MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr.
Although I never bought a ticket for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it sounded like a long slog, with the filmmakers manufacturing a contrived excuse to pit these two DC Comic superheroes against each other and letting them duke it out for an hour of two, destroying much real estate along the way.
Captain America: Civil War is in many ways an answer to thoughtless bombastic special effect movies. Rather than orchestrating a mere slugfest, the filmmakers create a situation in which friendships are tested to the breaking point – with people taking sides against one another – but with a hopeful resolution as a possible destination.
Although billed as a Captain America movie, Civil War manages to bring most of the Avengers (sorry, no Thor or Hulk) into the plot. There are no fewer than thirteen superheroes showing up this time, including more screen time for Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and The Vision (Paul Bettany) who were given short shrift in last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) finally joins the team after being introduced in 2015’s Ant-Man.
And – surprise, surprise – we have a new Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and a new Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) (with no new origins story, praise the heavens). Spider-Man brings great energy to the enterprise as a exuberant teenager who is stoked to be fighting alongside the Avengers.
Without giving away the plot, conflict develops in part due to Captain America’s (Evans) friendship with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Shaw) – brainwashed and linked to a terrorist attack in Captain America: The Winter Soldier – and Cap’s belief that Bucky can be vindicated.
The main division comes when the government decides to impose a Hero Registration Act, a law that limits a hero’s actions. Tony Stark/Iron-Man (Downey Jr.) is confronted by a woman (Alfre Woodard) whose child died as a result of collateral damage during a big fight in Age of Ultron. The formerly ego-driven inventor is visibly shaken and becomes an advocate of new limitations. Captain America is confident of his self-righteousness and sees no reason for such legislation. Soon the Avengers line up on both sides to work things out in the best way possible – a healthy fight!
I have often wondered about the innocent people who die during a battle in a major town, whether by Avengers, Transformers, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Imagine how such mayhem would rattle a community. Civil War takes time to think these things through in a thoughtful fashion.
The plot is still overstuffed and somewhat messy, but I enjoy the characters so much that I can forgive the excess. And – with the exception of the first big fight scene which is loud and tiresome – the film just keeps getting better along the way with much humor to break down the tension. There’s even an unironic scene in Cleveland, Ohio (thanks to the Russo Brothers, who grew up in Cleveland and have a great love for the city).
These Marvel superheroes are going to be around for a long time. If the films can be as much fun and as thoughtful as Captain America: Civil War, I will be along for the ride.
Three halos: A surprisingly thoughtful comic book film with moments of reflection mixed in with the action.
One pitchfork: Mild swearing; comic book violence; a few nasty comments in the heat of the moment.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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