Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Captain America: Civil War
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Jeremy Renner, Sam Mackie, Emily VanCamp, and Chadwick Boseman
Synopsis: In the 2002 movie “Spider-Man,” Uncle Ben offers some sage advice to a young Peter Parker, who is wrestling with his newfound abilities and what it means for his behavior. Uncle Ben says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In other words, to whom much is given, much is expected. That idea forms Peter’s approach to becoming Spider-Man and to his mission in the world. But in the years since, it sometimes seems superhero movies have forgotten that. Sure, the heroes still battle the villains and save the world, but there’s a lot more collateral damage that comes along with it. It’s led some to ponder why we care so much for these heroes and so little about the everyday people that get caught in the crossfire when these titans clash. Perhaps no group of heroes has been bigger offenders than the Avengers. While the individual members have caused plenty of damage in their individual stories, when they come together as a group it increases. In “The Avengers” New York City is largely destroyed. In “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” they up the ante, including the destruction of Sokovia. What’s been fascinating is to see how these superhero movies are now responding to these ideas. Much of the plot of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” revolved around Batman’s anger over the way Superman’s battle with Zod nearly destroyed Metropolis. That kind of tension informs a lot of the tension in “Captain America: Civil War,” the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first major release of the summer movie season. “Captain America: Civil War” is a brilliant and frustrating film for me. There is so much of it that’s brilliant and resonates, that at some points while I was watching I wondered if it was the best Marvel film yet. But the problematic third act — which feels like it pulls its punches — left me feeling the film didn’t maximize its potential. That’s not to say it’s a bad film. It’s a good film, and arguably in the top three of the Marvel films. There is plenty to like, if not love. In fact, the Russo Brothers — who directed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” — do a masterful job of weaving in all these characters, expanding the world, telling a compelling story and setting up all that follows. It’s a juggling act that few can accomplish. The additions to the world are part of what makes it great. Marvel did a deal with Sony to get the rights to Spiderman back, and he makes his debut — played now by Tom Holland — in this film. Holland is a great choice, and the way the character is constructed breathes new life into a popular marvel property. Another of the new additions is the Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman. Boseman is great in the part, and the character seamlessly joins the world, setting up his own standalone film in the near future. I loved the storytelling and performances here, too. Downey and Evans have never been better in these roles, and they bring a great deal of emotion to the story. Most of the build up is fantastic — especially seeing these characters wrestle with these bigger ideas. Then comes the third act. Marvel head Kevin Feige said the actions of “Civil War” would have ripples through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You don’t feel that after the resolution at the end of this movie. Rather than leaving broken bodies and fractured relationships, it strives to find some sort of neat, tidy and happy ending. And that’s a shame. These superhero movies — and the Marvel movies in particular — have become too safe and too predictable. That diminishes what came before the end in “Civil War” and it poses a danger to the popularity of these films going forward.
Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Friday, May 13 — "The Darkness," "Money Monster"
Friday, May 20 — "Angry Birds," "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising," "The Nice Guys"
Friday, May 27 — "X-Men: Apocalypse," "Alice Through the Looking Glass"