Captain America: Civil War

Director: Anthony & Joe Russo (2016)

Hard on the heels of the showdown between Batman and Superman in Dawn of Justice  (2016) comes another super-powered spandex smack down.

This time it’s Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. facing off as Captain America and Iron Man.

Although nominally the third stand alone Captain America film, it plays like a third Avengers movie and deals with the fall out of Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).

But Civil War lacks writer/director Joss Whedon’s ability to build a strong narrative and offer a spotlight for each major character.

Although the Russo’s bring a harder edge to the action, they haven’t Whedon’s grasp of group dynamics or comedy. They seem unable or unwilling to nurture interesting female characters, which is Whedon’s absolute stock in trade.

Here the blunt banter and sparse stabs of humour seem forced rather than growing organically out of character.

Many jokes seem parachuted in by executives and there are more than a few about gags about ageing. They lend the movie the stale air of a spandex version of Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables franchise.

The ferocious and superbly choreographed opening action scenes are at the very top end of Civil War‘s 12A certificate.

But the story is cluttered with too many minor characters. New ones are introduced to flag up their own stand alone solo movie and there’s a much herald appearance of a rebooted favourite.

Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle return respectively as sidekicks War Machine and The Falcon. The Hulk and Thor are noticeably absent.

Young Brit Tom Holland steals the film with his wide eyed chatterbox take on Peter Parker.

It’s a shame his Spider-Man CGI alter-ego is so poorly rendered, all the more puzzling as the generally the film looks fantastic in its IMAX 3D version.

A great deal of time is set up the Black Panther (2018) movie. Marvel seem so eager to involve and so self pleased at promoting a black character they haven’t looked too closely at how he’s presented.

Removed of the cowl and claws of Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman is fine in the undemanding role as the urbane and irony free African prince T’Challa.

However he’s prone to beginning sentences with ‘in my culture..’. Maybe people do speak like this but it reminded me of Ron Ely era Tarzan. His dialogue and demeanour seem freshly minted from the preconceptions of the white New Yorkers who created him back in 1966.

William Hurt and Martin Freeman are introduced as part of the Black Panther thread.

While Jeremy Renner gives the most lacklustre performance of his career as Hawkeye, Paul Bettany does some lovely work as the Vision.

The script can’t work out what to do with him or his ill defined powers, so opts for ignoring him whenever it can. Notably during the fighting.

Dragged down into the melee and still without a film to call their own, the only two female heroes are Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch.

At heart Civil War wants to be a hard hitting action thriller. The tone is suitably subdued as the script deals with politically compromised ideals, murdered parents and revenge.

Then it remembers the audience and bursts into blasts of candy coloured action.

Remorseful at collateral deaths of civilians during an Avengers mission, the once independent Iron Man is ready to accept UN oversight of The Avengers team.

Bizarrely for a soldier, Captain America doesn’t agree with operating under a hierarchal command system.

A UN conclave are about to sign an accord to will curtail superhero activity when they suffer a terrorist attack.

Number one suspect is Captain America’s friend turned terrorist agent Bucky Barnes. AKA The Winter Soldier.

Despite being played by the physically impressive Sebastian Stan, he remains an irritatingly anonymous figure.

Captain America is convinced Bucky is innocent and sets off to find him before the CIA do.

This puts him at odds with Iron Man, leaving the rest of The Avengers team to decide with whom they stand.

As allegiances shift and romance blooms across the barricades, loyalties are stretched and snapped.

Meanwhile there’s a sinister plot involving Daniel Bruhl’s shady scientist and a super enhanced elite death squad.

Easily the best part of Civil War is the promised punch up between the host of heroes.

It’s an imaginatively conceived and entertaining executed bout which leaves the heroes damaged and divided.

Unfortunately it happens about half way through the running time, so the rest of the film feels very anti-climactic.

And after two and a half hours of spandex clad action, I was beginning to chafe.

 

Analysis: Why Johnny Depp flopped with Mortdecai

Mortdecai, the new star vehicle for Johnny Depp has received poor reviews and is expected to bomb at the box office this weekend.

The camp caper centres around the adventures of a moustachioed aristocratic art dealer.

It co-stars Gywneth Paltrow,  Ewan McGregor and Paul Bettany – all great performers on their day in their own way – but none could be considered to be box office dynamite.

And nor any more is Depp.

With an A list celebrity status the one-time as the clown prince of the Indie circuit, the fifty-one year old actor is now best known for playing a pantomime pirate.

Last year his woeful $100 million sci–fi flick Transcendence took only $103m gross worldwide on a budget of $100 million.

Lets not forget the ahem, train wreck that was The Lone Ranger: $260m from a $215m budget.

Prior to those The Rum Diary took $24m on a $45m budget.

Those first figures are the global gross takings, for a clearer picture of how truly awful they are one must first deduct the cinemas 50% cut. Nor does the production include the global promotion costs which on The Lone Ranger was guesstimated to be $50m or so. ($30m is reckoned to be a more realistic figure for most films.)

So Production $260m plus promotion $50m multiplied by 2 (accounting for the cinema’s 50%) equals the break-even figue for The Lone Ranger. That’s $620m – well over half a billion dollars – against a $215m return.

Ouch.

But why has Depp’s Hollywood star dimmed so much?

Broadly speaking, when confronted by a dozen choices at the local multiplex, the over 40 crowd will choose a movie depending on who it stars e.g. George Clooney, Sandra Bullock or even Johnny Depp.

Whereas the under 30’s will head towards recognisable franchises; a Fast Furious film, a  Marvel superhero adventure or even a Pirates Of The Caribbean.

An Indie star with a small but loyal following, Depp hit the break-out blockbuster jackpot as Captain Jack Sparrow in the mainstream Pirates franchise.

But Depp’s ageing fan base isn’t sufficiently large enough to take a mega–budget film into profit by itself and younger cinema-goers don’t care about him or his non-franchise films.

So he has big success with Pirates but not so much with the The Tourist. That co-stared Angelina Jolie who has had spectacular success last year with Maleficent so it’s possible to imagine it was she not he who pulled in the punters for that one.

Depp’s only other recent films to make serious money are those directed by Tim Burton. And then only when based on a much loved book such Alice In Wonderland or Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.

But look what happened to Burton’s Depp-starring remake of TV show Dark Shadows. 

Budget $150m plus $30m x2 = break-even of $360m. Worldwide gross was $246m.

Ouch again.

You have to go back ten long years for Depp’s last unqualified success that wasn’t a Pirates or a Burton film. That was 2004’s Finding Neverland, which yes, was based on a much loved book and co-starred Kate Winslet.

His starring roles immediately prior to that were Secret Window (2004) From Hell and Blow (both 2001) , all of which struggled to cover their costs – even on their mid-price budgets.

So it’s no real surprise that Mortdecai, a film with no existing franchise base, a familiar title or a big name director flops.

Depp has been great before, he’s been pretty good very recently, lets hope he can be great again.

But lets’s forget the silly moustache next time, eh Johnny?

All figures courtesy of Box Office Mojo