REVIEW / ACTION-SCIENCE FICTION
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (PG)
148 minutes/Opens on Thursday/3 stars
THE STORY: Some months after the events of Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015), an incident causes the world's governments to demand that the Avengers come under political oversight. A group led by Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) agrees, while another led by Captain America (Chris Evans) refuses. Tensions rise between the two. Meanwhile, a new menace emerges.
There is a glimmer of self- awareness in this movie when one character mockingly asks Captain America, on the eve of yet another battle: "Are you gonna punch your way out of this one too?"
Well, yes, he is - that is the point of the movie. And the point of most other superhero flicks, in which the spectacle of immovable barrier meeting unbeatable force has become the raison d'etre.
And in the Avengers films - which this is, in all but name - the emphasis is on team mayhem, on tearing up a city - or, in this case, an airport - in the least recyclable way possible.
To its credit, the villain is not a deus ex machina alien baddie with powers written to thwart their combined strengths, but a human with a cunning plan.
That story takes a while to get its engine revved up and, in a movie 21/2 hours long, that first act can feel like an eternity. But once the plot kicks in, things chug along nicely, though action scenes are blighted by shaky camera syndrome.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo do a fine job of the inevitable fan service elements, a job which these days includes lengthy insider references to Marvel books, films and television shows, as well as easing new characters into the everexpanding universe.
The only completely new character would be Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). The others are new to the Avengers films, including Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland).
It is clear the writers have a ball writing for the quip-ready Ant-Man and Spider-Man - the energy level lifts the moment they appear and falls drastically when they leave.
Still, as the poster suggests, there is a climactic face-off between Team Cap and Team Iron Man over whether the Avengers should remain vigilantes or submit to lawful oversight.
Given how much collateral damage their battles cause, it is a wonder they still need to debate the value of state-sanctioned insurance coverage and medical claims.