Captain America: Civil War Is Another Triumph For Marvel

cap 3 poster

Captain America: Civil War is the culmination of the first two phases of the Marvel Cinematic  Universe (MCU) and launches Phase Three in a bold and somewhat darker direction. That is because by the end of the film, relationships are frayed, perhaps permanently, and new players have arrived to carry the torch.

A first look at the cast of characters appearing in the film, which includes most of the Avengers, may lead one to believe that the film should have been called Avengers 2.5, but this is first and foremost a movie about Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans). We see that he is still struggling to fit into the modern world being that he is a product of long bygone era.

WS vss Iron Man

The movie is also a direct continuation of the previous film Captain America: The Winter Soldier in that the Winter Solider aka James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is the focus of pursuit for everyone. At the same time, the events at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron play a major factor that somehow manages to validate that film since it is considered to be an inferior sequel to The Avengers.

The destruction in the country of Sokovia at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron added to the world’s growing unease with superpowered people. This suspicion is compounded after the opening segments of Captain America: Civil War when innocent civilians are killed during a fight the Avengers have with terrorists.

stark rogers

Enter: The bureaucrats in the form of U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) who demands that the Avengers sign an accord by the UN that places the superhero team under supervision and dictates that they cannot act unless ordered.  Steve Rogers objects to this, but his fellow partner and Avenger Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr. ) disagrees. He feels that superhumans need to be curtailed partly based on his own guilt about creating Ultron. Later, a terrorist bombing at a UN conference, supposedly by the Winter Soldier, sets off an alarming series of events that turn the two friends into bitter enemies as both men gather allies for their causes.

cap and iron man

Captain America: Civil War is already considered one of the greatest superhero films of all time and that praise is justified. Unlike the similar-themed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this film flows cleanly, is coherent, not choppy and adequately presents both sides of the issue. Even though Captain America is the star of the film, great pains are taken to show the validity of the other side. It becomes difficult at times to find someone to root for because we know they are both in the right. It illustrates the tragedy of a civil war amongst former friends.

cap and agent 13

The directors Joe and Anthony Russo return for their second Captain America film and have beaten the second film curse for MCU directors. At the same time, they demonstrate with Captain America: Civil War that they can handle a large, epic story with multiple characters that are all given their moments to shine. That is an unbelievable effort that lesser directors and writers have difficulty accomplishing.

Despite the film’s length (over two hours) it leaves viewers wanting to see more of this world unfold. That is due to the constant action, fast-moving plotline, and smile-inducing appearances by other characters that get their moments in the sun and not just in action sequences. We meet T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), a noble African king out for vengeance, and of course, everyone’s favorite Web-Slinger, Spider-Man (Tom Holland). This MCU version of Peter Parker is the most authentic and realistic take of Spider-Man ever shown on film and leaves one hungering for Spider-Man: Homecoming already. Other stand out characters include Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), the Vision (Paul Bettany), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).

team cap

team iron man

The much talked about fight scene the superheroes have with each other in an airport is worthy of the hype and shows the heroes at their best. It was a comic book fan’s dream come true seeing all these superheroes doing their thing. Needless to say the special effects were flawless, as was the intricate fight choreography. However, a following fight scene later on is much more involving and personal, while at the same time heartbreaking as we see that Rogers and Stark are at a point of no return with each other. By the end of the film, everything has changed not just for the two main characters, but for the allies that took their sides.

cap 3

Captain America: Civil War is a triumph that is worth multiple viewings not just because of the spine-tingling action but because at its heart the movie is about friendship and how it gets fractured. It is hard to believe this but even though this is Marvel Studios’ thirteenth MCU film, it proves that the Marvel Cinematic Universe can still surprise and excite us as it continues to expand.

José Soto

 

Advertisements

Captain America: Civil War Teaser Trailer!

civil war

The world is going to hell in a handbasket with all the recent calamities but at least we have some cool movies to look forward to next year (that and picking a new president). After months of anticipation, at last the trailer for Captain America: Civil War is out.

