We got to the theater yesterday to see Captain America: Civil War, the newest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Holly recommended I write a review… but then we also saw that a lot of other reviews have already been hitting. Have a few links!
Pretty sure there’s more where those came from… I feel surely I have something to add to the conversation, but I’m also still digesting the movie. I also want to avoid spoilers, since the movie is so newly out… although it’s been out overseas, and made so much money over the weekend you all may have seen it once already.
One thing I can do is refer back to previous posts. Like how I predicted that Civil War would be Captain America 3 because of their comics trajectory after Winter Soldier. Or the whole host of stories that came before the Civil War comics and which make it seem derivative. Or polls like Spider-Man or Team Iron Man versus Team Captain America.
But there’s a main post I want to reflect back on: my reactions to a review about Age of Ultron and how it was killing/not killing the “popcorn movie.”
The Popcorn Movie?
One of the main points in the post about the whole idea of the death of the “popcorn movie” was that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was creating an increasing need to watch all of their movies, to have a total Marvel experience, to watch the TV shows in-between (probably not a concern), to watch all the franchises…
And that their continued success was having an effect on other studios and other movie projects, which are increasingly becoming franchises, unwieldy multi-movie projects, stretching out book series, etc.
The writer of the review says they just want mindless action out of their mindless action movies, and so it was more on that sort of level I took umbrage. As we get to Civil War… can I disagree that you need to experience a whole lot of Marvel to really be invested?
This is the 13th movie in the overall franchise (they’re also now at 4 different TV shows with more new titles and seasons on the way). Civil War draws on literally every one of the past movies to get us to this place. To get us to this fight, to this feeling that maybe they’ve been doing this unchecked for too long. That all the things that people complain about comic books and superheroes for their simple morality and total unreality… that maybe all those things come crashing in, and the morality gets hazy, and the superheroes get reigned in by the governments of the world.
If you try to do that sort of a story as one of your first stories (*cough cough* Batman vs. Superman *cough*), is there any weight there? I mean, maybe. Watchmen and The Incredibles, though, deal with the world that’s already moved a bit past this point. It’s the period after it, without showing us much of the before-times. The entire MCU, meanwhile, has been the before-times thus far. It’s all been the who-watches-the-watchers superhero fare, with Winter Soldier completely destroying the trust we had that the good guys were surrounded by good guys doing good things.
I don’t think at this point – and maybe the blog doesn’t help with this – that I could distance myself from all 12 other movies and look at this one, objectively, and talk just about it. I don’t think I could say at all what the person who hasn’t seen any of the other movies would think of this. Or the person who’s only seen the Avengers films. Or just the Captain America films. Or like, Iron Man and Avengers. Or heck, just the Spider-Man films. Or… well, you get it.
And I don’t know if it’s enough to answer “who would decide to go see this without seeing X others?” Because the philosophy of the point is still there – that maybe we shouldn’t be put in these sorts of situations. The other possible question is, “who hasn’t seen one of the other MCU movies?” They’ve made a ton of money, and that tends to go with people seeing your movies.
But still, that moral question: is it right for a movie (or other story for that matter) to expect that you’re “caught up” with their previous work? Should I be able to pick up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and just be good-to-go? I don’t know. But then again, in reading comics, we’re pretty much all jumpers-on at some point or another… The jumping on point for the movies is a lot more complicated.
I told you that story so I could tell you this one
A little Ron White for you there… And it’s going back to Age of Ultron. A lot of people, including the review alluded to above, have been really down on that movie. It’s maybe not Amazing Spider-Man 2 bad or Batman versus Superman bad, at least not in terms of having too much going on and too many lead-ins for other movies. But it got bad at times, no doubt.
So some of the “popcorn movie” argument came from a feeling that Age of Ultron felt a bit like a long commercial for future MCU movies. And certainly, the Thor scenes felt that way, maybe some of the cameos (poor Falcon). Other scenes to other degrees.
Age of Ultron suffered from being a movie that felt busy setting us up for future movies – and as we see now, no movie moreso than Civil War. Meanwhile, Civil War has the opposite problem: it’s a movie that relies heavily on that which came before. So while the one ends up an unsatisfying middle-movie (Ultron), the other is a satisfying culmination of a bunch of storylines (Civil War).
And that leaves me feeling sad for Joss Whedon. The first Avengers was a culmination movie, and was absolutely phenomenal and first-of-its-kind for it. But really, Civil War was the movie we deserved, the sort of movie we expected… and what we got instead was Age of Ultron. But they had to tell us that story to tell us this one, and so it goes.
Civil War was Avengers 3.
The other things that I think works in Civil War‘s favor is that the Russo brothers made Winter Soldier, this one… and are going on to do the soon-to-be-retitled Avengers 3 and 4 films. So most of what they had to set up was movies they themselves will be making, along with I guess Spider-Man and Black Panther.
But again a difference. If we never see this Spider-Man or Black Panther again, we’ll be disappointed – but only because they were so good. Their story is still resolved at this point, or at least, it could be. However, from Age of Ultron, if we don’t find out what the #&@^ was up with Thor, I’m going to be legitimately curious and annoyed. Like if that movie just never happens.
It’s some of the same with all the setups in the movies I compared – Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Batman v Superman. The former seems to not be getting any sequels ever again, and so all their threads are just gone and a large part of that movie is now officially wasted time. The latter – remains to be seen. I think it’s made enough money that, at the very least, the movies they already have in production will finish and see the light of day. Those are Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, so at that point they might be doing just fine. But at any time I feel like DC’s grand plan might fall apart, and all the time spent setting up those films was a waste.
I don’t think that the time spent in Age of Ultron will end up wasted, but still, it’s the difference between the movie pointing forward – which the popcorn-movie critic may be right to be annoyed at – and the movie pointing back to its roots and building on them.
So where do we go from here?
Honestly, I don’t expect a Captain America 4. That might not be how Hollywood works, and it might get added to the MCU docket and further push back Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and all the other movies we’ve gotten so excited about… but I doubt it.
Nonetheless, the rumors lately! First, that it seems like they’ve pushed Inhumans back so far that it’s officially off the radar. Might not happen. In some ways, this could be good for Agents of SHIELD – let them more fully develop the Inhumans on the show, maybe even get Black Bolt, Medusa and the rest there?
And then, that Infinity War is no longer Infinity War and is also probably not a “part 1 and 2.” They’ll still be the officially titled Avengers 3 and 4, but not with that name. Nonetheless, Thanos grabbed the gauntlet and is on his way… somewhere. There’s another Age of Ultron unnecessary-feeling scene…
But I think in the mean time, they’ve given us some phenomenal characters to look forward to. I am legitimately excited now for the stand-alone Spider-Man film (subtitled Homecoming which must mean something other than Spider-Man is returning to Marvel’s control…), and am absolutely enthralled with the thought of Black Panther. Ant-Man and the Wasp could only be better if that had been the friggin’ first movie. Seriously. Get Wasp on screen, guys.
AND OH MY GOSH HAVE YOU SEEN THAT DOCTOR STRANGE TRAILER???
So is it right and fair that Marvel makes us watch all their movies? My answer might be, if they keep being good? Yes. But on the flip-side: still haven’t seen Batman vs. Superman….