In this image released by Disney, Anthony Mackie, from left,  Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan appear in a scene from "Captain America: Civil War." (Disney-Marvel via AP)

In this image released by Disney, Anthony Mackie, from left, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan appear in a scene from "Captain America: Civil War." (Disney-Marvel via AP)

Reeling it in: ‘Civil War’ lives up to billing

“Captain America — Civil War”

Marvel Entertainment

2 hours, 27 minutes

For those of us (and there must be quite a few of us judging by the box office numbers) that love superhero movies, this is a crazy time to be alive. Just a little over a month ago we were treated to a movie that should have been a slam dunk — the terrible “Batman v Superman.” A movie where the two most iconic superheroes in the world face off seems like a no-brainer but somehow Warner Brothers and Zack Snyder flubbed it big time.

Then, this last weekend, Marvel presented us with a massive showdown between what used to be considered B- and C-level superheroes. Seriously, in 1985, if you had suggested that a movie with Iron Man and Captain America would be more popular than a movie with Batman and Superman, you’d have been laughed out of the room. But the work Marvel Studios has done in developing their characters, slowly over time, pays off huge — to the tune of a potential billion-plus dollars.

My one complaint about the last “Captain America” movie was that it wasn’t inclusive in the least. “Winter Soldier” basically figured you’re either a Marvel Universe fan or you’re not, and if you’re not, too bad. Luckily, I am, but I understand others getting tired of the whole continuing saga thing.

“Ant-Man,” on the other hand, came along last year and acted as a great Marvel movie with no barrier to entry. It was a little known character with a fun comic actor in the lead and it was fantastic.

“Civil War” kind of plays both sides of that divide, while essentially doing double duty as a “Captain America” movie and an “Avengers” film. There are quite a few details in the film that will make little to no sense if you’re not up on the plot, but, on the other hand, the film is full of great moments with superheroes you know and love and is purely enjoyable for that alone.

The plot is essentially thus: Captain America and the new Avengers are working in the war torn city of Lagos, trying to track down the villain Crossbones. In battling this foe, the team incurs some collateral damage which serves as the straw that breaks the camel’s back. After the destruction in New York, Washington, D.C., and Sokovia, the world has had enough. A joint resolution of the U.N., called the Sokovia Accords, determines that the Avengers will only be allowed to act when directed to do so by that self-same body.

While Tony Stark’s Iron Man is feeling the anguish and guilt of senselessly lost lives, Captain America reasons that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one!). Who’s right? That’s more a personal question than one answered by the movie.

What the screenwriters do give us is real emotion and legitimate reasons to back either side. This is a Captain America movie, so that character is our focus, but the movie never cheats and simply decides who is right and who is wrong. Cap refuses to sign the Accords, and is labeled an outlaw when he moves to protect his friend Bucky, now known as the Winter Soldier from capture by the CIA.

As sides begin to form, in addition to old favorites Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, War Machine, and relative new-comer The Vision, we are introduced to a new character from the African nation of Wakanda, The Black Panther. T’Challa, newly crowned king of this technologically advanced nation, acts as his country’s defender, taking up the traditional mantle of the Black Panther. This character is great, and before long we’ll have even more of him to love as there’s a stand-alone film on the way.

Better, though, than Black Panther was getting more of Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, a funny character who adds welcome levity without stopping the action in its tracks. My favorite character, by far, however, was the relatively brief appearance by Peter Parker, otherwise known as Spider-Man.

Marvel absolutely nails the webslinger in this portrayal, and it goes to the heart of what makes these movies work so well. There’s an honesty to the depiction of Spider-Man that you don’t see elsewhere. The difference is that for Marvel, honesty means a mixture of light and dark, humor and seriousness. The young actor, Tom Holland, who plays Parker is note-perfect. He’s young, enthusiastic, geeky, awkward, but obviously very smart. He’s also poor.

The movie captures all of this effortlessly — and I mean by just presenting it as so, without making a lot of fuss in the exposition. Watching Spider-Man for five minutes in this movie will make you wonder, “Why are they trying so hard in those other movies?”

I won’t give much more of the plot away, other than to say that there’s a big battle, a couple of different villains, and a bit of a surprise reveal. Some buddies of mine were recently complaining that the Marvel movies just seem to do the same things over and over again. To some extent that’s a fair criticism. On the other nand, it’s the consistency that Marvel employs throughout their stable, that allows the studio to project solid financial success. These movies are the equivalent of your favorite restaurant meal. Solid, nicely balanced, with just the right amount of seasoning.

I loved this film — I’d go again, in fact. Maybe even three times.

Grade: A

“Captain America — Civil War” is rated PG-13 for superhero violence.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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