Coming out a month after the miserable bomb that was Batman V Superman has only helped to make Marvel's latest entry into the Avengers franchise look like a damn classic in comparison. Captain America: Civil War isn't as instantly likeable as the first Avengers movie was, but it's certainly a better night at the movies than watching Batman and Superman fight a battle in a bleak and murky hellscape.
And have no doubt: this is more of an Avengers movie than it is a Captain America one, with almost all of the Avengers returning, (minus big hitters Hulk and Thor), and with the addition of a few new members, including Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), to the team.
Well, actually, teams, as the central conflict pits the superheroes against each other. The world has finally gotten a little fed up with the collective collateral damage inflicted by the Avengers every time they save the world. And after innocent lives are lost one again, during the film's opening battle, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt and his amazing wig) and the U.N. decide to force the Avengers to sign an accord that would, depending on how you look at it, either completely limit their ability to act or put some much needed governance on their growing power.
Somewhat ironically, the renegade Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is for the signing of the accord, while Captain America (Chris Evans), is against it. In both cases, their reasoning is pretty selfish. Stark thinks stepping away from the Avenging biz will result in the return of his beloved, Pepper Potts (who does not make an appearance in the movie), while Cap wants the freedom to help save his friend Bucky, aka the Winter Soldier, (Sebastian Stan), who he's convinced has been wrongfully accused of a terrorist act.
As battle lines are drawn, it comes down to a "civil war," with the Avengers either joining team Iron Man or team Captain, and it's this literal fight between them all that is the highlight of the movie. Once again I couldn't help but compare it to Batman Vs. Superman, and its fight scenes, which were dark, depressing, and ugly. Here we have a huge battle in broad daylight, on a relatively uncluttered airfield, fittingly devoid of people. (After all, more innocent deaths are the last thing they need).
But, more importantly, the battle is fun. Seeing Spider-Man fight Captain America is fun. Watching Iron Man fight-in-flight with Falcon is fun. Watching Hawkeye shoot arrows at...well, ok watching Hawkeye is never fun. But the scene as a whole is still wildly entertaining, culminating in a literal giant surprise.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who directed the previous Captain America movie and also won Emmys for the work on Arrested Development, recognize the franchise's reliance on humor, so the film is peppered with some humorous asides, one-liners, and dialogue that's, for the most part, not cringe-worthy. (This time around Black Widow doesn't spend half her screen time crying about how she can't have a baby. THANK GOD.) If I have one complaint with their direction, it's that some of the action is a little too kinetic, resulting in moments that are nothing but a blur. (Seeing it in IMAX and 3D certainly doesn't help the matter.)
While there is a villain in the story, it's not the usual invading alien hordes or omnipotent superbeing; It's just a dude with a grudge. The Avengers have a lot of death to answer to, but in a clever way, the movie also manages to indict us, the audience, for getting off on the massive destruction seen in all those previous films. We should be ashamed of ourselves!
Until the next Marvel movie comes out, of course.