review

Why I Walked Out of Captain America Civil War

Why I walked out of Captain America Civil War

Summary : it's Cowardly, Ungenuine  and too Long.
Warning : Contains Spoilers and some coarse language

Secondly : I also want to apologise to the Russo brothers : I honestly think they didn't make a bad movie, but it was very much not the movie I wanted to see, or to an extent the movie I felt was promised. I'm happy to apologise to anyone I offend, but I honestly feel this to be true even if I'm in the massive minority.

 

I realise I should have walked out during the Big Fight in the airfield, because as Scarlet Witch says to Hawkeye "you're pulling your punches". And that's also what I believe this movie did. It pulled its punches.

For a movie called "Captain America Civil War" for the war to feel this flippant seems to be to miss the point. This wasn't about people fighting about what they believed in, it was people NOT REALLY fighting for something they mostly DIDN'T believe in.

You were pulling your punches
— Scarlett Witch

And I was bored. This movie was so self-indulgent and long that it was only mildly interesting at best for much of the runtime (yes, that's an opinion, but it's mine) - the pretext of the film is particularly weak because the underlying mystery is "what's going on?". Daniel Bruhls Zemo has a motivation that's hidden, which means we don't know why he's doing what he's doing, and since he can't play his hand explicitly, it's just build-up after build-up after build-up climaxing with (I guess) "Oh, I already killed those guys earlier. Here, have a fight scene among yourselves". Okay... thanks? Although that's not enough to get me to walk out of a movie, either.

I can be honest: I liked the notion of the underlying disagreement in principle, the notion of whether great power needs oversight or not. The pretext for the movie was rubbish, but the argument itself is interesting. I don't think people are on the right side of the argument they'd naturall be on (why would Iron Man want oversight? Why would a soldier want freedom? Why do two separate deux ex machinas give a crap either way?)

"I'm a school student without a passport and Iron Man paid for my ticket to be here. And I don't know how this shield works or what you're all fighting about. But Sony feels really strongly that I need to be here, and that's good enough for me"

"I'm a school student without a passport and Iron Man paid for my ticket to be here. And I don't know how this shield works or what you're all fighting about. But Sony feels really strongly that I need to be here, and that's good enough for me"

But the seeds of the problem are already there too: it's a moral question, and you can't punch your way out of it any more than Superman v Batman failed to also resolve the question of vigilantism vs oversight by people punching each other. The person who wins in a fist-fight isn't the person who wins the moral argument about violence, ya know? (unless you believe Otto von Bismarck, who said "Might Makes Right").

The issue is : this movie spent the first hour talking about how bad fighting is, and how bad deaths are, and how this is bad even in a world where aliens are invading and robots are dropping extinction-level events onto the planet. That's a fucking dumb view to hold within this univerise and NOBODY says that. Nobody in the Avengers says "Fine. we'll just let Crossbones get away with the killer virus or whatever because stopping him risks lives. And we can't afford to risk lives stopping a killer who is going to kill people even though we know doing so will kill people.". Which is demonstrably moronic.

Also, in a meta sense : fuck you movie - I go to a cinema to watch these sorts of movies, and you're spending an hour telling me I'm wrong to enjoy watching those sorts of movies.... and you're charging me for that?

Next you'll be telling me I shouldn't have loved Deadpool. But I did.

"Deadpool is a potty mouth"

"Deadpool is a potty mouth"

But let me ask the question again : did the creators of the movie really intend to make us feel bad about liking cartoony violence enough to spend a fucking hour talking about the bad consequences of cartoony violence…. before subsenquently giving us an hour of precisely that kind of cartoony violence?

Because if the answer is "yes" then I'm actually sorry that I didn't walk out sooner. At least Batman v Superman attempted (poorly) to apologise for mean-spirited violence. Marvel's violence has always been much more contextually acceptable within the world it inhabits.