Frankly, I was expecting this new entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to come out next month with all that Star Wars hoopla, but hey I’m more than happy to be viewing this over and over this Thanksgiving while everyone else is glued to their football games!

First impressions: Love it! It hit all the right notes and got me instantly pumped to see Captain America and Iron Man duking it out. One thing I appreciated is that even though there are many superheroes in the trailer it still felt like a Captain America movie not Avengers 2.5. The story is focused on Steve Rogers’ place in the modern world and how he doesn’t quite fit in. Also there are some hints of tragedy and hurt scattered here and there with it centering on the lost friendship between Captain America and Iron Man, with Tony Stark seeming a bit jealous of Steve Rogers’ friendship with Bucky Barnes. It’s interesting they went that route because I saw the two as more at being at odds with each other in the last two Avengers films. But it’s a good angle and sells the point that it’s a House Divided among superheroes.

civil war poster

Speaking of superheroes we got our first quick look at Black Panther and man does he look lethal and rockin’! The only ones that weren’t present and missed were Ant-Man and Spider-Man. I suppose we’ll see them around the time of the Super Bowl. The final shot of Captain America and Winter Soldier taking on Iron Man together is sure to cheer the hearts of anyone who wants to see Tony Stark taken down a peg or two. From the looks of it, Captain America: Civil War is another winner for the MCU.

Don’t know about the rest of you but I’m going back to watching this trailer for Captain America: Civil War again. May 2016 can’t come soon enough. 🙂

José Soto

 

The First Dozen Marvel (MCU) Films Ranked

With the release of Ant-Man, Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films has concluded. Before Phase Three begins with Captain America: Civil War, now would be a good time to rank the twelve MCU films released so far.

1. The Avengers (2012) – As the culmination of years of careful seeding by previous MCU films The Avengers was a bold, energetic triumph. Director Joss Whedon accomplished the impossible by bringing together completely different characters and molding them into a superhero team just like in the comic books.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

As the most successful superhero film of all time, The Avengers excited numerous viewers and changed the landscape of superhero films. Before this film, the usual superhero films operated in their own realities without any indication of a rich universe as seen in comic books. But The Avengers embraced the richness of its comic book lore and it paid off. Now, shared cinematic universes are the rage. However, The Avengers is the best of the MCU films because it was so energetic, witty, and snappy, and had the novelty of our favorite heroes meeting for the first time. It all led to one of the most exciting finales presented on film that still reverberates with viewers.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Marvel Studios showed they were willing to take a chance with this quirky and exciting space adventure yarn. Who would’ve imagined that a sci-fi movie about a bumbling space pirate, violent green aliens, a foul-mouthed raccoon and a walking tree would strike a chord with audiences?

gotg

Technically, Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t a superhero film, but this demonstrates how this MCU entry is quite different from its standard superhero repertoire. What made it special wasn’t just the premise, beautiful visuals or production design, but a toe-tapping soundtrack that ingeniously used ’70s pop songs. It was a unique signature for this space opera tale about a group of space losers who banded together to save the galaxy. Chris Pratt became a star thanks to his silly, but good-hearted role as Star-Lord, the self-proclaimed legendary outlaw.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – The best MCU solo superhero film and one of the greatest superhero films ever made. More importantly, this was arguably the most volatile entry in the MCU because by the time the film ended, the cinematic universe was forever changed by the film’s events.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers has demonstrated how he has grown in stature in these films. As a man out of time, Steve Rogers faced his greatest threats from a former friend (one of the deadliest and most frightening supervillains on film) and a shocking global conspiracy that rocked the MCU to its roots. Adding to the film’s specialness were a tightly written script, well-executed and riveting fight scenes and terrific performances from the cast.

