Tagged: Captain America Civil War

Marc Alan Fishman’s ComicMix Six: Marc’s Top Marvel Studios Movies!

To date, Marvel Studios has 16 released films in their shared universe. And while I have an affinity for all of them (truly, there isn’t a bad one in the bunch) it’s fair now to see the cream rise to the top. Having just finished Spider-Man: Homecoming this past weekend – yes I’m a suburban dad who no longer prioritizes movies as a need-to-see-on-release-day – I think I’m within bounds to pluck out my top five… until I mentioned this idea to EIC Mike Gold who denoted “We have a logo” for picking six. Natch. So, without any further preamble, here are (ranked from bottom to top) my most favoritest Marvel(ous) movies.

Definition time: I’m specifying movies only within the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” This excludes the X-Men movies, the Fantastic Four movies, the Blade trilogy (which was awesome, honestly) any previous Spider-Man flicks, and sadly Deadpool who would have been #3 on my ranking.

  1. The Avengers

It’s funny enough to me that this film – the quintessential tent pole of the MCU – arrives in this bonus spot on my list. When the dust settled for me on The Avengers I remain in love with the concept, less the execution. Because Joss Whedon is so adept at creating great team dynamics there’s rarely any downtime in the flick, which is its saving grace. Ultimately, the plot is barely logical, with Loki aligning with Thanos because reasons and it’s all an excuse for a huge CGI fist fight. That the film never abandons the damage New York takes because of the epic Midtown massacre again harkens why The Avengers made my list in the first place. Amidst the cacophony, humanity still remains at the heart of the film. Even if Agent Coulson’s death was retconned almost immediately.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

All of Cap’s movies are infinitely watchable to me. Somehow the cock-sure asshat that was one of the only saving graces of the terrible Fantastic Four films (you know which ones) truly adopted and adapted his talents to fully realize Marvel’s big blue boy scout. And in his performance, Chris Evans balances the fish-out-of-water aspects of the character perfectly with a soldier’s grit and heroism in the modern age. While The First Avenger did all the expository heavy lifting to sell us on Steve Rogers the man, The Winter Soldier proved that “superhero” films could be far more than large set pieces and quips. The Directing Russos took their love of 70s political / conspiracy fiction and married it to the modern day in a way that felt bombastic but real. I still remain in awe watching Rogers chase down his former best friend amidst the chaos of the biggest Holy Watcher! moment of the MCU – the reveal of Hydra’s long-simmering subterfuge. Pair that with the late-in-the-movie tête-à-tête with Nick Fury over proactive protection over reactive super heroics and you get a heavy flick that leaves you wondering why it took this long to see something this good.

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

The only thing I could honestly nitpick about the flick was the avidity for late-night fight scenes, is a boon to the first Spider-Man film to truly nail the character as I’d always imagined him to be. Our believably-baby-faced Peter Parker steals the show (fitting given it’s his film) in what amounts to an homage to 80s teen rom-coms with a running thread of super-heroics. And, amongst literally all the movies I’ll be listing today, none had me more on the edge of my seat than the car ride discussion between Peter and his date’s daddy. That a superhero movie had me captivated without thwipping a single web is a testament to its depth and brevity. Oh, and somehow, the movie made a mort like Vulture into a believable badass. Case. Closed.

  1. Captain America: Civil War

Take everything that was said above, copy, and paste it. But magnify it by two or three. Civil War took big swings at the politics of being a super hero, weaved in a deeply personal conflict, and then set it all against a global backdrop. The movie owned the space Avengers: Age of Ultron should have, all while taking those initial beats of young Steve Rogers and bringing them home to roost. That they could tell all of this, drop our jaws with the airport sequence and make both sides of the equation nuanced in their actions and opinions only drove the point home harder how Marvel could make mature fiction against the flashy colors and CGI bombast.

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel’s way of raising two gigantic middle fingers at DC while simultaneously mooning them. For a bit of perspective: Batman v. Superman earned (essentially) the same amount of money as the first GotG movie, but came out two years later. So, a movie where a loose Indiana Jones / Han Solo rip-off pilots Firefly alongside a talking raccoon and animated tree earned the same amount of money. But that’s truly beside the point. Guardians 2 took everything amazing from its first iteration – the comedy, the space-action, the brilliant visuals, and an astoundingly wide scope of the universe at large – and somehow improved upon it. Kurt Russel’s Ego is a massive villain whose plot (for once) feels earned. All the performances were beyond exemplary… but nothing truly hit this father harder than a blue dude with a red Mohawk literally defining fatherhood amidst an intergalactic chase and war sequence.

