UPDATE: July 11, 2021
Marvel/Disney states that the Black Widow is “A film about Natasha Romanoff in her quests between the films Civil War and Infinity War.”
With the news that the Black Widow blew away the box office this weekend (and note, in my Black Widow review 2021 I was reserved and stated that the Marvel fandom would have to come out in droves; they did!)
My original April 5, 2014 review:
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo take over from Captain America: the First Avenger director Joe Johnston and come up with a unique, inspired and intelligent superhero film in an era where each new entry is required to deliver more bang for the buck. With 007 no longer having a monopoly on larger-than-life action films a special twist is required to keep the audiences coming back to this ever-widening genre. Think Brian DePalma’s use of Vanessa Redgrave as the mysterious “Max” in the 1996 Mission Impossible I (as exquisite as Anne Bancroft in 1993’s Malice) to bring a little cat and mouse intrigue into the over-the-top fireworks so necessary as part of the formula.
That Marvel has succeeded in taking its lesser heroes to the top – Captain America and Iron Man, specifically, is truly remarkable. While the Hulk and Captain America had TV movies (Cap getting the benefit of the immense Christopher Lee in one outing,) the Fantastic Four were not as embarrassed in public by the underground Roger Corman release of its film debut. Of course the two FF wide-release film vehicles fumbled badly, and the reboot seems headed in the same direction (Ben Affleck as Batman, anyone?) so treading on less-sacred ground makes for less of a risk. Well, now even lesser characters that we-who-love-Marvel always adored anyway – Dr. Strange and Sub-Mariner, won’t have the element of surprise in their favor. All Marvel characters are going to be received with the same amount of scrutiny.
This adventure works successfully because it employs, along with the Captain America mystique, the marvelous idea from Mad Magazine (dating back to 1961) – Spy vs Spy. Another 1960s idea (1966 to be exact) extracted from the Batman television series is at play here: the use of major film stars becoming part of comic book lore. Robert Redford and Gary Shandling (of all people; which one “of all people?” – BOTH!) appear in The Winter Soldier and the seriousness with which they bring to their respective roles hides the camp to make it a subconscious sort-of “tongue-in-cheek” – quite chic, actually.
In 1972 there was a documentary film, Winter Soldier, about the investigation into a darker aspect of the Vietnam war. The Washington Post noting ‘Winter Soldier’ is an important historical document, an eerily prescient antiwar plea and a dazzling example of filmmaking at its most iconographically potent. But at its best, it is the eloquent, unforgettable tale of profound moral reckoning.” Anne Hornaday
Which makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier new only in that it re-imagines many things from the past – as the Wachowski’s successfully did with the Matrix series – in such a way as to keep your attention and build the drama by balancing James Bond (and Sherlock Holmes’) stealth and sleuth with the immense extra-large combustion the Iron Man films deliver so successfully.
2016:Review Captain America: Civil War – It’s Got All The Elements
By Joe Viglione May 4, 2016
Captain America Civil War is the best Captain America and Avengers movie yet. Ant-Man and Spider-Man add a new, much needed, dimension while – conspicuous in their absence – Quicksilver, Thor, the Hulk and Pepper Potts are intentionally M.I.A.
The key to the success of this film is the Marvel formula. What sounds like it would be cluttered, twelve heroes, six on each side bashing each other’s brains out, is a smart new perspective on what is now a well-oiled machine. Where Iron Man 2 had robot vs robot, Captain America III has fist pounding fist (and face,) which, of course, is better than a plethora of bullets flying – the quick fix for most action movies these days.
Yes, there are bullets, but not at the frequency that we’ve seen them of late and, as nice as the decrease in ammo may be, there’s the bonus added extra of Ben Affleck not being in this movie.
With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice released on March 25, DC had a full six weeks to advance its mega battle prior to Captain America’s May 6th date, but as of this writing on May 4th Civil War has brought in over 234 million overseas prior to its American blitz (which is, perhaps, why the embargo on this review in advance has been lifted, reviews are coming in from foreign countries, of course, allowing us to publish this essay prior to May 6 opening.) And while we are on the subject, with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman fighting highly questionable villains – Mark Zuckerberg (or the actor who played him) as Lex Luthor. Really? – and a dark ooze creeping over the stale film like Mr. Smith from the Matrix sticking his hand into the mix and just draining it of all energy – the reverse happens in Captain America: Civil War. The red, white and blue tones of Captain Steve Rogers are bright, as are the sunlit battles, friend vs a friend as the villain stays behind the scenes manipulating the war from within.
It’s got all the elements of Mission Impossible, double agents, and a flagrant nod to both The Manchurian Candidate and Star Wars. In fact, it is so blatant that Tony Stark, synonymous forever now with Robert Downey Jr., just comes out and calls Bucky – the Winter Soldier – “Manchurian candidate,” saying what the viewer is thinking. It’s like the old Golden Girls TV show, you saw the joke coming at you at 5 miles per hour and then Bea Arthur or Rue or Estelle or Betty would repeat the joke you are thinking in your brain – it was the delivery that made it so special and kept it from falling flat. That same intangible works here and that is why Marvel has it all over D.C. in the film game. Oh, and did I tell you the good news? Ben Affleck is not in this movie.
There are spectacular filming and great acting here, and the film succeeds because it doesn’t travel into any of the minefields that Batman v Superman jumped into with no sense of logic, good taste, or care for what the audience wants (Exhibit A: Christian Bale as the Batman.) Precision acting from Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Paul Bettany as Vision, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., William Hurt, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, all provide the storytelling needed to keep your attention for two and a half hours. Even newbie Tom Holland, the actor a mere 19 and looking all of twelve years of age, has Spiderman and Peter Parker down pat. He looks like Tobey Maguire’s kid brother, and the emphasis on saving the Spiderman franchise (which Sony controls) gets its new lease on life in this Disney/Marvel platform.
And Marvel knows from experience to keep the genre exciting, each film is like another monthly episode of the comic, with summer heightening the excitement. May 9 is the screening of the new X-Men Apocalypse, so the hits just keep on coming, though X –Men is a 20th Century Fox – not a Disney/Marvel feature, the franchise is too important for it to go the way of the Fantastic Four. The scenery in Civil War is breathtaking, be it the “Perfect Storm” waters where the United States government keeps its superhero prison or the winter snows of Siberia. William Hurt as “Thunderbolt” Ross (played by Sam Elliott in 2003’s Hulk, Hurt taking over in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk) goes beyond his usual no-nonsense, let’s control this situation. Here he goes further than merely engaging his obsession with Bruce Banner (who is not in this film,) here Ross fixates on having complete power over every superhero, and Tony Stark caves in, the complicated Stark played so eloquently by the involved Robert Downey Jr.
It is all the contrasts that delight here, Marvel’s red white and blue Captain America beating the all-powerful red white and blue of DC’s Superman. Again. And, along with being a terrific dawn of summer film, there’s the added extra bonus that Ben Affleck does not appear in it.