Someone Is Wrong on the Internet


Someone Is Wrong on the Internet: Civil War is a Bad Captain America Movie 2 comments

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” you might be thinking. “Mr. BFS, you think Captain America: Civil War, is a bad movie? The movie that has better critic and user reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB than the Captain America movies that came before it? Is the air a little too thin where a tall person like you walks?”

No, it’s not too thin, I get plenty of oxygen, and I’d especially like you to note the title. Civil War is a bad Captain America movie. It loses track of the person it’s supposedly about (even the movie poster does it: “Civil War” is larger than “Captain America,” you have to squint to see his name in red over there), and it’s more overstuffed than me trying to fit into the jeans I could wear in college.

So let’s do this someone is wrong on the internet thing. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are good things about Civil War. It has some powerful themes and ideas it’s working with, like revenge, individuality, morality, heroism, and what all those look like when society and politics have their say. Especially notable are the villain (if there is only one), who is not your typical, mustache-twirling type, and the Black Panther’s personal story arc, which moves palpably from grief to anger to vengeance to acceptance, no matter how familiar that arc might be.

If the movie focused on the problems and ideas it brings up, I would be more in agreement with the critics that have it hovering at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Because genre and comic books aren’t just for kids, nor are they only capable of being shallow, momentary bits of fun: they have the capability to deal with tough issues in an intriguing, memorable way that is different than stories that hew more closely to the realism of our everyday world.

Get your own movie, Spidey….

The problem is that Civil War doesn’t have focus. Can you follow its plot from A to B without confusion? Sure. But there are so many unnecessary detours and characters along the way. The most noticeable culprit is the inclusion of Spider-man, who’s basically there to help get people to attend Civil War (thanks to his appearing in the trailer) and to drum up interest in his own movie which has just hit theaters now, a year later.

Even if this were an Avengers movie (which I’m going to note again that it’s not), Peter Parker’s presence does nothing for this movie’s storyline. We have an extended detour to introduce him (5-10 minutes or so? longer? quite a bit in movie terms) and then he gets to hang out in a huge fight scene before departing, doing nothing to further the movie’s plot or themes. I love Spider-man, he’s a favorite of mine since I was young (and I loved the first two Tobey Maguire movies), but his inclusion here is badly handled and not needed.

If you still need convincing, contrast Spider-man’s role in the movie with Black Panther’s. You can’t take out the latter’s character without the movie weakening substantially, both in its plot and emotional resonance. Spidey can be taken out with nary a hiccup, and his hijinks in the airport fight could be easily accomplished by one of the MANY other characters there (and let’s face it, giant Ant-Man stole the show on that one).

But I keep coming back to the title of this review/post. This movie is an outright disservice to Captain America, one of the most interesting characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the moment I saw the trailer for Cap’s first movie and watched Steve Rogers fall on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, I couldn’t help but love him. His first two movies really embrace who he is as a character and let him shine, whether he’s hucking his shield at Nazis, trying to engage Peggy Carter’s interest, or dealing with a whole host of personal, emotional, or moral issues.

We lose track of him in this movie. He’s so often an outside player whose motives we can’t completely grasp, from a shoehorned romantic moment to what had to have been some agonizing quandaries over the things his best friend, Bucky, has done in his brainwashed past. Compare that to his first movie, which is reviewed significantly lower than Civil War, but let’s us get to know the guy and what he’s thinking. We know why he turned out so differently from Red Skull after receiving the Super Soldier serum. We know why he’s frustrated when he isn’t allowed on the front lines, and we want him to make a difference just as much as he does. When he’s finally allowed to do his thing, there’s an emotional tension valve released for him and the audience. It’s a movie I want to watch more than once, and have.

Civil War? Saw it the once and don’t care to see it again. Even if I think about it more like an Avengers movie (which I definitely have tried to), I keep coming back to what a big, chaotic mess it is. No matter how interesting its themes and ideas are, it tried to do too much. As more than one good critic and artist has noted, just because you can do more (more CGI, more characters, more action, etc.) doesn’t mean you should.


Someone Is Wrong on the Internet: Guardians 2 Is As Good As GOTG 1 and Wonder Woman 4 comments

Certainly the oldest reason for communication was, well, to communicate. But the second oldest reason for communicating was undoubtedly to tell that first communicator they were wrong (possibly connected to the birth of the first critic).

And in that honored tradition of contradicting someone else, I’m introducing another form of debate hereabouts: Someone Is Wrong on the Internet. Why? Because I’m an egotistical human that has to be right? Because I love tilting against windmills? Because I’m a fan of the XKCD comic where I am, umm, borrowing this line from?

Sure, throw them all my way. But more than that, I’m going to argue for things that are actually pretty good, but people seem to be missing the boat on (critics, the internet-water-cooler zeitgeist, what have you). As a creator who is trying to get my foot in the door (and boy, does that door not like to open), this is another way for me to throw some encouragement to people out there who are creating. We need all the cheerleading we can get.

So here we go with “Someone Is Wrong on the Internet: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is as good as the first GotG and Wonder Woman.”

Somehow, via the Rotten Tomatoes aggregator, Guardians 2 is at 81% (71% for the so-called top critics), versus 91% for the other two. When you dig in more between the first and the second Guardians movies, reviewers are finding the second almost as fun but not as “fresh” as the first.

