Disclosure: One person plus a guest were invited to preview this movie in exchange for an honest review.
To mangle a line from another superhero universe, Captain America: Civil War is the movie we need, not the movie we want. While most fans were eager for another installment of the expanding Marvel universe, I don’t think any of us were really looking forward to seeing the team divided and battered as they are throughout this film.
The movie picks up a year after Avengers: Age of Ultron (do yourself a favor and watch it and Captain America: The Winter Soldier beforehand or you’ll be hopelessly lost) as the Avengers foil yet another bad guy, but not without the attendant collateral damage of chases and big explosions. That leads to drawn-out discussions of blame, responsibility, control, freedom, politics, and vigilanteism that are going to go over younger kids’ heads. The team quickly divides into two camps, helpfully shorthanded #TeamCap and #TeamIronMan.
The teams draw in some minor players and rising stars, including fan favorite Ant-Man (to cheers in our theater) and Black Panther (who will get his own movie in 2018). Another standout is Tom Holland as the awkwardly eager Spider-Man. On the basis of his appearance in Captain America, I’ll be in line for the Spider-Man movie next year.
The major players all have good motives, but children are going to see their heroes pummeling each other with lethal weapons — themselves and their gadgets. And if you’ve ever wondered who would win in a Captain America/Iron Man fight, the answer is: neither ultimately. That’s harder to watch, and infinitely less satisfying than seeing them vanquish villains. While the 146-minute movie doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, Marvel is willing to leave many loose ends and divisions unresolved until the next set of films.
If you’re a Marvel fan, you need to see this intense, complex movie.
Bonus: Watch for the Star Wars reference during the airport scene!