Captain America: Civil War – Epic Intimacy (Review)

Team Cap in Civil War

Captain America: Civil War has, to date, pulled in a box office returns in excess of $1 billion worldwide.  The Russo brothers put their own stamp on this next installment in the development  of the Avengers.  The film pitted superhero against superhero and introduced another Marvel character while “borrowing” a couple more.

Thor and The Hulk were conspicuous in their absence but there was a reason that these two were left spending time in the bleachers.  This theme of trouble in an uneasy Xanadu of heroic men and women was more compact in nature than previous Marvel outings.

There were many who complained, when the film premiered, that the scenes were too cramped. There were none of Joss Whedon’s vast vignettes where action filled the screen on an epic scale. Once again there was a reason that the brothers Russo, Anthony and Joe, kept the shots tight and almost intimate.

Each of the prior films dealt with the Avengers learning to work as a team. Building up trust and, most importantly  learning to share the power.  The group were always going to have issues, but, as long as there was a strong leader, Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury in most of the films, it could have worked with few problems.

Then came the dissolution of SHIELD after  HYDRA staged their almost successful coup.  Fury left the controls to Captain America and  then along came Bucky the “Winter Soldier.” The previous films all dealt with issues that were bigger than life. Alien invasions orchestrated by Thor’s brother Loki,  Tony Stark’s self aware “man machine” trying to destroy his maker and everything else,  SHIELD struggling to defeat an organization bent on taking over the world.

All these threats came from without.  Captain America: Winter Soldier featured problems from within. Each superhero had a personal issue to deal with. A leader to back and support based upon their own perception of right and wrong.

The UN mandate where The Avengers were controlled via the council was the trigger and while, surprisingly, Tony Stark agrees with the move, many of the team do not. Cap, who got used to running the show disagrees and the team, that worked so hard to come together before, are now split in the middle.

Thor and The Hulk being excluded made sense. Thor is not from this world and therefore any help he renders is down to his personal choice.  The Hulk is a reluctant participant and works only when needed, the big green guy’s need for solitude outweighs the team’s needs.

All the fight scenes and action sequences were on a smaller scale for a reason.  This film was all about individuals and their beliefs and reactions.  Over and above that  was the realization that this all boiled down to issues between Stark’s Iron Man and Captain America. Cap’s friend Bucky, when he was the Winter Soldier, killed Tony’s parents.

And Cap knew.

Ultimately this film was all about the two most forceful members of the Avengers disagreeing and fighting for what they believe to be right. It is also about betrayal and loyalty to friends who do not fit into the bigger picture.

The film serves as a reminder that however much we the audience love “Team Avengers” these heroes are their own entities.  Each one with a system and agenda all their own.  ‘

The  intimate feel backs this theme of individuality brilliantly. There is no need for panoramic vistas or sweeping epic scenes where all of New York City, for instance, is used as backdrop.  The story does not require either.

Even the addition of the new “team members” are comprised of more solitary players. The superbly funny Tom Holland as the, seemingly, 12 year-old Spider-Man or his competition for comic relief Paul Rudd‘s Ant-Man and even Chadwick Boseman‘s The Black Panther are all solo acts here.

The new kids on the block take sides in what is, essentially, Cap and Iron Mans’ war.  Because the battle is internalized, the cinematography is more compact and intimate. It fits the story and the struggle perfectly.

Captain America: Civil War is a more personal tale. The Russo brothers have presented the film just as it should have been.  Tight shots to emphasize the internal battle of each super hero.

This is blockbuster cinema at its finest and presented just as it should be.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr Surprising Comic and Video Game Connection

Efrem Zimbalist Jr Surprising Comic and Video Game Connection

The news that Efrem Zimbalist Jr. has died at age 95 is saddening, this man was the face associated with the F.B.I. for years and a part of television history, but he also had a surprising comic book and video game connection. The deep-voiced cultured characters that made up so many of Zimbalist’s performances was pushed to the side after he left television screens as Inspector Lewis Erskine on the long running TV program The FBI.

The Amazing Spiderman (2012): A New Beginning

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Like many other fans of Sam Raimi‘s Spiderman films, I was not just outraged at the news of a re-make, but shocked. In my mind Raimi is the King. I’ve been a devoted fan since his Evil Dead days. I felt that his pairing of Toby McGuire (who I admit would not have been my choice to play Peter Parker) and Kirsten Dunst with the memorable villains of each film were the pinnacle of perfection in the Stan Lee verse.

Tonight I watched the Blu-ray copy of Mark Webb’s The Amazing Spiderman and amazingly (you see what I did there) I was entertained. I can’t say that I loved Webb’s casting choices over Raimi’s (although to be honest once you get Parker out-of-the-way, the film focuses on his romance with Gwen Stacy who was, of course, pre-Mary Jane) but the pairing of  Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone  worked brilliantly.

I can’t really complain about the change in the basic verse of Spiderman though. If Stan Lee can do a cameo in the film (and my goodness, it was brilliant) then he must not have thought too badly about the altering of Peter Parkers back story. I read the Spiderman comics almost religiously when I was a kid and I don’t remember any back story elements that included Pa Parker being a scientific genius. I may be wrong, but I don’t remember that at all.

Gwen and Peter in a "tender" moment.
Gwen and Peter in a “tender” moment.

