Thursday, May 12, 2016

863. Captain America: Civil War, or, The Best Avengers Movie Yet

So here's what my Avengers cycle best-of looks like now:
  1. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
  4. Avengers (2012)
  5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
As you can see, two of three Captain America movies make the top five.  When it was released, 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger shot close to the top of the list (you can see 2010's Iron Man 2 in third) thanks to Chris Evans' endearing performance as Steve Rogers and the general tone of embracing the history of comic book superheroes in light-hearted but warm fashion (particularly Cap's early days in uniform as a glorified spokesman).  So it wasn't surprising that its sequels interested me even more, as they delved more deeply into superhero psyche and the further pitfalls of wearing even the spiffier uniform.

What this amounts to is depth in presentation, something that's usually lacking in these Avengers movies.  I mean, that's why I liked Iron Man 2 so much, because it was the rare introverted Tony Stark that looked for things that were well beyond the surface.  (Iron Man 3 was a shell, pardon the pun, of this accomplishment.)

But other than that, Civil War also works on the visceral level of the Avengers films at their best, the interplay that's so key to entries like Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.  These are screwball flicks at heart, perhaps more so than superhero movies.  They will never match the vision of, say, The Dark Knight or even Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (something that always sticks in the craw of fans and critics, who routinely find holes that aren't there in DC's movies, and gobble up the relative mindlessness of Marvel's).  Even Civil War, like The Winter Soldier before it, full of moral bravado, plays sleight of hand in its plotting instead of looking for real answers.  You cannot compare the conflicts in Civil War and Batman v Superman, no matter how similar they are.  The much-mocked humanity of Batman v Superman is met with hollow characterization in Civil War.

And yet, I still say Captain America: Civil War is good.  It's a different kind of good, a different level of achievement.  It's not wrong to say it's a lesser one.  It's not wrong to say that a movie with loftier ambitions and greater technical achievement is better than it.  It is wrong to say that you have to aim lower to be a successful superhero movie. 

Calling Civil War my favorite Avengers movie is acknowledgement that it did succeed in what it set out to accomplishment.  That's all you can ask of any movie.  I rate them lower when they haven't, and don't even realize it.  I do that with books, too.  I see no difference except in formatting, between movies and books.  They're different art forms.  But to be a good movie means the same thing as being a good book.  Standards don't change.  I can like, very much, a book of little ambition, or one that does not dazzle me in its language, but I'll always like the one that has both, better.  It's the same with movies, even ones with superheroes.

There's a lot that's just sloppy in Civil War, clumsy in how plot threads come together.  When they meet up, the right moments do happen, and the ending is good, and that goofy clash of champions at the airport is a true highlight, something that couldn't, and probably shouldn't, happen in a DC movie.  But that's what defines these Avengers movies.  Obviously, they make entertainment that's easy to enjoy.

So sue me if I still like DC better, even when I've found perhaps the perfect Avengers movie.

1 comment:

Pat Dilloway said...

I still have to see it. I'm not really excited about it. I'm sure it'll be fun and entertaining but it's probably just another Marvel movie like Ant-Man was last year.


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