(This review contains no plot points, and will only discuss spoilers under a spoiler tag.)
As superhero movies flood our theaters nowadays, due to the fervor they get from the very committed comic book fan base, or their increasing popularity among casual movie-goers, you might have stumbled across the term 'Superhero Fatigue' somewhere on the internet. This term has originated as a reflex to the astounding number of superhero/comic book-based movies that have hit or will hit the big screens in the years to come. Over 40 movies are planned from now to 2020 (and no doubt, beyond) based on the trademark heroes of Marvel and DC, and one can't help but wonder: how many of those will we endure until we are sick of this "genre"?
The answer of this particular question might not be of great importance at this moment, but with our superheroes featured prominently in 'VS' situations this year, it's fair to say that some might find at least this theme of opposition somewhat losing its luster as far as 2016 is concerned. We've seen superheroes save the world enough times to bore us, and with all the shortcomings that might surface from the casual superhero story, the idea of a hero vs hero sounds very interesting and refreshing, but also one that is very prone to shortcomings of its own - motives, methods, convincing conclusions... all these factors could easily make a movie crumble if not given the sufficient attention and fabrication that would make the audience convinced with and invested in the story piecing together the movie in question.
Captain America: Civil War doesn't get a single one of these factors wrong.
In short, Civil War is the most balanced Marvel outing to date, in fact, it wouldn't be an overstatement to say that it's the most balanced superhero movie to date. With the overwhelming amount of characters on hand, it's probably easier to drift away from course than to arrive at the end point safely. But in this final(?) piece of the Captain America series, the course is obvious and crystal clear - a continuation to our journey with Steve Rogers. The Russo brothers knew exactly that.
Although one complaint you might hear is that the movie was too long at 2 hours and 27 minutes, but it seldom gets you bored. There is build up when build-up is needed, there is action when action is needed, and there is definitely fun when fun is needed. This incredible spell that the Russos conjured demonstrates how much these filmmakers pay attention to the slightest of details, and that with a script as solid as the one that writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely provided, they can really make a movie soar high to its full potential, a thing considered to be a very promising sign for the next two-parted Avengers extravaganza.
What catches the eye from the get-go, is the direction of the movie. The Russos quite simply have an impeccable vision, which was showcased in Winter Solider, and emphasized in Civil War. They know how to tell a story that is filled with action sequences so smoothly, that even if those action scenes might seem a bit redundant, they still land as a sweet topping. Choreography-wise, the fight sequences in Civil War are now the holy grail to what superhero movies should aspire to emulate. The styling of every character's fighting skills is highlighted clearly, and acts as if these characters were speaking dialogue through their fists (err... or beams/arrows). The Russos continue to assure their audience that the projects they helm are in safe hands, and after all, with experience and patience, you can do anything.
With 12 characters placed under varied amount of spotlight, the script still managed to make every one of them contribute to the telling of the story, so it hardly ever feels like lazy storytelling or stuffing characters in for the sake of it. This very much is a Captain America movie, but all the characters get at least the bare minimum of character development that none of them ends in the same place in which they started. That being said, some do get more time than others, and with the priority to the main players like Cap, Iron Man, and Winter Soldier, the level of involvement for the other players decreases as their status as 'supporting' increases. This might leave you questioning why this character didn't do this at that point, or why this character is just showing up like that without prior notice, but later you find yourself being thankful for the involvement of these characters at all, as it all pays off in the superbly extraordinary airport battle scene, which I am thankful was not spoiled thanks to smart marketing.
But that mostly refers to the already established characters that have been introduced previously. And it makes sense that at some points the writers needed to jump directly to the parts in which they put those characters to good use, because they simply can't spend 15 minutes explaining what happens in previous movies that you have -supposedly- watched. In addition, doing so would only slow down the storytelling process, even if the cost is the confusion of Marvel first-timers, but fortunately for them, they undoubtedly will still be entertained.
