Film and drama

Screen Themes – Eddie The Eagle vs Captain America: Civil War

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It’s time for some big screen action as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out the feel-good biopic Eddie the Eagle and action spectacular Captain America: Civil War.

Eddie the Eagle (2016) directed by Dexter Fletcher

Starring Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman, Eddie the Eagle tells the tale of aspiring Olympian Michael “Eddie” Edwards, a man who battled personal hardship and a general lack of sporting talent to achieve his dream of competing in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Directed by Dexter Fletcher (Press Gang), Eddie the Eagle is a feel-good, family friendly flick in the vein of Cool Runnings.

After breaking out in Kingsmen: The Secret Service, rising star Egerton shows that there is more to him that the gentleman chav, making the dorky, eternally optimistic Eddie instantly likeable. Even when Eddie is making poor life decisions (and he makes a few of them) you can’t help but want him to succeed. Complementing the socially inept Eddie is Hugh Jackman’s reluctant coach Bronson Peary, a character created for the movie to good effect.

While not exactly stretching his acting muscles (he puts on an American accent now and again) Jackman has a lot of fun with the role of the grizzled, cynical coach with a heart of gold. Perhaps less successful are the supporting cast, with talented British actors like Tim McInnerny and Keith Allen being reduced to one-note characters like “snobby selector” or “unsupportive dad”.

Feel-good movies can be a tricky prospect, and novice director Fletcher tends to play it safe. Even if you have never seen a sporting movie before you will be able to predict the ending, along with most of the obvious beats it takes to get there. For younger audiences this is not necessarily a bad thing, but for adults it does mean that Eddie the Eagle is about as predictable as night following day.

At the end of the day, Eddie the Eagle is a lot of fun, with a positive “never give up” message for family audiences. Sure, it’s a little clichéd and predictable, but not everything has to be Citizen Kane.

Captain America: Civil War (2016) directed by the Russo Brothers

Created way back in 1941 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the character of Captain America has come a long way since his glory days of flying the American flag and punching Hitler in the face. On the comic book page Cap has evolved from a patriot, to a fascist and even a psychopath, before recently being replaced by The Falcon, which apparently caused some consternation south of the Mason/Dixon line.

On the big screen Cap made his first appearance in 1944, played by Dick Purcell in an ill-fitting onesie. The next version was in 1979, where Reb Brown wore a spandex outfit that left little to the imagination and motorcycle helmet. Brown also starred in the sequel Captain America II: Death Too Soon, also released in 1979, which suggests that producers didn’t spend a lot of time or money on the project. The same was true of the super low budget 1990 version starring Matt Salinger, who looked okay in the uniform but couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag.

2011 saw the release of Captain America: The First Avenger, one of the first movies in ‘phase one’ of Marvel’s takeover of the box office. The movie not only managed to make Cap an interesting character, but imbued him with a sense of honour and compassion that transcended his xenophobic origins, largely thanks to star Chris Evans. Having previously portrayed the Human Torch in the “not as bad as it could have been” Fantastic Four, Evans was a revelation as Steve Rogers, and together with Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man built a franchise that would make billions.

Darker than previous films from Marvel, 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier introduced political intrigue to the comic book formula, the result being closer to a spy thriller than a traditional superhero film. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, Winter Soldier showed that comic book movies didn’t have to be filled with explosions and CGI to be good, and in retrospect is a better film than the overblown Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Fortunately, Marvel tapped The Russo brothers to direct Civil War, and the result is fantastic. While thematically similar to Batman vs Superman (superheroes fight each other), Civil War is better in every way more coherent, more suspenseful, more satisfying and far, far funnier.

If you were one of those (many) people who questioned why Batman would be fighting Superman, you may be happy to know that the motivations in Civil War are far clearer. Following the catastrophic events of Age of Ultron and The Winter Soldier, the Avengers are being called to account for the destruction they caused. The solution suggested by Iron Man is that the Avengers agree to work as a sanctioned UN agency, acting only with international approval. Captain America rightly points out that the UN is pretty useless, and would likely prevent them acting in politically sensitive areas where people are suffering. Disagreements turn to punching, and the fight is on…

The real joy in Civil War is in the supporting characters, from the irrepressible Ant Man (played once again by Paul Rudd) to the regal Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, soon to star in a solo Black Panther movie) and Paul Bettany’s “artificial man” The Vision, who generated one of the biggest laughs in the movie simply by appearing on screen in a Cosby sweater. While all of the aforementioned are great, the breakout character has to be Spiderman, played by Tom Holland. Probably the best portrayal of both Peter Parker and Spiderman to date, Holland will also star in his own movie, the upcoming Spiderman: Homecoming. I can’t believe I’m excited about a Spiderman movie…

The Verdict

If you’re looking for an inoffensive, feel-good movie to take your mother this Sunday, you could do far worse than Eddie the Eagle. And by far worse I mean the film Mother’s Day, which looks seven kinds of awful. With a running time of 1 hour 46 minutes the movie doesn’t wear out its welcome, and both Egerton and Jackman are charming in their roles.

So, in summary, Eddie the Eagle is good. But Captain America: Civil War is bloody great. 

Filled with action, drama and characters you actually care about, Civil War may be the best movie to come out of Marvel so far.  It’s certainly the best Avengers movie, mixing nail-biting tension with a sense of fun that makes the 2 hour 26 minute running time seem short.

Eddie the Eagle  —  7/10

Captain America: Civil War  —  9/10

Like what you read? John Turnbull''s books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame, action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Check them out!

You can also follow John on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.

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