In the comic version of “Civil War,” Captain America (Chris Evans) ends up imprisoned and the Avengers are disbanded. While a polarizing storyline at the time, I remember thinking around the time of the first “Avengers” movie that it would make for a great film adaptation. Now that it has come to fruition, however, I can’t say I’m that impressed. This is not because “Captain America: Civil War” is a bad film, but because it made no meaningful changes to the genre, has no ambition (aside from making millions of dollars) and ultimately will fade into obscurity as the runty, unimportant middle child in the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU).
The movie opens with the new Avengers, sans Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk creating some collateral damage on the streets of Lagos, their location announced through giant, all-caps letters reminiscent of a Robin Thicke video. Eventually, a rift is formed in the group regarding the lack of oversight over the Avengers, with Iron Man’s (Robert Downey Jr.) camp in favor of governmental regulation while Captain America is opposed. Though this does seem contrary to Stark’s attitude regarding his suits in his own movies, it does make sense that a hero named after America would support a lack of government regulation over something with the ability to kill hundreds of innocent bystanders (gun control reference here).
I won’t delve too much more into the plot because every plot point of any interest was already presented in the trailer. The Avengers disagree about oversight, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is all mindfucked, the Avengers fight at an airport and Captain America, Bucky and Iron Man have a three-way (fight) in some dimly lit room accompanied by loads of shaky cam. The only thing of note not in the trailers were the in-movie trailers for the upcoming Marvel adaptations of Black Panther and Spider Man.
You know who I feel bad for? Chris Evans. Iron Man and Thor get to have feature films all to themselves, free from minor characters and unburdened from having their films only serve to introduce new characters to join the constantly growing supporting cast. Then there’s the minor characters who occasionally pop up in other films but mostly serve to exist in the bigger Marvel productions and in the hearts of some die-hard fanbases over on Tumblr. Stuck in the middle of it all is Captain America. Every film with his namesake has served as a springboard for some other character (e.g., Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky/The Winter Soldier) and he’s usually saddled with some additional Avengers cast members hogging screentime. It doesn’t help that for how well-written these characters are, Captain America happens to be the most boring one. He’s bland, mild-mannered and not particularly funny, which doesn’t help when he has to share his own movies with far more interesting characters. You can’t put Evans on screen with Robert Downey Jr. and expect him to hold his own. Much like I shouldn’t have expected this movie to hold its own in the span of constant-hype and far better, past movies that make up the flux of the MCU.
Now, it’s at this point where I would unabashedly spoil the ending, but in truth there’s nothing to spoil. This movie, like all Marvel movies, has well-choreographed fighting, was well-acted and had enough humor and levity to keep me entertained until the end credits. But to what end? Nothing’s changed, no one has grown as a character and everyone is left in a perfect position for the next “Avengers” movie slated for release in 2018. If this movie had any balls it would have killed off someone major, permanently divided the cast or done anything rather than fill the space until 2018. While other superhero films like Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” were hearty steak dinners, “Captain America: Civil War” is a donut full of empty calories and no agency.
After watching the film, I made a little exercise where I looked at the span of all the Marvel movies, thinking about which ones could be cut with no consequence (e.g., “Iron Man 2”) and which ones actually made some useful contributions to character or plot development (e.g., “Iron Man 3”). I’m sorry to say that this film ended up in the former category, with the only difference being a few million added to some Disney executives’ bank accounts.