Chris Evans

REVIEW: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

My original review of Captain America: Civil War from May 2016 is here, and my spoiler-filled rambling review is here.

After a series of a mission that put the public in danger, the Avengers are told they need to be regulated by the U.N. While Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) believes their actions need guidance, Steven Rogers (Chris Evans) doesn’t trust politician’s involvement. The rift between them causes a divide in the team that’s only furthered when Steve’s friend and former assassin Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) reappears.

Captain America: Civil War does a great job at showing both sides of this conflict over the Sokovia Accords – the agreement that will put the Avengers in check. You not only get to see both Steve and Tony’s opinions on it, but also why various other characters ultimately end up on a certain side. The film shows how there’s shades of grey in these opposing views and that’s where some characters end up, Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) is the notable example of this.

For a film jam-packed with superheroes Captain America: Civil War never feels overcrowded. This is due to the script and how the story is continuously moving on from one conflict or reveal to another. Each character has their moment to shine, though for some that may last longer than others, and it’s a thrill to see these character’s we’ve seen over the course of multiple films fight together and against one another. You feel for these characters and their strained relationships because you’ve grown attached to them over the years, and because all the actors involved give brilliant performances – Downey Jr. and Stan especially.

There are some characters making their first appearance in Civil War, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and both of them make a big impression and leave you wanting more from their individual films.

The action sequences are exciting and are on the whole well-shot and easy to follow. The humour that runs through the film never detracts from the seriousness of the situations the heroes finds themselves in, instead it gives you a brief moment to breathe before the tension builds once again.

At Civil War’s heart it’s a story of friendship. The friendship between Steve and Bucky that’s spanned decades and the new one between Steve and Tony which has never really found its footing. Captain America: Civil War has it all, great action sequences, humour and drama but it never forgets about what is important – the characters, their motivations and their relationships. There are some minor quibbles like the tonal palette of the film is decidedly grey and it could be argued it’s more Avengers 2.5 than Captain America 3, but all in all it’s a fantastic film. 5/5.

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REVIEW: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

My original review of Avengers: Age of Ultron from April 2015 is here and my spoiler-filled rambling thoughts on the film from May 2015 are here. I only reread both these posts after I wrote my MCU rewatch review.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) attempt to make a peacekeeping AI named Ultron, but Ultron (James Spader) has its own ideas of what peace on Earth should look like and the Avengers must stop him before he can enact his deadly plan.

Age of Ultron has a lot going on and not all of it is cohesive. It feels like a lot of things crammed into one move. There’s the introduction of the twins, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), two characters that present interesting powers, but you never learn more than what’s on the surface with them, especially Pietro. There’s also a lot on infighting in the Avengers team, while some events in the film certainly cause this, there’s also the sense that a lot of them don’t feel like a solid team or even a group of people that like each other. Side by side with the infighting is a surprising romance that is painful to watch – it feels like once the powers that be gave Clint (Jeremy Renner) his secret family, that Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) couldn’t possibly not have a romantic subplot and paired her up with the only other Avenger who didn’t have someone they loved. Then there’s Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who’s pretty redundant to the main plot of the movie and has his own sub-plot which is basically to give the audience a crash course in the Infinity Stones.

Age of Ultron is written and directed by Joss Whedon, the guy who did such a great job with The Avengers and had a decent take on each of the characters in that film. However, a lot of the characters development we’ve seen in various films between these two Avengers movies is just forgotten. Some elements make sense like Tony’s paranoia about aliens and protecting those who he cares about, but straightaway in Age of Ultron you see he’s built a load of robots when he’d partly dealt with his trauma by blowing all his suits up. Also, Steve (Chris Evans) often feels like a caricature of Captain America which is frustrating as we’ve previously seen the man behind the title so well in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The same can be said for Natasha, the version of her you see in Age of Ultron is a massive step backwards from the one in The Winter Solider. She’s still a badass, and while you can obviously have a female character who can fight and fall in love at the same time, the way it’s executed feels rushed and not in-line with what we’ve seen of Natasha’s character previously.

The action sequences are great, and the special effects are still top-notch. The humour that’s throughout the film doesn’t always land and sometimes feels like characters are saying a witty one-liner for the sake of it. The stakes in the final battle do feel high and you want both civilians to be safe and the heroes to succeed and survive, though I feel like a lot of that’s thanks to typical genre conventions and pre-existing affection for the characters rather than because of the characters as they’re shown in this film.

The stuff I really like in Age of Ultron are pretty much anything to do with Clint, surprise family and all, and Wanda. The way the film sets up their relationship is fascinating to me and I’m pleased that so far, those in charge of the MCU have continued to work with their dynamic. When it comes to pretty much anything else in this film, I’m either ambivalent towards it or actively dislike it.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is such a mismatch of themes and story ideas, and it’s a let-down after watching previous MCU movies in quick succession. A lot of characters seem to either take a step back in their development or receive none at all – a potential pitfall with an ensemble cast such as this that Age of Ultron fall right into. 2/5.

