(Warning: The following article contains mild to moderate SPOILERS for Captain America: Civil War. If you haven't yet seen it, then proceed with whatever level of caution that suggests to you is wise...)
Now, sure, we've all been looking forward to Captain America: Civil War for the best part of two years now - and sure, it's pretty much everything we'd collectively hoped for - but that doesn't mean that there isn't at least one major potential problem with the film. Specifically - as many fans have been worrying for months now - it sure does seem as though Captain America: Civil War isn't actually a Captain America movie at all, but rather The Avengers 2.5. It does, after all, star pretty much every Avenger going (bar a certain Asgardian and a not-so-jolly green giant), and follows directly on from the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. If it's not an Avengers sequel, it sure does do a damn fine job of looking like one.
The big question now, then?
Is Captain America: Civil War Really Just An Avengers Movie?
Well, in short, no.
Y'see, for all that Captain America: Civil War does indeed feature a whole lot of Avengers - to great effect - and does absolutely follow on directly from the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, it's still very much a Captain America movie first and foremost.
It's a tough balancing act to pull off - but Civil War manages it without seeming to break a sweat. The main reason for that?
Captain America: Civil War Knows Exactly Who Its Hero Is
And, in case you were wondering, it's the guy whose name is in the title. While the likes of Iron Man and the Winter Soldier are given a whole lot of screen time - and solidly-formed narrative arcs - the movie never forgets that it is, at the end of the day, Cap's story. The vast majority of the film's running time focuses on either Cap's relationship with friends old and new - whether that's Bucky, Tony Stark, Black Widow, The Falcon or even Sharon Carter - and when it shifts its focus away from him, it tends to do so only to see how his decisions are effecting others.
In a way, watching the movie with The Avengers in mind is a little like an inverted, Captain America-themed Bechdel test. Rather than trying to spot two named women talking to each other about something that isn't a man - a test that it's worth noting the movie doesn't pass - try to spot a scene in which anyone does anything that isn't a direct result of, or an attempt at a response to, Cap's actions. It's not as easy as it looks.
The Film Is a Direct Continuation of Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Now, while it's certainly true that Civil War continues many of the plot-threads and themes begun in last year's Avengers: Age of Ultron, it's hard to ignore that it bears far more resemblance to its more direct forebear: Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It is, in large part, the story of Cap and The Falcon trying to track down Bucky Barnes, and save him from the evildoers who're controlling him - making it a direct continuation of the second half of The Winter Soldier.
Of course, we also see the impact of Age of Ultron in Civil War - not least in the appearance of several characters introduced within it - but the plot of the movie has far less to do with Ultron's attempted destruction of Earth a year earlier than it does with the issue of governmental control of the Avengers...and Bucky. Indeed, even the movie's use of Ultron's destruction of Sokovia as a justification for that control arrives alongside a reminder of Cap's Winter Soldier-based actions in Washington, and it isn't until The Winter Soldier himself reappears that the film's main narrative tension, and the Civil War itself, really kick into gear.
That being said...
Despite Being a Captain America Movie, Civil War Is Arguably The Most 'MCU' Movie We've Yet Seen
In fact, with the movie bringing together more Marvel heroes than either Avengers movie managed, and tying pretty much every plot thread in with either past or future Marvel movies, there's an argument to be made that Civil War marks the moment where the Marvel Cinematic Universe truly became interconnected.
It's not, in other words, that it's like an Avengers movie because it features a lot of Avengers, but rather that it takes a key element of the past two Avengers movies - bringing a whole lot of Marvel heroes together - and perfects it. That it does so while very much remaining a Captain America movie is all the more impressive. So much so, in fact, that...
It's Basically Like Watching a Captain America Comic-Book
From potential romance with Sharon Carter all the way through 'sibling' rivalry between Bucky and The Falcon, an altercation with Crossbones, intense moral pondering, an assertion of the importance of free will and the machinations of Helmut Zemo, there aren't too many common elements of a typical Captain America comic-book left un-adapted in Civil War.
From such content, all the way through to tone (rip-roaring and fun, yet serious) and purpose (translating serious political issues into a more palatable format), Captain America: Civil War comes across as a Cap comic come to life, in glorious fashion. What's more, in carefully treading the tightrope of Cap-centric action and Avengers-inclusion, it manages to perfect something that Marvel Studios has been striving towards for years: The feeling that the adventure unfolding in front of us takes place in a living, breathing world, in which the actions of other superheroes directly impact upon the adventure we're enjoying.
Just like in the comics...