I declared last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron the second-season finale of the self-importantly self-dubbed Marvel Cinematic Universe, which makes Captain America: Civil War a new season premiere for the most expensive TV show ever made.
Once again, anyone other than well-versed fan boys in the audience are bound to be wishing the movie came with a “Previously on…” segment to precede the action. You’ll probably be OK if you’ve taken a recent look at Ultron and the last Captain America movie (2014’s Winter Soldier), but I’m resenting the growing pile of homework Marvel expects us to do before we can follow one of its films.
When did we come to accept summer blockbusters as endurance tests for our senses? At nearly two-and-a-half hours long, Civil War is overstuffed with characters, plot strands, and explosions. So many explosions. So many bloodless explosions, the true results of the violence kept tidily off-screen — because if they weren’t, this thing would be a horror show.
As it is — despite winning performances from its massive ensemble and moments of genuine playfulness and humor — it’s a slog. This is especially true once you realize that the entire story is merely a preamble, a cinematic set-up for two more Avengers movies already in the works for 2018 and 2019.
While this entry in the series officially flies under the “Captain America” (Chris Evans) brand, it’s just as much Iron Man’s (Robert Downey Jr.) film, and is also pretty much a full-on Avengers picture too (only the Hulk and Thor are absent from the super-team).
I’ve not yet said anything specific about the plot. It makes head fakes towards being reflective of the security-vs.-liberty debates the United States has had so frequently since 9/11, but it falls apart when you come to understand that Captain America — whom I think the movie expects us to root for — is just acting like a recalcitrant child. He has his reasons. However, those reasons only appear in his previous movie, Winter Soldier, so I’m hard-pressed to explain his reluctance to permit government oversight of the Avengers’ activities purely on the basis of what occurs in Civil War.
Iron Man see things differently from Cap — believing the Avengers need to be kept in check because of the destruction they’ve inadvertently wrought during their previous adventures — and all the rest of the heroes are forced to choose sides in the fight.
Two more Marvel characters get introduced (or, rather, reintroduced) because the studio wasn’t going to pass up on the chance to work commercials for future spinoff movies into this one. The newbies are Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and an aggressively teenage Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who’s deemed so important that Civil War comes to a grinding halt for 10 minutes while he and Iron Man have a meet cute at his Queens apartment.
I’m perhaps making this sound worse than it is. I laughed some. A couple of the action sequences had a couple of exciting moments. It’s just that I’m worn out. I’m worn down. I want less from Marvel — not ever more, more, more. They’ve crushed my cinephile spirit with an onslaught of overabundance.