  1. Iron Man

Iron Man was a no-brainer for the top of my list. While other actors across the MCU have grown into their roles… none of them hold a candle to Robert Downey Jr. – who doesn’t so much as perform Tony Stark as he simply exists as a surrogate so close to the source material he bleeds ink. While other Marvel films have woven more intricate plots, delivered better (a few, if we’re being picky) villains, or provided us with better battles… none compare to the total package quite so well as the original kick-off to Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here, our introduction to what the general pop-culture lexicon would consider a “B” lister, Jon Favreau drags right to the top of the A list in the cold open. Tony Stark – as massively, untouchably talented and wealthy as he is – becomes our surrogate POV character for nearly every Marvel film he’s subsequently been in. And while his personal politics and actions have led him to morally gray areas ever since… it’s all the work done here in his origin that allows us to believe every action that has occurred. All that and the movie made this millennial truly believe a man could fly. In a suit. Of space-age material, designed by a genius living with an electromagnetic reactor in his chest that powers it.

Box Office Democracy: Spider-Man: Homecoming

There needs to be a clear change in thesis statement when you reboot a film franchise.  Something like “We need Batman to be more serious and less goofy” being the reason to bring Christopher Nolan in to restart the Caped Crusader, or “Star Trek doesn’t feel relatable to young people because we’ve been serving TNG fans and older exclusively for 20 years” for the Abrams Trek reboot.  I think that’s why the Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man series never caught on because there wasn’t a change in thesis, it was the same attempt at superhero melodrama with big CGI villains.  The only thing that changed was people didn’t seem to like Tobey Maguire anymore and Sam Raimi wanted desperately to do anything else with his time.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a clear change in tone.  Sony/Marvel (I don’t know who gets credit here) have decided that they want Spider-Man to be upbeat and not dragged down by being an overwrought angst-fest.  This is a movie about the wonder of being a superhero and the problems are kid problems.  The problems that don’t involve a man with giant wings at least.

It’s so refreshing to see a reboot without an origin story.  There’s a throwaway reference to being bitten by a spider and that’s it.  There’s no working as a wrestler, there’s no Uncle Ben, and the movie doesn’t suffer one iota for the absence.  We’ve been told this origin story so many times including twice in the last 15 years on the big screen.  It’s nice to be given credit for cultural literacy for once.  I do wish someone had said “With great power comes great responsibility” just one time because that’s an important thematic shorthand that just gets run over here, but if I have to trade that for 40 minutes of not killing Uncle Ben I’ll take it.  Hopefully whoever at Warner Brothers responsible for planning the next on-screen version of killing the Waynes saw Homecoming this weekend and is thinking twice.

There’s a prominent subplot about Peter’s suit.  It’s a suit Tony Stark gave him and it has a very Iron-Man-y HUD.  Midway through the film the “training wheels” get taken off and we get an awful lot of material on the crazy new features and Peter’s inability to manage them.  It’s funny enough but I profoundly do not care about watching Spider-Man fiddle with technology.  History probably proves I’m in the minority here, as both the Ben Reilly costume change and the Iron Spider era both saw bumps in sales, but it’s not the relatable content to me.  I think it’s fun when Peter engages in relatable drama; not does a scene out of Despicable Me with a plethora of gadgets.  This should be a small thing, but it’s so much of the second act it gets exhausting.

It feels like every few months we get another thing from Marvel that is supposed to finally show us the MCU from a human perspective and none of them ever succeed.  Daredevil was supposed to be this, as were Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and seemingly everything else.  None of those particularly worked for me on that level because while they would mention the bigger things happening in the movie they either felt too far removed (like they were only coincidentally in the same world) or too close (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is massive in scope).  Spider-Man: Homecoming is, finally, a success at feeling small.  The stakes feel important, but at no point is someone threatening me with the end of the world or the destruction of New York.  This is a movie about personal triumph and the effect, and lack of effect, that has on the later world.  Spider-Man fails if the Vulture succeeds, but the worst outcome of the events in this movie wouldn’t even be worth an aside in the next Avengers film.  There’s growth here and as the rest of the MCU spins in to grander, more cosmic, conflict it’s nice to have a little story that feels big instead of a giant story that rings hollow.

