Michael J. Tresca reviewed:Captain America: Civil War (Plus Bonus Features)
I have only a passing familiarity with the events in the comic series. Suffice it to say it involved Marvel facing the grim realities of superheroing: civilian casualties. In the comic, a bomb was set off in Stamford, CT (somebody in New York didn't like their northern neighbors, I suspect) on live television that precipitates a crackdown on superheroes by the government, with heroes taking sides. On one side is Tony Stark, a human who knows full well the dangers of uncontrolled abilities; on the other is Captain America, who values freedom and choice above all else.
In this third installment of Captain America, the scope has been broadened well beyond the U.S. -- instead, it's a diplomatic catastrophe in Lagos that triggers the Sokovia Accords, a reaction to the massive human casualties inflicted by Ultron in a fictional European country. As U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross so eloquently states, "heroes" like the Hulk are weapons of mass destruction. And oh yeah, nobody knows where Thor or the Hulk are (don't worry, they're just in another movie).
All this adds up to an epic conflict in which everybody's favorite heroes pick sides. This of course encourages the audience to pick sides as well, which requires a lot of exposition. In fact, there are so many characters in this movie that it barely has anything to do with Captain America.
Throughout the movie one thread winds through it all: personal accountability. The film makes a point of showing buildings collapsing from all the other Marvel universe super hero movies, but intentionally leaves out the death toll. Instead, each main character internalizes the damage on a deeply personal level. And almost all of them react with violence.
The special effects are amazing -- the most subtle being a younger Tony Stark -- with the exception of the Iron Man suit itself (sometimes, Stark's head seems to float on the suit's body). This is also the best representation of Spider-Man since Sam Raimi's movie over a decade ago. Too bad Web-Head feels like he was thrown in just to launch another franchise.
My wife is #TeamStark, but I tried to stay neutral until I saw the film. Civil War doesn't bother making the argument about what the Sokovia Accords mean for superheroes in general, it focuses almost exclusively on the Avengers. It doesn't even share what the rules mean to your average hero on the street. As a result, Cap's decision -- a decision that is based on a much broader argument about superhero rights in the comics -- seems somewhat selfish and petty. Cap may be fighting for freedom, but because Civil War doesn't explain itself much, he just comes off as fighting for himself. I didn't go in favoring Team Stark, but by the end of the film I had to agree with her.
Still, this was a lot of fun. The villain is more evil genius than super villain and he's motivated by surprisingly prosaic circumstances. Although it drags in parts, Civil Wars brings it all back down to one person's grief. And that makes a mediocre popcorn film a great one.