This is boggling to me. The second movie takes what worked in the first movie and does it even better, fixing some flaws along the way. The first movie is great fun, but it has the blandest of bland villains that hardly gets any setup or explanation: me angry alien terrorist! me no like peace treaties! smash! Whereas the villains of Guardians 2 are given such crazy things as depth, setup, and motivation, not to mention a real connection to the Guardians and their own issues.

The first movie also had problems with what I like to call “planet subtitle hopscotch” (not unlike the otherwise great Rogue One from this winter). Throw all the digs you want against George Lucas, but even with the prequels, the guy knew how to integrate a new location into the storyline seamlessly (and for it to stand out visually from the rest). There’s a bit of this problem earlier on in Guardians 2, but then it gets its act together.

And then there’s the soundtrack. I love the opening of the first movie, with Peter Quill dancing through a ruined city (and kicking space rats) to the head-bopping rhythm of “Come Get Your Love.” But the second movie easily tops that with its opening “Mr. Blue Sky” and baby Groot dancing sequence. From there, the rest of the songs work better as a unit, somehow even serving  as a fun commentary or contrast to the action at the time. That is not an easy thing to do, but the movie does it. Can you picture a better song than “My Sweet Lord” to introduce a god-planet and its potential issues? Or a song better than “Father and Son” for the movie’s final scenes?

The fairest criticism I can see of Guardians 2 is that it hits on its themes of family a little strenuously, which I can understand to a point, as there are some moments that are a little in your face with it. But even then, there are issues with this critique. Christopher Orr over at The Atlantic claimed the movie “pedantically” explains how the song “Brandy” ties in with the movie’s themes, but wow, is that ever a misread. One, not everyone may be aware of the lyrics to “Brandy” (I wasn’t really before hearing it in this movie), and two, Ego is using the lyrics to explain and justify his actions. He co-opts the song (anyone notice the song’s title is “Brandy,” not “The Sailor?”) for his own purposes! Rather than being detrimental, it’s an excellent scene, and reveals quite a bit about Ego’s character—much less pedantically than his name does!

Guardians 2 is every bit as good as its predecessor, if not better (hold me to the first part, of you don’t agree with the latter). Both have reasons they’re just shy of perfect, but they’re still quite good and a needed breath of fresh air in the crowded comic book movie/action movie sphere.

As for Wonder Woman, it’s high praise to say Guardians 2 is its equal. I’ve never really had a big connection to the character, with her sometimes feeling like a female Superman: really strong but kind of blandly good, etc. That’s partially my lack of interaction with her comics, but also a shortcoming of the classic TV show and her presentation on the DC cartoons I’ve seen. We’ve at least had some good Superman movies to give depth to Clark Kent.

Wonder Woman certainly takes care of that issue—Gal Godot is sublime as Diana. I loved her enthusiasm, I loved her “I’m going to do what I’m told not to” approach to just about everything, and I loved how genuinely, warmly kind she was. At one point in the film she smiles and asks a character what they would do without his singing (if he left), and I have to say that was one of the most beautiful, caring, and honest smiles I have ever seen. It is good for the soul to see someone smile like that and mean it that much. People talk about how hard it supposedly is to write and act good people (which I quibble with), but I would say Godot’s Diana is up there with Chris Evans’s Steve Rogers, if not beyond, and that’s saying something.

I’d also say the first 80-90% of the movie works extremely well (though I could do without the preface and epilogue—we know it relates to the rest of the DC universe without these). Sure, some things randomly happen, with Diana and Steve Trevor somehow sailing from what seems to be the eastern Mediterranean to London overnight, etc., but they’re small problems.

The real issue is with the generic, climactic confrontation at the end, which somehow just doesn’t work. It should, with how interesting the rest of the action in the movie is (particularly the WWI trench sequence), but the movie doesn’t know if it wants another big fight or to explore the themes and ideas it’s set up so well. I think they had the right casting choice for the big bad if they had focused on the latter and wrote the big bad’s actions and dialogue accordingly, but they didn’t.

What Wonder Woman needed was something similar to the ending of The Dark Knight. There’s good action in that movie’s ending, but what’s really at stake is Batman’s view of mankind versus the Joker’s, with both sides memorably and clearly delineated. Something similar could have been done with Wonder Woman, as the first 3/4 of the movie puts the right ideas on board to accomplish this, but then the movie rather haphazardly follows through on them, squashing them in around a forgettable CG fest with ponderous dialogue.

So where does that leave us? On the one hand, we’re seeing yet again how Guardians 2 is at least on par with a movie that’s been reviewed well ahead of it. I could also argue that Guardians 2 doesn’t have any major issues like Wonder Woman’s finale, which makes it objectively better as a movie, But on the other hand, I am willing to concede that Wonder Woman may be a more important movie, given how reluctant Marvel and other studios have been to focus solely on a female character/superhero. It’s asinine that this is still an issue somehow, but let’s face it, it is. We had men up in arms at a women’s only screening of Wonder Woman, like they couldn’t just go to some other showtime or there haven’t been men’s only clubs and governments for centuries.

It’s not for the first time, certainly, but Wonder Woman reminds us that female characters and female superheroes can and should carry their own weight, and for that, I’m willing for it to defeat the contention of my first Someone Is Wrong on the Internet. Somehow, it only seems right.