12 May 2016

The Battle of the Capes – Movie Review

I’ve seen both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (a couple of weeks ago) and Captain America: Civil War (opening weekend).

Before I go into my review of the films I to remind folks that I was really looking forward to both films and the Batman v Superman in particular.

So as context I’m going to go on about the previous films before I do into the reviews.

As much as Man of Steel failed in some aspects mostly in some of the major plot points Henry Cavil looked like Superman. I felt I was watching a Superman movie and when the action heated up it was a pretty good Superman movie. The last fight was a bit over the top and the repercussions to ignoring the civilians was addressed pretty well in the follow up movie. The final end of General Zod (who had the shit acted out of the part) was awkward. The film faltered with the whole DNA matrix and Lois needed to be taken hostage alongside Kal-El in Act 2 for no reason. It had great parts where Lois figures out Clark Kent’s secret, or when she’s working with the Jor-El AI to escape the Kryptionian ship. I go on in more detail here.

With Captain America: The Winter Soldier I never wrote a formal review, but I really liked the film. It showcased the man out time aspect that is Steve Rogers. Black Widow, Winter Solider, and Falcon had great showings. The action was tight and really well done. There were a few holes with the Cloaking Facemask as a master key for the final moments of the intrigue portion of the plot. The Hydra Uprising felt a little flat, I figure all the folks who worked at SHIELD would fight back in some way. The All glass server rooms under the three new Heli-carriers felt like a huge failure ala an exhaust port in a Death Star (maybe it was a nod to another Disney franchise – I dunno).

What I really liked about the film was the development of Cap. His relationships with the folks around him, Agent 13, Agent Carter, and Nick Fury, grew and evolved or showcased how alone he feels. I’ve always stated that Captain America’s power was faith. He believed in humanity not just the ideals of the USA. His faith is in systems that were built by people and run by people… he believes in people. He hopes when it’s not popular or easy. Those aspects of Capt have fallen aside over the many teams that have put him on page in the fifty plus years of comic history. I’m glad that the MCU version of Cap puts those attributes to the front makes him more likable in a modern and more realistic setting without making him Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. This started in Captain America: First Avenger and has carried on through into Avengers: Age of Ultron so the path of this Stephen Rogers is based on faith in everyone else.

With the flashbacks done let’s take a look at each film.

Starting with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS for the rest of this post) It’s mentioned he’s been active for twenty years so this Batman sports the salt (experience, not hair) well. He looks tired and the battle of Metropolis seems to have reinvigorated him. Ben Affleck is the best Batman we’ve seen – drop the mic, no argument. He is perfect for the role at this stage of the character’s history and he rocks the job. Cavil is once more alien in presence, perfect for the role. His physic is almost inhuman but the costume this time around seems a wee bit too dark. I’d have preferred a greater contrast between the light and dark of the two main characters. It seems his has little screen time to work the relationship with Lois once the first act is done.

Lex Luther was ok, Lois started off strong but fell off the radar. Alfred was awesome and owned every scene that included the old grumpy brit. Gadot was brilliant and aloof as Dianna and fierce as all hell when dressed as Wonder Woman – second best role filled after the Affleck Batman.

Evans as Captain America was once more brilliant, setting the standard of that character. Much like Nicolson and Ledger did for the Joker, and Bernthal does with the Punisher, Evans does the same for the USA poster boy. He is genuine and you can’t feel anything else other than trying to always do the right thing and shouldering the burden when he misses the mark. The conflict between friends really showed in that final blow of the final fight at the end of the film. Evans delivery of the famous line “I can do this all day” mirroring the line from the opening act of the first Captain America film was perfect. When I saw Cap and Bucky enter the Soviet bunker at the end of the film, I felt like I was watching two combat vets walk up the stairs in a tight tactical formation. This was even more emphasis when they turned to face a possible threat when Stark shows up.

Speaking of Stark, Downey’s performance was effortless and I never felt like Tony Stark was not on screen. Stan’s Bucky was on point and the interaction with Mackie’s Falcon was pure gold. Both worked their characters and they looked great doing the job. Cheadle, Renner, and Johansson seemed like they were in their own skin once more making this showing one of many. New comers Olsen, Bettany, and Rudd having this being their second showing did a great job when they ruled the screen. Vision bothered me when he was on screen and that was the point – he looked alien or not-human. Scarlet Witch was not over the top and seemed ground for her situation while Ant-Man had some of the best laughs.

