Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Where to Invade Next

For F*** Magazine 

WHERE TO INVADE NEXT

Director : Michael Moore
Cast : Michael Moore, Krista Kiuru, Claudio Domenicali, Tim Walker, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
Genre : Documentary
Run Time : 121 mins
Opens : 28 April 2016
Rating : M18 (Some Nudity and Drug Use)

After a six-year-long hiatus from feature films, Michael Moore, the enfant terrible of documentary movies, has returned with a vengeance – but a vengeance of a friendly sort. It’s no secret that many Americans have become dissatisfied with their way of life, proclamations of the United States being “the greatest country on earth” getting harder and harder to make with a straight face. From income inequality to staggering student loans to unaffordable healthcare, the average 99%-er has a good deal to be frustrated about.

            Moore imagines that he’s been sent on a mission by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff to suss out where in the world the United States should invade next. He embarks on a quest through several European countries and one North African one to see how the people do things differently from in the States.  In Italy, the average worker has eight weeks paid holiday, in France, students get nutritious gourmet school lunches and Finland’s top-ranked education system does away with standardised tests and excessive homework.

Next, Moore visits a coloured pencil factory in Germany where the employees work a total of 36 hours a week, he takes a tour of the surprisingly luxurious prisons in Norway, meets with female government and business leaders in Iceland and sees how Tunisia’s government has rebuilt itself after overthrowing a dictator, with more than 50% of its parliament being women at the present. He attempts to wrap his head around the free college education offered in Slovenia and Portugal’s complete decriminalisation of drug use. At the end of each segment, Moore plants an American flag in the ground wherever he is, proudly declaring that he’s come across another excellent idea that the U.S. can, uh, appropriate.


            Out of all the press screenings we’ve attended, the showing of Where to Invade Next probably drew the loudest laughter from the audience we’ve ever heard. Moore is known for being a confrontational firebrand, famously conducting ambush interviews and staging demonstrations as part of his films. This movie sees him gentler, albeit no less driven. All the interview subjects are willing participants, largely because they’re given platforms on which to wag a finger at Americans in general. The people whom Moore talks to range from schoolchildren to blue-collar workers to such luminaries as former Icelandic president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the world’s first democratically-elected female president, and current Slovenian president Borut Pahor.



            Most of the humour is derived from the sense that what we’re seeing in this panorama is all too good to be true. Two hour lunch breaks? A law against sending emails after work? Prescriptions for a three-week-long spa getaway to combat stress? Corrupt bankers actually getting sentenced to prison? Absurd! This could pretty much be called “The Grass Is Greener On the Other Side: The Movie”, and the scene of the interview subjects telling Moore how unbelievably good they have it, with a reaction shot of him looking slack-jawed, occurs multiple times. Moore also makes his point with infographics presenting bleak statistics, including one that demonstrates the slightly higher taxes in European countries afford their citizens greater benefits than the Average American has access to. As with his previous films, Moore also employs news footage and amateur video to make his point. The hardest-hitting of these is a montage of American inmates getting beaten up and otherwise abused by wardens and fellow prisoners – this is shown after Moore takes in the civilised and straight-up swanky prison facilities in Norway.


            The use of humour throughout makes the audience more amenable to Moore’s arguments, and in most cases, just how functional the societies being showcased are does speak for itself. While it is staggeringly one-sided, as is Moore’s modus operandi, the film is also compelling and persuasive. It does cover a great amount of ground, not just geographically but with regards to the subjects discussed as well. There’s a strong feminist component, with several powerful, successful women sharing what they do differently. There are a few jarring tonal shifts which work astoundingly well – we go from a former Mercedes CEO talking about how the company’s servers block emails sent by bosses after working hours, to a German classroom where the Holocaust is being taught, with the words “Why Remember?” written on the chalkboard. In another scene, Moore sits down with a Norwegian father whose son was gunned down at summer camp by extremist Anders Breivik. The film’s larger structure and context ensures these scenes do not feel awkwardly out of place.



            If you’re predisposed to despising Moore, Where To Invade Next might not make you do a 180 on the documentarian. As manipulative and imbalanced as it can get, Where To Invade Next does have an undercurrent of sincerity. Yes, Moore’s antics might primarily be for our entertainment, but there is a strong sense of purpose to the tour he embarks upon here and while it still has bite, it seems a lot less bitter than some of his other work. Is it all a progressive’s pipe dream? Probably, but the positivity that Moore exudes here does have its charm, and the work manages to be a thought-provoking one.