But that's not why I walked out. I also didn't walk out because Peter Parker called out Cap's shield for not following the laws of physics, even though I'm a fairly firm believer in the idea that internally calling out a movie for its bullshit WITHIN the movie doesn't make the bullshit any more palatable. And how long was the Mutual Admiration Society scene between Tony Stark and Peter Parker? I thought Wonder Woman watching youtube clips on a plane to seed the Justice League was bad... this character introduction was way more egregious. And it was in a Captain America movie!

"Stop the Captain America movie. And make it about me instead"

"Stop the Captain America movie. And make it about me instead"

On which subject, a side-note : Can we decide whether vibranium absorbs and nullifies all impacts? Because an explosion to Cap's shield at the start of the movie propelled him backwards when previously even Thor bashing down it with a hammer didn't move it downwards. Between everything Vision, Scarlett Witch, and Vibranium can or can't do depending on the requirements of the plot, there's really no point to any fight scene is there?

Also, thanks to the movies' newfound puritanical streak, you're not even allowed to
damage buildings anymore - gotta find an airfield to have a fight.
Hey, why not hold it in a vat of ikea balls next time?

"We're going to need to wait for the environmental impact summary to come in : there's some endangered birds nesting near here..... we might have to move this fight to a mattress-and-pillow factory"

"We're going to need to wait for the environmental impact summary to come in : there's some endangered birds nesting near here..... we might have to move this fight to a mattress-and-pillow factory"

This movie feels like a comic book and physics is broken : bodies don't fall or move like they should anymore, kicks to cars don't feel right, even car crashes look fake. Which is a pity because I loved the pretty decent attempts at realism in Winter Soldier - it's much easier to feel the realism in something when it LOOKS and FEELS real. But it doesn't - it now looks fake as f**k but the morality underpinning it is really, really serious.

But that's not why I walked out.

I also really disliked the comedy of the big fight in the airfield. It's so hard to "enjoy" a fight when nobody is taking it seriously, or caring about the stakes. It's just loud noise and quips. I'll admit I did think about walking out then.

But I knew what was coming : no matter how they sliced it, the Russos had played their hand in the trailer : I knew Warmachine was going to get shot down. The fight, no matter how cutesy and amusing (and f**king long), was going to get REAL. At least somewhere there'd be life and death consequences, no matter how many laughs Spiderman and Antman were throwing out.

….. but it didn't - the Russos turned cowards, because in the words of Agent Coulson in Avengers they "lack conviction". Nobody in Civil War felt strongly enough to shoot anyone. That's why War Machine is felled by accidental stray friendly fire from Vision.

"Oh, no! In a world where I can hand-build an arc reactor in a cave out of scraps, my friend has fallen to the ground at mach 10 and survived....."

"Oh, no! In a world where I can hand-build an arc reactor in a cave out of scraps, my friend has fallen to the ground at mach 10 and survived....."

With all due respect : you COWARDS!!

Instead, the accidentally-shot War Machine falls to earth and impacts it at mach 10 or whatever, and he dies due to accident. Oh wait… he doesn't die???

YOU FUCKING COWARDS.

That's such a cop-out. Hey, even Superman died for ten minutes before the end credits! THAT'S consequences (sort of!).

Another quick side-question : did Iron Man really not give a shit about how many people died in Sokovia until he learned an AMERICAN died? Did I cognate that correctly? WOW. Just thought I'd ask.

But no, that's not why I walked out either.

"Wait... you're trying to kill me? In a MARVEL MOVIE?? Oh, right.. you only pulled the trigger once, shot my glasses, and now giving me time for the reaction shot for the trailer. Thanks, bro"

"Wait... you're trying to kill me? In a MARVEL MOVIE?? Oh, right.. you only pulled the trigger once, shot my glasses, and now giving me time for the reaction shot for the trailer. Thanks, bro"

I walked out when the Russos retcon the death of Tony Stark's parents to be caused by The Winter Soldier. Actually, that's not true : I could have handled that (my eye sockets were straining due to all the rolling my eyes were doing, though). No.... I walked out when Tony turns to Cap and asks if he knew. And of course he didn't know. We'd KNOW if he knew.

