A clear theme has developed in comic book adaptations in 2016: It would kind of suck to have superheroes flying around saving the world.
They would wreck buildings. Innocent people would die. The media would think the worst of costumed vigilantes and the government would try to control them.
That was the case in "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice," the "Supergirl" TV series and now "Captain America: Civil War." All are abruptly dark takes on what has traditionally been light, easygoing fare, but it does force fans to take a hard look at their popcorn-chomping, soda-sipping fantasies of superheroic justice.
The latest example seems geared to make little kids cry as they watch their heroes punch each other bloody and kick each other through walls. But maybe kids will identify with the petty antics that set the Avengers at odds. There's even a moment when Iron Man demands that Captain America give back a toy that his dad made for him, because he's not playing fair. My sons, ages 9 and 3, never flinched at the screening.
"Civil War" is a ridiculous movie, especially when two battle lines of angry heroes square off for an idiotic rumble reminiscent of finger-snapping "West Side Story" Jets-Sharks tangles. But damned if it isn't fun to watch Ant-Man infiltrate Iron Man's armored suit to mess with the wiring, Scarlet Witch light up Vision and Spider-Man pull off a Johnny Lawrence-approved leg sweep of Captain America.
This is the cinematic equivalent of a little kid taking his action figures and ramming them together for two and a half hours, and that is a compliment, not a complaint. The movie soars in joyous spectacle where it could have withered in sour gloom as "Batman vs. Superman" did. My only complaints is that Thor and Hulk are nowhere to be found, with little explanation other than that they and the never-present-in-Disney Marvel movies, Fox-licensed X-Men always happen to be out to lunch when big issues pop up in Avengersland.
The fact that Spider-Man is here, though, is enough to make the inner fanboy pop a braces-lined smile. It's heartening to see Spidey swing-kick his way through the mountains of legal webbing that prevented the Sony-licensed hero from playing with his superhero buddies.
There is a mysterious bad guy in the movie, but his only purpose is to get Captain America and Iron Man to stop wrestling in the yard and come back inside for ice cream. Their reasons for making friends again are as dumb as their reasons for fighting, but none of it really matters.
Like comic books, these movies exist not to solve issues, but give you reasons to buy the next issue. This movie accomplishes that, but then, so did the horrid "Batman v. Superman." We need our comic book heroes, so long as they restrict their building wrecking for the silver screen.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4