Summary: While it is heavily one-sided, Where To Invade Next sees Michael Moore weaving a fascinating, entertaining, educational and immensely funny travelogue, in which he asks “what can we learn from you?” rather than merely being the traditional idiot abroad.

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars


Jedd Jong 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Cap's Night Out: Team Cap Light-Up and Fireworks at Marina Bay Sands

CAP’S NIGHT OUT
Team Cap takes over the Marina Bay Sands skyline
By Jedd Jong


There has been considerable build-up to the finale of Team Cap’s visit to Singapore, so one could excuse us for being underwhelmed by the end result. Team Iron Man had thrown down the gauntlet, with Robert Downey Jr. lighting up the Eiffel Tower in gold and red, complete with glowing ‘eyes’ and an ‘arc reactor’. “Team Cap…I mean, how do you come back from that?” Downey said after the big reveal in Paris. “You are toast!”


Stars Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier) and Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon), with co-director Joe Russo, answered the challenge with a multimedia display and fireworks show at the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort on the night of 22nd April. Clips from the film were projected onto the ArtScience Museum and the spine of the hotel’s first tower, complemented by pyrotechnics. The show lasted around six minutes, starting and stopping intermittently.


Team Cap only made their way to the podium on the Helix Bridge 45 minutes after the event was scheduled to begin. Access to the bridge was tightly controlled, following the zealous fan turn-out for the Blue Carpet event the previous night. Most of the media weren’t allowed onto the same pod as Team Cap; F*** was one pod away. Safety was a concern, seeing as the bridge has a limited weight capacity. There were also rumours that Evans had been cranky the previous day, with some taking his attire at the Blue Carpet premiere (the same shirt he wore to the press conference, as opposed to Mackie’s and Stan’s three-piece suits) and his much later arrival compared to the director and other actors as indication that he was reluctant to walk the Blue Carpet.


If one had happened to pass by the Marina Bay waterfront and were catching the display from afar, it would’ve passed muster, but the fans and media weren’t so impressed. This reviewer overhead a fan asking her friends, “can we all agree that Team Iron Man won?” as they were filing out after the show.


The promotional tour rivalry will come to a head with Team Iron Man and Team Cap coming face-to-face at the film’s upcoming premiere in London.


Captain America: Civil War is in theatres 28 May 2016.

Photos by Tedd and Jedd Jong


Action figure is the writer’s own. 



Friday, April 22, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

For F*** Magazine

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

Director : Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Cast : Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Chadwick Boseman, Emily VanCamp, Daniel Brühl, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, Martin Freeman
Genre : Action/Adventure
Run Time : 2 hrs 27 mins
Opens : 28 April 2016
Rating : PG (Some Violence)

Earth’s mightiest heroes are torn asunder in this, the 13th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Following calamitous incidents in New York, Washington D.C., Sokovia and Lagos, the politicians of the world seek to establish a governing body to supervise the actions of the Avengers. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey) agrees to sign what becomes known as ‘The Sokovia Accords’, while Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans) refuses to comply. Sam Wilson/Falcon (Mackie), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch (Olsen), Sharon Carter/Agent 13 (VanCamp), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Renner) and Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Rudd) take Rogers’ side. Backing up Stark are Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Johansson), James Rhodes/War Machine (Cheadle), Vision (Bettany), and new additions T’challa/Black Panther (Boseman) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Holland). In the meantime, Rogers is still tracking down Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier (Stan), his childhood friend who was brainwashed into becoming a ruthless killing machine. Then there’s the enigmatic Dr. Helmut Zemo (Brühl), who seeks details on one of the Winter Soldier’s past missions to enact a treacherous scheme. If the world’s heroes are too busy fighting one another, who will protect everyone else?


             It’s generally agreed upon that 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier is among the strongest entries in the MCU thus far. It’s an intense political thriller with lavish action spectacle and a resonant emotional component woven into a concinnate whole. With that film’s directors Joe and Anthony Russo and its writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely returning for Civil War, we had appropriately high expectations. Civil War is not so much a standalone Captain America movie as it is Avengers 2.5, packing in quite a number of characters from the MCU and introducing a couple of new ones. There are lots of moving parts and the story comes off as disjointed. The film gets off to a wobbly start, lacking particularly striking imagery or an impactful action sequence to open with. The source of the conflict at the heart of the film is established clearly enough, but Rogers’ and Stark’s resentment for each other doesn’t get enough room to really simmer to a boil.


