I'll refrain from going into detailed spoilers for now just in case someone can't help but read about whether if he should check out the film or not. I will talk about the general structure, so this is still a spoiler review - just without the details. Most of what I talk about, however, you'd have already seen in the trailers.
First of all, I think I'm done talking about the importance of fans being biased about their experiences of the source material, particularly when the Civil War comic book has such massive flaws. Captain America: Civil War tones down the exaggeration made in that book a lot, such that it became a more realistic story - all the better for it. But I think we need to talk about impact. We need to talk about the themes this movie sets up at the beginning, and how they don't pay off in the end.
The key element I look for in adaptations isn't if they're faithful to the material, but whether if they've told a better story. While the Russo Brothers have told a better story than Mark Millar, that isn't a very impressive accomplishment, considering Millar's notorious career. More importantly, as a standalone film, it has a very underwhelming third act because it forgets an important theme that's set up in the first act - the collateral damage the superheroes have caused the people. Where did that plot-point fly off to? The later-half of the movie shifts its focus onto a whole different plot-point, which for me doesn't work because it's the source of the problem we all started out with - superhero actions causing casualties. If Tony did indeed feel that people are dying because of their actions, where's the resolution for that problem in the end?
Thus, without such proper closure for a very interesting discussion the film brought up, it does lack in impact. I'm not asking for the film to hit me over the head with themes about civil liberties, no - that subtlety in execution was decent. What I'm asking for is pretty simple: you present a problem, you should show how the problem is fixed. Resolution. Closure. Because honestly, after a grudge match between Tony and Steve, the film ends almost immediately without talking about what The Avengers should do about the death toll at all, leaving me hanging. I'm not kidding!
So with this awful mess, was this a terrible movie? Far from it. Do I recommend it? Absolutely. It's a highly entertaining film, and a funnier one than you might expect. There were so many times I caught myself laughing with the rest of the audience, having a good time. Spidey's appearance is also fantastic. As a Spidey fan, I had some enjoyable moments watching him. Don't be fooled into thinking that this is just a cameo. In fact, a lot of the ensemble cast are properly fleshed out in the film's 2hr 27mins runtime. I could barely feel the length at all because almost every scene felt important to the character development. This is a character-centric movie, not a story-centric one. But that's also where a problem comes in: it really should be titled "Iron Man: Civil War". My worst fear about this movie has come true... sort of.
The thing is, Cap is a difficult character to develop. He's a straight-arrow with single-minded principles. That makes him a better man in my opinion, but that can also make him dull to other people. Not me though. I believe that his idealized personality can be used to tell a great American story (note "Winter Soldier", the prior installment in this trilogy). He could have been utilized to show why freedom is an important value of America. Hypothetical uses aside, I felt like he's written to be a side character, not the main star. By the end of it, while it felt like a hearty journey with Cap and Bucky, there lacks the kind of emotional impact we see in Tony's development in the movie. Whether if that's a bad thing depends upon your attachment with a movie title - should a movie's plot be properly represented by its movie title, or should false advertisement be accepted?
Also, there is one biased complaint against Spidey - he's a government fink, siding against Cap. I really wanted to see Spidey being sensible enough to at least see that Steve might not be a bad guy, but by the end of the movie, he merely dismisses him, Captain America, the hero whom he grew up admiring in the comics. Yes, I know that this is an unfair complaint that came from my love for Spidey's comic counterpart, but please just allow me this small window to rant about not seeing a more astute version of my favorite character. And he didn't even have to join Cap's side, he could have just have a single line of dialogue showing his doubt in judgement. Granted, they sort of did that in this movie through an exchange between Cap and him, but I felt like he's still treating Cap as a dangerous criminal by the end of it. Okay, I'm done ranting.
These character writing aside, I have to admit that the action scenes are really good. They give a lot of screentime for the action scenes - and I do mean A LOT. The stand-off between both sides that you saw at the "Underoos!" trailer? That royal rumble lasted about 8 whole minutes. I'm not exaggerating, and if I am perhaps forgetful, maybe 6 minutes. It was a very long fight that felt like it came out of comic book pages, where such action is emphasized. Much like the amount of character development given to the entire cast, the action is also properly distributed among the Avengers. Each hero gets their own opportunity to showcase their powers - including a very surprising power-up for the Ant-Man... *wink-wink*
Overall, it's been a pretty entertaining film. I do wish that it's more than that, of course. I've yet to seen a Marvel film that's challenged my philosophical ideals the way The Dark Knight did. The only one that came close was The Winter Soldier. But I think I've done more than enough griping about these films being more than they should be, and so, I'll just accept that they don't work for me, at least not in a "blow my mind, super awesome" kind of way like everyone else. I wouldn't mind just watching them once and forget about it.