**MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD**
Walt Disney Studios should have changed the title from “Captain America: Civil War” (** OUT OF ****) to “Captain America: Stalemate” since none of the heroic combatants die. Co-directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, who helmed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” have the two rival divisions, led by Captain America and Iron Man, knocking the shenanigans out of each other in this contrived, drawn-out, 147 minute epic. Nevertheless, the worst thing that happens is War Machine loses control of his Iron Man style armored suit and makes an emergency crash landing in an open field. Although he suffers spinal damage, Lieutenant James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is back up and walking around with some difficulty before fadeout. Mind you, “Captain America: Civil War” amounts to a letdown when nobody puts anybody away permanently. Ultimately, the two fractions emerge evenly matched. Nobody like S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson is around to die and make a dramatic impact like in “Marvel’s “The Avengers” (2012). At least the recent DC Comics movie “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” pretended to destroy one of the two title characters. Of course, anybody with a grain of sense knows the adversary that perished in “Batman v Superman” isn’t dead. Furthermore, the DC Comics extravaganza staged a funeral, and the characters engaged in a period of mourning.
Although the premise that Captain America and Iron Man would clash is certainly provocative, the movie pulls its punches because the superheroes emerge with little more than either bruises to themselves or scratches on their respective armor. Despite several competently orchestrated physical confrontations, “Captain America: Civil War” rarely generates a modicum of suspense. Basically, the Russo brothers stage one spectacular smackdown at an evacuated airport, resolve the mystery behind the demise of Tony Stark’s parents, and introduce a new costume-clad crusader to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Black Panther makes his debut, but he seems rather tame compared with the other Marvel champs. At one point, “Captain America: Civil War” seems more concerned with rebooting the “Spider-Man” film franchise than doing something with its protagonists that its PG-13 rating would condone. Sadly enough, the characters that stand out here aren’t the title characters. Essentially, Spider-Man and Ant Man make a greater impression than any of the other Marvel titans, and Black Panther looks like Mardi Gras was his destination until he paused to participate.
Approximately five characters die on-screen in “Captain America: Civil War,” but are super heroic. United at the outset, our heroes descend upon Lagos and tangle with former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Brock Rumlow, (Frank Grillo of “The Purge: Anarchy”) a.k.a. Crossbones and his thugs. These dastards want to hijack a deadly biological weapon. Crossbones tries to kill Captain America with an explosion that obliterates his own life. Miraculously, the telekinetic Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen of “Godzilla”) contains the blast and shifts it elsewhere to detonate. Tragically, the blast demolishes a nearby building, killing many unseen, innocent bystanders. The collateral damage fallout from this incident gives the Avengers some bad publicity. Afflicted with a guilty conscience about the death of an African-American lad in Lagos, Tony Stark advocates the Sokovia Accords that the United Nations have drawn up. Basically, the Sokovia Accords establishes a panel to oversee the Avengers. Apparently, the indestructible Avengers may be responsible for killing more people than their own adversaries owing to the collateral damage that they have wrought during their escapades. Captain America (Chris Evans of “The Fantastic Four”) abhors the Accords, and he refuses to ink the pact. The death of Agent Peggy Carter solidifies his negative attitude toward the Sokovia Accords. Longtime Avengers adversary U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt of “Dark City”) now enjoys a position with more prestige than power over them. Ross, you may recall, hated the Hulk because the big green machine was in love with his daughter.
Matters grow even more critical. Steve Rogers’ World War II pal Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) is suspected of a igniting a deadly blast in Vienna where the Accords were being signed. Surveillance cameras show that Bucky was in town when the incident occurred. The blast kills King T’Chaka of Wakanda (John Kani of “The Wild Geese”), and his acrobatic son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman of “42”) dons a black bulletproof suit, a mask with cat ears, and gloves with retractable claws and embarks as The Black Panther to avenge his father’s death. One of the many problems with “Captain America: Civil War” is that it bristles with far too many characters who do far too little to each other. Mind you, T’Challa will soon have his own stand alone movie, but he looks shoehorned into this film with nothing memorable to do. Worst, the chief villain is a bland family-guy-turned-vigilante, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl of “Rush”), who is a rather dreary adversary compared with previous Marvel villains.
Anybody familiar with the Marvel Comics graphic novel will tell you “Captain America” scenarists Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely have taken liberties with the source material. In the Mark Millar graphic novel, lesser costume clad warriors destroyed an elementary school while a reality-TV crew photographed their endeavors. This wholesale destruction prompted the President of the United States to enact the Superhero Registration Act to make superheroes more accountable for their actions. Furthermore, the law required these costume-clad crusaders to divulge their true identities. Now, these heroes face the prospect of serving as Federal employees or facing arrest. Iron Man supports the act. “Becoming public employees makes perfect sense,” he proclaims, “if it helps people sleep a little easier.” Captain America opposes it, “Super heroes need to stay above that stuff or Washington starts telling us who the super-villains are.” Later, Iron Man tricks Captain America and his Secret Avengers into responding to a petrochemical plant fire where hundreds people could perish. Ultimately, Captain America surrenders after Iron Man batters him into submission.
Altogether, “Captain America: Civil War” isn’t half as good as the previous two “Avengers” movies.
“Your imagination can take you where nothing else can.” Van Roberts