Zemo the main villain played by Bruhl was well done even if I wanted more. He seemed more like a source of conflict indirectly instead of a direct mastermind and manipulator of the events. Holland rocked as the new Spiderman and Boseman was perfect for T’Challa aka the Black Panther. He seemed mysterious without making it annoying and his motivations were known the process behind those motivations were well concealed without making it look meaningless.

Verdict – DC main have picked some great folks and finally put down a brilliant Batman who normally is cast by someone who can be a great Bruce Wayne or Batman and never both, but Marvel owned their casting and vets like RDJ, Evans, and Bruhl have the chops to make the work look easy. DC felt like they wasted their casting with the secondary characters while Marvel gave enough time for each artist to shine.

BvS has an interesting plot seed. Working from the contentious finale of the previous film, it sets up a perfect reason for Batman to come back into work. I liked the Gotham is across the lake from Metropolis making the two major fictional cities neighbours of some sort. I expected and even hoped that Luthor’s hate on Superman would be better grounded in this version of the character and the destruction in the last film is a perfect reason.

The movie started to loose me after the very strong first act. Luthor piss, the Omega Dream, and the lack of Superman’s relationship with Lois really took the plot down a bad direction no matter how good the scene with Batman meeting Super and the party infiltration turned out to be. The plot seemed scattered and the success and failures of each scene make the movie feel more and more disjointed. The end was a mess and the final fight seemed to drag on for no reason but to allow other characters to develop a solution. The worst was the dream with the Omega symbol at the end- cut that out. If you’re watching the film go to the bathroom at that point it’s a waste of time.

Doomsday was wasted and the kidnap plot seemed silly. Also the alien ship (in India - where they got the large chunk of Kryptonite) being unattended seemed unrealistic. I would have rathered that it went missing and the only remains were the Kryptonite pieces. The Aquaman video could have been watching Aquaman cleaning up the mess. Lastly introducing the other future members of the Justice League could have been a bit more organic. Victor Stone, could be his father’s attempt to use collected alien tech to save his sons life who was hurt in the battle of Metropolis. The lightening that was used to make Doomsday could have been the bolt that later makes the Flash. Those are all better ideas than a few e-mail attachments sent by Batman to Wonder Woman… yeesh.

Civil War did a good job with their plot. I felt like I was watching three films back to back. A fugitive movie, followed by a superhero fight movie, and ended on a united buddy film (which was the weakest in terms of story). The story was tight and well paced making the 2.5 hour long film seem shorter. The level of polish on each scene and the direction of the story was close to perfect. Stark meeting up with Spiderman was a neat scene but it felt like it was plugged in. The scenes with Vision and Wanda’s were good but they seemed forced unless someone else was there.

Zemo also seemed out of place. By the end of the second act I had forgotten about him until he gave up his great plan. He never came to the front of the film and that worked really well in the first act orchestrating the hunt for Bucky and his escape but I would have preferred he completely stayed in the shadow to escape in the end, now on the run since his plot was revealed. I would have also had him do something else instead of killing the Russian frozen folks.

There are also a few other points – Why did Black Panter not help at the end? Why did Vision not become more active outside of the difficult way to stop him from being the win button? Falcon as a downed pilot rescue operator should have been the first to get on to Warmachine and after giving aid, I’d have had Stark blast him. It was nice that he didn’t follow sticking to the character’s history but the outcome didn’t really support the reason to the audience unless you really paid attention – last movie.

Verdict – Marvel wins again. The plot was more complete in feeling and the characters and devices seemed more organic and less forced.

FINAL SCORES – BvS much like the last film earned a 2 out of 5 until you include the quality of production and the bombastic actions sequences giving it the bump to 3 out of 5. Civil War outside of a few small technical issues was full of humor and action while telling a well-developed story. If not for some of those issues (mainly how they used Vision or didn’t) and the small holes common to Marvel movies this movie would have taken best Marvel movie to date. Even then it falls before Guardians of the Galaxy (now no. 3) and after Avengers (still no.1), both of which are the only 5 out of 5 Marvel movies.

3/5 for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
5/5 for Captain America: Civil War

- Cheers