Captain America—This Means War

Is there really nothing left for comic-book superheroes to do on the big screen but fight each other? I find that a sad state of affairs and frankly, not much fun to watch. Nothing could be as dreary as Batman v Superman, but this latest Marvel offering is teeming with good guys, including two “converts” from the last movie, Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and several new recruits: Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). That’s a lot of characters to juggle, even for series screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who did such a good job with the last Captain America movie. They also have to introduce a new villain and a character or two who straddle the fence.

The premise of this chapter in The Avengers saga is sound and intelligent: having created a certain amount of havoc in their last call to action, the government wants to regulate the actions of our heroes. Even the iconoclastic (and egotistical) Iron Man, Tony Stark, thinks this is a good idea. But true-blue Captain America does not: he feels the Avengers have proven themselves and shouldn’t be restrained in any way. With this, the other Avengers are forced to choose sides.

Captain America-Civil War

Photo by Film Frame (Courtesy of Marvel)

No wonder Captain America: Civil War  is almost two and a half hours long: there are so many plot threads and character arcs to deal with. The novelty of introducing a new Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is a high-point, but to my great disappointment, Ant-Man gets short shrift (and that’s putting it mildly).

Bigger isn’t always better, and this film is bursting at the seams. Are the action scenes spectacular? Yes. Are the characters well-defined? Yes, and that’s what saves the movie. But I found it more frustrating than entertaining.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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June 2024