REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

CAST

Chris Evans (The Losers)
Robert Downey, Jr (Sherlock Holmes)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Sebastian Stan (The Covenant)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Don Cheadle (Traffic)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)
Chadwick Boseman (Gods of Egypt)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House)
Paul Rudd (Role Models)
Emily VanCamp (Revenge)
Tom Holland (The Impossible)
Frank Grillo (The Purge 2 & 3)
William Hurt (A.I.)
Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds)
John Slattery (Mad Men)
Martin Freeman (The Hobbit)
Marisa Tomei (The Fighter)
John Kani (Coriolanus)
Hope Davis (About Schmidt)
Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)
Jim Rash (That 70s Show)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

In 1991, the brainwashed super-soldier James “Bucky” Barnes 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, Natasha Romanoff, Sam Wilson, and Wanda Maximoff stop Brock Rumlow from stealing a biological weapon from a lab in Lagos. Rumlow blows himself up, hoping to kill Rogers. When Maximoff tries to displace the blast into the sky with telekinesis, it destroys a nearby building, killing several Wakandan humanitarian workers.
U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross 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 team is divided: Tony Stark 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 the government. At a conference in Vienna where the accords are to be ratified, a bomb kills King T’Chaka of Wakanda. Security footage indicates the bomber is Barnes, whom T’Chaka’s son, T’Challa, vows to kill. Informed by Sharon Carter of Barnes’ whereabouts and the government’s intentions to kill him, Rogers intends to bring in Barnes—his childhood friend and war comrade—himself. Rogers and Wilson track Barnes to Bucharest and attempt to protect him from T’Challa and the authorities, but all four including T’Challa are apprehended.
Helmut Zemo tracks down and kills Barnes’ old Hydra handler, stealing a book containing the trigger words that activate Barnes’ brainwashing. Infiltrating the facility where Barnes is held, Zemo recites the words to make Barnes obey him. He questions Barnes, then sends him on a rampage to cover his own escape. Rogers stops Barnes and sneaks him away. When Barnes regains his senses, he explains that Zemo is the real Vienna bomber and wanted the location of the Siberian Hydra base, where other brainwashed “Winter Soldiers” are kept in cryogenic stasis. Unwilling to wait for authorization to apprehend Zemo, Rogers and Wilson go rogue, and recruit Maximoff, Clint Barton, and Scott Lang to their cause. With Ross’ permission, Stark assembles a team composed of Romanoff, T’Challa, James Rhodes, Vision, and Peter Parker to capture the renegades. Stark’s team intercepts Rogers’ team at Leipzig/Halle Airport, where they fight until Romanoff allows Rogers and Barnes to escape. The rest of Rogers’ team is captured and detained at the Raft prison, while Rhodes is partially paralyzed after being inadvertently shot down by Vision, and Romanoff goes into exile.

Stark discovers evidence that Barnes was framed by Zemo and convinces Wilson to give him Rogers’ destination. Without informing Ross, Stark goes to the Siberian Hydra facility and strikes a truce with Rogers and Barnes, unaware they were secretly followed by T’Challa. They discover that the other super-soldiers have been killed by Zemo, who shows them footage from Hydra’s archives; it reveals that Barnes killed Stark’s parents during his mission in 1991. Enraged that Rogers kept this from him, Stark turns on them both, dismembering Barnes’ robotic arm. Rogers disables Stark’s armor and departs with Barnes, leaving his shield behind. Satisfied that he has avenged his family’s death in Sokovia by irreparably fracturing the Avengers, Zemo attempts suicide, but T’Challa stops him and he is taken to the authorities.

In the aftermath, Stark provides Rhodes with exoskeletal leg braces that allow him to walk again, while Rogers breaks his allies out of the Raft. In a mid-credits scene, Barnes, granted asylum in Wakanda, chooses to return to cryogenic sleep until a cure for his brainwashing is found. In a post-credits scene, Parker tests a new gadget.

The best Marvel film to date: great, charisma from the leads delivered through fantastic action that’s actually driven, for once, by a tight, believable and interesting storyline.

Advertisements

REVIEW: BLACK PANTHER

CAST (VOICES)

Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Stephen Stanton (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Kerry Washington (Django Unchained)
Alfrie Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)
Jill Scott (Girlfriends)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Rick D. Wasserman (Planet Hulk)
JB Blanc (War Dogs)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Taye Diggs (Equilibrium)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Stan Lee (Chuck)

The concept of the motion comic is controversial to say the least. Many comic purists would argue they are pointless endeavors, while others, like myself find them an interesting supplement and even more a way to get those uninterested in comics to seek them out, provided they enjoy the program.