But he says he knew.

And that's when I walked out. Because that's bullshit. Firstly, 1991 security cam footage? Really? But forget that, it's bullshit even if he's lying - because this whole movie KNOWS it can't stand on a moral issue, it has to make it personal. In a movie premised upon a difference of opinion, it needs a serious fight-scene. And even if Cap was lying in order to protect Bucky from Stark's wrath (?) it's still bullshit. This movie has nowhere to go except yet another fight where nobody dies and there are no consequences because Infinity War 1 and 2 are still to come.

I walked out because didn't need to see that fight, just like I didn't need to see the reconciliation, I didn't need to see the hugs and the promises and the post-credits stinger. I should have walked out sooner, but I gave this movie multiple chances.

I'm sure I'm in the minority on this. It's great if you liked the movie - if anything, I'm jealous, because honestly and genuinely I wanted to as well. I wanted to like this movie but I couldn't because it was cowardly with its premise, clumsy in its execution and it felt like nothing mattered. In the Age of Ultron the Age lasted about a week. In Civil War it's too many jokes for it to be called Civil, and not enough people taking the fight serious for it to be a War.

"You worried about Thanos?" "No... you?" "Kinda. I think my contract is up for renewal and I'm really, really expensive"

"You worried about Thanos?"
"No... you?"
"Kinda. I think my contract is up for renewal and I'm really, really expensive"

I'm kind of done with Marvel.
They might lack conviction, but I don’t think I do.

I'll keep attending the premieres, though. They're fun.

Why I Didn't Like Star Wars The Force Awakens.

Dear JJ Abrams. When you babysit somebody's child, you understand that your number one responsibility is their safety. Your job is not to impose your parenting ideas, your job is not to enhance that child's life or teach them anything. Perhaps as a guideline you'll try to imitate the general morality of the parents as a rough yardstick - copy what they did. So....

Congratulations. You did that with Star Wars. But that's all you did.

This movie made me respect what David S Goyer and Zack Snyder did with Man of Steel. At least that took actual courage. What JJ Abrams did was make a movie so safe I couldn't really applaud it.

This movie played things so safely but with such seriousness that it made for a jarring experience at the best of times. And yet it started with something so specific and small-scale and UN-epic as "oh, there's this dude. he's missing. and apparently it's really important we find him because the audience knows his name". Which is actually massively alienating : it's been THIRTY years since as Star Wars film and all you can do is tell me nobody in the universe is more important than Son Of Space Jesus?

And/but that’s before all the plagiarism from the prior movies is factored in on top. Conflicted villain? Shadowy superior? Super Death Star? Cantina scene? Droids? Millennium Falcon? X-Wings? How about having something new to show for a thirty year gap? The movie further nosedived for me once Han Solo showed up, cracking wise after a fairly brutal opening, dealing with caricatured adversaries and a CG menagerie. The lack of originality is a real problem for me in getting me excited. And the attempts at humour didn’t work for me. The vagueness (who are the resistance? what are they fighting for? who is the republic? who is motivated specifically why what?) is a problem. De-masking your bad guy this early is a problem. Making your heroine an electronic genius AND a force user is a self-starring fan-fic written by a boy pretending to be a girl. The back-referencing is irritating. The idea of there being both a republic and a first order AND a resistance shows about the same vagueness as Lucas did when he made “Queen Amidala”s an elected position. And yes, I was fucking betting that they’d mirror the Ben death once Han went across the bridge to Kylo Ren. Why? Because that would be copying, and that’s what this movie was all about. Copy the best, add very little new, fly this thing safely, hope for the applause for the thing you've created.

Why do I care? What am I passionate about? Kylo Ren is a pathetic bitch whose too-early-reveal-of-patheticness undid any early cool factor. Lord Snow or Snoke or Snope or Smoke... I don't give a shit about this character, I could barely get a handle on his name let alone care about his Bad-CG appearance. Corporal / Colonel / Constable Hux sounded like a whiny Tarkin, completely unclassy with a stupid name to boot. And Captain Phasma was typical action-figure bait with no relevance to the plot : it's like General Grievous but more shiny with close to half a dozen less lightsabers and no hacking cough.

