Allow me to do some level setting before I get into the heart of this review: I did not read comic books as a kid. I wasn’t ever a big fan of superheroes. I don’t know the backstory on all of them, nor have I learned about any of the strong storylines for the characters over the years. And now that the movies are huge business for Disney/Marvel, I watch them, but have not immersed myself in the stories enough to fully remember where we last left off…Especially when they’re crossing over into different “franchises” just about every other year.
Got it? Because I needed a briefing before going in.
The basic story of Captain America: Civil War is exactly what the name implies. Except it’s complicated. Much more complicated than that.
When last we saw Captain America (in an Avengers movie last year), the Avengers had managed to basically destroy a European city while trying to stop a computerized/robotic evil that Iron Man/Tony Stark had created in an attempt to create a world peace and defense system (Ultron). But prior to that, in the last Captain America movie, Cap was working to find a shady assassin called the Winter Soldier, while SHIELD was being taken over by some evil government wonk. The Avengers basically went rogue in both accidentally creating Ultron, and in trying to destroy it. And Cap had gone rogue against SHIELD in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of the bad guys.
As a result, cities were destroyed, billions of dollars were probably spent to repair the damage done, and while the world was still safe, the world is now feeling little goodwill toward these superheroes. So they’re offered one chance to stay in the world’s good graces: agree to work under a UN group and deploy only when told to and how they’re told to, or stop being superheroes. Iron Man agrees (hell, he probably brokered the agreement, it appears), but Cap has his reservations. Because…well…reasons, I’m sure. Maybe being frozen toward the end of WWII and not being thawed out for 60+ years meant he didn’t realize what the UN really stands for. Nonetheless, the two sides are clearly staked out, and they will not agree.
Oh, and meanwhile, the whole winter soldier thing is still hanging out there because Bucky Barnes, Cap’s best friend from the war, was part of some experiment to turn people into killing machines.
So how do superheroes solve disagreements within their own ranks as to whether or not to sign on with the UN? They recruit members to their side and prepare to fight, of course, at a German airport, as it turns out.
By the way, we already all know what happens when the public becomes tired of the problems caused by superheroes. Has anyone seen The Incredibles? So now we know that when the next movie comes out, they’ll all be working clandestinely in a 1960s era CGI US and Mr. Incredible, Frozone and Elastigirl will be helping them.
Okay. Let me say right now that the movie was fine. I can’t call it great, not only because action movies are not really my cup of tea, but also because I think Ant Man was actually better than a lot of these movies. But on its own, it was perfectly okay without anything to really make it outstanding or horrible.
But I do have a problem with this increasing interweaving of story lines. I go to action movies with my family because they enjoy them. I’ll watch them because they used to be fairly mindless entertainment (good guys v. bad guys…period.) that pushed the envelope of special effects. I understand that they all exist in the same movie universe, and that their comic book stories are intertwined, but I’m not invested in the story lines enough to look forward anxiously to the next Avengers/Captain America/Ant Man/Spider Man/Iron Man movie to see how this story continues. And increasingly, these movies assume that everyone watching them is invested in that complicated, multi-branched story.
Case in point: there was a character in this film that I honestly couldn’t remember seeing. But there he was, with everyone interacting with him like he’s always been there, and I’m waiting for the plot point to explain who the hell he is. Except it wasn’t coming, because the filmmakers assumed everyone remembered him as being created as part of the Ultron creation. I didn’t. And I have to assume I wasn’t the only one.
So here’s what it comes down to: if you’ve seen the other movies in this line, then by all means, check this one out. You’ll probably love it. But otherwise, you probably can just skip it for now. At least until you’ve seen the other ones. Three out of Four Stars.