4. Ant-Man (2015) – The final Phase Two film is known for its numerous behind-the-scenes hurdles where the original director quit after having developed the film for years. Yet, in spite of that and the titular character’s obscurity, Ant-Man was an unexpectedly great superhero film that’s full of panache.

antman in your face

As one of the more humorous MCU films, Ant-Man quickly won over viewers with its outlandish premise: a man who can shrink and communicate with ants. Wrapped around that was a swift-paced heist story that deftly integrated itself into the larger MCU in a natural way that eluded other films that attempted this. Adding to the film’s enjoyment were many winning performances, fantastic special effects and unlike other MCU films, Ant-Man was able to deliver an astonishing final act that helped pave the future for the MCU.

5. Thor (2011) – What sets Marvel Studios apart with their MCU films is its willingness to remain faithful to the comic book source material. At the same time, Marvel Studios has the ability to make organic changes and updates to its characters and situations. Thor is a perfect example. The film wisely eschewed its magic-based comic book roots that Thor and his ilk were actual gods and cleverly used science fiction tropes instead.

THOR

Thor followed the winning formula of MCU films by having an egotistical, flawed character learn some humility and become a hero. Thanks to director Kenneth Branagh, Thor also had a sense of grandeur that evoked a Shakespearean family drama. In this case, that involved otherworldly aliens mistaken for gods. It was also noted for its humorous fish-out-of-water scenario and Tom Hiddleston’s star-making performance as Loki, the MCU’s best villain.

6. Iron Man (2008) – The one that started the MCU phenomenon still holds up as a well-made origin story. Robert Downey, Jr. shined as he made a personal and professional comeback in the role of a lifetime. His trend-setting Tony Stark/Iron Man was a self-centered narcissist who learned to become something more.

iron man flying

The first part of Iron Man was engrossing, particularly during the moments when Tony Stark first faced his mortality and was forced to construct a crude armored suit. However, the film faltered a bit in the second half. The pace dragged as we waited for him to construct a proper Iron Man suit. Things weren’t helped by the final battle that looked like something out of the Transformers and was just as cartoony. But Iron Man’s successful formula set the tone for the rest of the MCU. Continue reading

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Upends The Marvel Cinematic Universe

cap 2 posterI’m not exaggerating when I say that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the greatest superhero films ever made. It ranks right up there with Iron Man, The Dark Knight and The Avengers. It’s that great! It’s exciting, intriguing, full of action and, most importantly, character defining moments that elevates this film above your standard superhero flick.

While the first Captain America film was a pleasant salute to World War II Americana, this sequel just elevates the character and the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a whole new level. In fact, Captain America: The Winter Soldier completely upends the carefully crafted world created with ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????these Marvel movies and it does so in a logical way that actually reflects on the impact of the events from The Avengers. As much as 9/11 radically changed our world, the alien attack on New York City in The Avengers has had far reaching ramifications. Iron Man 3 explored the personal impact as seen with Iron Man’s post traumatic stress disorder. This Captain America film examines the impact on the world stage and how it has made the spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. just a tad bit too omnipresent. That was something that was underlying in past Marvel films, the spies were everywhere, seemed too powerful, had too much carte blanche. This film shows how the agency overreached with a diabolical plot hatched by traitors from within.

The film begins with Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America (Chris Evans) leading a strike force that includes fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff a.k.a Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) to rescue hostages onboard a hijacked freighter ship. It turns out that the hostages are actually S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and Black Widow has a separate agenda to download encrypted files from the ship’s computer. Captain America then learns that S.H.I.E.L.D. is about to launch Project: Insight, which will use a trio of new generation helicarriers to preemptively take out potential threats worldwide.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

All this causes Rogers to question his allegiance to S.H.I.E.L.D. and magnificently echoes the unease he’s having with adapting to this new world. Despite its fast-moving plot, time is taken to feature quiet, reflective moments where he sees how much the world and his country has changed. They are the emotional highlights of the film and allow Evans to prove his acting chops. He undeniably owns this role and it’s now difficult to picture another actor playing this character.

