Following the events of Age of Ultron, the collective governments of the world pass an act designed to regulate all superhuman activity. This polarizes opinion amongst the Avengers, causing two factions to side with Iron Man or Captain America, which causes an epic battle between former allies.
The most mature and substantive picture to have yet emerged from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Call it "civil war" or call it brand extension; call it a "cinematic universe" or a corporate behemoth - the latest Marvel extravaganza furthers the studio s cross-pollination of action franchises in a way that s sure to satisfy devotees.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo continue to mine their experience with TV comedies, juggling all the members of their superhero family with a playful touch that both informs character interaction and delivers vital breathing room in between battles.
Tear away the powers, abilities and egos, though, and the third Captain America movie is at its core a deep exploration of friendship and family and what sacrifices should be made to hold onto both.
Packed to bursting with the one ingredient Batman v Superman lacked: joy.
Plotwise, there s a lot of ground to cover in Civil War (even at two-and-a-half hours). But the Russos juggle all of the murky motivations and shifting alliances with impressive deftness.
Marvel movies don t get much better than this. The trouble is, they don t want to.
These films no longer have to delight and surprise us; no, their job now is to manage the brand, not screw anything up too royally, and keep us hooked for the next installment. Civil War pulls all that off mostly well.
The best way to think of Captain America: Civil War is as a toy box in which the sheer quantity of toys partly makes up for the lack of anything new.
Marvel makes it funny, and that charm and care is what has and will keep audiences coming back over and over again.