Hubble's Law of the expanding universe? Ha! That's nothing compared to Disney's Law of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With every new installment of the comic book franchise, the scale gets bigger, relationships get trickier, new forces enter the fray. In Captain America: Civil War, the 13th title in Disney and Marvel's systematic plan for global domination, a dozen superheroes come and go, lining up on either side of a tumultuous ideological dispute.
This may be the first film since Avatar that truly necessitates viewing in a gargantuan format: On a plain old normal-size 2-D screen all these superhumans could get lost in the crowd, and in the accelerated blur of action, mayhem, and snappy quipping.
In Captain America: Civil War, the superdudes' (and dudettes') crisis of identity, of purpose, begins with an earnest attempt on the part of a squad of Avengers - Steve Rogers' Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff's Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Sam Wilson's Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Wanda Maximoff's Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) - to thwart a plan to steal biological weapons from a lab in Lagos.
Poor Wanda, still struggling to master her hex powers (lots of waving of hands and wrinkling of forehead), and lacking a cool costume like her peers, wields more hex than she should, resulting in the death of 11 innocent people.
When news - and news footage - of the calamitous combat is broadcast around the world, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt with a mustache) convenes a meeting at Avengers HQ back in New York.
Are you heroes or vigilantes? he asks Tony Stark's Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), the Captain, and the crew, informing them that 117 countries have agreed to sign "the Sokovia Accords," which will establish a governing body to monitor – and approve the missions of – the superheroes. No more pro-active interventions.
And, in theory, no more collateral damage.
Stark and Romanoff agree to go along with the plan, Rogers and his pals doesn't like it. It's Team Cap v Team Iron Man - let the games begin.
This issue - well-meaning mighty saviors of mankind, or rogue players wreaking havoc? - has long been at the heart of the comic book world. It's a debate that the X-Men have had to contend with (and will, no doubt, again when X-Men: Apocalypse opens in three weeks), and that provided the motive and momentum behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
If you want to get hifalutin about it, it's also an issue that's been running through the presidential campaigns: Should the U.S. act unilaterally in conflicts and crises overseas, or should some group like the United Nations determine when and what actions are necessary?
But let's not get hifalutin. Instead, let's go looking for an uber-baddie with a German accent, which is who we'll find pulling the strings in Captain America: Civil War. He is Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), a madman bent on destroying the Avengers who uses a series of trigger words ("Longing. . ." "Benign. . ." "Freight train. . .") to unleash the thawed "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan) on the world.
Bucky, formerly the Captain's sidekick and one of the so-called "Winter soldiers" who've been hanging out in a cryogenics chamber, has been programmed a la The Manchurian Candidate. The Bucky doesn't stop here - he's everywhere, doing evil stuff.
If you haven't read or watched or heard anything about who shows up in Captain America: Civil War - and if you care - you may want to stop right now and go get a latte or something.
Perhaps the most significant introduction in sibling directors Anthony and Joe Russo's all-but-inevitable blockbuster is that of T'Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, the African superhero who is played by Chadwick Boseman and who is getting his own stand-alone movie, coming in 2018, to be directed by Creed's Ryan Coogler.
A new Spider-Man also rises, although Downey's Iron Man aptly cracks that he should be called Spider-Boy. Young Tom Holland gets the role. His Spider-Man: Homecoming is set for July, 2017.
Oh, and Paul Rudd's Ant-Man shows up, but then he morphs into Giant-Man.
They can do stuff like that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Who's going to stop them?
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. With Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Brühl. Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.
Running time: 2 hours, 26 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, adult themes)
Playing at: Area theaters