NEW YORK (CNS) – Newcomers to the Marvel Comics universe may find themselves bewildered by the turbulent adventure "Captain America: Civil War" (Disney).
In part, that's because the film is more an ensemble piece featuring the whole Avengers crew of superheroes than an outing primarily focused on the titular good guy, played by Chris Evans. Additionally, the script does little to bring the uninitiated up to speed.
At times, the old hawkers' cry "You can't tell the players without a program!" springs to mind.
As for parents, they'll have to consider carefully before allowing even older teens to view material best suited, in terms of combat scenes and vocabulary, to grown-ups.
If Captain America's place in the title seems somewhat doubtful, the phrase Civil War certainly does belong there. The plot turns on a split that develops among the "enhanced" warriors who make up the Avengers' roster as to whether or not the group should submit to United Nations supervision.
They're under considerable pressure from U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) to yield to the plan because of the collateral damage their crusades tend to exact. While Rogers, a World War II-era figure cryogenically frozen for 70 years, fears the restrictions that would come with outside direction, industrialist Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), accepts the need for such control – at least reluctantly.
As Team Cap squares off against Team Iron Man, moviegoers not fully absorbed in the spectacle of it all can speculate as to the possible political analogy underlying the conflict. Is Rogers' libertarianism and American exceptionalism meant to stand in – dare we say – stark contrast to Iron Man's internationalist bent? Is the film's message that the former is old-fashioned and outmoded, while the latter viewpoint fits with our technology-driven, globalized future?
On the moral plane, co-directors (and brothers) Anthony and Joe Russo highlight the cost of even well-intentioned mayhem as well as the downside of pursuing vengeance. But the real point of the proceedings is to watch diversely gifted uber-beings pit their outsized powers against each other.
Will Cap's adherents –- including high-flying Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and mental manipulator Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) –- outdo Stark's followers, martial arts master Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and African prince-turned-clawed-combatant Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) among them?
If you don't much care, then this third episode in the "Captain America" franchise, following up on 2011's "The First Avenger" and 2014's "The Winter Soldier," is not for you. All others –- provided they're of an age, or at least a maturity level, to handle it – should get ready to rumble.
The film contains constant strong violence, including torture, but with minimal gore, a few uses of profanity and of crude language as well as several crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.