There will be some people in the audience who have read the “Civil War” comics, upon which Marvel’s latest film is based, and have made their decision based on that — that’s why I entered the theater sporting my Peggy Carter shirt, the closest one I had to a Cap one. While the movie’s conflict is similar to the one in the 2006-07 comics series, it is notably and importantly different in ways I’m not going to get into because “Civil War,” like most Marvel movies, is best enjoyed as spoiler-free as possible. Let’s just say there’s some legislation proposed that would bring the Avengers from independent contractors to more of a full-time employee status, and the tax implications (and other stuff) bother some of the heroes.
Here’s what the promotional hashtags don’t show, though: The central conflict in the movie isn’t the titular war. While every fight scene is breathtaking — literally, as in you can hear the audience exhale after each one is finished — the fights aren’t the point. The marketing simply told us that the movie is about sides, about teams, about how there’s an “us” and a “them” because “we’s” never last. And we quickly picked sides. But we forgot to ask what we’re fighting about.
As an illustration of how we’re so willing to leap into a fight we’re not even sure is ours, the lovably nerdy Cap is the only one shown actually reading the legislation that ignites the conflict. It’s possible he’s just a slow reader; it’s more probable that everyone else got the summary from BuzzFeed’s These Kitten GIFs Explain the New Rules Governing Superheroes.
“Civil War’s” PR geniuses — and geniuses they are — have used some sort of meta-marketing to illustrate the exact point the movie is making. It’s easier to pick a side than to arrive at a rationale. It’s easier to hashtag a tweet than to consider an argument. It’s easier to fight an enemy whose story you haven’t heard. It seems that all you need to make a war is to convince people they’re already in one.
Saying that Tom Holland as Spider-Man steals the movie the way Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman stole “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is unfair, because “BvS” was awful and “Civil War” is really, really not. But 14 years after Tobey Maguire donned the mask and only two after Andrew Garfield took it off, Holland needs only three scenes (stay through the credits, kids!) to firmly establish himself as the most fun, most canonical Spidey to ever swing onto the big screen.