The superhero tentpole — embraced by critics — is likewise expected to pull in massive numbers when opening in the U.S. on May 6, the start of the summer box office.

Doing Avengers-like business, Disney and Marvel Studios' Captain America: Civil War opened to a massive $200.2 million at the foreign box office, one of the biggest starts of all time and nearly matching the launch of last year's Avengers: Age of Ultron.

In some individual markets, Civil War came in ahead of Ultron, as it scored the biggest debut of all time for any film in Mexico ($20.6 million), Brazil ($12.3 million) and the Philippines ($7.5 million). All told, Civil War rolled out in about 63 percent of the foreign marketplace this weekend.

Civil War bows this Friday in the U.S., along with China and Russia.

The superhero movie currently boasts a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (If that holds, it will be the best-reviewed Marvel film to date.)

Captain America: Civil War is an engaging superhero movie that actually ponders the human cost of doing all that cool stuff.

Assembled to protect the Earth from extraordinary threats, the Avengers are now heroes to some and vigilantes to others. When a mission in Nigeria goes wrong with the loss of civilian lives, the US Secretary of State, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), has a new definition: "dangerous". The era of operating without oversight is over, he announces, agreeing that a United Nations panel must control the group.

The arc of the Captain America movies (2011's The First Avenger and 2014's The Winter Soldier, with Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, the scientifically enhanced American World War II soldier thrust into the present day) has been that of patriotic obedience versus individual discretion.

Primed to stop the Nazis, Captain America has come to realise that in this fictionalised modern age of terror, the world is rarely black and white, and that all organisations are corruptible, whatever their beliefs.

Moments from the Avengers' previous films are seen again, as if shot on smartphones by sheltering bystanders, and that reminder of ordinary witnesses soon extends to the survivors of mass destruction. "Who's going to avenge my son?" a grieving mother asks Stark, who has hung up his Iron Man suit to play the philanthropist, and his guilt compels him to vehemently support the controls that Captain America refuses to accept.

The idea of responsibility for the all-powerful was also present in March's calamitous Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, only to be shunted aside. But here the philosophical stakes linger, and once the debate turns to confrontation between comrades, there's an air of regret. Even a new villain, expertly played by the German actor Daniel Bruhl, is more maudlin than megalomaniac.

With the fuse lit by Captain America's refusal to abandon his friend turned brainwashed foe, Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), the eventual confrontation is a geek's dream, with forces evenly split like undercards at a title fight: Iron Man, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle), among others, take on Captain America, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) respectively.

If you've ever wanted to witness a nerd spontaneously combust with uncontrolled excitement, then the superhero dust-up at Leipzig Airport is your best chance. The open spaces provide room for multiple thrilling, intercut tussles, which make great use of contrasting scale and droll banter.

Best Supporting Brawler goes to Paul Rudd's Ant-Man, whose goofy awkwardness undercuts the extraordinary feats.

But it's a sometimes bumpy path there, and while Thor and the Hulk are absent, there are always new Marvel spin-offs to be primed. In the case of the formidable T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), it's deftly integrated into the storyline. But to bring the new Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) into proceedings requires a Tony Stark diversion to New York that is amusing but not exactly essential.

All this plotting, which can become baffling, detracts from the real historic weight of the Captain America movies. The ghosts of 20th-century ideology hang over Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, and the film knows that the past's transgressions can never be escaped.

"Reframe the future," Tony Stark tells a hall full of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but by the film's end he's reminding Captain America that it was his late father who made the shield he's being hit with.

The Russos' direction is more assured than in The Winter Soldier, and while most of the performances are solidly familiar, Elizabeth Olsen makes the uncertainty of Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch compelling.

The one thing no-one can provide is a finale. Captain America: Civil War is satisfying but ultimately inconclusive. No matter what transpires, the end of the movie is never quite in sight.

 

 

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