Still the story works well for the film and apart from my being yanked completely out of the verse when I saw Sally Field  as Aunt May, I enjoyed the plots mechanisation’s. Martin Sheen  as Uncle Ben was an admirable choice as they obviously could not get Cliff Robertson. Sheen is as close to Hollywood royalty as you can get these days. It is probably my age that causes the Sally Field rift; I still remember her as Gidget and The Flying Nun, not to mention Frog in the Smokey and the Bandit pictures. She doesn’t look a whole lot older either.

It was really good to see actor  C. Thomas Howell in a “critical” cameo. The last film I saw him in was so far down the alphabet that it could not even be rated as a ‘B’ film. Great to see him back in a major motion picture where he belongs. Seeing the film on Blu-ray made me realise that I should have taken a chance and seen it in the theatre. The CGI looks brilliant and the stunts played very well, despite a little “ropey” wire work.

I was also pleased to see Denis Leary as Gwen’s dad. He’s looking older (aren’t we all) and still looks good on the big screen. All in all the cast was excellent and Rhys Ifans as Dr Curt “The Lizard” Connors rocked it. Again great CG on his ‘stump’ and his Lizard-man transformation. He managed to elicit sympathy as the man who so desperately wants to help mankind and regrow his missing limb.

Emma Stone doing what she does best.
Emma Stone doing what she does best.

Andrew Garfield as Peter “Spiderman” Parker does a great job. He has a sort of old-fashioned look to him. My daughter Meg at one point in the film said he made her think of Anthony Perkins. After a moment or two of watching him, I had to agree. Emma Stone continues to act her socks off and still look so damned beautiful it hurts. She’s making a career of playing the girl who is a Geek’s dream and she does it well.

I always count on how well a film has done if I feel euphoric or teary at the film’s end. In the case of The Amazing Spiderman, I felt euphoric. In fact I think that was my feeling about the film overall. It is well paced and damned funny in places. It kept me glued to the screen and my attention never wandered for one moment.

So I have decided that there is room for both Raimi’s Spiderman and Webb’s Spiderman. I’ll just think of Webb’s as a new beginning for the verse and set back, eat my popcorn and cheer for old ‘Spidey.’ Oh and continue to look for Stan “The Man” Lee’s future cameos.

Stan "The Man" Lee in his best cameo to date.
Stan “The Man” Lee in his best cameo to date.

The Amazing Spider-Man Returns…Again

With the 2002 release of Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as ‘Spidey‘ and his love interest, I felt that Sam Raimi had done justice to Stan “The Man” Lee’s comic creation. Two more films quickly followed and a fourth was rumoured to be in the works.

Then, nothing.

The scuttlebutt was that differences of opinion between Maguire and Raimi was causing delays. It ended apparently with both sides leaving the ‘table’ and shelving Spider-Man 4 indefinitely.

Enter director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) with just the one feature film under his belt who was now going to helm the “new” Spider-man film.

With Toby Maguire admittedly being a bit long in the tooth to reprise Spidey at this late date, a search for a younger actor was launched.

Enter English actor Andrew Garfield, former gymnast and Spider-man fan. Good looking enough to set the ladies heart racing and athletic enough to do a lot of his own stunts.

With a new Spider-man, a new love interest was required. Kirsten Dunst was, like Toby, a bit old for the new, younger Spidey so they replaced her with the drool inducing Emma Stone. *Not as Mary Jane, but Peter Parker‘s first love in the Comic Verse,  Gwen Stacy.*

English: Emma Stone at the 2011 San Diego Comi...

The story line has been changed to allow a different take on the perils of Peter Parker. Deciding to focus on the ‘lack’ of Peter’s parents, it follows his journey to discover what his father did and who he was.

In a move that completely baffles me, actress Sally Field has been cast as Aunt May. Presumably because Cliff Robertson is no longer available, forever, they felt that a ‘name’ actor was required. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Sally Field, but I am having a hard time picturing The Flying Nun as Peter’s auntie. It also does not help that she doesn’t have the white librarian hair bun that May always sported in the comic.

They’ve also come up with a new villain. The Lizard  aka Dr. Curt Connors, who, I am pretty sure, does not exist in the comic book world of Stan Lee. But hey! Why not ‘make up’ a villain? You’ve already made up a dubious plot line for Spidey and friends.

**I have to stand corrected on the Lizard villain, he does indeed exist in the Spider-man verse, I just forgot him, quite understandable considering he was introduced in 1963 when I was five. I was not yet a Spider-man fan. Just goes to show there is a reason to do ALL your research.**

Stan Lee
Stan Lee (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

I know that a little detail like a non-existent search for Peter’s parents demise will not stop most of the targeted audience from attending in droves. It will be in the ‘new’ 3D, it will feature the ever beautiful Emma Stone and it will feature lots of web slinging, swinging, and splatting.

It looks to be witty (at least in the trailers it does) and very action packed. A perfect Blockbuster for the summer holidays. It opens here in the UK on the 3rd of July. I doubt I will be queuing up to see it.

I am slightly allergic to the demographic that will be in attendance and I really rather liked the ‘old’ Spider-Man. So I’ll most likely wait for the DVD. My Spidey-Sense is tingling and it’s telling me that, chances are, this might not be that great a film.