Boasting the biggest superhero brawl ever witnessed on the big screen, "Captain America: Civil War" is thrilling audiences and critics alike, and appears destined to be one Marvel's biggest box-office successes to date. Now that we've all seen this supersized sequel (we have, right?), it's time to dig into the ensemble epic and geek out over its best bits.
Take heed: There are serious spoilers beyond this point.
You've been warned.
1. Iron Man vs. Captain America
Now this is how you do a superhero showdown! Rather than rushing this conflict, Marvel Studios carved out the differences between Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) over the course of several movies. In fact, this battle has been brewing from the moment Steve Rogers urged Tony Stark to suit up and step outside in 2012's "The Avengers." But what makes "Civil War's" conflict so devastating isn't just the brutal blows to bodies and friendships, but that none of the Avengers is presented as entirely wrong. Because of the Superhuman Registration Act, it's much easier to see Tony Stark's side, and so the audience is truly torn, which makes choosing a side -- Team Cap or Team Iron Man -- a more complicated and thought-provoking matter.
2. Bucky and Sam's Rivalry
Sure, the primary conflict is between Captain America and Iron Man, but the ripening rivalry between Bucky "Winter Soldier" Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Sam "Falcon" Wilson (Anthony Mackie) made for some of "Civil War's" best laughs. Naturally, they both have Cap's back, but a curious frenemies chemistry burned, whether Sam and Bucky were on their own in a too-tiny getaway vehicle ("Can you move your seat up?" "No!") or tag-teamed a pesky web-slinger. ("You couldn't have done that earlier?" "I hate you.") Is it too soon to ask Marvel for a "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"-style spinoff starring Sam and Bucky?
3. Vision and Scarlet Witch's Romance
This love story comes straight from the comics, but I didn't expect the Marvel Cinematic Universe to take it on, primarily because Vision (Paul Bettany) seemed too alien and stoic in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" to imagine him romancing Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Then "Captain America: Civil War" gave us just enough moments of the unlikely lovers together to ignite a small but promising spark. With his adorably awkward efforts to abide by Wanda's boundaries (enter through doors, not walls) and cook her favorite comfort food (spirit-lifting paprikash), despite having never eaten himself, Vision became a warmer character, and unexpected crush object. Those old-school pullover sweaters deserve props for their part too.
4. Spider-Man Rebooted Right
I'll admit, I groaned when I heard Spider-Man would receive his second reboot in five years, but MCU newbie Tom Holland made me a believer. For one thing, he's the first film version of Peter Parker who actually looks like a teenager. And his fresh face was a great match to Parker's earnest excitement at playboy philanthropist Tony Stark showing up at his door. Little details, like Parker being a dumpster-diving tech geek who lives in a crowded apartment block, made the character feel different from what we've seen before. And while Spider-Man's fight scenes seemed to be largely CG, Holland's voice work sold the web-slinger's zingers.
However, Parker's best moment came when the super-powered boy told his idol why he donned a costume to begin with: "When you can do the things that I can, and you don't, then the bad things that happen, they happen because of you." It's a wonky yet winsome rift on the iconic "With great power ..." maxim. And when Tony responds by calling Parker "Spider-Man" (instead of "Spider-Boy"), it's an achievement so radiant we all feel its glow.
5. Black Panther
Marvel faced an even bigger challenge bringing Black Panther into the fold, as he's a comic character who'd not yet made his way into theaters. On top of that, he'll be the first black Marvel superhero to shoulder his own movie, adding a burden of representation that so often gets Black Widow caught in the crosshairs of think pieces. But then there's another matter: How do you make Black Panther stand out among so many wildly charismatic and beloved characters? The short answer: Make him a coolly composed ass-kicker.
He won our hearts leaping (in vain) to save his father from a deadly explosion, but T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) blew our minds when he took on the Winter Soldier, first in full Black Panther gear (complete with bullet-proof suit and razor-sharp claws), and then simply in his civilian clothes. While a brainwashed Bucky ripped through Cap, Falcon, Sharon Carter, Tony and Natasha ("You could at least remember me!"), the Wakandan king was the only one who gave him a real run for his money in that canteen brawl. Boseman's regal carriage coupled with T'Challa's emotional shift from revenge to justice has us counting the days until "Black Panther" hits.
