We put off seeing this until the last possible moment, but it had such good reviews (90% from audiences and critics on RT) that I really didn’t want to miss it. Now I’ve already pointed out that I’m kind of jaded about superhero movies. There have been so many of them, and they’re kind of all running together. So I thought maybe I was just not getting into the spirit of things when, at the end of this movie, I found myself thinking, “Wow, that was kind of boring” until I heard:
“Well, that was boring.”
Let us step around all the craziness of this film. A lot of it is not good comic book craziness, like Doc Ock (in Spider-Man 2) solving the problem of controlled fusion by first solving the problems of Artificial Intelligence and robotics, but just the sort of stupid unexplained plot conveniences the movie figures nobody will ask about. Like how the ultimate villain of the piece arranged the massive conspiracy needed to carry out his plan with no apparent relevant background or security clearance. Or like how the camera just happened to be rolling on this deserted road 25 years ago, providing incriminating footage that the faux-villain was not aware enough to avoid, but was aware enough to destroy the camera after all of his crimes had been recorded. I’m even willing to overlook the stupidity of a superhero—a high-tech superhero with all kinds of holographic and computer hacking skills—would immediately jump to “Well, there’s the bad guy, right there on a security camera, and we know that couldn’t possibly be faked. It’s beyond our technology!”
All this could be overlooked if the dramatic potential of the film weren’t so poorly set up and executed. The crux of the idea, from the comic books if I’m not mistaken, is that, in the wake of Avengers 2 the UN wants to regulate superheros. They’ll only be able to act if the world leaders agree they can act. We can ignore the stupidity of that, too, even though:
- they saved the world in A2, but this seems to count for nothing;
- when I read comix (lo, those many years ago), there were often codas where the superheroes would clean up the messes they had made, and everyone was happy but the fact that they don’t show this in the movies has become “Well, they never do it, and so we hate them”
- this kind of plays the audience for chumps and/or means the heroes really are pretty awful.
None of this would bug me (much) if this was all used in service of a great character-driven story, which is the whole point of the story to begin with. Well, okay, that’s not entirely fair: Hero vs. hero matchups are big because 10-year-old boys like to debate “Who would win in a fight between The Lone Ranger and Zorro?” (I suppose the classic pairing is “Batman vs. Superman” but of course Batman always has to win in a fight between him and Superman, because it’s the only narrative that provides any drama.) But here, one would expect to see the conflict between the libertian-ish, doesn’t like to be told-what-to-do Iron Man fighting against the Man while the law-abiding, America-loving and now (because we’re a global community, and the U.N. isn’t a corrupt rape-machine in this fantasy world) a U.N. loving Captain America signs up with the forces of law-and-order and…
Wait, what? It’s reversed? Iron Man is submitting to the whim of a third-party council of people who famously can’t agree on anything? And Captain America—who even has a speech about how he’s always been an outsider, even in the Army—which I’m guessing, as a guy who never read more than a single Captain America comic book in his life, would be news to his creators Simon and Kirby.
Well, okay, so there must be a good reason for all this. Why would Iron Man suddenly give up his autonomy? Oh, he killed an innocent person? Wait…an innocent person got killed while he was saving the world. And he feels guilty for that. Even though Alfre Woodard wouldn’t have been alive to tell him that had he not saved the world. He feels so guilty, and so completely convinced, that he’s ready to go out and kill another person—Bucky Barnes, Winter Soldier, or at least let him be killed without a trial because some grainy security footage and the U.N. says so.
Actually, Mr. Stark is a total murder machine in this movie. First, he endorses this bit of authoritarian nonsense, and later wants to kill another character because of what that character did under mind control. Now, look: Everyone’s always getting mind controlled in comix. It’s like the “evil twin” in soap operas: Every single superhero at some point or another has been forced to do something against his will, including Tony Stark who’s always having his magic suits hijacked. The idea that you would kill someone because of what they did while under a sinister power’s control means you pretty much have to kill everyone.
It makes no sense. I’m still wondering how it rates 90% RTs. The Boy, who demurred from seeing this, kindly refrained from gloating when I told him about it, though he’s brought it up more than once since then, the little bastard. (I think he was nursing a grudge because he’s been researching the American Civil War this year, and gets pissed off every time he has to filter through this nonsense.)
OK, but at least the action’s good, right?
Eh. Not really. It goes on too long and most of it has little flavor. Where you might enjoy it more than I is if you’re invested in the characters (such as they are). That way you might just consider the very match-up to be high drama. But it’s mostly nonsense. In the big fight scene at the end of the second act, they have to keep vanishing the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) because she’s basically infinitely powerful. Meanwhile the Black Widow and Hawkeye have their little slapfights while thousand megawatt energy bolts are flashing around them. And…good lord…Black Widow sides with Stark! War Machine (the once respectable Don Cheadle) even points out the insanity of this.
The highlights are the appearances of non-Avengers, Spider-Man and Ant-Man. The Spider-Man stuff in particular is entertaining, although Stark teaming up with Parker screws up the whole poverty storyline that is virtually Peter Parker’s rasion-d’etre. That aside, casting someone who is believable as a high-school student was a good way to potentially reboot the series (yet again). Paul Rudd is good as Ant-Man but he’s not in the movie much.
Look, it’s not great. It’s not even good, really. I’m just going to assume the crazy good reviews are a mixture of Marvel fanboys and critics who want to suck up to Disney. I can’t really recommend it at all unless the comic book thing—and maybe the Marvel thing explicitly—is your jam.