Captain America: Civil War review - the most cohesive Marvel Studios offering yet
The main problem with superheroes running wild across the world is simple: they leave a trail of destruction. Buildings blown to smithereens. Civilians dead. Highways destroyed. And much, much more.
Which is why Captain America: Civil War begins on a note where political pressure has forced the government to install a system of accountability. That's layer one of the titular civil war - this new status quo creates a rift with Captain America (Chris Evans) on one side and the egotistical Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) on the other.
Infighting looks to be the flavour of the 2016 superhero blockbuster season. First we were force fed the not so appetising Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that was more focused on setting up the universe than developing a coherent story.
Also read - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Drama and Incoherence
But where the DC film got it wrong, the Marvel one got it right on many counts. In fact, it's a thousand times better. Functioning as both a sequel to Captain America: The Winter Solider and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the film is the most comprehensive Marvel Cinematic Universe chapter to date.
The film does what the best Marvel films do: juggling multiple characters so each is allowed its moment in a story that pushes forward the series' overall continuity, while also forming and concluding its own cogent plot.
The Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen) wrestles with the consequences of her immense power; Vision (Paul Bettany) starts getting to grips with being "human"; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) finds herself torn when the battle line is drawn; and supposed retiree Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) just can't stay out of the fight.
Then there are the new recruits: Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), a new and renewed Spiderman (Tom Holland) who gets absolutely one of the best introductory scenes ever and Paul Rudd's Ant-Man.
The battle lines are drawn
Following a mission in Lagos, an accidental explosion is the final straw that calls for the Sokovia Accords, a document that would make the Avengers subservient to a UN council.
Some superheroes, led by Tony Stark (still wracked with guilt over the entire Ultron incident), believe they need to be kept in check and that the cost of innocent lives has become too high. Other superheroes, led by the good Captain, believe that "the safest hands are still our own."
The second trigger
Matters are further complicated by Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier), who's implicated in a terrorist attack on the UN that puts both sides on his tail.
It's for that reason that this is not just an Avengers movie despite having the most stacked cast yet. It's still a Captain America movie through and through, further exploring The Winter Soldier's major theme - the cost of freedom - while Bucky is even more integral to the plot than he was in the film that bore his own name.
The Captain's defence of Bucky is questionable: he may be his childhood friend, but now he's a lethal, robot-armed killing machine forever in danger of being reactivated by Hydra. But then again, there are huge flaws in Tony's arguments - mainly that he refuses to see fact and reason.
Hawkeyes delivers a biting and memorable line about Tony: "He know what's best for you whether you know it or not." And it's true - the man refuses to see anyone else's point of view and blindly blunders on, forcing the rift to widen. You'd think he'd realise that perhaps Captain America knows better - after all the superhero is technically almost a hundred years old.
The action is solid, as is the camera work - which sweeps up and down with the action without going too wild.
And then there's the 20-minute sequence set at an airport in Berlin which features one of the most spectacular superhero brawls in history.
Everyone gets a moment to shine, not least of which Tom Holland's friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler and Rudd's amazing miniature man who run away with the lion's share of the battle's memorable moments.
I mean, here you get Ant-Man vs Spider-Man, Hawkeye vs Black Widow, Scarlet Witch vs Vision, The Winter Soldier vs Black Panther and (duh) Captain America vs Iron Man, all rolled into one.
So even though you know they don't want to fight to kill, it's still an awesome display of powers, skills, strength and gadgets - half the reason why we match Marvel/DC films.
There's also a great deal of less flippancy than usual, but the comedic breaks are there in just the right proportion.
Comic book adaptations can be fickle beasts. But when done well, they shine. Civil War is a super satisfying film in that regard and also because it takes its characters and not itself seriously
Despite being half an hour longer than the average Hollywood flick, it's dynamic, entertaining and you're not going to be itching to leave you seat.
And the best part, you ask? It's obvious: Paul Rudd is in the film.