Weirdly, I actually didn't hate this film. But clearly I have little good to say about it.

As for the final battle? I found the final battle was simply confused, like they were wondering if anybody wanted to see X-Wings, decided to throw some in just in case it made a difference, and left it at that, thus robbing the movie of pacing at the expense of… what… fan service? Random noise in the form of pew-pew laser blasts from that one guy we saw earlier? But remember : you go to all the stupidity of creating a copied death star whose only redeeming feature is that it's exponentially bigger than the last one and make its destruction barely even tangential to the story of our heroes?!? What the fuck is the point of that? But hey, watching two kids swish lightsabers around was dramatic because... oh I don't know, plus to me it was interesting only insofar as near as I can tell Rey did nothing but wield it in anger the whole time.. so huzzah for the dark side in our heroine I guess.

As for the very end? Yeah…. Thanks Disney.  Mark Hamill sure did earn that second-in-the-credits position. And I don't even know how (or who) drew the two-pieces map to find him, and went to all the trouble to hide it or why. Was this Luke's idea? On what basis? What for? Oh... wait. I forgot

I don't f**king care, because the movie gave me no reason to care.

At the end of the day this movie's goals (which I'll summarise as : spawn more movies, and sell merchandise) didn’t coincide with my own, and it's not my kind of movie, because I can't figure out how it could ever have been my kind of movie. For one thing, it was too busy setting up the next movie(s) to give me a proper THIS movie.

This movie was .... a mess in many ways. In spite of all I've written didn't hate it, but I struggle to talk about what I like. It felt like a bad fanfic where somebody draws a list of everything that was cool in one or two movies and shoves them, or linear/geometric enhancements into a new one, whether it be as references, callbacks, or outright duplication, and garnishes the rest with stuff made up to connect the dots on any flimsy pretext. It's not good enough... except based on global box office receipts it's clearly good enough. So I'm wrong on every factor that counts.

But I just hope that I personally can now stop giving a fuck about future star wars movies. I gave this one a chance.... I tried to give it as open a mind as I could. Or rather, I tried to, but given I had three f**king months of the trailers, the teasers and the damn merchandise shoved in my face, demanding that I have an opinion on the awesomeness of a movie I haven't seen yet... I didn't. Sorry.

I give it 6.5/10 which is flat-average. Nothing more.

One final comment, by way of analogy : If I were to pay a lot of money for the rights to create and release new paintings under the ‘Picasso’ brand, how would that be received? Would it be fair to say that I had no right to do this, even if I was brandishing a contract and a receipt for payment that confirmed I had every right? To me, that’s what’s happening here – somebody has paid money for the right to a name, and in doing so what they’ve done can be evaluated one of several ways, which is : to continue the analogy is it (a) a shitty painting, (b) a shitty Picasso, or (c) something that's a Picasso only because they paid money for the right to call it a Picasso, or (d) two thirds of a Picasso with a remainer comprised mainly of a plea to 'Stay tuned for More Future Picassos!!!!!!!' ending.... and is it really valid to like whatever is created on the basis of "it's just nice to see a new Picasso" or "it' might not be an original Picasso, but it's better than some of the worse ones"

To me, the answer is : it's a shitty Picasso by the standards of Picasso. But yes, congratulations, it's better than his worst.

And that's where I'm at.

 

ps : sorry for the rant. I'll try to edit for brevity and clarity later. Maybe. Quite frankly : I'm sick of thinking about Star Wars - have been for about ten years.

Thoughts on James Bond's 'Spectre'

Given that I liked Casino Royale, felt Quantum of Solace was weak but kind of worked as a bolt-on to Casino Royale, and entirely failed to be overwhelmed by Skyfall due to its weak final third act, it would seem my frame of mind was appropriately measured in relation to the fourth Daniel Craig Bond film, with regard to hype and over-hype.

