Captain America: Civil War

I was thinking…

…the distance of the camera from the subject can make or destroy how an action sequence plays out. Alfred Hitchcock said the size of the subject on the screen should indicate the overall importance of that object.

When this axiom is applied to a combat sequence–particularly of the hand-to-hand variety–however, it can often do more damage than good.

For the last 20 years, roughly every action film director has tried moving closer to the source of the action in order to emphasize the speed and complexity of a well-choreographed fight scene. There are several problems with that tactic however:

  • We often lose track of who is hitting whom.
  • It becomes difficult to follow the general progression of the fight.
  • Evidence of good fight choreography is actually lost, because it cannot be appreciated from a proper distance.

Coming from an artistic background, I was taught it was always important to view a painting from about five to seven feet away. The image can then be viewed as a whole and appreciated on its artistic merit. Only when one becomes schooled in technique should that gap be closed and the minutiae of the artist’s brushstrokes and palette choice be examined.

When we are watching a fight on a screen, the same rules of observance should be put in place. After all, the vast majority of us are not knowledgeable of how to incapacitate a fellow human being using just our thumbs.

It was a regrettable choice on the part of Captain America: Civil War‘s directors, the Russo Brothers. Fortunately for them, the vast majority of the film makes up for their less than ideal action shot choices.

Not long after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Avengers, led by Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris EvansSnowpiercer), are tackling a job in Lagos, Nigeria. As the situation quickly escalates, the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth OlsenGodzilla), in an attempt to shield Cap from a blast, directs the explosion into an apartment building.

The backlash reaches the ears of the world governments, who propose a lengthy accord that would essentially place the Avengers under the purview of the United Nations.

Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.The Judge, Sherlock Holmes), affected by the news that the team’s actions in –Sokovia had caused the deaths of innocents, agrees to the terms.

Rogers, unwilling to sit by when evil must be fought, disagrees to the plan, essentially making him and those who follow him, enemies of the UN.

As the nations meet in Vienna to sign the accord, the leader of the African country of Wakanda is assassinated in an explosion and none other than the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian StanThe Martian) is blamed for it.

Seeking vengeance for his father’s death, the newly crowned Wakandan king, T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick BosemanGet on Up, 42), squares off against Rogers as the latter tries desperately to break the Soviet hold on his friend’s mind.

As good an ensemble piece as one could hope to see, Civil War is, unfortunately, horribly mislabeled. Billed as the third Captain America movie, it is evident from the very first sequence, it is far closer to being the third Avengers film instead.

The Steve Rogers character, although a central figure in the film, is certainly not alone on the protagonist pedestal. Tony Stark, as is wont for his character, hogs a significant portion of the limelight, while Vision, the Scarlet Witch and Bucky all have their own significant offshoots to the story.

The newcomers, Black Panther and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Thomas HollandIn the Heart of the Sea), also make weighty and memorable contributions to the film. Although neither could be categorized as the main characters, they each not only lend significant weight to the ensemble but whet the appetite for their upcoming individual tales to be told. Holland, in particular, portrays a loquacious Peter Parker so likeable, forgetting the Garfield and McGuire versions of the last 14 years should not prove all that difficult.

Certainly not absent is the humor we have come to associate with the Marvel franchise. Even when the storyline delves into the darkest depths, one of the main characters will inevitably lend some light with a laugh.

Civil War‘s storyline, however intertwining, also does not suffer from overloading. A two-and-half hour comic book fantasy romp, the film bounds ahead with the unstoppable force of a Japanese bullet train.

Which leads me to one major issue I had with a sequence in the film. Yes, it was an action scene, but this one confused the heck out of me. During a certain chase scene in Vienna, several of the heroes are seen darting after one another through traffic–dodging, vaulting over and, yes, passing cars. On foot. Although Captain America was shown as being able to run extremely fast in the opening scene of Winter Soldier, that does not explain how those characters not imbued with super soldier serum are meant to outrun cars. I don’t know. Perhaps people drive really slowly in Austria.

Let us also not forget the rather dubious clout the United Nations actually has. The majority of the story hinges on an accord signed by a group of ambassadors with no actual legal authority over the individual. Somehow, by not signing the accord, Captain America and those who agree with him, are labeled as international criminals. For that reason alone, Cap’s side is the one to follow in this fight.

And to the UN I say: suck it, blue hats!

Perhaps the best part of the film lies in the IMAX-shot fight between all the Avengers. Finding a balance between all those powers while reminding us they are still friends and yet making the fracas appear potentially deadly at the same time was not, I’m sure, an easy task. But it was pulled off phenomenally in a very memorable moment well worth the price of admission.

Far better than any of the trailers made it appear, Captain America (Avengers): Civil War adds a new high water mark to the Marvel oeuvre. And the film, like the enticing blend of new and old characters who populate it, truly forms an entity far stronger than the sum of its parts.

Ammo Dump rating: 8 out of 10 vibranium shields

I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show every Friday afternoon at 4:10 pm. Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on WJBC.com. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @ALphaEXray.

Captain America: Civil War
Rated PG-13
Run time: 147 minutes (2 hours, 27 minutes)

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