Civil War is first and foremost a character-driven movie, and like all MCU movies, it just happens to have superheroes in it. This is relatively the case with how the new characters are introduced - the story is flowing, and they just happen to get entangled with it. But not only are their introductions smooth and organic to the story, the portrayals of Black Panther and Spider-Man (by Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland respectively) are rather perfect. Although you might feel slightly irritated with the Wakandan accent spoken by T'Challa (but what did you expect, really?), Boseman successfully captures the majesty and charisma of the Black Panther and carves the personality of the Wakandan prince-turned-warrior into audiences' minds in a way that will keep them intrigued until further exploration of his story happens in his solo movie. Tom Holland does no less. In fact, Holland deserves an article of his own to commend his performance as Peter Parker before commending his performance as Spider-Man. Without exaggeration, and given his screen time, Tom Holland elegantly gives the eager audience the Peter Parker they deserve, which is the best and most accurate comic book-portrayed Peter Parker ever seen on any platform. He is as light on the heart as he is light on his feet as the web-slinger, and could very well be the actor that will carry the MCU after Robert Downey Jr. hangs the armor. You just can not have a problem with him... unless you were campaigning for Miles Morales, maybe.
The story uses all the characters correctly, which is seen in how levity is slided into moments of intensity and strong conflict, but never letting things fall out of place or ridiculing the situation. The role distribution for tonal variation is put together very neatly: Spider-Man and Ant-Man deliver the fun with occasional help from the dynamic duo (on and off-screen) Anthonie Mackie and Sebastian Stan, while the heavy-lifters who deliver the ideological conflict in Captain America and Iron Man do their job as well as you expect them to, basing all on the incredible amount of build-up their characters have enjoyed over the course of 8 years. The story also is so condensed, that at some points you forget that some of the characters have not yet appeared in the movie, so when they enter the story, it's a almost like an extra treat, and they receive a special and warm reception.
Reasoning-wise, Civil War hardly fails. From the reason behind the title, to the reason behind every character's move... you understand it all. You understand why every one of the 12+ characters are doing what they're doing, you understand where each and every one of these characters comes from, and most importantly, you understand why the villain is doing what he is doing.
Zemo is there with a somewhat repetitive agenda. And I expected to dislike him, honestly, because with all these heroes fighting each other, who needs a villain? But thankfully, I thought he fell right into place. He might not be the most powerful or even the most memorable when it comes to making a show like Loki or Iron Monger, but he is definitely one of the smartest.
You see, the general problem with Marvel villains is that they are merely stepping stones for the heroes, you know they'll be done come the end of the movie, so they fall flat. And Zemo is not that different in that single-usage part, but his deception and planning actually led the heroes to the culmination of the movie, which was a pretty strong and iconic one. The fact that his seeking of revenge almost ended the life of either Captain America or Iron Man makes him all that dangerous to me. We probably will never see him again, but his actions added an undeniable amount of weight and intensity to the civil war. His only flaw could possibly be that he shifts the focus from the disagreement around The Accords to a whole other personal territory in order to carry out his own plan, which raises the emotional stakes at the movie's culmination, but almost makes you wonder whether The Accords are even that relevant at that point.
Incredibly well-balanced, and efficiently joyous, Captain America: Civil War might be the best all-out pure superhero action flick to hit the screens thus far. It raises the bar with its complex yet efficaciously dynamic plot to other superhero movies, and it proves that the genre is alive and well as long as there are people who have enough dedication and conviction to make good movies told from a superhero perspective.
• The musical score of the movie might seem for some surprisingly dull for a Marvel movie, with little reminiscence to any of the characters' themes (except for Winter Soldier), but composer Henry Jackman hit the right notes when intensity levels required the elevation. Moreover, using the respective character themes would have stripped the movie of its serious tone.
• Spider-Man/Peter Parker, Aunt May, and Tony Stark address some of the actual thoughts audiences have had about several topics in the MCU. Like Spider-Man exclaiming that Cap's shield doesn't obey to the laws of physics, or Tony saying that May was unusually hot for an aunt, something which the internet was raving about, and to which she replied that aunts come in all shapes and sizes (possibly referencing previous older versions of Aunt May in Spider-Man movies).
• Vision states that the number of 'enhanced' individuals has exponentially increased since Stark went public as Iron Man. He was probably hinting at the increasing number of Inhumans that have appeared prominently on the second and third seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..