REVIEW: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

My original Captain America: The Winter Soldier review from April 2014 is here.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is attempting to make a life for himself, working for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and SHIELD when an assassin from history known only as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) resurfaces.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a brilliant film. It combines spy thriller with superheroes who are really down to earth characters, so well that it almost goes beyond being a “simple” comic book movie. The superheroes here are all very human, and besides Steve Rogers himself who’s pretty strong but still human, they are all people who get hurt and bleed.

Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is a spy who’s used to showing people what they want to see, so her developing friendship with Steve is quite special. They are almost moral opposites in how they see the world, but they find a common ground and seeing them work together is great. Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is a brilliant character, he’s a soldier like Steve but he’s never been a part of SHIELD so is someone Steve can talk to and trust. Because that’s the thing with SHIELD, it’s a super-secret organisation where everyone has their own agendas, you can never be sure who to trust.

Secretary to the World Security Council Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) is new character who personifies SHEILD’s shady agenda. He’s an old friend of Fury’s but being at the top of the SHIELD hierarchy means he definitely knows more than he lets on. Captain America: The Winter Soldier presents the idea of an organisation with almost limitless control thanks to its surveillance and ability to act outside of the law – this is political thriller territory and it handles it all incredibly well.

The fight scenes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier thrilling and generally well-shot. There’s a lot of hand to hand combat sequences and while there is quick editing and a variety of shot types, there’s moments where the camera tracks whoever’s fighting or there’s a wide-shot, so you can actually see the actors go at it and it makes the whole thing feel more real and tense.

There’s so many stand-out scenes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier but one of my favourites is the attack on Nick Fury’s car and subsequent car chase. Not only does it show off SHIELD’s technology and what a badass Fury is, but it’s tense and exciting and you get worried because Nick Fury is not a man who’s supposed to be able to get hurt.

I can’t not talk about the Winter Soldier. He’s one of the most ruthless yet interesting villains in the MCU. The music when he’s on screen, ‘The Winter Soldier’ composed by Henry Jackman, is haunting as well. It has this low bass rumble and these mechanical sounds that are almost like screams, you can imagine this is what the Winter Soldier hears in his head. It’s a great piece of music and the whole score is one of the most memorable from the MCU.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is magnificent. It’s got the usual spectacle but with its characters who are so relatable and human, it makes it a superhero film for the ages. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Avengers (2012)

When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) arrives on Earth with plans to enslave humanity, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) attempts to bring together a team of volatile people, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Rufalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who have the potential to be heroes.

The Avengers is a payoff for forward planning and investing in your characters. It’s hard to believe it now but The Avengers was a bit of a risky move. Yes, there were five films setting up these characters and all previous films were generally well-received and made a lot of money, but that was no guarantee that The Avengers would be a good movie that could balance its large cast of characters, each with their own extensive backstory and big personalities. Luckily, The Avengers managed to do just that.

The Avengers has spectacular set pieces with each action or fight sequence almost better than the last. There is a lot of conflict in this film, whether it’s the heroes against the villains or even the heroes amongst themselves. These are larger than life characters and they do clash, but that makes the moments when they come together as a team all that more satisfying.

The Avengers could have very easily been the Tony Stark Show thanks to him not only being a character we’ve seen the most but also because of Downey Jr’s natural charisma. However, thanks to a clever script that’s not the case. Each character gets their moment in the spotlight, secondary characters like Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) even get a moment of badassery. The script also allows time for these characters to grow while still having a firm understanding each of their motivations.

One of the highest compliments I can give The Avengers is that it feels like a comic book brought to life. The witty one-liners characters have, the way the script drops titbits of characters history or motivations with ease, and how vibrant and exciting it is. There’s a tracking shot, in the final battle, that’s almost lifted from the pages of a comic book with the way the camera moves from one character to another as they fight as a unit.

The Avengers is great because no matter the number of explosions and fights, it never forgets the characters humanity. There’s a real threat from Loki’s actions, as well as from the fact both the heroes and the audience are not sure they can trust Nick Fury and SHIELD. The Avengers is fast-paced, thrilling and funny. Seeing these characters together on screen is a joy, especially as the whole cast give great performances and all have brilliant chemistry with one another. It is one of the best superhero films, and Marvel Studios should be admired for successfully creating a cinematic universe, that so many other studios have been attempting to emulate ever since. 5/5.

REVIEW: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

It’s 1941 and the world is at war. After being rejected multiple times for the US Army due to his size, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is chosen for a top-secret experiment where he is turned into a Super Soldier. With the allied forces by his side Steve leads the fight against Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) and the Nazi-backed organisation, HYDRA.

Having Captain America: The First Avenger set in the 1940’s leads to an almost old-fashioned vibe which is a nice change of pace for the superhero genre. Captain America as a character is all about “truth, justice and the American Way”, something in today’s time could be seen as both jingoistic and corny, but the filmmakers do a great job of having Steve Rogers being an inherently good person, while not hiding from Captain America’s potential cheesiness. The montage of Steve attempting to be a showman selling bonds to the song Star Spangled Man With A Plan perfectly shows this.

Much like how Robert Downey Jr. is born to play Tony Stark, it’s clear that Chris Evans is perfect as Steve Rogers. He is charming and sincere, and is every bit a leader while still feeling like the everyman who doesn’t like bullies.

