So much for saturation, eh? With the announcement of every new Marvel release, cynics rush to question whether fans have possibly had enough of superhero films, seemingly ignoring the increasing box office returns and fanboy delight in favour of imagining the clanging chimes of doom. But - as its detractors seem intent to remind us all now it's all going so well - Marvel have built a cinematic brand that is unprecedented and unrivalled.
Over 13 films, the MCU has generated a staggering box office haul of more than $3.5 BILLION, flying in the face of critics with their buzzwords like "formulaic", "unrisky", "Disneyfied". That's the kind of financial performance that should make small countries proud, let alone a relatively small group of films.
The latest addition to this swirling mass of plots, characters and entertainment is the critically adored, hugely anticipated Captain America: Civil War - a characteristic gamble by the studio and a Herculean ask for directors the Russos (who also have the daunting prospect of Infinity War to come). That the film has already broken financial records and delighted the vast majority of those who've seen it is testament to what the directors and Kevin Feige have achieved with it.
But the real question for any franchise film is how it deals with its forebears: at a pure level, any sequel is only great if it outshines what came before it. So, how does Civil War stack up to the other twelve MCU releases to date?
Despite hiring arguably the perfect man for the job after Kenneth Branagh didn't return for the sequel in Game Of Thrones and TV veteran Alan Taylor, Marvel scored their biggest misfire with The Dark World. In hindsight, Terminator fans should probably have taken it as a warning for the God-awful Genisys, but you can't win them all.
The sequel actually has some good ideas, including casting Loki as a Hannibal Lecter captive type, using the death of Frigga as an emotional hand-grenade and the integration of the Aether. And you do have to give some props to the attempt to introduce a race of vengeful alien elves with the power to evolve into berserker monsters (it's not their fault the execution was so iffy)
The script is terrible, Christopher Eccleston is relegated to a Doctor Who monster of the week and Taylor fatally misinterpreted the glorious theatricality that Branagh had brought to the film before it. The result is a glum old affair with awful comic relief shoe-horned in (Kat Dennings is unwatchable and poor Stellan Skarsgard is turned into a naked, mental clown), that painfully fudges Natalie Portman's role to the point where she might not even come back.
Let's just hope Thor: Ragnarok learns the key lessons...