“Captain America: Civil War”: Movie Review

Summary.

I’ve been known to defend DC films in the past because at heart, when it comes to Marvel versus DC, I was (and probably will) stubbornly at DC’s side of the equation. But alas, DC doesn’t have Kevin Feige and I’m quite certain that Marvel had paid him millions (if not billions). And even at that, he was probably still underpaid. That is how good he is in bringing all these stuffs together. Something that DC had tried hard to emulate but thus far, to a very little to no success.

As much as it pains me to say, “Civil War” is, at the point of this writing, the latest and the best Marvel Cinematic Universe film to date. Perhaps second only to Nolan’s Batman trilogy overall. It was that good.

Civil War Movie Poster

The inevitable comparison.

“Civil War” was built upon the premise that superheroes, even with their very best intention to save the many, in doing so (the saving) would inevitably result in collateral casualities. Some of the bystanders, especially those who had lost their loved ones are inevitably, will held the superheroes (again, with all their best intentions) responsible regardless that their actions had prevented a far bigger disaster. Even the most logical person could and would easily turned off their logic switch when losing someone they held dear and unleash the beast within them, so to speak.

This premise was already explored by “Dawn of Justice” released about just two months ago. In “Dawn of Justice,” the idea is represented by Bruce Wayne as he runs through Metropolis trying to save his employees while two Gods fought and wreak havoc to the city from above. His final say, as he held a child who had presumably lost her parent between the rumbles, was an angry look, an accusing stare toward the heavens. It was an effective scene, actually. I liked that.

In “Civil War,” this very same idea was represented by Daniel Brühl portraying the Villain in this movie, who had lost his family during “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” event. His final say was a quiet, reflective conversation with Chadwick Boseman and augmented by a subtle message shown on his phone screen. Now if the “Dawn of Justice”‘s Metropolis scene was an “effective” one, this scene in “Civil War” punch it in the face, trampled it to dust, blowing it to pieces, and scattered its remains to the four cardinal directions. Daniel Brühl’s character may not have a superpower (yet), but that made his character even more compelling. He earns my respect as one of the best Villain in the superhero genre films, perhaps second only to Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Another major difference between the two, as far as the basic premise involved, is that in “Dawn of Justice,” Bruce Wayne thinks he could beat a God. But in “Civil War,” Daniel Brühl’s character knows that he could not. And from that knowledge, came an understanding, and from there, wisdom. This gives “Civil War” a more humane perspective than “Dawn of Justice” and in turn, made it into a far more superior film.

Dense. A liquid dense.

Its natural. When you pack a whole lot of masked personas in one single movie, there would be a lot things going off at once. Added to that, the film also had to make space to introduce Black Panther (as well as his homeland, Wakanda) and to somewhat re-introduce Spider-Man into the fold. I was pleasantly surprised on how well they execute the transitioning between plot porgression and action set-ups. None of the action set-ups seems to be coming of the left-field (case in point: Batman’s future action set-up in “Dawn of Justice.” Now that is an example of an action set-up that coming in from the left-field). The big showdown in the airport we’ve seen in the trailer turns out to be not the final showdown (end of second act?). But rather than going downhill from there, the film goes even better. The final showdown, although much smaller in space (and participating party) felt even more great as it packs more emotional attachment to it.

The action set-ups were almost flawless. Everyone gets their time to shine and not just simply make things fly and blow and whatever. The airport scene was very well constructed that although there are more characters involved than fingers in my hands, the scene does not drag and more importantly, easy to follow. Really. Props to everyone masterminding that scene because that was truly an awesome work.

Again, it pains me to say it, but after this film, unless they could get someone like Kevin Feige, DC should re-pack they effort to bring their Universe together and concentrate on one-offs instead. Damn, Marvel just handed DC a mic drop they can’t came back from.

Why the Cap works.

When “The First Avenger” was announced, I was curious but skeptical. I mean, in my opinion, Captain America is almost as boring as Superman. Because just like Superman was, I had always associated Captain American with an embodiment of anything that was ideal, pure, and straight as an arrow. There was no gray in his views. Only Black and White, Right and Wrong. At least that is what I thought. Ambiguity was never in his character as you could always expect him to do the “right” thing.

“The First Avenger,” as far as I’m concerned, had never violate this character’s rule and yet, it was, an unexpectedly good entertainment.

Then came “The Winter Soldier.” Before “Civil War,” it was probably one of my top movie from Marvel Cinematic Universe. I liked “The Winter Solider” because of its simplicity, its grounded idea about privacy which, in our present, post-Snowden world, is increasingly becomes a very relevant issue. I also much prefer the hand-to-hand combat approach used in this series.

“Civil War” still follows this rule but with an increasingly better quality. Hand-to-hand combat? Check. Simple premise? Well, not necessarily “simple” but Check.