Not only is Captain America: The First Avenger a good war film, the action is slick, and it blends the tragedy of war with heroics incredibly well, it’s also got a romance you fully invest in. Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is a caring yet capable woman who fights side by side with the Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and the US army. The chemistry between Atwell and Evans is tangible every time they’re on screen together. Another important relationship in Steve Rogers life is that he has with best friend James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes (Sebastian Stan), it’s a friendship that wil transcend the times and is a significant part of Steve’s character and motivation.

A key part of Captain America: The First Avenger is the characters. They all feel like real people, who talk and argue and care about one another. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), father of Tony Stark, makes and appearance and it’s clear where Tony gets a lot of his brains and showmanship from. Howard’s a fun character though it’s interesting to see a younger version of the man we’ve heard about in Iron Man 2, a man that was incredibly distant and didn’t care for his son.

One group of characters who do feel a bit short-changed are the Howling Commandos. ‘Dum Dum’ Dugan (Neal McDonough), Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi), Gabe Jones (Derek Luke), Falsworth (JJ Feild) and Dernier (Bruno Ricci) all deserve more than their given. The Howling Commandos along with Bucky Barnes and Captain America are a tight group of friends but you only get the barest hints of that in the film, with their missions being reduced to a montage.

Captain America: The First Avenger is full of charm, great characters and performances. It’s a solid, old-fashioned blockbuster that successfully combines action with heart. 4/5.

REVIEW: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

captain america civil war posterAfter a string of dangerous and deadly missions that put the public at risk, the Avengers are told they must be regulated by the U.N. While Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) agrees with these measures, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) doesn’t trust them. This causes a divide between the team that’s only exasperated when Steve’s best friend and former assassin Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) resurfaces.

Anthony and Joe Russo return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe after directing Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the way they put together this film is great. The action sequences are well-shot, there’s only a few instances of shaky-cam and most of the time fight scenes are framed in a wide shot so you can see exactly what’s going on. Also the way they manage to film multiple characters fighting but you never lose focus of where each character is and what they are doing is truly commendable.

A big part of the film is obviously this conflict between Steve and Tony and the sides various characters choose. The great thing about Captain America: Civil War is that you understand why these characters disagree and as the viewer you can see it’s not black and white and there’s pros and cons to both sides of the argument. At the beginning of the film there’s a sit down discussion between a lot of the characters and you get why the stakes are so high and what these regulations mean to them all.

The tension builds between all the characters as the film progresses and in many ways it’s similar to a Bourne thriller as characters go on the run and try to figure out the truth. While I won’t go into any depth of the different characters motivations, I can’t not mention Prince T’Challa aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). He is a guy who has the weight of a country on his shoulders but he is still fallible. He isn’t particularly on anyone’s side, he is on his own side and it makes him an interesting third party to this conflict. Civil War gives Black Panther a brilliant introduction and there’s going to be many people excited about his solo film.

There are a lot of characters in this movie but thanks to a great script, they all get their moment in the spotlight though some may have that moment longer than others. Really while Civil War is in a way both a sequel to Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, at the heart of it, it is a Captain America movie. It’s the relationship between Steve and Bucky that drives a lot of their character motivations, and the motivations of a lot of the characters around them. the two of them are the heart of the film and it’s a good job Evans and Stan have such a good understanding of their characters and give such great performances because if they didn’t, Captain America: Civil War really wouldn’t be as good as it is.

Captain America: Civil War is a phenomenal film. While there’s all this conflict and amazing action sequences, at the heart of the film is the characters and their relationships. It’s what drives the plot and makes the film so great. 5/5.

REVIEW: Snowpiercer (2013)

snowpiercer elenasquareeyesSet in a future where the world is in a new ice age and all life on the planet has died except the lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe. On the train a class system emerges where people like Mason (Tilda Swinton) control the train and those at the tail end struggle to survive.

Snowpiercer is a phenomenal film. That might sound like a bit of an over-exaggeration but it’s really not. It does a great job building this desolate world and the class system on the train that you can believe in and accept all the characters and their motives. Curtis (Chris Evans) becomes the sort of leader of the people from the tail end of the train, he is the one who puts their plans into action and makes the tough choices. You learn more about him as the film progresses and really his journey through the train is a much a physical one as a mental one.

You could say there’s some typical characters for the genre, there’s the wise old man (John Hurt), Curtis’ right-hand man (Jamie Bell), the tough mother figure (Octavia Spencer) and the silent genius (Kang-ho Song) but through brilliant performances and an interesting script, they become more fleshed out and compelling.

The action sequences in Snowpiercer are gripping and well shot. The fights are all in such a confined space that it sometimes gets claustrophobic and the violence really is brutal. The cinematography is also worth a mention, the way colour is used at various points of the film is interesting and it really is like another character in the film.

The film does a great job at showing that actions have consequences and people will die. It may be a sci-fi film but it has a great social commentary amongst the action and the dialogue and chemistry between the characters is one of the highlights of the film.

Snowpiercer is an amazing film that everyone should watch and it’s really one of those films that work even better if you go into it knowing as little as possible. 5/5.