Welcome to the 40th edition of My Fortnightly Movie/TV Thoughts! Last fortnight, I reviewed Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). This fortnight, I’m reviewing:
- Ant-Man (2015), rated PG for mild science fiction violence and coarse language
- Captain America: Civil War (2016), rated M for action violence and coarse language
Those of course are the Australian ratings; in the United States, the ratings are:
- Ant-Man – PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
- Civil War – PG-13 for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem
As usual, I’ll give the trailers at the end, with a clip each. And as usual, I offer the following disclaimer, just to be safe:
WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD. PROCEED AT OWN RISK.
It may surprise you to know that I didn’t start the MCU with Iron Man or any of the other early films; I actually started it with this small-scale heist adventure. While it doesn’t rank among the MCU’s finest, it still holds a special place in my heart.
In 1989, scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D. after discovering their attempt to replicate his Ant-Man shrinking technology. Believing the technology would be dangerous if replicated, Pym vows to hide it for as long as he lives. In the present day, Pym’s estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) have forced him out of his company, Pym Technologies. Cross is close to perfecting a shrinking suit of his own, the Yellowjacket, which horrifies Pym.
Upon his release from prison, well-meaning thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) moves in with his old cellmate, Luis (Michael Peña). Lang visits his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) unannounced and is chastised by his former wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her police-detective fiancé Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) for not providing child support. Unable to hold down a job because of his criminal record, Lang agrees to join Luis’ crew and commit a burglary. Lang breaks into a house and cracks its safe, but only finds what he believes to be an old motorcycle suit, which he takes home. After trying the suit on, Lang accidentally shrinks himself to the size of an insect. Terrified by the experience, he returns the suit to the house, but is arrested on the way out. Pym, the homeowner, visits Lang in jail and smuggles the suit into his cell to help him break out. Pym, who manipulated Lang through an unknowing Luis into stealing the suit as a test, wants Lang to become the new Ant-Man to steal the Yellowjacket from Cross.
Ant-Man is on a much smaller scale than the other Marvel films – both literally and figuratively. It’s basically a heist movie – a heist to prevent a global danger. As much as I enjoy the scale of the other movies, I find Ant-Man‘s smaller focus kind of refreshing.
And like the other Marvel films, Ant-Man really is a lot of fun – whether it be the climax & its action, or Scott’s training (and the ant scenes in general), or Luis’ storytelling (one of my favourite parts of the movie!), or simply the character interactions. (The size-jumping fight scenes are particularly excellent and well-choreographed; the film’s effects are handled really well.)
Paul Rudd gives a charming lead performance as Scott Lang, a well-meaning thief who is recruited to become Ant-Man. He’s very likeable – even as a thief. Rudd nails him.
Michael Douglas is fantastic as Dr Hank Pym, and carries his father Kirk’s charisma (RIP, Kirk Douglas). His is my personal favourite performance in the movie. (The de-aging effects in the opening scene are awesome!)
Corey Stoll made a fitting – and insane – villain as Darren Cross, the head of Pym Technologies, who wants to sell the technology to the highest bidder (specifically Hydra).
Ant-Man is fun superhero heist movie, and a nice small-scale addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As usual, don’t forget to stick around til after the credits. (The movie also contains one of my personal favourite Stan Lee cameos.)
Captain America: Civil War
The MCU movies often have a good theme or lesson in them, although they’re ultimately just fun – REALLY good fun; the thought-provoking was mainly left to X-Men. Winter Soldier was an exception in tackling political themes; however, the third and final Captain America movie – Civil War – was their first real film in which they went full-on trying to you truly think – and leaving the themes ambiguous enough for everyone to have their own interpretation. Couple that with outstanding action and the introduction of a couple famous heroes into the fold, and this film is truly exceptional.
In 1991, the brainwashed super-soldier James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) – aka the Winter Soldier – is dispatched from a Hydra base in Siberia to intercept an automobile carrying a case of super-soldier serum. In the present day, approximately one year after Ultron’s defeat in the nation of Sokovia at the hands of the Avengers, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) stop Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) from stealing a biological weapon from a lab in Lagos. Rumlow blows himself up, attempting to kill Rogers. Maximoff telekinetically diverts the explosion, accidentally killing several Wakandan humanitarian workers in a nearby building.
U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) informs the Avengers that the United Nations (UN) is preparing to pass the Sokovia Accords, which will establish a UN panel to oversee and control the team. The Avengers are divided: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) supports oversight because of his role in Ultron’s creation and Sokovia’s devastation, while Rogers has more faith in his own judgment than that of politicians. Meanwhile, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) tracks down and kills Barnes’ old Hydra handler, stealing a book containing the trigger words that activate Barnes’ brainwashing. At a conference in Vienna where the Accords are to be ratified, a bomb kills King T’Chaka (John Kani) of Wakanda. Security footage indicates the bomber is Barnes, whom T’Chaka’s son, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), vows to kill. Informed by Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) of Barnes’ whereabouts and the authorities’ intentions to kill him, Rogers decides to try to bring in Barnes—his childhood friend and war comrade—himself.
The film’s action is spectacular. It doesn’t go for an extravaganza as much as some of the other movies in the franchise, but it’s gritty and intense and hugely entertaining (and very edge-of-your-seat).
Civil War also has pretty consistent tone and pacing throughout the movie. This results in a climax that is a bit toned down compared to others, but is nonetheless quite engrossing and emotional and NOT disappointing.
My favourite part, though, is the thought-provoking issues touched upon – including “collateral” tragedies, the pros and cons of government oversight, etc, etc. The movie also doesn’t directly draw its own conclusions on the matter; while it shows the serious dangers of such an oversight (and in my opinion leans towards Cap’s side, which I support), it also leaves it ambiguous enough to side with Tony Stark in principle.
Civil War also has one of the single scariest villains in the entire MCU: Helmut Zemo (brilliantly played by Daniel Brühl). As far as we see, he’s not a crime lord. He hasn’t got connections. He hasn’t got powers, or access to powers. He isn’t a supervillain. He isn’t particularly notable or striking. He’s literally just a grieving everyman who succeeds, through simple manipulation and the right resources and determination, to pull off a simple supervillain-level plot: disband the Avengers.
Each of the Avengers cast are excellent in their return – Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Don Cheadle as Colonel Rhodey/War Machine, etc. Their characters are given quite a bit of emotional depth – especially Stark – and are well-developed and relatable.
The newcomers – and returning newcomers – are excellent, too. Chadwick Boseman gives a solid and intense performance as T’Challa, aka the Black Panther, who assumes the mantle after his father’s death – and who is initially determined to kill Bucky at all costs. A good character.
My favourite addition, though, is Peter Parker/Spider-Man, perfectly played by Tom Holland. He’s a fun breath of fresh air in an otherwise serious film.
Elizabeth Olsen makes an excellent return as Wanda Maximoff, more popularly known to fans as Scarlet Witch, a Sokovian with telekinetic abilities whose actions are used as a catalyst for the Sokovia Accords. She struggles with her powers, her previous actions, and the lives she’s taken. In short, she’s thoroughly human.
Paul Bettany is similarly excellent in his reprisal of Vision, Tony Stark’s AI creation, who feels protective of Wanda. A truly pure character.
William Hurt is excellent in his reprisal of the misguided General Ross, who hates the autonomy the Avengers have.
Captain America: Civil War is filmmaking at its finest.
The Ant-Man trailer:
The Civil War trailer:
An Ant-Man clip:
A Civil War clip:
[What do you think of these films? Be sure to let me know in the comments! Also, send me your review for any movie or show, and I’ll post it on Blockbusters Reviewed.]