Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Credit: Marvel Studios

Captain America: Civil War won’t open in theaters in the U.S. until May 6, but after the Marvel film’s official world premiere on Tuesday, the internet erupted with reactions that seemed to range from favorable to euphoric. Here are seven non-spoilery observations about the movie, which pits Captain America against Iron Man, introduces Black Panther, and finally finds a reason for Scarlet Witch to exist.

1. Civil War does Batman v Superman better than Batman v Superman.

Superhero Ethical Debates: So hot right now! Where Batman v Superman used the destruction of Metropolis in Man of Steel to pit its two heroes against each other, Civil War sees the world reacting against the Avengers, partially because of the calamitous final battle in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But while Batman v Superman mostly kept its characters apart in the long lead-up to their showdown, Civil War takes time to let Captain America and Iron Man argue their respective cases. It really is an ethical debate.

2. Civil War does Spider-Man better than any movie since Spider-Man 2.

Tom Holland’s Spidey isn’t just here for a cameo. The high school-aged superhero has a large role in the film’s superhero duel. And to the extent that his part in the film is a backdoor pilot for next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, the Marvel Studios version of Spidey already feels more convincing than anything that happened in The Amazing Spider-Man. (Of course, Marisa Tomei is obviously too young to play Aunt May, but at least Civil War makes a joke about that.)

3. Civil War does Avengers 2 better than Avengers 2.

Civil War is the best Avengers movie. To qualify that statement: I hated the second Avengers and think the first Avengers only really gets going in its second half. But even if you admired Ultron, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see just how effectively this film plays around with Marvel’s superteam. The Vision feels like an essential member. Elizabeth Olsen still can’t settle on an accent for Scarlet Witch, but Civil War gives her a real, poignant arc. And whereas the two Avengers films drifted a bit off the idea that these characters might squabble, Civil War imagines that they have genuine differences of opinion.

4. Marvel really wants you to care about the Winter Soldier.

Remember Bucky? Cap’s lovable sidekick from World War II, transformed into a cyborg-assassin demon haunting the 20th century? Civil War turns entirely on a key plot turn around Sebastian Stan’s Soldier. I’m a hardcore Stan fan from his Gossip Girl days – Carter Baizen for life! – but your enjoyment of Winter Soldier may depend on to what extent you care about Winter Soldier more than most of the Avengers.

5. The film has a hell of a car chase.

And a hell of a stairway fight scene. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo aren’t as visually adventurous as some Marvel directors have been – Civil War is miles away from The First Avenger‘s propaganda-poster jingo or the candy-colored Ultron. But with Winter Soldier, they bring a steady and ground-level grace to the fight scenes. Maybe it’s because there’s no Thor and no Hulk, but there’s a weight to the fights in Civil War. (Fun fact: The second-unit directors of Civil War are Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, the directors of John Wick.)

6. Black Panther makes an impressive debut.

There are some ambient fan theories that Marvel Studios is beginning to plan for its future: Not just a new phase, but a new generation of heroes. Following that theory, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is going to be the new Iron Man – the funnyman everyguy mascot. And if that’s true, then Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther might be the new Captain America, a noble national hero struggling to balance the needs of his country with his own personal ideals.

7. There are a lot of Avengers.

And the big fight scene between the two Avengers is a blast. I’m not sure it’s the best action scene in the Marvel series – my personal favorite remains the elevator fight scene from Winter Soldier – but it’s definitely the most action in any Marvel movie.

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Captain America: Civil War
  • Movie
  • 146 minutes