Captain America: Civil War is the 897th instalment — or something like it — in the Marvel comic franchise. This time round, the superheroes take sides, with the marketing asking if you’re #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan but not if you’re #TeamNeither, as would be most useful in my case. I swear this is the last Marvel film I will see as I never get anything out of them and whatever I say only sets the fans against me, which is not what you want at my age.
I only attended this one because I had read the American critics (and some of the British ones who’d had a heads up). They all said, at last, a decent Avengers movie with ‘emotional depth’ and ‘moral complexity’, and now I have to question what planet they’re living on. Seriously, if this is ‘emotional depth’ and ‘moral complexity’ then my old cat Daphne can play the ukulele, which clearly she cannot.
It features the usual suspects. Must we? List them? I suppose we must. So we have Captain America (that big chump Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr, who doesn’t so much phone it in these days as have his PA phone it in for him) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, whose PA’s PA phones it in) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, who, as always, has almost nothing to do) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson; deadly dull) and the weird one with the red face (Paul Bettany) who is always popping up. Plus, Paul Rudd makes an appearance as Ant-Man while Tom Holland trucks up as a wide-eyed teenage Spider-Man, complete with yet another origins story. Considering the number of origins stories Spider-Man has accrued to date, I’m amazed he can swing from his web given the weight of them. (Perhaps he sometimes asks: ‘Can I shed six of my origins stories before I go in for the swing?’)
The action — must we? I suppose so — opens not in Tuscany, where the Avengers are quietly enjoying one of those holidays where you learn to make pasta, which would at least make a change. Instead, it’s business as usual when their operation to stop the theft of a biological weapon in Lagos goes explosively wrong leaving dozens of civilian casualties and themselves under scrutiny. It may be that I’m misremembering, but were there any civilian casualties in the past 896 films? Didn’t whole cities go up without anyone even wandering around dazed with a nosebleed? But the plot needs what the plot needs so now the Avengers have always blown up innocent people, which leads to 100 nations gathering together and saying: this must stop. And: you must all be brought under the control of the UN.
While Iron Man is for it, Captain America, who is more Brexit, quickly goes rogue and becomes a fugitive. This could have then set the scene for, perhaps, saying something almost interesting about government control, military might and divided loyalties, but instead it results in all the superheroes choosing #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan— there are no takers for #TeamNeither, which would have been the sensible option — and basically kicking the shit out of each other rather than kicking the shit out of some badass villain, even though there is a badass villain on the loose (Daniel Brühl).
The rhythm follows the same rhythm of all these films: set piece, lame joke, set piece, lame joke, bunker in Berlin, set piece, lame joke, set piece. I’m assuming the ‘moral complexity’ is intended to be in the conflicts between the characters, but these conflicts are all so obvious and cartoonish that I absolutely failed to detect it. Essentially, the script exists only to take you from one CGI action sequence to the next. Such sequences were exciting on day one of film one, but now we’re so far along that there’s more excitement and tension to be had in pairing socks. (Is this sock’s other sock here? Is it?) Also, it’s all pointless. We know they can’t die as they’ll be required for the 898th film — slated for October, as it happens — so how anyone can make any kind of emotional investment is a total mystery to me.
Look, I don’t begrudge those who love the Avengers, as they so passionately do. I’m just genuinely perplexed. It’s been said that when a young boy has a toy in each hand what he most wants to do is to smash them together, and that’s what these films are. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it isn’t. All I know is that I’m done.
PS: please be careful what you write below the line. I’m a delicate flower and you don’t want blood on your hands.