ComicMix Six: Box Office Democracy’s Top Six Movies of 2016

6. Captain America: Civil WarThere are so many fantastic moments in Civil War.  The easy one is the fight at the airport where we finally get that big super hero battle we’ve seen in a thousand different comic books (and acted out with action figures at least that many times) put on the silver screen in all its glory.  The three-way fight at the end might be even better because it’s a crisp action beat full of emotion that is rare anywhere these days, and is honestly pretty uncommon even in print.  It’s not a perfect movie, but it might be the perfect application of fan service.  Every other Marvel movie has to either top this in terms of fan service (and they honestly probably shouldn’t try) or do something new and exciting.  The gauntlet has been thrown down (this is not an Infinity Gauntlet pun I swear).

5. Moana This is the pick I am most concerned is recency bias messing with me.  I saw Moana recently, and while it completely delighted me, I’m concerned in a few years time I’ll look back at this pick and think it should have been The Accountant or Kubo and the Two Strings or really anything else.  I loved Moana, it’s a sweet movie with a good heart, a great set of characters, and a soundtrack that I can’t stop humming to myself.  When we spend the next two months marching towards the Oscars falling over ourselves to talk about what a historical accomplishment La La Land is, I hope people remember it wasn’t even the best musical released within two weeks of its release date.

4. Rogue One This might seem a little high for a movie I reviewed two weeks ago and was kind of hard on but while it was easy to harp on the stuff that didn’t quite work I’m still quite fond of the stuff that did.  Rogue One brings a bunch of new stuff to the action vocabulary of the franchise and while it might not have wowed us as an independent sci-fi film, as a Star Wars film it feels like a revelation.  There’s an honest-to-goodness war happening in Rogue One for the first time in eight movies with “War” in the title.  Weak central characters may keep Rogue One from joining the top tier but in a soft year for movies overall a compelling B+ can make the top list.

3. ZootopiaZootopia is a great movie.  It’s funny, touching, and with a decent bit of intricate noir-inspired plotting for a kids movie.  It is worthy of being a standard bearer in the Disney Revival era and standing next to Frozen and Wreck-it-Ralph.  That would probably be enough to get it on this list but what makes me actually proud is that Disney decided to use their giant influence on the youth of America and make a movie about institutionalized prejudice.  They’ve done “don’t judge a book by its cover” movies before but Zootopia is about how the whole system can be against people because of what they look like and that makes it a more special movie and one that I would be proud to show my own children.

2. The Nice GuysI did not review The Nice Guys for ComicMix this year (I watched The Angry Birds Movie that week) and it’s rare I go see a new release movie on my own anymore— but for Shane Black I was willing to do it and it was worth it.  The Nice Guys is very funny, certainly the best comedy of the year, but more than that it was so inescapably fun.  That’s a strange thing to say about a movie that is sort of about a string of murders in the seedy world of the 1970s porn industry.  The chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe is delightful— I would watch that pair do seven buddy movies like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.  I think a premium cable network should commission a junior detective show staring the daughter character.  I want to live in the world of The Nice Guys as much as I can, and that’s such a fantastic thing to get from a movie.

1. Arrival For the second year in a row my top movie of the year is a non-franchise science fiction film with a third act that’s a little out of left field.  I guess we all have a type.  Arrival is a movie that establishes a high degree of difficulty with its concept and then crafts a simply perfect film to go with it.  It’s tense and thought provoking and beautiful and cripplingly sad.  I went in to Arrival with no idea what I was getting or what to expect and then spent the next three weeks recommending it to literally every person I spoke to.  In 2017 I would consider myself beyond lucky if I saw another movie that completely delights me like Arrival did; I would settle for the new Blade Runner being a passable attempt.

John Ostrander: For What It’s Worth


 “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” – For What It’s Worth, 1967, written by Stephen Stills, performed by Buffalo Springfield

SPOILERS! Warning! Danger! I’m going to discuss some questions raised in Captain America: Civil War, which means some plot points will get spilled. If you haven’t yet seen the film – it’s just out on Blu-Ray – you may not want to proceed.

There are a lot of things I enjoyed about Captain America: Civil War but what I liked best was the question that was at the center of the narrative. During an action in Legos involving Cap and some members of the Avengers, there is a mistake and an explosion and innocent bystanders get killed. This, coupled with the human collateral damage witnessed in previous Marvel films, causes members of the United Nations to create The Slovenia Accords – named after the site of the massive destruction in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now the Avengers must submit to an oversight panel. If they don’t, they will be disbanded.