Many had pegged Robert Downey Jr. as an irreplaceable as Iron Man. Yes, he’s done a GREAT job donning Tony Stark personae. You could even say that Tony Stark is actually inspired by Robert Downey Jr. To be sure, the next actor who takes Iron Man suit would be scrutinized and compared extensively against him, but for me, personally, after the novelty that was the first “Iron Man” film, watching Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man had quickly worn off. I feel that Tony Stark in the first “Iron Man” and Tony Stark in “Civil War” hasn’t progressed that much. In a way, he is still a Robert Downey Jr-zed Tony Stark of old.

On the contrary, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers is growing. Sure, Chris Evans might not have that much of a range but it actually helped the character. Like I said, Captain America is supposed to be a “boring” superhero. I can’t actually pinpoint the growing part, but his character from the first Captain America film all the way to this latest incarnation, is subtly different. You could actually feel him aging and gained more wisdom in the process and I had had a great joy in following his progression.

In this way, I feel like Chris Evans is actually more irreplacable as Captain America than Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. But, hey, to each his own.

What’s next?

It’s definitely going to get even harder to defend the DC films after this. However, while I’m excited for whatever Marvel had to offer next, I feel that unless they are going to slow down and make things smaller, it’s going to be hard to topple Civil War from the top. And since the next Avenger films will put the superheroes against Thanos, a literal out-of-this-world character, there’s probably no getting smaller for Marvel Cinematic Universe. But still, we have gone this far into MCU and I personally think that people aren’t going to stop investing their time in this universe anytime soon.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”: Movie Review

Considered as Failure.

This might sounds like I’m beating a dead horse because let’s face it. “Batman v Superman” was universally panned by critics (Whopping 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), and scored a massive 69% drop in box office in a week suggesting that while the initial interest was high, the word-of-mouth are well, could be better. And probably for a good reason too.

Batman v Superman Movie Poster

I’m not going to write what was wrong with the movie. The professionals are already gnawed at it, accentuated it to a point where my own voice would just another similar note playing way back in the background. Instead, I’m going to write about what I really like from the movie, and why I don’t mind for Zack Snyder to helm the next incarnation of DC’s superhero films

Cautiously Optimistic.

When they first announce this project, my initial thought was “okay, I’m intrigued, but I’m going to set my expectation low.” Because if you are going to collide two of the biggest superheroes in a film, there would be so many things that could go wrong. Added to that, the film was expected to be a setup for a much bigger Justice League. So yeah, so many things that could go wrong, plus possibly too many materials about to be crammed into a preferably under three hours of telling time with an additional requirements of both satisfying to the audiences who are well-versed in DC history, and not too confusing for those who didn’t. The stars had to be aligned in a very specific way in order to put all these together into a solid entertainment that could please both the critics and the general audiences.

Turns out, however, perhaps due to my low expectations, I found myself quite happy with the movie.

Convoluted, Messy Storyline and Plot.

The movie begins with a montage of Batman’s childhood, yet again. I was trying hard not to squirm and telling myself that you know, maybe Snyder would give it a slow-mo action that could at least half as good as Watchmen’s opening scene. I was right about the slow-mo action, I was wrong about it could be half as good as Watchmen’s. Suffice to say that I was very uncomfortable with it.

But then, the Metropolis scene starts, and I enjoyed this part a lot. This scene puts Bruce Wayne on the city that was literally destroyed when Superman takes on Zod during “Man of Steel.” This puny human, — a well trained, not to mention, filthy rich, but still, a mere human — runs around the city that gradually turns into a pile of destruction, trying to warn/save his employees, is an exciting piece of action. This scene, to my eyes, at least easily justified the reason why Batman got so mad at Superman.

But alas, after this scene, the expected mess starts. Scenes come and go in a hurry. Some scenes are somewhat there for the sake of being “cool.” Case in point, the Nightmare Batman scene. This scene is absolutely bonkers. In a world that was reduced to rubble and dust, Batman with his bulky, dirty, but awesome suit, doing a coreographed fight which at this point of the film, a very refreshing scene. The way the film treat this scene, however, indicates nothing about its supposed importance. Bruce Wayne didn’t even seem to be bothered with it, this scene almost felt like a fan service. It’s like saying, “hey, we have this totally cool scene. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it would be a same to cut it, so yeah, we …mmm… create a dream sequence to include this scene. Huh? What? Lazy? Yeah, maybe, but, it’s cool, it’s Batman doing stuffs. You’ll like it. Promise.” I do like it, I really like it. But also a bit disappointed.

The scenes rambling on, until Wonder Woman scene.

The Princess.

Wonder Woman’s entry scene is arguably the best scene of the whole film. Hands down. Few could take away the fact that at least Snyder, gets Wonder Woman right. It has an amazing soundtrack. Her bracelets, her shield, her sword, and her lasso, all are making a good lasting impression, and the way she moves, the way she fights, the way she smirks after she received her first blow from Doomsday, I didn’t know any better but those are all marks of the Warrior that she is. I have a huge crush on Gal Gadot ever since “Fast Furious” (so huge that I came to HATE that Asian dude who gets to kiss her on screen. Ugh), and her role in this film further cemented that affection. I would get her figurines, put up her posters, adorning my computer’s wallpaper with her (as a Wonder Woman) if I was a teenager still experimenting with his sexual desires.

