In the latest instalment of the Avengers series, Captain America: Civil War, the actual bad guy is pointedly muted. All the better to contrast with the high drama of butting super-heads: in this corner, sometime Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr); in that, the sturdy Captain (Chris Evans).
Steroidally inflated, the running time can feel a stretch, the choppy plotting often making you feel you must have dozed off and missed something. But the cartoony vim is infectious.
The trigger for the clash is the team’s recent battle in Sokovia, eastern Europe (a moment from last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron; stick with me). Now, finally, it has been noted that every time they save the planet, a trail of carnage is the result. The proposed solution? Bringing them under the management of the UN.
Yes, OK: unpicking the political subtext of superhero movies is what film critics do to distract from writing about movies with characters called Wanda Maximoff. But here, the text is barely sub at all. Stark, usually a paragon of Randian free enterprise, accepts the idea of government regulation in a wave of guilt about Sokovia. Not so Captain America (Chris Evans). Despite limited gifts as a public speaker, he argues for the Avengers to stay free of the tyranny of accountability, beholden only to their consciences in choosing who to drop buildings on.
The Debating Society will only stay discussing moral equivalence so long. Shortly, the two sides arrive on the tarmac of Leipzig airport, each mob-handed and boasting new blood for the franchise (Chadwick Boseman’s solemn Black Panther, Tom Holland’s chipper Spider-Man). The result manages to resemble both a brawl in a Magaluf nightclub and one of the most purely delirious scenes in recent action cinema.