This creates a split within the Avengers themselves. Tony Stark (Iron Man) believes they must accept the accords and some restrictions on how they use their powers or they would be no better than the foes they oppose. Steve Rogers (Captain America) does not, cannot, and will not agree. This compromises their freedom including the freedom to act when they see a situation calling for it. They can’t wait for bureaucratic paper rustling. Lives are in the balance. The Avengers split into Team Cap and Team Iron Man (along with some guest stars) and they will, of course, fight it out.

So… which team do we, the audience, ally with? The film is clever in that neither side is set to be absolutely right or absolutely wrong. There are arguments for both but the question at the center of the film is – can society allow masked, super-powered individuals to act without some check?

There is no right answer. Oh, my inclinations is to go with Cap; I’m a stinkin’ leftist liberal progressive pinko commie after all. FreeeeeeeDOM!

Except. . .

All these superheroes are basically vigilantes. They operate outside of the law; for the most part, the heroes are not deputized by any government or law enforcement organization (Green Lantern is an exception but that was a lousy movie). They don’t really have any authority to do what they are doing.

I do take exception to one trope in the movie. “Thunderbolt” Ross from The Incredible Hulk film returns, now as the U.S. Secretary of State and evidently liaison to the Avengers from the U.N. He cites all the collateral destruction suffered by society in both Avengers films and the previous Captain America film. He lays the blame for this on the Avengers, noting that there are others in society that feel the same way.

Except. . .

Neither Cap nor the Avengers initiated the situations in those films. Because of their actions, humanity was not enslaved or outright destroyed as would have been the case otherwise. I would have liked to have that mentioned in the film by the heroes.

However, that doesn’t change the root question in Captain America: Civil War. Can any society allow such masked, perhaps super-powered, individuals to act unilaterally? Some of them are masked and the authorities don’t know their true names. Can a society of law survive in such circumstances? It is not a simple question and, to its credit, I don’t think Captain America: Civil War presents it that way.

buffalo-springfieldMy heart remains with Cap but I think my brain may agree more with Iron Man. I think I have my own civil war, one that most of us have at one time or another – heart versus head. I don’t think that one is going to be resolved any time soon.

At the start of the column, I quoted a line from Buffalo Springfield’s song “For What It’s Worth.” Despite being fifty years old, the piece is remarkably suited for today. Check it out on YouTube or some such place for yourself and see.

Editor’s Note: A somewhat less subtle version was recorded by Ozzy Osbourne about 10 years ago.

Marc Alan Fishman: Civil War Rocks!


Good morning, ComicMixers. I believe we’re a good week and a day past the debut of Captain America: Civil War. I saw it with my wife on a much deserved date-night/Mother’s Day celebration. Suffice to say I loved the flick. And given that more than a handful of people at Free Comic Book Day were compelled to tell me they laughed at my anger over BvS: Dawn of Go Eff Yourself, it’s really nice to declare I loved this movie. I honestly have very little – if any – nits to pick. And rather than pick a single element and wax poetic on it for ya’ll, this week all my rattled brain will allow is a random smattering of thoughts revolving around the Russo’s amazing piece of six-one-six-cinema.

Oh, and clearly… SPOILERS ABOUND. You’ve been warned!

Earned Angst – Look, I hate to start my random thoughts with another cheap shot at SupEMOman, but I sort of need to. You see, the fulcrum of Civil War doesn’t rest on the now half-dozen or so world-ruining disasters from the MCU since Iron Man… no. It rests on the lost (and highly plausible) history between the Winter Soldier, Captain America, and Iron Man. The final fight sequence had the first bit of angst I’d seen that I honestly felt. Tony Stark – PTSD-riddled and alone again – finally needed to hit something. And what better target then the perfectly teethed super soldier who was just trying to protect his friend? Gravitas, thy name is Rogers.

A Continued Sense of Humor and Humanity – “Can you please move your seat back?” “No.”

“I’m shaking your hand too much, aren’t I?” “If anyone else has some amazing ability they’ve been keeping secret, now might be the time to show it!” Throughout the entirety of the two-and-a-half-plus hours of Civil War we were never far from a smirk or light chuckle. And always in service to the characters themselves. When we as an audience believe the performances as we do here, it’s OK to realize that even amidst a massive super-powered scuffle, these are still human beings (and, yeah, Vision). Even mumbled under their breath, they were allowed to crack wise now and again. And it never once felt dishonest.

Vision In Today’s Menswear™ – I don’t have much else to comment on other than I think it’s hilarious that Vision dresses marvelously when he’s not in combat.

