Near the beginning of “Captain America: Civil War,” the superheroes known as The Avengers sit for a tongue-lashing by Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross. He’s angry about the major cities the crew has destroyed in various movies, including New York City; Washington, D.C.; some place called Sokovia; and now Lagos, Nigeria.
Ross, played by William Hurt in a stern suit, wants to rein in the Avengers. “For the past four years,” he fumes, “you’ve operated with unlimited power and no supervision!”
You could say the same about Disney-Marvel, the studio team that formed in 2009 and has been laying waste to the box office ever since. In “Captain America: Civil War,” the title hero and his friends are accused of being arrogant and domineering. Audiences might feel the same about these movies some day — but only when they stop being entertaining.
That point hasn’t arrived quite yet. The third “Captain America” film entertains relentlessly, which is to say loudly and busily, but with enough humor and intelligence to make it seem less pandering than it actually is.
Its central theme of unchecked power has a topical resonance in a post-Snowden era, but of course that’s hardly the point. “Civil War” is here to provide explosions, stunts, big-budget effects and the answer to such burning questions as: Who would win in a fight — Captain America (Chris Evans) or Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)?
After the Avengers split into two camps — with Iron Man uncharacteristically bowing to the authorities while the Captain refuses — we’ll watch an enjoyable free-for-all involving Scarlett Johansson’s athletic Black Widow, Paul Bettany’s godlike Vision and many, many more.
Neither The Hulk nor Thor show up, but hey, there’s Paul Rudd as the jocular Ant-Man! And newcomer Chadwick Boseman (“42”) as the cult favorite Black Panther! And Tom Holland as the very newest Spider-Man (he’s young and slightly fidgety)!
Lurking behind the chaos is Daniel Bruhl as Zemo, whose nefarious plans include the Captain’s old frenemy, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).
Directed with all the requisite bombast by Anthony and Joe Russo from a crammed but fast-paced screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, “Captain America: Civil War” is a well-built machine that performs its function perfectly. In other words, the domination continues.