The newest release in the series may be their biggest yet, produced not just for DVD but as six-episode animated series. With “Black Panther,” Marvel adapts Hudlin’s own take on the character from 2005 and the end result will induce much headshaking and confusion.

Unlike the previous two installments in the Marvel Knights Animation line, I had not read the original source material, however, it’s safe to say, with the author being directly involved in the adaptation, it likely follows the comics quite closely. The most apparent change viewers familiar with the motion comic concept will notice is the consistency in runtime. Each episode runs around 18 minutes long and is paced like an episode of a TV-series. There are no more abrupt endings as before and this is a truly welcome change. Also worth noting is the star power in the voice cast. Hudlin has secured veteran voice actors Kevin Michael Richardson and Nolan North, as well as Hollywood stars Alfre Woodard, Kerry Washington, and in the title role Djimon Hounsou. It’s all downhill from this point, with Hounsou’s involvement being the only positive memorable aspect of a disaster of a series.


“Black Panther” is a muddled mess, attempting to weave an origin story amidst a half-baked plot against our hero’s life by a band of largely second (or even third) rate villains. The tone of the entire series is wildly inconsistent; one minute our villains will be bickering with each other in classic Saturday morning cartoon fashion, giving the impression the series is lighthearted, but all this comes following an intro that is decidedly more mature, featuring tribal warriors getting impaled on sinister traps and severed Nazi heads on pikes. Add to that a very mean spirited tone, resulting from most characters not related to Black Panther being either stupid, bigoted, or both and the 132 minute runtime feels achingly brutal.

Comic book fans may immediately take issue with the series’ sad attempt to establish dominance of the Black Panther by having him swiftly defeat Captain America in hand-to-hand combat. The character doesn’t need such a wildly unbelievable fight to appeal to audiences, nor does he need the sympathy formed from broad stereotypes attempting to hold him down because he’s the leader of a small African nation. What should be a fun fantasy tale is instead drenched in an underhanded political theme that is downright tiresome and boring; if more time was given to developing supporting characters, a little bit of preaching would have been tolerable. To Hudlin’s credit, his take on Black Panther or T’Challa (Hounsou) is a fascinating, three-dimensional creation, and his home country of Wakanda is given admirable life and scope. Hounsou brings strong balance of kindness and fierceness to the role, and a scene midway through the series where he removes his mask to speak to a boy who worships him as a god, is one of the more heroic and humble moments I’ve seen in a superhero adaptation.
On the flipside, Kerry Washington, delivers a strangely overacted vocal performance as T’Challa’s sister, while Stephen Stanton is in full on, evil for evil’s sake mode, as Klaw, the main villain, an assassin responsible for murdering T’Challa’s father decades earlier, who returns to finish killing the royal family. The less said of Klaw’s inept cadre of support, the better, but the Vatican Black Knight is worth mentioning of only for the fact his character adds another layer into the theme of the evil Western world; not only does a rival nation want Wakanda overthrown, but so does the US (led by a cartoonish and ignorant General voiced by Stan Lee), and yes, the Pope. As a final insult to comic fans, Hudlin shoehorns in the story of T’Challa’s romance with Ororo Munroe, or Storm as she’s more commonly known. The addition is nothing more than a way to artificially extend the overly long runtime of the series and find an excuse for a few worthless X-Men cameos.

“Black Panther” is heavily dissappointing, and it’s a damn shame, as there is great potential with the character. The writing has a bad pace to it; dialogue driven scenes are sometimes choppy, flashbacks are overused (even as an origin story), and the action sequences often have great buildup but result in a sad whimper in terms of execution; a half-assed inclusion of zombies in the final episode tempts me to a giant stamp of “fail” on the series, but there are more than a few Panther centric moments to elevate it from the lowest possible rating. Animation wise, John Romita Jr’s art style translates horribly to the motion comic format, and some sequences are animated in a amateurish fashion at best; the fact I waited this long to mention it, is a strong indicator of how forgettable it is. There are strong talks that the Black Panther will see life on the big screen and I’ll reiterate again, Hounsou deserves a shot at the role, however, I hope this series is used as an example of what not to do.