Spider-Man Finally Done Right – Look, Tobey Maguire had the awkward look thing down (and he looked as believable as a high schooler as I do right now). Andrew Garfield had the quips mastered. But Tom Holland? Well, he has the youth, the nerdiness, and the quips. It was a perfect presentation, perfectly integrated into the MCU. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise; this Peter Parker stole the show.

Black Panther Finally Done – Simply put: could T’Challa be handled any better than that? Hell if I know, cause I thought he was top-to-bottom perfect. Regal, yet passionate. Reclusive, but fiercely loyal to an external cause. The outfit looked great. His confidence looked even better. Blade is now long in the tooth. Luke Cage is still only Netflix fodder (for the time being). If I’m a young black kid looking for a hero I can cheer on, one who could go toe-to-toe with any Avenger… Well, I need not look any longer.

No Need For Dessert – Civil War may have nearly burst trying to fit in so many characters, minor plots, and major moves… But ultimately everything presented felt part of a larger whole. I left the theater feeling like “the end” of the Captain America franchise allowed us to see Steve Roger’s true journey: From a scrawny kid to psuedo hero. From pseudo hero to real hero. From real hero to a lost hero. From a fish out of water to a leader in the modern world. And, lastly, we leave with Captain America up-to-speed, fully formed, and working towards his own ends. While Cap may not have felt entirely like the star of his own film here, the Russo bros prove it’s because he’s finally reserved to lead when he needs to. America in 2016 is no longer in need of a Nationalist Super Hero. Someone please let Donald Doom know that. But I digress.

GiAnt-Man – Seriously fun. Game changing. Funny, but perfectly placed in the scene. And it sets us up for some more hijinks in the pending sequel(s). More than all of that though, the debut of Scott Lang’s big trick reminded that this was still a comic book movie. Toss in Peter’s quip about the old movie being inspiration for taking Lang down and you have a capsule of everything right about Marvel’s movies.

A Realistic Approach to the Fantastic – Beyond every other point made here… what strikes me the most about Civil War was how very plausible the Sokovia Accords would be. Whereas the other movie just sorta chunked the whole “world is weary of what’s happening” into a little session of congress, here we have a truly global retort to all the catastrophe. Tony Stark’s resolve in the face of tragedy (not unlike Dr. Greg House reacted when being put in his place by a civilian) makes complete sense. The need for supervision, or at very least sanction to operate makes plenty of sense to me (#TeamIronMan). And Captain America’s rigid response, in light of all that fell during Winter Soldier with Nick Fury and the whole “pro-active vs. reactive super heroics” makes even more sense.

All that and they eventually solved the whole thing without killing each other.

Tweets Discuss Captain America Civil War

This week we talk all about Captain America: Civil War. And Anya gets mad about what she calls the 45 minute fight she says is in all Marvel movies…except this one.  We also determine that a Sharon – Steve match up is wrong  because Captain Carter is the OTP of all OTPs, so move over Lizzie & Darcy.  Anya also learns that she can’t talk if she’s sitting on her hands.  We also talk about the Black Widow movie (finally) and critique the pictures in the latest Rolling Stone article about Chris Evans. Yeah, there’s a lot of episode in here!

Box Office Democracy: “Captain America: Civil War”

Captain America vs. Iron Man by Alex Ross after Jack Kirby from Tales of Suspense #58

I hesitate a little sitting down to write a rave review of Captain America: Civil War because a year ago I wrote a rave review for Avengers: Age of Ultron, and when I rewatched that to make sure I was all set for this new installment I found it rather tedious. Are these, perhaps, movies that trick us into liking them with their big action scenes, clever dialogue, and sweeping scores— but only really play in a big theater with a bucket of popcorn? Are there no legs to these films? Will we be as embarrassed of them in 20 years as we are of Batman Returns now? The correct answer to these questions is a resounding “who cares?” It doesn’t matter if these are immortal treasures, the Casablancas or French Connections of our time, only that they’re fun to watch now and they are, perhaps the most fun this side of Fast & Furious, and we should cherish and celebrate them even if they might be a bit fleeting.

