OK, no surprise... I loved Captain America: Civil War. I was fairly certain I'd like it, of course, but it surpassed my expectations, which were well heightened by all the positive comments from everyone who saw it before me. (And that seems to be everyone I know. I will have my revenge, mark my words.)
So here are some scatted thoughts, as usual... (If I had no shame I would title this post "7 Things I Loved about Captain America: Civil War... and 1 I Didn't," but with any luck Google will pick up on that anyway.)
1. The movie was very well paced, and I was never tempted to check the time, which is impressive for a 147-minute movie. There was a point at which I thought the movie could have been essentially finished, except there was a scene from the trailers that hadn't come up yet, but this was a minor lull.
2. Despite the inclusion of a dozen heroes, several of them appearing throughout the film, the Russo brothers did a great job keeping the focus most of the time on Cap and the main secondary characters, Falcon, Bucky, and Iron Man. There were times that it did feel like an Avengers movie—especially during the fight scene between the two teams, which was much longer (and better) than I expected—but these spots were occasional enough that the movie still felt like a Cap movie. (Although, to be fair, there was enough substantial Iron Man content that it almost could have been titled something stupid like Captain America v Iron Man. Like anyone would do that.)
3. The story itself was not as close to the comics version as I expected—and I didn't expect it to be very close at all—but I think the changes worked well within the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For instance, as many people noted ahead of the film, not many of the heroes we've seen in the films have secret identities, so that aspect of the comics story wouldn't translate well to the film, and it was wisely left out. Nonetheless, the movie did touch of several iconic images and lines from the comics, which I found enormously gratifying (being rather fond of the comics, as you may have heard). Would I have loved more explicit discussion of the issues underlying the conflict? Of course, but I was satisfied with how much there was, and the dialogue on this front was concise and on target, hitting the most important points of the debate. (I expect to be talking more about that aspect of the film in the near future.)
4. The action scenes were simply incredible, both those with two characters as well as a dozen, and felt more visceral than Whedon's in the two Avengers films, even when all the heroes were onscreen at the same time. Maybe it was the Russo brothers' more subdued color palette, or the slight jerkiness of the camera (which, to be honest, became somewhat tiresome), but these scenes were more reminiscent of a war movie (appropriately enough) than a traditional superhero film. Kudos to everyone involved in these scenes, most of all the sound people—every time one of the heroes got hit, was thrown in a wall, or fell 50 feet to the ground, I flinched thanks to the combination of performance, cinematography, and especially the sound effects. (But at the same time, even when Cap and Iron Man went all out on each other, there was none of the senseless brutality we saw in that other superhero battle movie this year.)
5. Black Panther... ah, my king! He could have easily been the star of this movie if any of the other characters had let me down, and I am looking forward even more (if that were possible) to his solo film. Chadwick Boseman gave T'Challa a thoroughly regal demeanor, with the perfect combination of determination, class, and fierceness. The Panther's movements were magnificently graceful, especially the way he would land after a jump or being thrown. And even with his short time in the film, we saw his character experience growth.
6. I am a big fan of both Tobey Maguire's and Andrew Garfield's portrayals of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (though not necessarily of every film they were in), and Tom Holland's version adds yet another unique take on the character. He played a relatively small role in the movie, and didn't have much to do with the Civil War storyline itself (unlike in the comics, where he was a major player), but we see much more of him than I expected, in and out of costume.
7. The Stan Lee cameo was perfect. 'Nuff said.
If I have one criticism with the film, it's with the ending. I can't say much more without giving anything away, so I'll just say that I thought some things were left unresolved, but I trust the Russo brothers to be setting up their first Avengers film (which cannot come soon enough).
The ending notwithstanding, I thought the movie was exceptional. It was more of an action movie than a political one, but there was enough of the latter to make this fan of the comics story happy.
As I mentioned, I have a number of interviews planned over the next week in which I'll speak to the ideological debates in the movie and the comics, so stay tuned, both here and on Twitter. And don't forget to check out my book, A Philosopher Reads...Marvel Comics' Civil War: Exploring the Moral Judgment of Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man, available now!