Captain America:  Civil War


                Is there such a thing as comic book overload?  I never thought so when I was a kid.  But then, my brothers and I would buy maybe one comic book a week and spend 15 minutes reading it and that would be it.  Then we’d be outside playing.  “Captain America: Civil War” is 146 minutes worth of comic book action on the IMAX big screen, with a dazzling array of action sequences, but also a dizzyingly complicated plot.

                It seems that some of our superheroes have failed to take into account the collateral damage of some of their escapades.  Though they’ve been successful against the bad guys, but bystanders have been injured, and innocents have perished because of their valiant efforts.  The fact that they have been operating independently, kind of above the law, and across international boundaries, has caused the control freaks in government bureaucracies to join together and demand that this costumed vigilante group be monitored.   They are not to go out on rescue missions unless asked.  And they are not to enter other countries without permission.

                Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), for one, feels that this is a good move.  He’s a successful wealthy industrialist by day, and it suits him to play along with the rule-keepers and boundary-definers.  But his friend Captain America (Chris Evans) is pretty much a pedal-to-the-metal warrior.  He doesn’t really have any hobbies.  He kisses a girl, once, which seems about the right amount of distraction for his early-pubescent fan base.  Otherwise, he’s all-in on the superhero role, and doesn’t really want to accept somebody else’s restrictions on his activities. 

                Now the stage is set for the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America to escalate.  They’re not going to agree on this.  And neither is accustomed to giving up easily, or backing down when they think they’re right.  The other costumed crusaders are now forced to pick sides.  Let’s see, Team Iron Man has Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen), War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Spiderman (Tom Holland).  Team Captain America has Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant Man (Paul Rudd).  Each has a unique power, and the melee among them all will leave even the most loyal fan hastening to catch up to who’s fighting whom, and on which side.

                It would have been a cleaner ending had the whole alliance acquired a common enemy to reunite them once more, and they kind of had the opportunity to develop that theme, but chose not to.  It seems that Winter Soldier was programmed by the evil Soviets as a minion of their foreign espionage covert operations, but so were several others, currently held in frozen storage.  If they were suddenly unleashed, it would have taken the combined efforts of all our superheroes to combat them.  But as it turns out, that part of the plot fizzles and all the attention is focused on the in-fighting among our former team of allies.

                For those of us who prefer harmony in the land of the free and the home of the brave, it’s a bit distressing to see so much feuding over a political disagreement.  Yeah, the injuries are minimal, with such titanic clashes of superpowers, but nobody is unscathed when the chaos breaks out in earnest.  Revenge may indeed be a dish best served cold, but its congealed bitterness makes for a bitter aftertaste.

Questions for Discussion:

1)                   Which is your favorite superhero?  Has that changed over the years?

2)                  How much violence is acceptable to impose political will over others?

3)                  Has a civil war ever been a good thing?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association