After the letdown of Avengers: Age of Ultron and the emo antics of Batman v Superman, audiences are increasingly numb to overstuffed superhero ensemble pieces. Captain America: Civil War, though, is proof you can jam pretty much every superhero in your roster into one film and still let individuals shine.
In pitting team Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) against Team Cap (Chris Evans) over a suspiciously fascist registration law for "enhanced humans," directors Joe and Anthony Russo could have just put the heroes—familiars like Ant-Man, Black Widow and War Machine, plus newcomers Black Panther and a truly amazing Spider-Man—in a big-ass sandbox and let them duke it out. They do that, and it's spectacular. But there's nothing redundant in the action here, from a Bourne-esque opening chase to close-combat thrills reminiscent of The Raid to a surprisingly subdued and heartfelt finale.
The Russos have heard your complaints about universe-building at the expense of story. Civil War is fun. It's smart. It's coherent. And, most importantly, it allows its heart to beat strongly amid the chaos, with character moments and set pieces working in tandem to create perhaps Marvel's best film so far. Your move, DC.
Critic's Grade: A-