Here we go again. 8 years after Iron Man kick started a blockbuster movie franchise that’s now 13 films in, Captain America: Civil War is less of an event movie than it is “a very special episode” of an ongoing serial or rather the cinematic equivalent of binge-watching a handsomely budgeted TV show in the span of 2.5 hours for all the positives and negatives that entails. After being thoroughly impressed with the last Captain America-centric movie helmed by Joe & Anthony Russo and penned by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Winter Soldier), this latest installment is less concerned with pushing these films forward the way that one did and more so with keeping things on brand. Despite a strong central concept and thesis, by focusing on “hitting its marks” with little fuss or any guts to do anything but color within the lines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) playbook, Civil War isn’t necessarily a great Marvel movie so much as it is the “Platonic Ideal” of a Marvel movie. It’s the best of MCU and the worst all at once.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2, sequel to the moderately successful 2012 reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise brings the attitude and joy of the modern era Spider-Man comics (particularly the “Ultimate” Marvel Universe book-line) yet fails miserably to come together as a film. Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer), returns for this iteration but instead of adhering to his quirky indie-young romance sensibilities that made the previous film such a charming effort (despite some narrative flaws) Webb instead opts to ramp up the blockbuster superhero action. The result here a mixed bag where the effects-laden heroics are grandiose and certainly capture some of the spirit and attitude of the comics but threaten to overshadow any of the film’s human elements. On top of that is a narrative structure that is as confused as it is messy, completely lacking a proper dramatic thorough line to tie and connect its set-pieces and multiple plotlines together let alone come to a cathartic conclusion. This film may be the best AND worst we’ve seen of this character and franchise on screen and that’s a big problem. The pieces of a great Spider-Man story are in place, but they’re never connected and executed in a way that is meaningful let alone cohesively. Much like the previous film, it gets by on the charisma of the cast and sharp production work, but perhaps due to the film’s bloated and inconsistent nature any and all merits of the film are drastically overshadowed by its weaknesses.