Civil War: What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.



Okay, MCU, I quit*

The shark has been jumped, and in this case I may be the shark and Kevin Feige and his team of TV directors are the Fonz. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is the logical conclusion to – but unfortunately just the next phase of – this series of bloated, meaningless storytelling.

Following a series of disasters in both real American metropolises and fictional foreign nations, the less interesting Avengers (Thor and Hulk are elsewhere, as are the expensive big name love interests from previous films) find themselves subject to reckoning from the international community, demanding oversight to their actions, leading to a schism between those who idealistically see the negative implications and will not compromise, and those who see the path of least resistance and would like to keep a hand on the wheel.

After an hour or so of “good for basic cable but it ain’t HBO” style of drama which has earned Daredevil many fans (but man has that show also grown drab and tedious) we get the film’s centerpiece, a defining and damning moment – the big showcase battle royal – and in pro wrestling terms it is an indie spotfest that has all the weight of an arcade fighting game. For those uninitiated to the Sport of Kings, that means generic grapplers doing a lot of creative flipping with no selling (nothing hurts), no storytelling (are you working down a body part? do you have a strategy?), and no heat. And the “smart” indie fans lap it up in spite of knowing what actually makes a match any good.

Civil War has no heat. This is the movie that has divided up earth’s greatest heroes, telling us that a conflict has arisen where there is now no choice but to butt heads. And yet the process reveals no. goddamn. new. side. of. anyone. While Iron Man and Cap have their logical sides, and others have their loyalties, several others are there for no good reason at all, adding nothing to the shallow discussion, and damage their own characters in the process. Tom Holland makes a wonderful Peter Parker but a Spider-Man more eager to please new friends than do what’s right. Likewise Paul Rudd initially brings life with his fresh Ant-Man character but is quickly reduced to a bumbling fool showing none of the subtlety required in leading his own film. The time comes for battle, and there they go, and I buy their reasoning even less than Batman v Superman.

David Ehrlich summarizes the centerpiece better than I could have ever imagined when he writes:

“Watching “Civil War,” it’s easy to understand why the MCU is so hung up on the fight in New York — it’s the franchise’s only great action sequence. Joss Whedon’s visceral understanding of cinematic geometry and his symphonic flair for choreographing movement allowed that marquee set-piece to galvanize the separate threads of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into a unified whole. On the contrary, every action beat in “Civil War” is such a discrete hodgepodge of close-ups and medium shots that they might as well exist in a vacuum — at times, this feels like the first movie ever made entirely out of gifs.”

And it’s not just the action in this scene that is so clumsily shot, choreographed, and considered. What the Russo’s are interested in this big moment… is quips! This big moment, planned for years over the course of several films, is upended by a pair of red and blue underoos. This scene is the big coming out party, and more thought seems to have been invested in putting butts in seats for Homecoming than paying anything off. And the quip-slinger is the other side of the mediocre coin. His material is good for an open mic, but ain’t no HBO Special. After a series of groan-worthy one-liners where Holland and Rudd ask for autographs from their friends and adversaries, they are sent off on his merry way and proven irrelevant.

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Trailer: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2

Question: What is less essential? Zoolander 2 or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2?

Bonus: The above trailer highlights the perils of changing languages mid-‘franchise.’ The exposition/dialogue in the trailer is atrocious. While the original film kicked off the trend of art-Wuxia pictures in 2000 — Hero, House of Flying Daggers, The Promise, Wuxia (aka Dragon) The Assassin have followed in the ensuing 15 years — I do remember many complaints from the Mandarin speakers at how badly Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat were with the dialogue, as both are native Cantonese speakers. This fact that was lost on subtitle reading Western art-house audiences, but may come into sharp focus with a Netflix audience this time around.

The Force Awoke Almost 40 Years Ago

So it’s Saturday and I can post whatever I want. Those are the rules. When the Star Wars VII trailer was first unleashed to the world a couple of weeks ago, people all over the place were sighing and pooh-poohing the thing. It’s too fake and glossy looking they said. The lightsaber doesn’t make sense they said. There’s too much CGI they said. I, on the other hand love the trailer – especially the more I watched it. In my comments I mentioned that the trailer actually looks a lot like scenes from the original movies. It’s very minimal and open when it needs to be, detail oriented and claustrophobic when it needs to be.

I found this trailer today which kind of proves my point. It even shows moments that I specifically mentioned in my comments.

 
What this mock trailer also proves of course, is that it’s ludicrous to judge a movie based on six or seven 3-second shots from a movie; context is imperative. But I think in terms of visuals, from what I can see, Abrams has nailed it.
 

Trailer: Jurassic Park 4

JurassicWorld

Lots of StarLord but no mix tape (and very little sense of humour), Jurassic World looks about as lazy as they come in terms of sequels. Colin Trevorrow’s (Safety Not Guaranteed) direction here, looks to be exactly what a studio wants: Extruded plastic product. Judging by this digitally-bright and quite colourful trailer, Jurassic World is Jurassic Park minus any sense of wonder. Only the franchise remains, trapped in amber and poked for cloning every few years.

Friday One Sheets: So Many Expendables

The ever expanding roster of soldiers of fortune in Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables franchise gets a handsome black and white photo shoot, and a trailer just in case you are not photo gallery’d to death. If there is ever a case of character-posters getting out of hand, I present it below, tucked under the seat. But I will give it this, the black and white, minimalist style here with the lighting equipment visible in the frame does impart the overkill-basics ethos of the series.

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Trailer: Linklater’s Before Midnight

Richard Linklater continues the romantic adventures and travails of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke with Before Midnight. The third entry in the series find them a bonafide couple, with two little girls in Greece. And all the stresses of age, parenting, regrets, etc. challenge the notion of perpetual romance. I love the idea of these ‘delayed’ sequels (see also the middle chapter, After Sunset) which allow us to see the progress of these two characters as they (and we) make our way through life. They’ve also had a nice mix of the practical, the romantic and a sense of humour about things; what more do you need from life? To find out where the couple stands in their parenting years, and for that matter, who is the “mayor of Crazytown” you’ll have to watch the trailer below.