            In the comics, the Civil War event centred on secret identities and superhero registration. Since secret identities have largely been a non-issue in the MCU, collateral damage has become the catalyst for conflict. There are some pretty high stakes and the film wants us to take the rift between the MCU’s two biggest heroes very seriously, but not at the expense of quips and general joking about. There are many humorous moments that do land and a reference to Empire Strikes Back had this reviewer doubling over with laughter. Cap, Falcon and Bucky also share a real ‘bro’ moment that’s quite endearing. However, there are several instances where the one-liners result in a sense of flippancy, undermining the gravity of the situation at hand.


            Both Evans and Downey have become very comfortable with their roles as Captain America and Iron Man respectively. There is a valiant attempt at having both parties make valid points, though the film tends to side with Cap because, well, he’s in the title. There’s plenty of snarky back-and-forth jibes, but the ideological disagreements get no room to breathe. There’s not very much to say about the performances of all the returning cast members, since the characterisation is generally consistent with how they’ve been drawn in previous films. Stan continues to be eminently sympathetic as Bucky – half puppy, half killing machine. Vision and Scarlet Witch share a few scenes together, as a nod to the characters’ romance in the comics, but these come off as superfluous. The budding romance between Cap and Agent 13 feels extremely tacked on. There are plenty of references to previous entries in the series, with an emphasis on Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron, so one wouldn’t quite be able to make head or tail of this going in blind.


            Fans will be pleased to know that both Black Panther and Spider-Man are handled as well as possible. Boseman brings a stern dignity to the role of the Wakandan prince who is both royalty and costumed crime-fighter, the requisite outsider with no prior link to the Avengers. Stark ropes in teenage science whiz and vigilante Peter Parker. Holland’s portrayal of Spider-Man feels very true to the spirit of the character: the wisecracks, the wide-eyed awe, the pubescent awkwardness, it’s all there in the right amounts. Marisa Tomei briefly shows up as Parker’s Aunt May, and the Spider-Man scenes have increased our anticipation of the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming all the more. The design of the suit is divisive: while it harks back to the more traditional artwork of the likes of Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr., the slightly old-fashioned spandex look doesn’t quite fit in with the established MCU aesthetic, especially since it’s established that Stark designed the suit for Parker.


            The “villain problem” that has plagued most MCU movies continues here. Helmut Zemo, who is markedly different from the costumed supervillain of the comics, is portrayed as a sly manipulator lurking behind the scenes for his own ends, pulling the marionette strings and fanning the flames of internecine strife. Unfortunately, Brühl makes so little of a mark that this reviewer had to go back to write this paragraph after completing the review, initially forgetting the need to elaborate on the villain.


            The standout action sequence is, naturally, the full-on clash between the two factions set at an airport in Leipzig. The scene is packed with fun visual gags and moments engineered to get the audience on their feet, cheering. It’s quite a shame then that the rest of the action sequences, perhaps barring the climactic brawl, are generally unmemorable. The heavy use of shaky-cam and breakneck editing means we can’t take in the choreography or get a good sense of who’s doing what in the middle of a fight.


            There’s a lot in Civil War that works fine and the people making these movies have enough experience under their belts to not make a complete fumble of things. However, because many of us are experiencing comic book movie fatigue, it takes a lot more than general competence to get us truly excited. There’s ultimately very little in Civil War that’s actually truly novel. It’s a victory, but far from a flawless one.

Summary: The introduction of Spider-Man and Black Panther into the MCU are highlights, but Civil War’s lack of cohesiveness and the hard-to-follow fight sequences prevent it from being the earth-shattering event it’s pitched as.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong



            

Bastille Day

For F*** Magazine

BASTILLE DAY

Director : James Watkins
Cast : Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Charlotte Le Bon, José Garcia, Eriq Ebouaney, Thierry Godard, Kelly Reilly
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 92 mins
Opens : 21 April 2016
Rating : NC-16 (Some Nudity and Violence)

Two actors often named as prospective James Bonds become unlikely partners in this action thriller. Michael Mason (Madden), an American eking out an existence as a pickpocket in Paris, finds himself implicated in a bomb attack. Zoe Naville (Le Bon), whose boyfriend built the bomb, is tasked with planting the explosives, but has a crisis of conscience. CIA agent Sean Briar (Elba) goes off in pursuit of Michael, a wanted fugitive after he is caught on security footage apparently planting the bomb. French Minister of the Interior Victor Gamieux (Garcia) decrees that the upcoming Bastille Day parade will go ahead as planned, in spite of the heightened threat level. Wanting to tie up loose ends, the terrorist leader Rafi Bertrand (Garcia) targets Michael, Briar and Zoe. In the meantime, Briar’s fellow CIA operative Karen Dacre (Reilly) uncovers a conspiracy within an elite task force of the French police, as societal tensions mount and rioters overrun the streets.


