Captain America: Civil War Review

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Spoilers (for this film and Dawn of Justice) follow

Due to the destruction and collateral damage caused on their missions, especially that accidentally caused by the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) in Nigeria, superhero team The Avengers are told they are to be put under government supervision. Captain America (Chris Evans), wishing to be freer in the team’s crimefighting, opposes this notion, while Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), guilty at the deaths caused, supports it, and the Avengers are split into two camps against each other. Later, Captain America sees that a bombing is being pinned on his old friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and goes to find him.

Being a film that features many of a certain comic company’s flagship heroes, and has two of those heroes against each other, an obvious comparison to make to Civil War would be to last month’s Batman v Superman. Both films have a lot of characters to juggle, but in the case of Civil War, they’ve at least had more time to develop and build up these characters. While Dawn of Justice felt like it needed to have another movie before it, the two main opposing heroes of Civil War have been properly developed and their reasons for their alliances is understandable. Superman died too soon in the DC Cinematic Universe, while Civil War‘s story feels like it was released at the right time.

The film has Captain America in the title, and he is the main character, but nearly all of the Avengers get a chance to shine. One particular stand-out is the newcomer Spider-man (Tom Holland), who may not appear that often, but is so humourously geeky that you just want to see more of him. The characters on both sides are well-written and entertaining to watch, and you care about what happens to our titular Captain, as opposed to the rather bland Superman of Dawn of Justice.

Civil War may deal with the consequences of the Avengers’ rather violent actions, but that doesn’t mean the film is afraid to indulge in a little action from time to time, and the action scenes it offers is extremely well-done. The airport fight is every bit as exciting as one might have heard it is, mixing fast-paced battles, lovable characters and hilarious comic relief into a glorious unified whole. Paul Rudd returns as Ant-Man, and his role at the airport more than justifies his reappearance.

But what is really justified here is the existence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Dawn of Justice showed us videos of Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, it felt like a discordant attempt to “catch up” with Marvel, and we all rolled our eyes when we heard news of a “Hanna Barbera cinematic universe”. This cinematic universe, however, gives us some interesting storylines, more than just “good guy beats up bad guy”, and some entertaining characters who play well off each other. It’s a universe that, despite the death and destruction, is a nice place to visit from time to time.

Captain America: Civil War is probably one of Marvel’s best, bringing fine drama, action and humour, reminding us why it’s a good thing this universe is being kept alive.

Hardcore Henry Review

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A title like Hardcore Henry could go either way; it could either be a fun, self-aware action romp or something trying too hard to be a fun, self-aware action romp. And then there is the fact that the entire film is shot in the first person. When the eponymous character awakes to see his “we can rebuild him” robotic transformation, the audience sees it through his eyes. It sounds like a gimmick that could work for a short film or a single episode of a TV series, but not enough to carry a 90 minute movie. It sounds akin to the novel written in the second person How Not to Write A Novel described; it sounds interesting at first, but quickly loses its novelty.

Actually, a more fitting analogy for Hardcore Henry is that it’s pretty much a big-screen video game. The first-person character runs down corridors, escapes explosions and mows down several nameless mooks. Sadly, at times, it feels too much and too little like a video game at the same time; you’re either bemoaning the lack of plot and character or wishing you had a controller and for the cutscenes to end. First-person works for video games because it complements the fact that the main character is being controlled by the player, but no such control exists for Hardcore Henry.

That is not to say that the film isn’t entertaining. In fact, a few of the scenes are made better through the first-person perspective, including a rather surreal song-and-dance number. It really does feel like the people behind this movie had fun making it, and there are plenty of fast-paced action and chase sequences and some well-done comic relief to momentarily stop the film and its gimmick from getting too creaky.