I was the perfect age to be completely enamored with the Civil War comic book series. I was finishing up my junior year of college and I could not get enough of any super hero comic book with a political allegory thrown in. If you wanted to have someone talk your ear off about how Margaret Thatcher influenced British comics in the 80s with not even a whiff of proper context I was your guy. Civil War the comic felt timely and provocative while Civil War the movie feels decidedly less so. We seem less concerned these days about government surveillance and intrusion in to our lives. There was probably a good pivot to be made to police militarization and violence, especially when Captain America learns that the order is to kill Bucky on sight, but there’s seemingly no interest in exploring this and it’s hard to blame them when Marvel is interested in making a billion dollars, not in being provocative.

They’re going to earn that billion dollars, too. Civil War is a crisp, effective, action movie that provides ample fan service without feeling overdone. Early in the film I thought I was completely worn out by super hero action sequences, and then they get to the big signature set piece where all the heroes fight each other and I was completely riveted. It helps that their big dramatic fight scene has a brand-new wisecracking Spider-Man and a welcome returning Ant-Man to keep things light and glib and just the utter opposite of Snyder-esque. The final fight scene has that overwrought gritty feeling creeping in, but by that point the stakes have been jacked up so many times that I was willing to forgive it. It’s a dark violent fight but it’s so well directed and the cramped environment makes it feel immediate, imposing, and fresh. Civil War has some fantastic character moments but it needs to live and die by its action sequences, and with the exception of one that felt lifted from The Bourne Identity it consistently hit the mark.

I’m beginning to wonder if the Marvel Cinematic Universe is starting to strain under the weight of its own continuity. The scenes between Vision and Scarlet Witch were generally charming but they mostly felt like they were setting things up for future movies rather than relating directly to the action at hand. Similarly, I was thrilled to see Chadwick Boseman debut as Black Panther and while he’s a riveting presence (and an A+ costume) it felt like they were saving all the good bits for his solo movie, and while I’m excited to see it that movie comes out in two years, I paid for this ticket now. I understand that this is bigger than any one movie, but I want these events to feel important and self-contained and not just part of some endless march to Thanos or whatever the endgame after that is. Comic book movies should be evocative of their source material, but should avoid the more glaring pitfalls of sequential storytelling with excessive continuity when they can.

I like so much of what they put on the screen in Captain America: Civil War and most of my complaints seem to be about the things they didn’t do or problems outside the scope of a movie like this, and while I do think a more timely, more self-contained film would have been more enjoyable it doesn’t take away from how good it is now. We are looking down the barrel of a rough summer when it comes to standard-fare action movies, and when I’m sitting through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows I’m not going to be thinking about how Civil War dropped too many hints— I’m going to miss how it could stage a compelling grandiose action scene and how none of the characters looked like expressionless CGI blobs. Civil War is as good as superhero action films get, or at least as good as they get with no Hulk.

Seriously, I feel Hulk-starved at this point.

Joe Corallo: Isn’t It Midnight?


This past Thursday I went with my columnist of choice, Molly, to take in all that Captain America: Civil War had to offer. There were thrills, chills, and carefully crafted and choreographed spills. Molly and I also went and saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice the day they came out. Well, technically those were all the day before they came out. The official release dates for all those movies was the Friday of the week. So how come they were in theaters the day before?

Because we don’t have midnight movie premieres anymore.

Personally, I think that sucks. For years, going to a midnight release was exciting for me. Sure, it often led to a miserable Friday at work, but it was worth it. Waiting on a line with lots of fans, the chatting with strangers about the shared love of Star Wars, Batman, Lord of the Rings, or any number of other movie franchises deemed worthy enough by the studios to share with the masses just a little early. Being looked at as a fountain of knowledge by your family, friends and coworkers who want to see the movie in question over the opening weekend, but not at midnight because they let silly things like their lives, obligations and work ethic get in the way. Yeah, let’s see where that gets them.

One of the first midnight releases I had the chance to go see was Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. It was a great experience waiting outside on a thankfully nice night and chatting with friends about the movie for a couple of hours (you have to get there early if you want a good seat, after all). People decked out in Star Wars shirts and other paraphernalia, wielding lightsabers, with some even in full out cosplay. It was like being at a mini comic con. And luckily for us it wasn’t the worst Star wars movie, which we all know is Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Now that I think about it, my first may have been Spider-Man 2. Fellow columnist Art Tebbel made it a point that we go to a theater in Manhattan that had a professional Spider-Man on hand. I’m pretty sure we sat in the balcony section too. And it turned out that was the best Spider-Man film to date so we lucked out.