            What really is little more than an adequately diverting spy flick takes on a sobering quality in the wake of the November 2015 Paris terror attacks – production occurred before the tragedy. In this regard, Bastille Day shares similarities with London Has Fallen. Bastille Day is markedly less ridiculous, though there’s still the “Americans save the day” quotient and a huge pile of fairly silly action movie clichés. Our hero is a hard-nosed secret agent whose introductory scene has him being berated by his superiors for being a loose cannon, and the guy he has to team up with is a ne’er-do-well thief whose skills come in handy when the pair are after the bad guys. “Briar, this isn’t Baghdad, it’s Paris,” a CIA official chides. “Red wine, the Louvre, Louis Vuitton.”


            The film’s attempts at being topical are far from subtle, but are not as ham-fisted as in many other recent action films. The ways in which the perpetrators of the attack manipulate the masses into forming angry mobs, including blaming a local mosque and posting calls to arms on social media, seem sufficiently logical. However, one would have to work extra hard to stifle laughter when the terrorist mastermind proclaims to his cronies, in all seriousness, “the hashtags will tip it over.”


            Our two protagonists serve as foils for each other: Briar is prone to reckless violence and is an old-school action hero of the “punch/shoot everything” variety, while Michael’s modus operandi is devilish sleight of hand. It’s easy to buy the physically imposing Elba beating up the bad guys and dishing out a one-liner or two, but Briar is all brute force, and Elba is at his most watchable when he’s exercising his brand of suavity - an opportunity he’s denied in Bastille Day.


Game of Thrones heartthrob Richard Madden plays a guy who’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time – but when you’ve got that pretty a face, who needs luck, right? Madden trained with professional pickpocket/entertainer Keith ‘The Thief’ Charnley, who called the actor “a natural” with “a very light-fingered touch”. Indeed, the sequences where Madden struts his artful dodger stuff end up more exciting than most of the action scenes.


Le Bon looks worried and on the brink of tears through the whole film, as the stock “woman who’s been dragged into some nasty business because she didn’t know any better” character. For what it’s worth, she does have a role to play in the climactic face-off. The villains, led by Godard as Rafi Bertrand, are relatively unremarkable and the twists and turns in their scheme, especially the revelation of their actual motive, are predictable.


The stunts, which include a rooftop foot chase and a bank siege, aren’t anything to shout about – but the production values definitely pass muster. Crowd scenes in low-to-mid-budget action movies can often look phony, but the finale involving a throng of protestors being held back by riot police manages to be convincing. Bastille Day is very much your standard-issue post-Bourne spy action movie, packed with tropes and characters that will be immediately recognisable to genre fans. It scrapes by on Elba’s charisma, even if he doesn’t actively showcase it – and that brisk 92-minute running time certainly doesn’t hurt either.

Summary: Bastille Day is formulaic but watchable, though its depiction of Paris besieged by terrorists will understandably affect those still raw from the recent real-life terror attacks.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

           

            

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Painting the Town Blue - Captain America: Civil War Blue Carpet

For F*** Magazine

PAINTING THE TOWN BLUE

Team Cap takes Marina Bay Sands by storm
By Jedd Jong


To call it a ‘crowd’ would be a gross understatement. On the evening of Thursday 22nd April, throngs of fans showed up to try to catch a glimpse or, better yet, a coveted selfie with or autograph from the stars of Captain America: Civil War. The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) were overrun with eager folks armed with homemade signs and cheering at the top of their lungs, some of whom had arrived as early as 10 hours before the scheduled start of the event.

That glorious Scott Pilgrim reference though.
In what must have been a heart-breaking move for any DC fan, a black curtain was set up in front of the DC Super Heroes café that overlooked the Blue Carpet area, out of deference to Marvel. It is perhaps an apt metaphor for how Marvel is pummelling the Distinguished Competition at the Multiplex.


A highlight of Team Cap’s visit to Singapore, stars Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon) and Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier) with co-director Joe Russo walked the Blue Carpet. Deejay Glenn Ong and model/actress Stephanie Carrington were the evening’s hosts, with actor Paul Foster providing back-up on the Blue Carpet. The event was kicked off with the finals of a cosplay competition, with an enthusiastic Indonesian gentleman sporting accurate Tony Stark-esque facial hair drawn on and eyewear beneath his Iron Man helmet taking the top prize.


