Collateral damage amid popcorn-munching action can be a touchy subject, and one that filmmakers feel increasingly obligated to address as the release of a new superhero flick edges closer toward becoming a bimonthly affair. There’s bound to be a few hapless innocents pancaked with every city block leveled by whatever intergalactic/spandex-clad/just plain ornery threat of the week, and each one of them has their own story (provided it’s mentioned in the script).
The governments of the world have had just about enough of this constituent smooshery in “Captain America: Civil War,” the latest big screen addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. An accord is proposed, one which would reorganize the Avengers to a government task force rather than the loose-flying bunch of ass-kickers we know and watch.
At one end of the table is Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, who feels personally accountable for the destruction his inventions and actions have caused. Across from him is the Cap himself, as played by Chris Evans, who thinks bureaucratic red tape surrounding the Avengers’ actions will cause more harm than good. Plus, the U.N. seems to have it in for his former best bud and brainwashed Hydra agent Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan.
The issues of accountability and political posturing are pushed about as far as they can while avoiding becoming a total drag on an otherwise pretty enjoyable comic book movie. But still, with brain washings, once friends but now enemies, constantly shifting swarms of characters to keep track of and each with their own silent cross to bear or secret to keep — does this seem a little “General Hospital” to you?
It’s a little hard to escape the episodic (and soap opera-ish) nature of Marvel movies by now, but that’s not wholly a bad thing, even if the narrative weight of an individual film is often taken away when braced against the united plot of the many. Fan favorites show up for some bad guy ass-whuppin’ and quality bickering with teammates old and new. The new in “Civil War” — Chadwick Boseman as the stern, but learned, Black Panther and Tom Holland as a charmingly naive Spider-Man — are particularly promising additions to the super entourage, and their coming solo adventures are hawked accordingly.
The movie’s at its best when team Stark and team Cap assemble at an evacuated airport — no pesky bystanders or moral quandaries getting in the way of the action THIS time, dammit — to lock horns and trade retorts. The Captain may have his name in the title, but there’s so many characters by now that it’s hardly his show alone, and each of his super pals get a few minutes of screen time to show off their super-sweet abilities. It’s essentially a fight scene devoted entirely to fan service, but hey, whatever. It was fun.
Things take a turn for the dour shortly after, but “Civil War” never comes close to the grimmy grim grim grim of “Batman vs. Superman.” We shouldn’t accept much finality with anything comic book-related, and there’s not so much a single story resolved here as there are many more seeded for later. But the costumes of the next act will probably look cool and the banter will probably be enjoyable, so why not tune in. There are worse ways to kill a few hours.
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