Since 2008, Marvel Studios has made a dozen movies that are cut from the same cloth, presenting an optimistic universe filled by an increasing number of bright and friendly superheroes putting down a variety of challenges that threaten mankind.
Their 13th production, Captain America: Civil War, takes a slightly different tack, suggesting that the world has become worn down by the deadly side effects often wrought by the superheroes, and wants them to bow their knees to a new law that will limit their activity greatly. It’s a classic ‘straw man’ scenario, whose primary intent is to divide the superheroes into two camps, one in favor of the new law and one in opposition.
In an incredible, amazing coincidence, 12 superheroes are presented in the movie, and they are evenly divided between the two camps. Wow! Who could have imagined?
Truth to tell, Captain America: Civil War takes a very long time to establish the two opposing teams. Until the teams are formulated, the dramatic pace is sluggish, weighed down with portentous and pretentious debates in slow motion as the superheroes slowly conclude how they should proceed.
The breezy wit that has marked the previous dozen films is absent through the sleepy first hour (or more), interrupted by action sequences on a timely basis. Theoretically, the action scenes should pump up the movie as a whole, but they’re shot by directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo in the same misbegotten style they previously demonstrated in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a style that has also predominated in other Marvel movies.
It’s a style that slashes the action into tiny, 3-second segments that make it impossible to follow what’s happening, with the perspective jerking from here to there for no discernible reason, other than to disguise the stunt players and whatever computer-graphic shots may have been inserted to fill them out. The sequences detract from the movie as a whole, draining the possibility of suspense and drama and replacing it with sound and motion.
The sole exception is an above-average portion of the movie that begins with the recruitment of two hyphenated superheroes, namely Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). For as long as they’re on screen, Captain America: Civil War becomes a better movie, and the extended action sequence in which they are both featured is the highlight of the entire experience, in part because it pauses to allow for joking dialogue and an assessment of the situation; the fights have meaning and reflect the characters involved. Also, there are very real consequences that arise, and the sum result is a lifting of spirits.
Sadly, that is not the end of the movie. Instead, the 146-minute monstrosity must trudge onward to a conclusion that is not a conclusion so much as an introduction to more Marvel movies.
The movie allows Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and newly-introduced Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) to pout and glower and scowl, in and out of their skin-tight costumes. Help yourself.
The film opens in wide release throughout Dallas on Friday, May 6.