Stan looked more comfortable than he did at the press conference that morning, rocking a striking turquoise suit, with Mackie going for a more classic option. Evans looked like he rolled out of bed, wearing the same shirt and trousers he wore to the press conference – but one could stand to be a little sloppy if one possessed even a fraction of Evans’ pulchritude.

The sale of packages priced at $688 and $1288, including access to the Blue Carpet, had become the talk of the town. It was later clarified that the majority of Blue Carpet passes were being distributed to invited children and teenagers as part of Disney and MBS’ corporate social responsibility initiatives; these children would be invited on stage later. Other recipients included contest winners and VIPs. A limited number of Blue Carpet passes were then bundled together with products like collectible t-shirts, figurines and a one-night stay at the MBS hotel.


A considerable number of lucky fans who had arrived early enough to stake out a good spot lining the Blue Carpet were able to get the attention of the stars, who made every effort to sign as many autographs and take as many selfies as time would allow. Mackie even leapt over the barricades to reach fans standing several rows back, with Russo following suit. Even though the measures to prevent the average fan from attending weren’t as extreme as previously thought, the layout of the Blue Carpet did make it difficult for those who weren’t journalists or pass-holders to get very close to the stars.



The under-privileged children who were beneficiaries of MBS’ social outreach programs were welcomed onstage, and some got to ask the stars and director their questions. It’s difficult not to be a cynic in the face of such a blithely manipulative display on the part of a big corporation, but the children did seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves and a boy was overwhelmed with joy when Stan carried him up and swung him around.


Team Cap was presented with artwork by artists Elvin Ching, Guo Junwei, Noval N. Hernawen and Soefara Jafney which incorporated characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe into prominent Singapore landmarks.


The Team Cap festivities culminate on the night of 22nd April, which will see MBS lit up in red, white and blue, with an accompanying fireworks display as an act of one-upmanship aimed at Team Iron Man, who set a tough act to follow by lighting up the Eiffel Tower in red and gold with glowing blue ‘eye’s during their Paris tour.













Photos by Tedd Jong 

In Civillised Company - Captain America: Civil War Team Cap Singapore Press Conference

For F*** Magazine

IN CIVILLISED COMPANY

Team Cap and co-director Joe Russo touch down in Singapore to talk Captain America: Civil War
By Jedd Jong


                It seems our tiny city state has been in a bit of a tizzy, ever since Marvel announced that Singapore would be one of the stops on the promotional tour for Captain America: Civil War, the 13th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). A brouhaha erupted over the obscenely high ticket prices that were being charged for premium access to the blue carpet – the passes, priced at $688 and $1288, did not even guarantee actually meeting the celebrities, and a discussion on the exploitation of geek interests for profit spread across social media. It was later clarified that these were package deals, and fans were welcome to line the blue carpet in the hopes of a selfie or autograph for free.



                This morning, stars Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon) and director Joe Russo, one half of the Russo Brothers filmmaking team, fielded questions from the local and regional press at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, including F***. Deejay Glenn Ong moderated the press conference, as Team Cap laid out their plans for domination.


                Civil War sees the Avengers fractured after politicians around the world propose a governing body to keep superhero activity in check, so as to prevent the wanton collateral damage the Avengers have incurred in the past from happening again. Half the team sides with Iron Man, who is for regulation, while the other backs Captain America, who is against it. Stars Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Don Cheadle (James Rhodes/War Machine) and Emily VanCamp (Sharon Carter/Agent 13), with co-director Anthony Russo, threw down the gauntlet by lighting up the Eiffel Tower in red and gold with blue ‘eyes’ during their press tour in Paris. Presumably, VanCamp was brought in as a replacement for Scarlett Johansson, seeing as Agent 13 really is on Team Cap in the movie.


                “I saw what Downey did in Paris, and it was great, but I think we can really do something special here in Singapore and show ‘em it’s all about Team Cap,” Evans declared. He was referring to the plan to light up the three towers of the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort in red white and blue; the light-up will be accompanied by a fireworks display. “The more buzz, the more energy that can be created, the conflict between the two camps is going to help the film,” Evans said, tacitly conceding that the rivalry is obviously manufactured to keep the sales machine going.

