A slack, graceless hodgepodge of nerd-signalling, Cap 3 wants you to believe it’s about some grand rift. When Captain America Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and a crew of true believers go rogue to track down a baddie, there’s even a moment where a line is drawn in the sand (or, rather, blasted into the concrete) by robot Avenger the Vision (Paul Bettany). It’s surface-level imagery, given as quick a pass in the edits as any of the typically weightless action (whether the close quarters brawling, meant to evoke the Bourne films, or the CG-assisted arena combat), summing up exactly how little Marvel cares–about story, about action, certainly about politics.
For starters, the conflict between Rogers and Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.)/Iron Man is simultaneously overly-complicated and not even remotely thought out. On the one hand, marketing suggests it’s an adaptation of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Civil War crossover, where legislation designed to curb superheroes became a point of contention among the registered trademark set (a gun rights allegory unconvincingly sold as a commentary for the War on Terror). In actuality, this has little to do with the real conflict of the film, over the question of Rogers’ best friend, turned brainwashed assassin, Bucky (Sebastian Stan)–retreading Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s tale of one man torn between his past and present. Bucky wishes to be good, but is triggered by certain words into becoming a compliant killing machine. Captain America thinks he can be saved, Iron Man thinks he should be locked up.
Right there is a fine enough idea for a film. Stapling on Millar/McNiven’s already faulty work, but with less convincing trappings, diminishes the foundation of the film. (the inciting incident is literally “superheroes didn’t save all the people,” rather than “superheroes caused massive casualties,” a cowardly move intended to signal Cap’s righteousness, compared to the suddenly fussy Iron Man) You can tell it’s inessential by the way, after so much buildup, the “Civil War” portion of the movie is discarded after one distended, green-screen battle. Coupled with a joke-heavy script, where the only funny lines are uttered by cameo appearances Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland), the result is a glorified TV movie version of Batman v. Superman.