Enthusiast Perspective — Captain America: Civil War

Marvel is unleashing its latest Captain America saga, hoping that the recent disappointing Superman/Batman outing by DC Comics has not diminished the public’s enthusiasm for comic-book mayhem. Last night, resplendent in my superhero costume and not pulling any punches, I heroically battled supervillain Ken Pohlmann at the press screening of Civil War....

Leslie: Good versus evil. A pretty good premise for storytelling. But this movie mixes it up a little, with good versus good versus evil. Sure, good guys hate bad guys, but when good guys hate other good guys who are also their friends, it gets personal, and that makes it gut-wrenching.

Ken: I know the feeling! The girl at the Burger King, who I thought was my friend, refused to put extra pickles on my wiener. That enraged me.

Leslie: Wow, it sucks to be you. More important, this movie is about collateral damage and taking responsibility for it. What gives the Avengers the right to collapse buildings and level towns, ruining or ending people’s lives? What’s the point of fighting evil if the outcome is horrific? Shouldn’t the Avengers be held accountable?

Ken: Hmmm, the movie is also about friendship, loyalty, duty, vengeance, pragmatism, idealism, and trying to figure out which way the moral compass is pointing. More than enough grist for a 2-1/2 hour movie.

Leslie: I was surprised, and impressed, by the depth of thought put into the story. The filmmakers also sweated the details. The sound design was just fabulous. I’m not sure which was my favorite—the buzzing whir of the Redwing drone, or the spectacular Doppler-shifting warp as a motorcycle flipped around. That precise attention to detail makes me wish I was still doing sound design as a full-time job.

Ken: Send them your resume! Speaking of motorcycle sounds, for once, I thought the exhaust tones were nicely matched to the engine types and when a motorcycle donuts on dirt, the filmmakers didn’t put in a cheesy asphalt screeching sound. Oh, I also liked the zapping sound of a power grid, like a million mosquitos hitting a million bug lights.

Leslie: In a movie that is so heavily computer-generated, adding realistic sound back into the mix is essential, and this film nails it.

Ken: I appreciated the very crisp overdubbing, making dialogue clearly intelligible even in action scenes. I also liked that the mixer pulled back the ambient sounds in many places; that subtlety made the climatic scenes more dramatic. Similarly, the score was often very light or minimal during many fight scenes, saving its firepower for the climaxes. Very smart sound design that is powerful but doesn’t make you feel beat up by the end.

Leslie: Henry Jackman’s score was big and heroic in places, but when you have good superhero battling good superhero, it was too generic—no memorable themes that differentiated the two warring factions. This isn’t Jackman’s first rodeo—he scored Captain America: The Winter Soldier, along with X-Men: First Class and other action films, and I expected more from this experienced composer.

Ken: The visuals certainly deserve a shout-out. I was blown away by the sight of young Tony Stark, not to mention about a thousand super-hero costume and weapons effects. CGI technology continues to improve and continues to amaze me.

Leslie: Lots of terrific visuals—and not just the much-anticipated Spider Man costume. The gratuitous car chase (aka Audi commercial) was weak, but otherwise they did good work here. In addition to the large-scale CGI scenes, the filmmakers had some tough challenges on a smaller scale, such as portraying the Scarlet Witch’s energy-manipulation in a believable and visible way. There’s a scene where a helicopter is flying through a storm over a raging ocean, and the detail and textures of the water look absolutely authentic, even given the darkness issues of 3D.

Ken: I was really bummed out when I discovered our press screening was in conversion 3D. Many of the action sequences were shot with a choppy visual effect, with very fast editing, and tight, detailed shots. For me, the murky quality of 3D made it difficult to see all that. The 3D effect detracted far more than it might have added. Complete fail on the whole glasses thing.

Leslie: I also felt that the 3D effect made the subtitles and other supers really distracting—you have to choose whether to focus on the words or the scene behind the words. I would have kept them in the same plane. I would gladly have traded a 3D screening for a Dolby Atmos screening. The opportunity to hear an Atmos mix might justify purchasing the movie on Blu-ray. Henry Jackman said that this is the first film that he and the mixing engineer were “mindful” of Dolby Atmos before they started—it wasn’t just an afterthought.

Ken: I agree; skip 3D, but seek out an Atmos theater. Speaking of attending theaters, should our readers embark on treks to the cineplex?

Leslie: Thumbs up. I’m definitely #TeamIronMan. It is surprisingly engaging, and is entertaining for all audiences, not just diehard fans of the comics. The moral dilemmas faced by the heroes is one that resonates deeply in today’s world climate—how far do you go to protect lives, and at what cost? Beyond the special effects, this is a great story.

Ken: Thumbs up from me too, but definitely #TeamCap. It is a great summer movie. Knowing that even comic-book heroes can sometimes get a little boring, the filmmakers wisely dialed up the emotional, human side of the heroes. Making them more like us makes them infinitely more interesting, and leaves us wanting more.

Leslie: Gee, do you think there will be a sequel?

Ken: Until I get my pickles, only the dead have seen the end of war.

K.Reid's picture

First, in my opinion, Batman vs Superman was not a failure. I enjoyed it. No, the DC hero films have not had the Marvel touch in terms of story and appearance, but they have been respectable. When I left BvS, the audience reaction was generally positive with excitement for Wonder Woman, Flash and especially Aquaman upcoming movies.

Marvel is hitting the sweet spot, but I have to say that I am very disappointed that the Inhumans movie was cancelled. How can you get to Infiniti War without Blackbolt and Medusa's backstory let alone Attilan. No Thane. What? You leaving Inhuman coverage solely to Agents of Shield. That is a mistake. So we will have Dr. Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor Ragnarok before Infiniti War with no Inhuman movie. Doesn't make sense to me. Let's hope they don't cancel Captain Marvel. Heaven help me if we don't get to see Thanos' Black Order in action in Infiniti War.