                The Russo brothers return to the MCU after helming the much-loved Winter Soldier movie. They are also signed on for both parts of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War cinematic epic, which will see the Avengers finally come face-to-face with their ultimate foe, the intergalactic warlord Thanos. Russo cited the interplay between the characters as a key component in the MCU, saying “I think this movie has more character interaction than any movie that has preceded it in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Civil War is couched as a culmination of plot lines that have been fomenting across the earlier Avengers and Captain America movies, with Russo promising a film that’s “Heart-breaking but also a great deal of fun and “a well-rounded experience at the movies.”


                “It’s a Steven Soderbergh-level of cast,” Russo said of the ensemble he and his brother presided over. “Marvel has done an amazing job of filling out the Marvel Cinematic Universe with some of the best actors in the world, it makes my job very easy.”

                “They have a wonderful understanding of cinema,” Evans said, returning the praise. “A lot of directors don’t always want to reference other movies, but Joe and Anthony are true cinephiles.”


                The Russo Brothers are known for their work on television comedies like Arrested Development and Community. They slipped Community cast member Danny Pudi into The Winter Soldier, and Jim Rash has a cameo in Civil War. Russo drew a parallel between shooting comedy and staging action sequences, saying “When you execute a comedic gag, there’s a lot of correlation to action: spatial relationships on screen, editing, rhythm.” Russo acknowledged the “incredible support” rendered to them by the Marvel Studios brass, calling the visual effects team “unbelievable”.

                In order to decide who would be on whose side, the Russo Brothers sat in a room for months with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely to hash out the story beats. We went through the cast we had available us and the cast we didn’t have available to us and we thought very hard about who would line up against who based on their motivations up to this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Russo added that “surprises for the audience” were on the agenda too.



                Throughout the press conference, Stan seemed the most withdrawn, while still projecting a certain sweetness, whereas Mackie was gregarious and game. Perhaps Stan was freshly defrosted from Winter Soldier hibernation. Mackie was handy with the disses aimed at Team Iron Man, like so many bullets from flip-out submachine guns. “We try to get to know the culture that we’re in, eat the food and meet the people,” Mackie said, tacking the colloquial Singaporean interjection ‘lah’ onto the end of a few sentences. “Whereas Team Iron Man, they’re more about just going from the press conference to the spa, and then from the spa to their jet, stuff like that. We hitchhike. They hang on to me, I put on the jetpack and we go straight across.”


                In the film, Falcon’s get-up is referred to at one point as a “bird costume.” Mackie reacted with mock indignation when a reporter reminded him of this, replying “say that one more time, homie? I’m described as what?!” When egged on to denigrate Team Iron Man’s outfits, Mackie offered that Stark himself looks like “a coke can”, that Vision looks like “someone just drew over him”, that War Machine resembles “a trash can” and that Black Panther’s suit seems like it’s made of “Michelin car tyres.” He could not bring himself to insult Black Widow, whom he described as “perfect.”


                When quizzed on how they get in superhero shape for the films, Evans said there was no magic bullet, “Any type of secret workout, diet, doesn’t really work,” he insisted. “We go to the gym, we pick up heavy stuff, we put that down, we do that until we can’t do that anymore and we get big.” Sounds so easy when he puts it that way, doesn’t it? Mackie jests that Evans really is an Ultimate Frisbee enthusiast. Evans admonishes him, saying that his quip is bound to get lost in translation down the line and invariably get taken seriously by somebody.

                The film pushes the relationship between Rogers and Sharon Carter/Agent 13 further along, with Rogers learning that she’s actually the niece of Peggy Carter, the co-founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. who fell in love with Rogers during his WWII days. Evans stated that it “follows in the lineage of what Cap considers his home to be with Peggy Carter, and Sharon Carter is kind of an incarnation of something familiar.” He said he is intrigued by the suggestion of a romantic bond between Cap and Black Widow, which Mackie objected to, since he has his eye on Black Widow. “They come from different backgrounds and find comfort in each other at different times of distress,” Evans reasoned. “I always thought that would be a really interesting dynamic to pursue, but at the same time, it’s very sweet and very pure that they’ve kept it platonic.”



                Russo delivered the closing salvo of the press conference, calling Civil War an “incredibly important” entry in the canon. “Winter Soldier changed the external structure of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. I think that this movie changes the psychology of the Marvel Universe in a very significant way,” Russo continued. Teasing what’s to come, he said that “the ramifications of Civil War are not over, they’re going to carry over significantly into Infinity War.” So, from the ashes of war, there is rebuilding to be done.
Captain America: Civil War opens in cinemas 28 April 2016

F***’s coverage of the Team Cap festivities in Singapore will continue.

Photos by Tedd Jong