I felt that Skyfall was stylish, decently acted and had a great score… so if Spectre with the same cast, crew, composer AND director could at least provide that much, and not bore me with its longer 150min runtime (and dull-as-toast main theme)… I might come out feeling that £13.95 fullprice to see it was worthwhile. Either that, or I’d find out whether the filmmakers who made ‘Skyfall’ had no idea why that film made a record billion dollars worldwide, and consequently had no clue how to follow it up either.

(3hrs later)

Now that I’ve watched it, I’m actually rather positive about it. I think tonally it was spot on, and having been ‘warned’ about the ‘back to the past’ nature of the movie allowed me to anticipate the plot twists I might otherwise have objected to had I been taken by surprise by them. What I was left with after that was actually a very satisfying movie that took advantage of its lengthy duration to tell a very complete, very entertaining and predictable IN A GOOD way movie. Rather than being an action movie, it felt like an Adventure movie, and doing that allowed for a real enjoyment of the characters, the interactions, and a more measured unveiling of ‘plot twists’ rather than abrupt ‘bet you weren’t expecting that!!’ shocks.

I liked the direction, I liked the acting, I liked the story… I disliked the Sam Smith theme but did enjoy the credits. It had a real ‘adventure’ feel to it, and if this is the end of the Daniel Craig series of films it would seem that all four now create a rather self-contained whole in a satisfying way... albeit the death of Judi Dench’s ‘M’ is still a bit of a weak point, and the Khan-esque ‘reveal’ of Blofeld doesn’t really work without the audience knowing more than the character at why that name matters when it shouldn't.

And yes it is a bit of a pity that this movie in wrapping up that era really represents a retconned selective strip-mining of the character’s own past. But all that aside, and to my surprise, I enjoyed this film.

(the next morning)

That said, I probably shouldn’t have. This movie basically ‘breaks’ an unspoken Bond continuity that says James Bond is played by a different interchangeable character taking up the mantle of the prior 007, with some similarities but their own uniqueness. This way, every Bond film is emblematic of its time in technology, concept and theme, but still progresses chronologically, and is accurate to the world we live in (sort of). That’s why you have the same ‘Q’ across three Bonds, different ‘M’s across several, and little bits of back-referencing here and there as well. Bond is an instrument, and we will always have that instrument, and calling him the same thing is a way of reusing pre-existing tools that were useful.

But in this movie, Daniel-Craig-asBond meets Blofeld, even thoughConnery-as-Bond already met him. Or is it a different him? Is there always a Blofeld in Bond, in the same way as there is always a Joker for Batman?

And more then point, should there be and should I care? Should the screenwriters have such an easy time with a pantheon of villains to resurrect at whim?

The existence of Blofeld in the Here and Now collapses the Bond universes, meaning each new Bond is basically a reboot (or a complex some-are-some-aren't scenario) every time. Which means we can now stripmine the past because the past is a different universe. And if I cared about Bond Universes, this would naturally be something I disliked. But I’m increasingly inured to it because firstly I don't care about Bond that much... and also the notion of stealing from the past to pay the present, of tapping nostalgia by cheaply repackaging it... that’s what the 21st Century is about. It’s what the appropriately-placed Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer they played before the movie is all about too.

By making films like this, as viewers we are quietly told that there is nothing wrong in graverobbing. I suppose it's fine, after all the dead don’t mind, the old don’t matter, and the young don’t care because they’ll live forever. In principle, I should have hated this movie because by making this movie better, they only had to make prior movies worth slightly less by stealing from them, and theft is theft and a dearth of original ideas is bad.

But you know what? I don’t care. It wasn’t my grave that was robbed, it wasn’t my childhood that was raped, and I thought this movie was good.

I'll leave it to Star Wars to attempt to milk me for all the nostalgia I have in the most obvious, cynical and coldly manufactured way possible. Good luck with that, Disney.