Hardcore Henry will work best for those who really just in the mood for some fast-paced action and nothing more, as the story and characterisation in the film are lacking. The closest thing to a leading lady is Estelle (Haley Bennett), who fixes up Henry in the beginning. She feels too generic, even when a twist about her arises, and so does the villain, Akan (Danila Kozlovsky). The most entertaining character is Henry’s aid Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), who is actually several different characters in a sense. Henry is a cyborg, and Akan’s plan is to build an army of them, yet it never feels like these cyborgs are adequately explored. It’s unlikely one would watch a film called Hardcore Henry for a deep plot, but still.

Hardcore Henry is what its title promised along with a gimmick that works most of the time, but little more. It’s diverting and entertaining enough, but hardly something you’ll remember.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

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Spoilers follow

Batman v Superman is a sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, where the destruction of Metropolis has lead Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) to be distrustful of Superman (Henry Cavill). Likewise, Superman is weary about how Gotham City’s Batman dispenses justice. Also not too fond of Superman is Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who plans to kill the boy in blue, either through Batman, or his monstrous creation Doomsday.

I actually enjoyed Batman v Superman more than I thought I would, yet there was still the sense that something was missing. There wasn’t anything to make it really memorable. Even Batman and Robin is hard to forget with Arnie’s Freeze and the hilariously bad dialogue. There wasn’t anything that made Batman v Superman stand out other than the mishmash of several DC heroes, and even that lost its novelty before the film even came out, really.

Still, Affleck, I thought, made a good Batman. I didn’t really mind the way the way he was portrayed here; I mean, Keaton’s Batman broke the “one rule” but I overlooked it due to his entertaining performance. Same goes to Affleck here. One of the best things about Batman is how flexible he is, which makes him similar to so many great characters (the Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland has been portrayed as a hero and a villain, Count Dracula can either be the embodiment of evil or a comic children’s cartoon) and Affleck was a great choice for this rendition of Batman.

Lex, however, I don’t really think is as flexible a character as Batman. What I mean is, I thought Jesse Eisenberg’s performance was good, but I was disappointed they didn’t go with the more serious Lex of the comics. Like, if he played another character, it wouldn’t feel so jarring. If he acted like that, but played Toyman instead of Lex, then it would have been more fitting. And yes, I know the story that he was originally supposed to play Jimmy Olsen. He does become bald in this film, but sadly they don’t use the story from the comics where he used to be Superman’s friend until he lost his hair in a lab accident and blamed Superman for it. I kid, but at least then he would have a reason to hate Superman, which he doesn’t really seem to have here.

Like many people, I liked Wonder Woman, especially her theme tune, and would have liked to see more of her. Really, her purpose here is to make you want to see more of her, so there’s an area where the film succeeds. Another thing I agree with is that they seem to be trying to do too much in one film. Batman fighting Superman is enough to put people in seats, but here’s Wonder Woman! Flash and Aquaman and Cyborg! And of course, Superman (I said there would be spoilers) dying due to Doomsday is just overkill.

It really does feel like there should have been another movie between this and Man of Steel. Superman died before we really got to know him, before he had an actual confrontation with Lex or faced Brainiac or something. I know Superman comes back, but adapting Death of Superman is something that should have been saved for this Superman’s third or fourth movie. The Dark Knight movies at least waited until the last movie to do something semi-similar with their Batman, and we got to know Nolan Batman more through his first two movies than we did DCEU Superman.

There’s another common complaint about this film; it’s trying too hard to be like The Dark Knight. I could definitely see where they’re coming from there, and it’s all the more jarring when it’s dealing with a more fantastical world than The Dark Knight. In fact, I think the Tim Burton Batman movies did a better job of mixing a dark world with comic book fantasy. Batman had Nicholson’s entertaining Joker living in one of the most lugubrious-looking versions of Gotham City without feeling too out of place, and the Penguin’s death in Batman Returns is one of the few times a scene was successfully silly and poignant at the same time. BvS, on the other hand, calls out for more levity.

BvS is lacking, but it isn’t a complete waste of time. Affleck and Gadot themselves are worth the price of admission. It’s entertaining enough, but still quite forgettable, and has nothing earlier Batman movies haven’t done better, really.