marvel fans get all excited, here’s something to think about first: Grownup though the movie may be, it is so long I had to go to the bathroom twice. Now, to be fair, I should point out that my bladder doesn’t function like everyone else’s. My bladder is fine, but the float inside my bladder doesn’t go all the way to the top. That means, when my bladder is half-full, the float tells my brain that my bladder is full and I feel like I have to pee. I don’t have to pee. I only think I have to pee. Because of that, I probably pee more than you do. (It’s arguable, of course. Maybe your float doesn’t go all the way to the top either or maybe you’re like Monkey Boy. His bladder never seems to fill. When he dies, I’m going to have my bladder removed and replaced with his.) So the brutal reality for me is, if I want to see a movie, I should not drink coffee or pop or beer or vodka, or even water, at least a couple of hours before I buy my ticket.
I prepared for Captain America: Civil War by not drinking anything beforehand. And I still had to pee twice! That’s how long the movie is. (Pulling in at a whopping 2 hours, 27 minutes of endless Marvel Comic Universe fun!)
What did I miss when I was peeing? Well, pretty much the same stuff I missed when I had to leave my seat and go to the bathroom during Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2 hours, 15 minutes), The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2 hours, 21 minutes), The Avengers (2 hours, 23 minutes), Captain America: The First Avenger (2 hours, 4 minutes) and you get the idea.
I can tell you this much, in the amount of time it took me to stand up, mumble an apology to Monkey Boy because I stood on his tail, shuffle to the aisle, march down the steps, find the bathroom, pee, wash my hands (with soapy water for two minutes), dry my hands in the Xlerator, walk back and find my seat and try to catch up on what I missed, well, it seemed that I missed nothing at all. As far as I could tell, the same superhero fight was still going on.
Bladders, peeing and routine superhero fights aside, Captain America: Civil War is the second best Marvel movie to hit the screen and that’s why Monkey Boy gave it an astonishing three Acks! and a partial A…! With Deadpool, The Witch, Risen, Disney The Jungle Book and now Civil War, 2016 is turning into a banner year. (The best Marvel movie? That’s easy: Guardians of the Galaxy.)
To nutshell it: If you’re a fan of movies like this, you’re going to love it, pretty much. If you’re not a fan of movies like this, you might be surprised to discover that you don’t hate it.
I say this because, out of all the Marvel Universe movies—even Marvel’s best—this is the most realistic and believable Marvel movie yet. It really is a comic book movie for grownups. It’s got the superhero fights, big explosions, special effects—all the dumb and fun stuff you expect from a $250 million dollar movie based on a comic, including an airport battle sequence that’s fun and inventive—but in near equal measure, the movie explores some mature concepts too, and gets downright grownup.
Case in point: The Avengers team is confronted with a political and moral dilemma after a typical action-packed battle against comic book bad guys goes wrong, causing collateral damage, i.e., innocent people die. Couple that with the previous Avenger and Captain America movies where thousands and thousands of people were killed in various superhero battles, governments now have become concerned that the Avengers wield unrestrained power that must be controlled. At which point the UN decides the best thing for everyone is to form an international oversight committee that the Avengers must pay allegiance to, tearing the team apart as superheroes take sides: Captain America fights for the freedom to protect the world without government control, arguing that political agendas change and corruption is widespread and therefore the oversight committee would be untrustworthy, and Iron Man fights for government oversight, arguing that with great power comes great responsibility and the best people to handle that responsibility are those who work in government. It’s like a Death Match between Ronald Reagan and Bernie Sanders.
The movie does a decent job trying to give equal time to the both arguments, but at the end it leaves little room for doubt which superheroes made the right choice.
Actors like Daniel Brühl, playing the villain Heinrich Zemo, take it up a notch. As I’ve argued before, nine times out of ten, human villains are better than superhero monsters. (Batman v Superman, the super dumb LOTR troll called Doomsday anyone?) Brühl doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but he’s such a good actor that he works what he’s given hard, turning his villain into a complex, tragic and—with a subtle smile—cunning evil. You feel sorry for him even though you know he’s bad as they come because, for Zemo, the end (and the cause) justifies the means. In his mind, his evil is defensible, justifiable and therefore limitless, capable of, and willing to do, anything. To make us sympathize with him requires great acting talent.
As usual, the rest of the cast turn in solid performances, but like Brühl, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man and Tom Holland as Spider-Man stand out, raising the bar with a fresh take on the characters (and similar limited screen time). They also bring in the humor, reminding us that this is a fun-filled and entertaining ride.
The credit for all this blockbuster movie success goes to Anthony and Joe Russo, the dynamic directing duo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Avenger sequels) and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). Do you see a pattern here? One Marvel/Disney is happy to repeat. (As of right now, Captain America: Civil War has pulled in a tidy $900 million.) Because of them, this Marvel movie feels more personal, intimate and grownup than its Marvel predecessors. It surprises with subtlety. A great example of what I mean is the choice not to bury the third act in an apocalyptic mega-battle like all the others did and do but, instead, the finale is a deeply personal fist fight between two beloved characters. We get to watch them beat the crap out of each other for something like ten minutes. For a superhero movie and a WWF wrestling match, that’s a subtle choice.
When we walked out of the theatre, Monkey Boy and I couldn’t help but compare it to Batman v Superman. You have to give both films credit for trying to tackle grownup material. They focus on similar themes like, for example, the consequences of violent action: When a city is pulled out of the earth with all the people in it and then, after the Avengers kill the bad guy, it crashes back to the earth, there are going to be consequences. (Thousands of dead people.) When Superman fights against an equally powerful General Zod, laying waste to Metropolis and its people, there are going to be consequences. (Thousands of dead people.) Both films try to deal with the consequences—the cost—in a personal and what should be powerful way. (Batman/Superman, it’s their mother/father. Captain America/Iron Man, it’s their mother/father and friendship.) The difference is, in Civil War we feel that the cost is higher so that when the kick-ass moment comes, it is much more powerful.
I’m betting the next Captain America is going to clock in at three full hours. Three hours of endless Marvel Comic Universe fun, coming soon to a moving theatre near you! Of course, I’ll have to pee three, four, maybe five times, but similar to the previous films, I won’t miss anything because the longer these movies get, the less you miss when you go to the bathroom. In spite of that, if Anthony and Joe Russo and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (is that his real name, I mean, really?) keep raising the movie-making bar and these films get better and better? Well, I may have to invest in a catheter.
My rating: Drink three Captain Americas back to back (Hypnotiq, Grey goose and Sprite), then drink three Iron Men back to back (Seagrams 7 whisky, vodka, soda). Top it off with a Playboy (vodka, tequila, margarita mix, pink lemonade, cranberry juice, sugar syrup), a Womanizer (vodka, lemon vodka, Malibu coconut rum, peach schnapps, triple sec, crème de bananas, berry punch) and a Drunk (vodka, tequila, triple sec, white rum, dark rum, spiced rum with a piece of bacon, fried egg and buttered toast with Marmite on the side). Add a handful of popcorn and peanuts. Imbibe and eat. Call the Vision Taxi Company--you'll need it--and sit back, relax, try not to vomit and enjoy the ride.