At the movies: ‘Captain America: Civil War’
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie
Disney, Rated PG-13, Action, Fantasy, 147 minutes
In this third chapter centered around Avenger Captain America, the Avengers become the subject of a U.N. referendum seeking to place the do-gooders under U.N. authority. The referendum gains broad-based support due to the collateral damage arising from Avenger missions.
The Avengers are advised by U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) to sign a contract stipulating their agreement to the oversight, otherwise the Avengers will become renegades to be treated as outlaws should they continue to fight crime.
Tony Stark/Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.), favors the U.N. oversight, but Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) doesn’t trust the shifting agendas of any political power brokers. He believes only the Avengers can and should determine which causes deserve their attention.
Stark and Rogers’ disagreement splits the Avengers into two camps. Each position has merit, but while Stark craves oversight for personal reasons, Rogers is operating purely from an ethical stance.
Stark wants to continue being a superhero, but he also hopes to win back Pepper Potts (who does not appear in this film). She left Stark due to his refusal to hang up his Ironman suit, but if he can convince her that the world requests his involvement to put down global threats, he believes she will relent.
Until this chapter, Downey worked a kind of magic, with the actor making us believe that Stark — frequently arrogant and unintentionally cruel — can also be vulnerable and generous to a fault. But this screenplay leaves little room for Downey to reprise the Stark we are drawn to, and faced with the character’s know-it-all narcissism, we root against him.
Rogers doesn’t give us a character to love either. He exists in a reality where right triumphs over all odds. He doesn’t think twice about putting those he cares for in peril if doing so helps to achieve his goal.
The film tracks the changing attitudes of each avenger — at least those returning for this film. Supporting Stark’s position are James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and as the solar-powered android Vision (Paul Bettany). On Rogers’ side are Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Unable to choose a side is the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), whose loyalties are evenly split. The Hulk is no longer active, but Stark recruits a budding young Spider-Man (Tom Holland), along with the African vigilante Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) to his team. For his part, Rogers makes new allies in Ant Man (Paul Rudd) and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
With Stark’s and Rogers’ positions intractable, the film stages Avenger-against-Avenger battles in which the goal is not to kill, but to subdue, and ultimately to assert one’s position as dominant.
As per all Avengers movies, there’s an outside villain. Here that villain’s agenda may make sense to avid Avenger fans, but to the casual viewer the bad guy’s motivation falls somewhere between obtuse and ridiculous. Meanwhile, the public, various governments and the U.N., seem mighty ungrateful for all the “world saving” the Avengers have done. Sure, they aren’t perfect, but the alternative — letting superbaddies run amok — seems unthinkable.
In recent years superhero films have centered around distrust of those gifted with extraordinary abilities. “Captain America: Civil War” takes that concept to the next level, having our superheroes strongly distrust one another. True, they are flawed beings like the rest of us; but unlike most of us, when debate fails, they settle their differences on the battlefield. We enjoy seeing them do battle, making this film a huge hit with audiences and critics alike. Perhaps this reflects our own frustration over increasingly polarized political viewpoints and our deep desire to pound the opposition into right thinking, i.e., our own.
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