Captain America: Civil War would have been reviewed well no matter what, but, arriving just a few short weeks after the premiere of Batman vs. Superman, it comes off as a master class in putting together a first rate super hero movie. Everything from the writing, directing, imaging, and (especially) tone is so vastly superior to the undisciplined and over-produced BvS that it's truly embarrassing for the producers of the DC "Universe". Yes, it's fifteen minutes too long -- they all are -- but the movie shows a real maturation of the collective dialogue of this genre as it asks the question: What about all the collateral damage that comes from all those do-gooding "enhanced" beings not being able to keep their super powers in check?
One other massively important difference between the cinematic universes of Marvel and DC is the flavor of the violence. Both houses produce plenty of violence, but the DC Universe, especially evident in BvS, retains a smug brutality that I feel goes beyond PG-13 territory. There is absolutely more respect for life in the world of the Avengers, and it's a major theme here. The violence/action in this film is also infinitely cleaner, smoother, and easier to follow than most. I would have no problem taking a ten year old to this thing without concern, something I could not say about any of the Batman offerings.
Beyond being wonderful in general, Civil War manages to pull off two amazing things:
1) Early on, we get to see Tony Stark as a teen and the CGI re-imaging of his face is eerie but allows me to believe Barbra Streisand just might be able to pull off looking forty in the upcoming Gypsy she's hell-bent to film.
2) The directors (the Russo brothers) revive the Spider-Man franchise in a matter of moments in a way I wouldn't have thought possible. It's stunningly well done and makes me actually want to see another Spider-Man movie. Suddenly, Spidey's a lot younger, a lot cuter, and a lot more fun to be around. We only get a tease here, and, when Tony Stark says to him, "that's enough, go home," what he's really saying is, "that's enough, we're saving you for another movie."
While I love Civil War, I have one tiny structural problem with the narrative: Captain America (a ridiculously beautiful Chris Evans) is obsessed with protecting his friend, Bucky, to a degree that seems inconsistent with his values. Would he really square off with so many of the people who've loved him and fought beside him -- not to mention his country -- for one old, albeit important, friend? And since Bucky is profoundly unlikable from the first sight, it's hard not to view Cap as being awfully self-righteous and kind of a dick to his superhero family. Oh, and Jesus Christ, let Chris Evans take his shirt off. There's no reason men shouldn't be objectified in motion pictures under the right circumstances, just like women. This would be considered "the right circumstances". Please, embrace the subliminal homo-eroticism of comic book heroes once and for all. Trust me, I saw the movie on opening night at IMAX amongst more than a few "confused" comic geeks.
One last thing; When this genre is studied in years to come, I believe that Robert Downey, Jr.'s contribution to the integrity of portraying superheroes will be marveled at -- no pun intended.
Yeah, you gotta see this one.