For a movie with so much going on in it, and so many thematic variations, it was actually pretty tightly plotted (compared to Age of Ultron especially) and fit a lot in while making almost all of it extremely relevant in some way, which is a giant accomplishment. Kudos to the writers!
I like that they tried to smooth out some of the continuity weirdness from Age of Ultron (like Tony giving up his suits and then suddenly having them again). It felt a bit like too little too late, but at least they tried.
I liked a lot of the mini-arcs for individual characters. Especially Wanda getting a riff on fear, which was her big theme from Age of Ultron too, and coming to see that she can't control others but she can control herself. (More on Wanda later, though.)
Wanda/Vision is being set up, right? I find Vision bland, but the scenes between Wanda and Vision were good nevertheless.
I really liked Natasha's role in this movie, though I wish she'd had more time to expand on what she was doing. But as I see it, Natasha, unlike the other characters who seem to be living in a world of polarized decisions, is living in a world of fluid politics and nothing set and stone and what's important is to hold on to what's important and work with whatever else you're being handed. Natasha seems to switch sides, but I think she's actually right that the sides are more about ego (on both sides) than they're about anything, Natasha looks for the give, reads the terrain, not just within the Avengers but the whole situation, where Steve just stands firm, and Tony just pushes, and if Natasha had had a chance to do more I think things could have turned out very differently. I really really really wanted more Natasha, but I liked what was there.
Clint and Wanda still have a cool relationship. I like that Clint doesn't seem to be threatened by Wanda, but trusts her. (This is usually Steve's role, but Clint is actually paying forward Steve trusting him in Avengers to trusting Wanda in this movie, so that's cool. I mean, not that they don't have their own relationship and Clint's also the one who told Wanda she was an Avenger in Age of Ultron, so that's cool too.)
I loved the bit where Clint and Natasha fought ("We're still friends, right?") and Wanda finished it off because Clint was pulling his punches.
I liked that Bucky chose to not live with being a living weapon for anyone who had his code, but rather wait for some way to get that out of his head before trying to go on. In terms of theme, Bucky decided on the good of the many rather than selfishly insisting on his right to live his life right now. Which, if they can fix Bucky, is also good for him, but there's also the risk that he'll never wake up again. That had to be a hard decision.
Even though perhaps it bit off a bit more than it could chew (or wanted to chew? I don't think they wanted to push everything they brought in to a logical conclusion, which is why they downgraded from Sokovia Accords (really complicated) to revenge (not so complicated)), I like that this was a complicated movie that took on complicated subjects.
Too much fighting! I blanked out more than once during the fighting when it was just hit hit hit, but I don't think I missed anything important. Sure, they managed to make some of it relevant, but when it got down to it and the climax was Steve and Tony duking it out, I was basically *yawn*
They really tried, but I don't think pulling in, what, twelve characters for a big fight in the middle worked at all for the overall movie, though on a moment to moment level it definitely had its moments.
The revenge thread was not terrible, but except for T'Challa, I was sort of bored. They dialed it back from something unique to a series of reflections on revenge that is not in any way unique.
And while I like that Steve is a very consistent character, I hope they're done with "I can do this all day" now. They need to get some new lines for him.
Spiderman. While I'm sure that for any big spiderman fans out there, Peter Parker getting recruited by Tony Stark was pretty cool, for me it was basically we interrupt this movie for some fanservice for a totally different movie. (The post-post-credit scene was funny, though.)
There were really too many characters. Handled well, but, just too much.
While it's nice that no one ended up permanently damaged as a direct result of the other side hurting them, the fact that someone did get hurt and it was friendly fire makes the getting hurt seem gratuitous rather than inevitable or a painful result of how actions have consequences. It seems more like an accident. I mean, friendly fire happens, and it's painful, but it seems like the writers dodged another one there, and if they wanted to put it in, they probably shouldn't have dodged making it as bad as it could have been. Especially since it was shown in the trailers, but out of the context that it ended up having.
Bucky is a cipher and a red herring and an excuse, not a character in this movie. I think it's telling that his fate is in a post-trailer scene, not the main movie itself.
I would call Tony inconsistent, but I guess it's more like he's the sort who doesn't really learn to change overall. He might change individual things that he's doing (like no longer being an arms dealer), but the overall pattern doesn't seem changeable, and he's probably never going to be the really thoughtful character he was in Iron Man 3 ever again. So okay then.
Notice how Wanda never used her telepathy/mental manipulation in this movie? That's the really scary thing about Wanda, but now that she's good I don't think she's going to use it, which in a way is dodging another issue, but ... yeah. How do you have a good character who manipulates the minds of others? It's just sort of ugh. On the other hand, there are ways that could have fit into a movie about individuals vs. society... but not in the time given, not in a movie that's not about Wanda, and really I think it's just as well. I'm on board with them dodging that issue if they want.
I also note that Wanda didn't do anything wrong in this movie - the thing that's painted as Wanda messed up is that she tried and didn't do quite good enough, because I can't really see how it would have been better if for the bomb to explode at ground level, so her only mistake is that she didn't get it high enough. Hard for Wanda to deal with, and rightly so, but not wrong.
I also note that Wanda and Stark and revenge is something that fits the concerns of this movie and never even got referenced.
I think there was supposed to be a friendship theme, comparing Steve & Bucky, Tony & Rhodes, Tony & Steve, but there was so much else going on it got a bit lost. (Oh, also Natasha & Clint?)
Where is Natasha now? She just sort of dropped out, and I want to know.
It was nice of Tony not to hack Sam's flying robot, since he probably made it. No back doors?
Now I understand why Tony's heart had to be fixed at the end of Iron Man 3. I always thought that was sort of silly (I mean, I just didn't buy that Tony was too scared for too long to ever get it fixed, it should have either been fixable after Tony got back to the US in Iron Man or just not fixable). But Steve could not have killed Tony's reactor without killing Tony without that move a few movies back.
I think this movie works better if you do take Steve vs. Tony personally, which I didn't.
I'll watch it again when it comes out on DVD, and not just because it's there. I liked a lot of it, but I think it had more potential than it used. And while it was even more clever in plotting than Age of Ultron, which I actually thought was pretty clever, and while I think it did better by almost all the characters, in the end I'm not convinced that as a single movie it was actually that much more unified or thoughtful.
But hey, it was just a movie, maybe you just can't do that in two and a half hours. What they really need to do is remake it as a mini-series and actually examine all the stuff they touched on. (It sort of reminds me of how I felt about Serenity, actually, now that I think about it. The material would have made a great tv show, but as a movie all I could see was what the tv show could have been.)