I didn’t think of this until I already started writing this week’s column, but I should also encourage all of you reading this to please check out Art Tebbel’s reviews here at ComicMix, Box Office Democracy. He spent two years going to the theater to watch the highest grossing film every week, even if it was the same movie for weeks on end. Art did this and somehow still enjoys movies and has some respect for humanity. And as someone who Art once made stop everything he was doing to go see Anchorman with him because it was that good, I can’t recommend him enough.

So why don’t movie distributors want me to have fun anymore? There are a few reasons why. One of which was the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado during the midnight premiere of Dark Knight Rises which was in fact the last midnight premiere I had seen. During the early days after this shooting it was often cited as the main reason and linked to security concerns. However, we have now had so many mass shootings since then that it’s more or less been forgotten, but that’s a sad story for another time.

And as for security, I’ve yet to be patted down or go through a metal detector at theaters in midtown Manhattan, so I would find the security reasoning hard to believe. Hell, I’ve successfully snuck in candy and soda into the theater with a 100% success rate since the Aurora mass shooting.

The more likely answer follows Occam’s razor, which is to say money. Yup, you read that right. Shocking, I know. While the studios may like the photo ops, press hits and extra cash a midnight release can bring in, the cost of operations falls on the theaters themselves. Paying for staff to not only stay open later, but to have even more staff on hand for crowd management is a lot.

And over the years more and more movies were falling into the category of midnight premiere fodder, just adding more and more to the cost of operations. What started midnight releases big time in the mainstream with movies like Star Wars: The Phantom Menace trickled down to even the Bourne franchise and when is the last time you encountered a diehard Bourne fan that you could equate to a diehard Star Wars fan in terms of knowledge, dedication, and passion to fandom? Okay, maybe the Fast and Furious franchise you could, but that’s why I didn’t use that as an example before.

It’s natural that movie theaters would want to roll back on this, and plenty of movie theaters still offer midnight B-movie screenings at least in big cities. That’s how I recently met Matt Hannon of Samurai Cop fame as he went out and toured the sequel the end of last year.

And despite what we keep hearing about Hollywood blockbuster after Hollywood blockbuster breaking records every year, particularly comic book movies, Hollywood is an erratic place revenue wise. While 2015 had an impressive cash haul, 2014 did not. Prior to that, 2011 was a bad year for Hollywood, seeing a half a billion dollar drop in domestic ticket sales despite higher prices. Those were the numbers the industry had going into Dark Knight Rises in 2012, so the idea of this being more about profits by screening movies earlier on Thursdays, where more average movie goers will come out and the theaters themselves don’t necessarily have to staff up and keep staff out later, rather than it being related to people’s safety seems to make the most sense.

But hey, that kind of logic works for the gun industry, so why can’t it work for Hollywood?

Martha Thomases: Men Don’t Have Breasts

avengers black widow

Looking forward to Captain America: Civil War? I am. Along with Free Comic Book Day, it marks the beginning of the summer entertainment season. It’s enough to make a person want to invest in popcorn futures.

(Is there even such a thing as popcorn futures?)

While I won’t defend them as pieces of art, I enjoy a good action movie. I like adrenaline and explosions. I like to watch attractive people pretend to fight each other and pretend to fall in love with each other, preferably with lots of adrenaline and explosives.

The main reason I enjoy these movies is that my inner seven-year-old can pretend that I’m doing some of the heroic actions, or maybe even the villainous actions. The same seven-year-old who believed that the right sneakers would let me run faster and jump higher.

Pre-pubescent kids have amazing imaginations. To be seven is to know, in your heart, that anything can happen, that the world is an awesome place and you can have it all. Unfortunately, as we get older, reality intrudes. We start to learn that we have limitations as well as talents, and we have to figure out how to make the best of both.

Boys grow up to be men, and I’m not claiming that is easy. Men face a lot of pressure to conform to a fairly narrow view of masculinity. They are supposed to be strong and tough and earn a living and support a family and never ever let anyone see them doubt themselves.

But they don’t have breasts. Breasts are wonderful body-parts, but they don’t necessarily appear at the most convenient time, nor do they come with instructions about how to fit themselves into a girl’s previous version of a normal life. According to this, breasts (or, more accurately, the way our society treats breasts) are responsible for too many girls dropping out of physical activities they used to enjoy.

I’m going to blame comics, at least in part. Especially mainstream super-hero comics.

Too many super-heroines go about their super-heroing business displaying their impossibly large breasts with no visible means of support. A girl with new breasts reading about Catwoman leaping around Gotham City without at least an underwire (and preferably in a sports-bra) isn’t going to think she can be Catwoman. The same girl, watching Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises, doing the same thing, will be able to relate.

