Batman and Superman aren't the only superheroes at odds this year, but while the setup might be similar, their messy "Dawn of Justice" showdown doesn't even compare to the pure blockbuster joy of "Captain America: Civil War."
Walt Disney Studios showed the film Wednesday morning to a rapt audience of theater owners and industry types at CinemaCon in Las Vegas in advance of its theatrical bow on May 6.
The film, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo ("Captain America: The Winter Soldier"), finds the Avengers divided over their guilt about the peripheral body counts that always seem to be a consequence of their attempts to save the world. It's a theme — the real life costs of supersized powers — that is permeating more than one story line in this age of ongoing superhero movies.
Thus in "Civil War," half of the Avengers decide to submit to international oversight, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). They get an assist from two new characters, too — Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who gets a big, quite funny and impressive introduction before debuting in his own film, "Spider-Man: Homecoming," out in 2017, and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who has a stand-alone film coming in 2018.
The other side, anchored by Captain America (Chris Evans), includes Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). They're not into the whole regulation thing, and would rather be outlaws — especially when a conflict arises involving Captain America's old friend Bucky Barnes, aka Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
The first few acts tread water in the lead-up to the climatic battles (there are a few). The absence of former "Avengers" director Joss Whedon is most felt in these early scenes that could have used a little more wit and banter. The essence of the conflict feels like a bit of a MacGuffin, too — but that barely even matters once the fighting starts and you're reminded just how enjoyable these characters are when they're together — even in conflict.
Marvel gets by with a lot of deficiencies on the strength of its characters' charisma, and "Civil War" is no exception. It doesn't matter how iconic the superhero is if they can't keep an audience's attention for nearly a decade of movies. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn't rather spend a few minutes with Ant-Man, a character most of us hadn't even heard of three years ago, than an entire film with this iteration of Superman.