The trick to watching any Marvel film is not to overthink it. That’s even more pertinent with Captain America: Civil War. In short, the story is a mess and the action is cool as hell – but you knew that already, right?
The real question is why isn’t this an Avengers film? Because really, this is an Avengers film. It’s just the narrative is ever so slightly focused on the Cap’n.
That’s because the team has now been split in half, with Captain America (Chris Evans) leading one team and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) leading the other. The UN are seeking to control the Avengers and limit their powers. Iron Man’s into it. Captain America, not so much.
All this limited plot device serves to do is pit the heroes against one another in a huge fight two thirds through the film. Yes it’s exciting. Yes it’s well choreographed. Yes their powers are combined in cool ways. But really, throughout the film the plot is there simply to signpost towards the next action sequence. At the heart of the story is an interesting notion: with all the epic CGI explosions and destruction, should the Avengers be forced to compensate for their actions? Yet the writers never build a compelling narrative around this question, leaving it ultimately unanswered. None of the characters develop over the course of the film, so there’s no need to emotionally invest – least of all with new villain Zemo (the excellent Daniel Brühl). It’s a clever idea for an everyman to manipulate the heroes into destroying each other, but in the process Zemo himself is hugely underdeveloped.
What’s more, the film takes a more-is-more approach by throwing in every character you can imagine. Sadly Thor and Hulk are M.I.A, but all those characters you forgot from the last couple of films are included, as well as Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man whose “humour” is just embarrassingly misjudged. Admittedly there’s a great sense of equality and inclusion with these characters, and it’s great to see Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch getting plenty of screentime. But if you missed out on a couple of films in this grand soap opera of a superhero series, then tough. It’s less a film franchise than an elongated TV series – miss an episode and you’ll be lost.
And then there’s Spiderman. That’s right, Spiderman. He’s back…again, this time played by Tom Holland. And yet this is one of the film’s brightest spots. One particular scene sees Iron Man recruiting the young Peter Parker to join his side of the fight. There’s some great comedy between the pair and Holland’s is a goofier more youthful take on the character than in past films. His standalone Spiderman film will certainly be worth watching.
And so is Captain America: Civil War. As popcorn entertainment goes, it’s a rollercoaster ride of mindless action that is never less than enjoyable. Just ignore the story – let the special effects seep into your face and don’t even try to create an emotional connection with the characters. Sit back and…well...marvel.
Watch: Captain America: Civil War is out now.