Also, last but not least, I was interested in how Snyder handles Batman. Oh, it is clear. Batman clearly violates his number one principle in this film. An act that sends enough ripple among Batman fans that Snyder himself, felt the need to explicitly explain the decision. I was, however, simply amused, I want to be surprised, and the Batman’s treatment was clearly qualified as a surprise (I was like, “Oh, okay, that is interesting”). But I don’t feel like it was out of place. I mean, in fact, I think it was necessary because later, as Batman goes into his second choreographed fight scene in the film (which is even more awesome than the first), it clearly shows that Batman, is currently live in a dangerous world. Unlike Superman, he can be hurt (and killed) by a stab of steel into his artery, or a bullet. And therefore his violation to his rule in this film, I think, is not a luxury that he could live without, but it has become a necessity.

Conclusion. Flawed but Enjoyable.

Final word, despite its many flaws, “Batman v Superman” boils into a film about three characters. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. I liked how Snyder portrays Batman here, I got super excited with Wonder Woman’s treatment here, so that is two out of three. Which is good. Superman? Well, many had said that Snyder didn’t understand Superman. I personally don’t care about Superman. I had the same view for this guy as Lex Luthor. He is nigh invincible, his fights are boring (because odds are, he always wins), and therefore, the whole idea about him is, for me, boring. Although I do think that Cavill is the best Superman to date. Yes, even better than (the late) Reeve.

Conclusion, Batman v Superman is a confusing mess. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it very much, thinks that Batman and Wonder Woman was awesome here, and didn’t mind at all with the idea of Snyder directing the next DC’s repertoires of superheroes.

“The Hateful Eight”: Movie Review

The Hateful Eight - Poster“The Hateful Eight” is a kind of film that could only be made by someone with a high reputation. It’s three hours long, it has lots of dialogues that literally the first ninety minutes is filled almost completely with dialogues, and it demands stellar performances from each and every characters involved. And stellar performances and cheap rarely goes the same road. No, sir, you need someone like Tarantino to convince some businessman to hand you their investment money for this kind of film.

And boy, what a film it turns out to be.

“The Hateful Eight” is easily my pick for the best film of 2015. In fact, given time, I could see it as my pick for the best film of all time. It was that good.

At least for me.

A disclaimer. If you think that Tarantino’s films are a bit on the extreme side of violence, and/or involves too much dialogues, and you don’t quite fancy it as such, then this film is definitely not for you.

“The Hateful Eight” rightfully involves (at least) eight different characters, huddled together in a confined space, which eventuality would dictate that these characters are going into something… chaotic.

Now in order to enjoy this film you had to be invested in the characters. If you can’t find yourself remotely interested to any of its characters during the first few minutes, you might as well leave the film be as you won’t like this film a bit.

The characters, in turn, had to be at their absolute best in order to carry the script. It doesn’t going to matter how good the script was if the characters aren’t going to deliver. There are sayings that some directors are able to pull the best from some actors. I find it to be true as far as Tarantino and his few regulars here. Samuel L. Jackson is an ever commanding presence. Every scene where he leads, he does so in a convincing and menacing demeanour that you had no other choice but to pay attention. Tim Roth draws too much semblance with Christoph Waltz in “Django Unchained,” but still is a unique presence. Kurt Russell was at his best, and I think only Tarantino who could make Michael Madsen into a fierce method actor as is evident here. Heck, even the actors who portrays Señor Bob and O.B. who each had a very limited screen time exudes their own best here.

However, I had to give it to Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Goggins’ character had a complete arc from being what appears to be a “clown token” at the beginning of the film progressing into something else during the entire film and finally turning into something else at the end of the film. You had to watch it to understand but it has been a pleasure to watch.

Jennifer Jason Leigh’s role in this film, however, will draw a separating line. Arguably, the main plot of this film revolves around her character and some will undeniably see her merely as a victim of abuse whose existence is nothing but becoming an object for the other male characters. This of course, won’t bode well with feminists. Can’t really do anything about that. However, as have I, some will see her as the scariest character to walk this film. She had it coming, and she brings it home with such force that both terrifies and awes me. Her resolves at the end of the film which involves a hatchet is a marvel to watch. This, in my book, makes her as one of the strongest female character I’ve seen in a film this year.

All in all, “The Hateful Eight” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think this is Tarantino at his most smug, and most pretentious. And I am absolutely okay with that. You’re either going to love it as much as I do or not at all. It depends on how you perceive Tarantino. Although love him or hate him, he is still undeniably one of the great directors left active today.