Scarlett Johansson is a beautiful woman with womanly curves, and her Black Widow costume is entirely believable for the stunts she performs.

We might not be able to expect the same for the upcoming Wonder Woman movie. According to Gal Gadot, the executives in charge of the film care way more about how her breasts look than about the script or any other aspect of the production.

In that regard, at least, Warner Bros. is keeping the comic book’s history alive. For all her decades of feminist cred, DC has most often treated the Amazing Amazon as tits and ass, a tradition that will carry on at least through the movie’s premiere.

Luckily, there are all sorts of comics that a girl can read that have characters who look like her and still accomplish amazing things. Some have characters she may already know and some she may not and some she may have heard about but not know the details. And if she ventures past the Big Two, there are so many choices telling so many different kinds of stories that don’t rely on sexualizing women’s bodies as objects to be observed, not inhabited.

You know, like the boys do.

Joe Corallo: When You’re Strange…


This past weekend Captain America: Civil War raked in an impressive two hundred million dollars. That feat was made more impressive by the fact that the movie had not come out in the United States yet or even China, the second largest market for Hollywood movies. The past week has also seen a resurgence in public outcry against Tilda Swinton’s casting as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange which had at least one person attached to the film citing casting as something that would impact the film’s performance in foreign markets.

China’s dominance in the Hollywood market is a fairly new occurrence. It was only a few years ago when China surpassed Japan to become the second largest market for these movies, with eyes on becoming the largest. We’ve seen some of the effects of this development already at Marvel with the handling of Iron Man 3. So what does this mean for other movies and specifically comic book blockbusters?

Going back to Doctor Strange, screenwriter C. Robert Gargill specifically stated that the Ancient One could not be played as a Tibetan (as the character is in the comics) out of fear how the Chinese could react and adversely affect box office revenue. Now he has since come out and said that his statement was not appropriate, that he did not work on the original draft and he was brought in later, and apologized for making the remarks.

That said, he may have been speaking some truth. If studios are going to be targeting overseas markets they should be empathetic to them. The idea of being more empathetic in amongst itself is not a bad one, even if the end goal is to get you to spend money, but when it comes to Tibet, it’s hard to argue that empathy is at the heart of the matter.

But does that explain why The Ancient One was cast white?

Yes and no. The explanation given explains that they didn’t cast someone Tibetan for sure. Casting someone else of another Asian background would have also fed into stereotypes and the notion that these actors and actresses can be swapped and mixed despite the fact that those in the Philippines have a very different life and customs than those in China and so forth, which is not very good to do either.

I feel that Marvel Studios casting Tilda Swinton was at least an attempt to do the right thing. Women are so rarely, if ever, cast as being the old martial or magical master that teaches a man. That a woman has been cast in this role should be a good thing. Perhaps if the character in question was not from Tibet, this wouldn’t be as much of a hot button issue for people. And it’s understandable that it is. We are talking about genocide.

Honestly, as screenwriter C. Robert Gargill states, every decisions regarding The Ancient One is a bad one.

How did we end up with all these characters that seem problematic today? Between Doctor Strange and Iron Fist as of late, this would seem to be a Marvel problem, however this is not exclusively a Marvel Studios problem, or even just a mainstream comics problem (remember the bomb that was 2013’s The Lone Ranger?). These recent film adaptations of properties decades old, older than the target demographics, is revealing a lot about ourselves and our past.

Subject matters, characters, and ideas that we may find difficult to defend or even straight up repulsive now were not necessarily the case in the 60s, let alone the 30s and further back. The internet has made our world smaller. It’s making us aware of the sort of plights that we otherwise would not have been just a couple of decades ago. As a result, studios need to work on updating many of these properties that they would like to use as they have the benefit of name recognition to get butts in the seats, but these efforts have proved to involve a steep learning curve that can risk financial losses.

Marvel Studios, to their credit, has Black Panther and Captain Marvel slated for release before the end of the decade, and have been working on diversifying the characters they use. DC will be releasing a Wonder Woman and a Cyborg movie as well. That’s not to say that these movies may not also have their own hiccups and shortcomings, but it’s an acknowledgement that audiences are changing. Not just that audiences are changing here in the United States, but now that foreign markets are growing in importance to Hollywood, audiences around the world get a seat at the table, and Hollywood increasingly needs movies the rest of the world can enjoy as well. And so far, Marvel seems like they figured that out yet again with Captain America: Civil War.