Anyway, it turns out that he is not the only one wondering about the spy agency’s ambiguous nature. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), S.H.I.E.L.D.’s director also has his doubts and his inquiries launch a devastating chain of events that includes having Rogers and Romanoff hunted by S.H.I.E.L.D. and ultimately leaves the agency and the world changed forever. The stakes are that high.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As he eludes S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America has to face a specter from his past. This being the lethal Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a super assassin with a bionic arm. I won’t give away who the Winter Soldier is in case anyone reading this doesn’t know but his storyline is very tragic considering his relationship to Rogers. Putting that aside the directors Anthony and Joe Russo make him one of the most formidable super villains seen on film and while the Red Skull was Captain America’s chief nemesis, the Winter Soldier is both a physical match to Rogers and a genuine threat. At times I actually wondered if the good Captain would prevail in their fights.

Speaking of action, this film has lots of it. It does have that annoying shaky cam for some scenes, but the directors knew enough to control it and let the spectacular stunts speak for themselves. It’s incredible how Marvel Studios were able to make a perfect, unorthodox directing choice. This duo was known for directing comedies, ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????who would’ve known they could pull this off? But what underlines all the action sequences are the characters, they’re so well written and acted and the actors have their moments, even the newcomers. Take Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson a.k.a. the Falcon. This version of the Falcon was so cool and likable, it’s easy to see why Rogers gravitated to this guy when he needed help. The Falcon definitely has his moments with his flight outfit that seems so formidable and believable.

cap on bike

Captain America: The Winter Soldier works in so many ways because writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely took the best elements from the Captain America comic books and fused them to make this unforgettable cinematic wonder. The movie left me wanting to see more and it set up enough questions and material to carry over to another sequel. Honestly, since Marvel Studios has signed on these directors for the next film, I cannot wait to see it.

Waldermann Rivera

Sci-Fi Heads Of State

 

Romney? Obama? Who’s your choice for president? Would you rather choose someone else? Well how about these presidents and heads of state that have appeared in science fiction? Love them or hate them, they were memorable leaders.

The Despotic

Science fiction is probably the best vehicle for showcasing villainous presidents. Look at it this way, few will get offended with these fictional tyrants that star in cautionary tales that take place in dystopian times.

Take President Erwin Rexall in the classic Frank Miller/David Gibbons mini-series Give Me Liberty. Though not the main character in the comic book, his presence in lieu of his harsh policies had an impact on Give Me Liberty’s heroine, Martha Washington. An exaggeration of Ronald Reagan, Rexall was a far-right, callous man who cared little for the average American. His successor, Howard Nissen was the complete opposite, a far left liberal who turned out to be a drunken incompetent. Eventually Rexall has his brain implanted into a robot’s body and continued his presidency after Nissen was assassinated.

A more infamous president was Lex Luthor as seen in the pages of Superman. Holding the highest office in the land, allowed Luthor to be an effective thorn on Superman’s side. Adding insult was Luthor’s early popularity, though he didn’t do anything to prevent aliens from destroying Topeka, Kansas. Eventually, he fell from grace and power thanks to the efforts of several superheroes.

But more well-known despotic heads of state have been seen on film. The most recent one was Mr. Thompson in Atlas Shrugged, Part II. Played by Ray Wise, Thompson, although never referred to as the president, is the socialist head of state in the U.S. who implements unpopular reforms and mandates that strip away citizens’ rights. Another recent tyrant was President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in The Hunger Games. He wasn’t a prominent character in the book but appears in the film. Seemingly laid back, Snow actually has a sadistic demeanor.

One truly despicable despot was Greg Stillson in The Dead Zone. Based on the Stephen King book of the same name, the hero Johnny Smith discovers with his psychic powers that a local politician (played by Martin Sheen) will become a crazed president who unleashes a nuclear holocaust. The future scenes where he defies everyone’s pleas and launches nukes were quite chilling. The character also showed up in The Dead Zone TV series.

While the U.S. has had youthful presidents (keeping in mind that presidents in their forties like Kennedy or Clinton or Obama are considered young), there was Max Frost (Christopher Jones) in the film Wild In The Streets. A socially conscious and ambitious rock star, Frost manipulates politicians to pass a constitutional amendment that lowers the voting age and when a person can run for president. This allows the youthful rocker, whose in his twenties, to ride a wave into the White House where he becomes a dictator that banishes old people into re-education camps.

