Movie review: "Civil War" successfully navigates superhero stew

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

"Captain America: Civil War" had one simple job for me: to take the bad taste of "Batman v Superman" out of my mouth.

And while it's got some of the downside of the large-scale, ensemble superhero movie, it more than delivers. It's got its flaws, but I can't imagine many people will be disappointed with the results.

"Civil War" is the 13th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe arc that kicked off with "Iron Man" in 2008, and it expects you to have at least a passing knowledge of where we are in the storyline.

It contains a whopping 12 Marvel superheroes. That's a lot going on in a 2 ½-hour runtime, and it is guilty of feeling a little too busy at times. (There's a "love story" that really consists of a couple of knowing glances, because there's just no time for it.)

Still it centers on a schism between two factions of The Avengers, pivoting on differences between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and centering on Cap's friendship with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who has, you may recall, transformed into the Winter Soldier.

Look, I've gotta say this: It's flawed thinking to believe you can keep this many major characters - including a couple of key introductions - moving at the same time. There's just too much going on here.

But fortunately it's all in the hands of co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who have been steady at the helm of the Captain America films - probably the strongest of the individual Avengers movies.

Somehow "Civil War" blends serious discourse, some of the light fun and wit so missing in "BvS" and some truly thrilling action, including a centerpiece fight scene that will probably leave audiences erupting in cheers. It gets a half-star bump for the degree of difficulty, which it largely pulls off. You can skip the 3D version (seriously), but you won't want to skip the movie.

"Captain America: Civil War"

Opens Thursday

3 1/2 stars out of 4