Now that the dust has settled on "Batman v Superman," the season's next blockbuster is set to hit theaters. And judging by the advance critical reception and fan buzz, it's unlikely to be saddled with some of the weight the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel had to wrestle with in their debut.
With only two weeks to go before its official release, Marvel's "Captain America: Civil War" is generating heavy social media buzz that has reached a crescendo in recent days. The film, which had its red carpet premiere last week, has been widely celebrated by critics — much unlike the heavily pilloried "Batman v Superman," which has pulled in more than $800 million globally despite its poor reviews.
Meanwhile, "Civil War" will be jam-packed with at least 10 different heroes, and pits a group led by Captain America against another headed by Iron Man. Yet movie watchers say the critical reception and social media interest show that there's still substantial interest in comic movies, especially ones made by Marvel.
"If there's a risk of the Marvel 'formula' becoming stale, there isn't any evidence of that here," Jordan Farley, a critic and writer for Total Film, said in his review. "'Civil War' isn't just a damn-near-perfect popcorn crowd-pleaser; it doesn't offer any easy answers for its combatants, or the world going forward."
Farley added: "Team Cap or Team Iron Man? The real winner here is Team Marvel."
Farley isn't the only one impressed with "Civil War." Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore, calls the film "pure candy for the fans" and touts that it will likely surpass the $166 million domestic opening of "Batman v. Superman."
"We need to brace ourselves for an opening weekend that I think will rank among the biggest ever," he told CNBC. "Given already the buzz surrounding the film and the critical raves that are starting to appear, and the many more that will be on the way, you have to figure that opening weekend everybody is going to be talking about this movie."
Of course, some critics are raising concerns over the sheer number of characters in the film, which sets the stage for the two-part "Avengers: Infinity War," the culmination of Marvel Studio's "Phase 3" that will debut in 2018 and 2019. It's quite possible those two installments will feature the most superheroes ever seen on screen at one time.
For now, "Civil War's" gang of superhumans already has some people worried it will feel cluttered and confusing. Early reviews, however, are putting some of those concerns to rest.
"Amid the mayhem, the movie doesn't necessarily feel overloaded with Avengers, but some personalities get to shine more than others," Sheri Linden, a critic with the Hollywood Reporter, said of the film.
Dergarabedian noted that "Civil War" has hit "the trifecta": strong social media interest, critical acclaim and a great release date. Marvel has long held a virtual lock on the first weekend in May for film premieres, which kicks off of the summer blockbuster movie season.
"Iron Man," the first official film in Marvel's Cinematic Universe, was released on that weekend slot in 2008. "Iron Man 2" held the spot in 2010, as did "Thor" in 2011, "The Avengers" in 2012, "Iron Man 3" in 2013 and "Avengers: Age of Ultron" in 2015.
Marvel, which was acquired by Disney in 2009, has released 12 films in the last eight years, averaging more than $750 million in gross box office revenue per film. In addition, three of the brand's films — "Iron Man 3," "The Avengers" and "Avengers: Age of Ultron" — rank in the top 10 highest grossing films globally.
"Civil War" will be "the kind of movie that theater owners live for," Dergarabedian told CNBC. "This is also the type of movie that proves that the theatrical experience has no peer, and ... you want to see this movie on the big screen when it opens."