6. So Much Sass!
Joss Whedon cemented rapid-fire banter as an MCU trademark with "The Avengers," and the directing duo Anthony and Joe Russo has kept the legacy alive, notably with one-liners and witticisms from the likes of Falcon and Black Widow. Sure, Tony will always be the big mouth with the pop-culture references that confuse Cap, but Falcon stole some thunder, shouting at a garrulous Spider-Man, "I don't know if you've ever been in a fight before, but there's not usually this much talking."
Yet when feisty Falcon faces off verbally with the wry Black Widow, she gets the final punchline:
"Has anyone ever told you you're paranoid?"
"No to my face. Why, have you heard something?"
7. Ant-Man Geeks Out
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a screw-up and a sometimes-superhero, but "Civil War" showed us a delightful new dimension to Ant-Man. Upon meeting Captain America, Lang leaps from midday-nap mode to full-on fanboy, rambling, "I know you know a lot of super-people, so think you for thanking of me ... I am shaking your hand too long. Wow. This is awesome."
He's right. It is awesome.
8. Hawkeye Gets No Respect
It's widely known that Jeremy Renner felt his hero was shortchanged in "The Avengers," leading to a pretty funny "Saturday Night Live" bit. Then, despite Clint Barton and his secret family taking up a sizeable chunk of "Age of Ultron," Hawkeye was still the least talked about teammate. "Civil War" continued to develop the bowman's mentor bond with Scarlet Witch, but his most bitingly amusing moments came from mocking his character's failure to take off: The newbies don't know him, and they don't care.
Moments after Ant-Man fell all over himself in praise of Captain America and Scarlet Witch ("I know you! You're great too!"), he flubs Hawkeye's name! Straddling the archer's arrowhead, Ant-Man addresses Hawkeye as "Arrow Guy." That has to hurt, considering Clint is the one who chose Lang for this mission! To add salt to the wound, Hawkeye is faced with disdain when he tries to introduce himself to Black Panther. His snarkily jolly "We haven't met, I'm Clint," is countered with a withering, "I don't care." It's kind of mean, but also kind of hilarious.
9. Black Widow's Hand-to-Hand Combat
Who needs a gun? Sure, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johannson) is a deadly sharpshooter, but in the action-packed opening, she proved that anything she snags can be used as a lethal weapon. Her lightning-fast hands and feet delivered punishing blows between improvising attacks with a skidding motorcycle, swinging basket and a skittering pistol.
For real, Marvel, stop messing around and give Black Widow a solo movie.
10. Winter Soldier Snagging a Motorcycle With One Hand
When a comic book is adapted into a movie, this is exactly the kind of transition from implied action to "holy cow, did you see that" action we dream of! Bucky's blase bike pull was as ludicrous as Captain America finding time to flex his biceps for the camera while single-handedly keeping a helicopter from taking off, and just as spectacular.
11. All That Action, Action, Action!
The Russos delivered one bombastic battle after another with stunts that left us ducking, cheering and howling. They worked on every level! Consider brawl between the Winter Soldier and Captain America in Bucky's rundown apartment building. Not only did you have a traveling fight sequence that included team moves, stairway shenanigans, jaw-dropping jumps from buildings and inventive hits (using a bungee-hanging soldier to swing Bucky into another), it also offered surprising character perspective.
Before things kick off, Cap tells his long-suffering friend, "This doesn't have to end in a fight." Resigned, Bucky sighs, "It always ends in a fight." From there, he resolutely does whatever it takes to survive, not caring whether he kills those who'd gladly murder him. But Cap's rescue mission is complicated because he's not only trying to get Bucky away from this heavily armed soldiers, but also attempting to prevent Bucky from killing any of them, as he makes clear with the exasperated "Come on!" when Bucky hurls a soldier over the stair's railing.
But of course, the biggest, boldest and most "holy shit" moment was the full-on Civil War. The trailers and countless clips have teased the dizzying amount of face-offs, and yet, somehow, the hype never exceeds the actuality. Watching our imagined showdowns take spectacular shape before our eyes is pure nerdvana. And the Russo brothers so stuffed this extensive sequence with goodies that it feels an impossible proposition to pick which is the greatest moment!
Is it when Spider-Man takes on the Winter Solider and Falcon at once? Or when Hawkeye and Black Widow pause in their grapple to be sure they're still buds? How about when Ant-Man shrinks down to mangle Iron Man's suit from the inside, then taunts him that he's the voice of his conscience? When the whole of Team Iron Man flails to fight a newly massive Ant-Man? I just don't know.
Fight it out in comments.