Captain America: Civil War is good but not marvellous
Captain America: Civil War has arrived trailing such critical acclaim it’s as if Elizabeth Olsen’s✓ Scarlet Witch has taken control of reviewers’ minds (“You will give it five stars or you will never be invited to a Marvel movie again”).
This third Captain America movie is far from the best ever Marvel movie, as certain hyperventilating reviewers have anointed it. But it does feature arguably the best ever scene to leap from the rapidly expanding Marcel Cinematic Universe.
There are no aliens pouring through a wormhole or a city being lifted into the stratosphere. This searing sequence simply involves the warring Avengers leaders Captain America and Iron Man fighting in a lonely lair, a slugfest of startling intensity sparked by shocking revelations concerning Tony Stark’s long-dead parents.
Indeed, there are several such moments when Civil War achieves a refreshing gravitas and maturity, with directors Anthony and Joe Russo pushing the Bourne-style grit and urgency they introduced with their previous Captain America movie, Winter Soldier, to thrilling new levels. For the first hour or so it feels like these superheroes live in our world.
That bracingly grounded quality evaporates during the centrepiece smack down in which the superheroes lining up behind Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who wants the Avengers to submit UN control, face off against those taking the side of Captain America (Chris Evans), who wants thos to remain independent.
So cartoonish and jokey is this deliriously over-the-top, over-stuffed sequence — we even get cameos from the new Spider Man (Tom Holland) and Ant Man (Paul Rudd) — it recalls the insane street fight in Anchorman. And when Ant Man transforms himself into a giant a la the Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters it feels like Marvel has jumped the shark.
Indeed, this and the admittedly funny sitcom interlude in which Tony Stark recruits Spider Man to his cause feel like they’ve been dropped into an otherwise serious-minded movie about the controls that should be applied to these Lycra-clad weapons of mass destruction. It’s entertaining but odd and incoherent.
There’s a terrific scene in which the normally cavalier former arms dealer Stark debates Evans’ World War II veteran Steve Rogers about the independence of the Avengers (Downey Jr. has dialled down the motor-mouth schtick this time around and his character has surprising force).
However, the rest of the movie fails to follow through on this tantalising set-up, taking us into interesting territory – the Captain America/Winter Soldier relationship continues to deepen and complicate – but not dramatising this core debate about who should have their finger on the superhero button.
Captain America: Civil War has plenty of eye-popping moments — even the weirdly out-of-place and annoyingly unmotivated superhero brawl is full of laugh-out-land, gasp-inducing flourishes — but you wished everyone involved was pulling in the same direction, like the warring Avengers themselves.