Every summer, a Marvel superhero film sweeps into theaters like a breath of fresh air. This May, that’s Captain America: Civil War, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo. There’s political commentary, emotional stakes and plenty of action, but with a lighthearted quality. There’s a hopefulness that maybe some “enhanced individuals” do the right thing because they still believe in that.
That’s not the only way to do a comic book movie, but it’s dependable, reliable, comforting — like ordering at a chain restaurant. You know what kind of meal you’re going to get every time, and you’ll most likely enjoy it.
Civil War centers on the ramifications of the events from Avengers: Age of Ultron, in which the fictional nation of Sokovia was leveled, as well as a mishap in Lagos during an Avengers mission early in the film, which results in the loss of many lives. Do the superheroes need to be reined in and subjected to stronger federal oversight?
That’s what Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt) believes, and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) agrees, taking a more liberal, pro-government stance. Not quite in agreement is Captain America (Chris Evans), the libertarian who is resistant to government intervention and staunchly believes that he knows what’s right and wrong. His stance is exacerbated when his buddy The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is framed for a bombing.
The film is refreshingly open to debate on this topic. There’s discussion about the nuances of the right way to do the right thing, that maybe there are different ways to be right — you can follow the rules, or follow your beliefs.
The action is human-scaled, rather than the skyscraper-obliterating disasters of other films. We’re introduced to Black Panther (Chadwick Bozeman), and his feline prowess is a welcome addition to the team. As is the chipper teen enthusiasm of Spiderman (Tom Holland). Though much of it can seem like crashing action figures together, the match-ups between the heroes of different powers are thrilling and executed with humor and smarts. However, as the film crosses the two-hour mark, the endless punching becomes relentlessly dull.
Marvel’s marketing campaign has exhorted fans to choose #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan. Within the movie, this question becomes a debate between science and emotion, protocol and friendship. Neither is the wrong way, necessarily. The Avengers have always been powered by their collective power, so the friendship theme is important, and the screenplay hammers it home.
This is a Captain America movie, so the choice would seem clear — why then does the #TeamIronMan choice seem more sensible? America’s brawny sweetheart puts on the nice-guy airs, but he’s loathe to see outside of his perspective, change his ways or compromise. His old-fashioned, Greatest Generation schtick isn’t as charming (or effective) this time around. As an Avengers movie, Civil War is a cut above the rest but, unfortunately, our relationship to the titular hero is tarnished in the process.
‘Captain America: Civil War’
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem. 2:16. 2D only: Paris/Bourbon Drive-In. 2D and 3D: Fayette Mall, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester, Woodhill.