Marvel’s summer kicks off with Civil War

Regardless of any critical evaluation, positive or negative, Marvel’s latest summer extravaganza Captain America: Civil War is a blockbuster-to-order. Opening first in China to boffo box-office, it’s done likewise on its opening weekend.

Not unlike the recent Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Civil War sees its superheroes stepping back to contemplate the consequences of their actions, the destruction they’ve wrought (even when saving the world and/or universe), and the collateral damage incurred as a result.

At the behest of the William Hurt’s Secretary of State, one Thaddeus Ross, the Avengers are asked to operate under the jurisdiction and discretion of the United Nations – a notion that sits well with some, including Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, but not so much with others, including Chris Evans’ Captain America. (Marvel mavens will note that Hurt is reprising his role from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, when Thaddeus Ross was better known as gung-ho Gen. “Thunderbolt” Ross.)

Captain America’s loyalties are torn between his fellow Avengers and his boyhood best friend, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), whom the Soviets turned into the super-villain Winter Soldier during the last gasp of the Cold War. Winter Soldier, of course, caused all sorts of problems in the previous Captain America outing, which was aptly subtitled The Winter Soldier, and he’s not out of trouble yet.

Concerns about collateral damage are quickly dispensed with when the Avengers pick sides, leading to a tag-team grudge match that represents the film’s high point. Sibling directors Anthony and Joe Russo, encoring from Winter Soldier – and, indeed, surpassing it – provide the grand-scale special effects that are de rigueur for this sort of film, although it occasionally gets bogged down by idle chit-chat.

Given the presence of Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd and Frank Grillo. Captain America: Civil War is an Avengers movie in everything but name.

With a few exceptions, and a few additions, the gang’s all here. So are Marisa Tomei, Daniel Bruhl, Martin Freeman, Alfre Woodard, John Slattery, Hope Davis, John Kani and, naturally, Marvel founder Stan Lee (as the world’s oldest FedEx deliveryman).

Adding a boost to the proceedings are Rudd’s Ant-Man; Chadwick Boseman (completely atoning for Gods of Egypt) as the African prince T’Challa, who dons the costume of Black Panther; and Tom Holland, who brings a bubbly boyishness to the “new” Spider-Man – of whom the end credits announce a forthcoming return, sparking yet another franchise overhaul/reboot.

With no end in sight for Marvel movies, Civil War not only represents an improvement over Winter Soldier (2014) and last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, but perfectly sets up the next installments of either – or both.

Rest assured, there will be more to come from the Marvel universe.

Indeed, the next X-Men movie is due in a matter of weeks.