The PEOPLE Review: With a Great New Spidey and Black Panther, 'Captain America: Civil War' Is a Winner

Captain America: Civil War is destined to become a blockbuster hit

Photo: Marvel 2016

Like Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War starts with mankind grousing about all the collateral damage caused, time and again, by the efforts of superheroes to save the planet. Earth survives, true, but sometimes a downtown does wind up obliterated, and then the caped, the powerful, the all-but-indestructible end up hearing nothing but bellyaching. (This, not coincidentally, is one of the ongoing themes of the presidential election – does the world even deserve a country as good and helpful as the United States? Only the costumes aren’t as imaginative.)

The difference between the two blockbusters – and Captain America is destined to become one, instantly – is a matter of attitude. BvS, which was a lot more enjoyable than the reviews indicated, was intensely conscious of its mythic baggage. If you gave Batman and Superman each their own boulder to push up an endlessly steep cliff, they’d probably say, “That’s a just pebble. Got anything larger?” The characters in Captain America, by comparison, are a kind of extreme bowling league: They’ll demolish as many pins as happen to be set up, of whatever size, but they’ll make sure they have fun doing it – regardless of their own lachrymose backstories – and let us have a good time, too.

So: The United Nations solemnly informs the Avengers that henceforth they must operate under that body’s supervision, or they’ll be treated as rogue powers and dealt with accordingly. If any of these superheroes bothered to read history, they would simply laugh, say something like, “Yeah, you and your old man” and go about their business. And yet several of them, notably Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle), agree to let the UN call the shots. Captain America (Chris Evans) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), on the other hand, are not willing to serve as multilateral wusses. This sets everyone on a collision course, even though the real threat to global security has recently been thawed out of Siberian ice.

It takes a while to set all this up, but Civil War is two and a half hours long and figures you’re not going to go anywhere anyway. And once it gets going, it really has its act together: The major sequences are arguably more rapidly fluid than they need to be – CGI can sometimes play less like special effects than a superior sleight of hand – but they’re beautifully orchestrated and sustained. Once they take off, they don’t come down. Nor do you want them to.

The new Spider-Man is terrific, played by Tom Holland with a genuine boyishness reminiscent of the young Michael J. Fox. And the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) has an attractive gravitas – you almost believe he really has prowled up and down the corridors of power, both governmental and superheroic.

You also have an awesome surprise, courtesy of Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Hope Davis at the piano singing “Try to Remember.”

In short, the movie has just about everything.

Captain America: Civil War opens May 6, rated PG-13.

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