The Incompetents

Not all future presidents are dictators, many are just not up to snuff. There was President Chet Roosevelt (John Ritter) in the comedy Americathon where a bankrupt U.S. has to hold a telethon to raise cash. Then there was President Dwayne Elizando Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in Idiocracy who leads an illiterate nation and is all about style but no substance. By the end of Idiocracy, it falls on the modern-day hero who winds up in that future, Joe Bauers a.k.a. Not Sure, to begin the re-education and salvation of American citizens by becoming president himself. But the most ill-suited president has to be Peter Sellers’ indecisive President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove.

Leaders On Television

There have been notable presidents or leaders in several sci-fi TV shows. For instance Lisa Simpson in The Simpsons was shown to be president sometime in the future in the episode “Back To The Future”. The most recent world leader was President Elias Martinez in The Event. Skillfully played by Blair Underwood, the president seemed unsure of how to handle the alien refugees the government was holding captive, but by the series’ end, President Martinez became more determined and decisive in protecting the U.S. and the world. The show Jack & Bobby took place in modern times but was framed by bookending commentaries by people in the future. One of the boys featured in the show grows up to become president years into the future. In the anthology show The Outer Limits, one episode “Trial By Fire” featured a newly inaugurated President Charles Halsey (Robert Foxworth), who unexpectedly has to deal with a first contact situation. An alien armada is on its way to Earth and Halsey has to decide if they are friendly or not. President Halsey is wracked with the knowledge that his decisions will severely impact life on the planet.

But the best known fictional presidents in sci-fi TV have to be Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and Gaius Baltar (James Callis) seen in the remake of Battlestar Galactica. Roslin was the sole surviving member of the president’s cabinet following a surprise robotic Cylon attack on humanity. Although inexperienced, Roslin quickly grows into her role, becomes presidential and ultimately helps save humanity. Baltar on the other hand is more complex. Best seen as an enigmatic anti-hero, Baltar is responsible for the near extinction of humanity by the Cylons. There were broad hints that Baltar was insane but cunning and he aided the surviving humans. Eventually Baltar defeated Roslin in a presidential election and settled humanity on a habitable world. His presidency was unpopular especially after he surrenders humanity to an invading Cylon force.

Heroic Leaders

Not all presidents in sci-fi are evil or incompetent. Many were shown in a positive light and were even heroic. Roslin in Battlestar Galactica was heroic during her appearances in the show. Superman himself served as president of the United States in a fantasy “future” story in Action Comics Annual #3. Thanks to his diplomatic skills, Superman/Clark Kent has a successful presidency where he brings about world peace and lowers the deficit (thanks to some help from Aquaman, who dredges up sunken ships laden with treasure).

Another potential president was Steve Rogers. In the pages of Captain America # 250 he is approached to run for president of the U.S. but eventually declines. In the comic book What If Captain America Had Been Elected President? # 26, Rogers has a successful presidency, one of his major accomplishments being to make America energy independent. In the mini-series The Last Avengers Story, it’s stated that in the future Rogers becomes president of the U.S. but is apparently killed in his third term. Recently in The Ultimates # 16 the Steve Rogers in that universe is elected president of the U.S.

Other positive presidents seen in movies include Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman) in Deep Impact, who helps the U.S. and the world to recover from a comet strike, and the two Federation Presidents seen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It should be noted that Captain Jonathan Archer from Star Trek: Enterprise eventually becomes the first President of the Federation. But out of all these fictional sci-fi presidents probably the most heroic one  is President Thomas Whitmore from Independence Day. Patterned loosely on Bill Clinton, Whitmore is a young, beleaguered commander-in-chief who heroically leads the nation in fighting off an alien invasion. Although his military role in the final counterattack against the aliens is implausible it was heroic. Seriously, it is a stretch to believe that one of the few remaining world leaders will be allowed to fly a fighter jet to lead an attack on alien invaders. But he does give one heck of a rousing speech. So would any of these candidates earn your vote?

Lewis T. Grove