Plot: Although the Avengers have proven to be defenders of mankind, their actions have led to massive damages, intentional or not and of course, there is concern over the chance of a rogue superhero. To that end, some believe there needs to be oversight and limitations on their involvement, which could lead to the Avengers being used a global police force of sorts. This proposition has divided the group, as some see the reason in such an approach, while others view it as an affront and have no desire to be at the beck and call of politicians. The rift is the deepest between Iron Man and Captain America, who have dug in on opposite sides of the issue and show no signs of being persuaded otherwise. When the conflict reaches a boiling point over the fate of the Winter Soldier, Captain America winds up on the wrong side of the law and it seems as if a battle between Avengers is inevitable.
Entertainment Value: Marvel’s Civil War was an epic series in the comic books, but for some reason, such a rich premise was all but wasted in this movie adaptation. The narrative is simplified and watered down beyond belief, then doused in the usual Marvel assembly line formula, which is a shame. The previous two Captain America movies were able to avoid that cookie cutter fate for the most part, but Civil War follows Marvel’s formula to the letter. The lure of the heroes battling each other is a solid one, but given how intertwined the movies were to this point, there’s not as much novelty involved. I do think the airport brawl is a fun scene, but even then, there’s no stakes and lame humor is shoehorned into the material. Instead of a tense, memorable clash between determined friends, we are given some light dust-ups that never feel like there’s anything on the line. I did like seeing some of the fresh blood pumped into the movie, with Black Panther and Spider-Man on deck, as well as Ant-Man in a small role, but little happens with them here. This is the Captain America vs. Iron Man narrative, as it should be, but the movie refuses to put them at genuine opposition and focuses instead on the road to the next movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I really wanted Civil War to be one of the best Marvel productions, but it just fails to capture even a minor amount of the magic from the comic book narrative.
After two movies as a wooden, serious Captain America, this time around, Chris Evans is drafted in a more jokey version of the role. I don’t think it works well, but Marvel fans seem to eat up this take on Captain America. I found it to be forced and ineffective, as Evans was a natural in the stilted, overly serious approach, whereas he seems out of his element here. Robert Downey, Jr. is good as always, making the most of his screen time and massive paycheck. Evans suffers when he shares the screen with Downey, Jr., as he simply lacks the charisma and presence of his costar. The smaller roles are fine, with Paul Rudd adding some fun, Elizabeth Olsen in solid form, and Scarlett Johansson doing her usual Black Widow routine. I do think Sebastian Stan is good here as well, but in a jokier, low stakes environment, his intense approach feels out of place at times and he falters in the less serious moments. In the end, Civil War puts Captain America’s series in line with most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a low stakes, forced comedy with a lot of atrocious CGI visual effects. I know this formula has proven to be box office gold, but Civil War could have been so much more.