However, as Dan Slott noted, “To be fair, the only reason Avengers: Endgame broke all those box office records is because Doctor Strange alone watched it 14,000,605 times.” At $25 a ticket, it must have been IMAX in New York City.
Avengers: Endgame opened to $350M at the domestic box office, shattering the record previously established by Avengers: Infinity War (which opened to $257.6M last year) and a number of other opening-weekend records in the process. In other words: not only did the Russo Brothers and Marvel Studios top themselves, they did so by almost $100M.
Marvel’s Ant-Man & the Wasp was a palette cleanser of a film, a satisfying diversion from the sturm and drang of Avengers: Infinity War. The film hit digital streaming this week and releases on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD on October 16.
Our friends at Disney Home Entertainment have provided us with a Blu-ray copy of the film to give away to a lucky reader. To be eligible to win, please tell us how you think Scott Lang will be rescued from the quantum realm.
All entries must be received no later than 11:59 p.m., Monday, October 15. The contest is open only to North American readers and the decision of the ComicMix judges will be final.
BONUS MATERIAL (may vary by retailer): Blu-ray & Digital:
Director’s Intro by Peyton Reed – The talented creator behind some of Marvel Studios’ funniest and most charming films will invite home audiences deeper into the world of Ant-Man and The Wasp.
Back in the Ant Suit: Scott Lang – Hero and all-star dad Scott Lang keeps the laughs coming for the audience, cast and crew.
A Suit of Her Own: The Wasp – Highly trained Hope Van Dyne is now the Wasp. See how some of her craziest stunts and action-packed scenes were brought to life.
Subatomic Super Heroes: Hank & Janet – Hank Pym’s wife Janet was lost in the quantum realm. Trace the legacy of these characters and the iconic actors who portray them.
Quantum Perspective: The VFX and Production Design of Ant-Man and The Wasp – Explore the movie’s visual effects and production design from a whole new viewpoint, in which every micro and macro detail counts.
Gag Reel and Outtakes – Audiences are treated to the hilarious quips that did not make the film as well as exclusive outtakes from Stan Lee and Tim Heidecker.
Gag Reel – Join in the fun with these outtakes from the set.
Stan Lee Outtakes – Stan Lee tries out a series of hilarious one-liners for the scene in which his car shrinks.
Tim Heidecker Outtakes – Check out Whale Boat Captain Daniel Goobler and his improvised whale-watching riffs.
Deleted Scenes (with commentary by Director Peyton Reed)
Worlds Upon Worlds – As Janet leads Hank through the surreal landscape of the quantum realm, they encounter an intelligent life form.
Sonny’s on the Trail – On the hunt for Hank Pym and his lab, Sonny Burch and his henchmen check the security camera of a neighborhood bookstore.
10 Years of Marvel Studios: The Art of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – See what it takes to bring the MCU to life, and the role concept artists play in bringing Super Heroes from comic book to screen.
Online Close-Up Magic University – This commercial will inspire you to expand your mind and maximize your full potential!
In Ant-Man and The Wasp, Scott Lang is grappling with the consequences of his choices, as both the Super Hero Ant-Man and a father, in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War. As he struggles to rebalance his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, he’s confronted by Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym with an urgent new mission to rescue Janet van Dyne from the Quantum Realm. Scott must once again put on the suit and learn to fight alongside The Wasp, all while attempting to serve house arrest, assist fast talking-Luis (Michael Peña) and the X-con Security crew, and thwart the efforts of a new adversary called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and her ally Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne).
Ant-Man and The Wasp returns director Peyton Reed to the franchise and stars Paul Rudd (Captain America: Civil War, Knocked Up), Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Lost), Michael Peña (The Martian, Fury), Walton Goggins (Vice Principals, Six), Bobby Cannavale (Vinyl, Chef), Judy Greer (War for the Planet of the Apes, Wilson), Tip “T.I.” Harris (Sleepless, Get Hard), David Dastmalchian (Twin Peaks, The Belko Experiment), Hannah John-Kamen (Black Mirror, Ready Player One), Abby Ryder Fortson (Togetherness, Transparent), Randall Park (Veep, Fresh Off the Boat), with Academy Award® nominee Michelle Pfeiffer (1993 best actress in a leading role nominee for Love Field), Academy Award nominee Laurence Fishburne (1994 best actor in a leading role nominee for What’s Love Got to Do with It) and Academy Award winner Michael Douglas (1988 best actor in a leading role winner for Wall Street).
Kevin Feige and Stephen Broussard produced the film with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Charles Newirth and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers and Paul Rudd & Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari wrote the screenplay.
Peyton Reed’s creative team includes Academy Award®–nominated director of photography Dante Spinotti (2000 best cinematography nominee for The Insider); production designer Shepherd Frankel (Ant-Man, Bad Words”); editors Dan Lebental (Ant-Man, Spider-Man: Homecoming) and Craig Wood (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Great Wall); costume designer Louise Frogley (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Finest Hours); two-time Academy Award nominee, visuals effects supervisor Stephane Ceretti (2017 best achievement in visual effects nominee for Doctor Strange); and eight-time Academy Award nominee, special effects supervisor Dan Sudick (2018 best achievement in visual effects nominee for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2).
DISC SPECIFICATIONS (applies to film content only):
Product SKUs: 4K Cinematic Universe Edition (4K Ultra HD+Blu-ray+Digital Code), Multi-Screen Edition (Blu-ray+Digital Code), Digital UHD, HD, SD, DVD and On-Demand
Feature Run Time:Approximately 118 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.39
UHD BD: English Dolby Atmos; Latin Spanish, French Parisian, German & Italian 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus; French Canadian 5.1 Dolby Digital; English Descriptive Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital
Blu-ray: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Brazilian Portuguese, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital
DVD: English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital
UHD Digital: English Dolby Atmos (some platforms), English 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus (some platforms), English 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital, Latin Spanish 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital
HD Digital: English 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus (some platforms), English 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital, Latin Spanish 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital
SD Digital: English 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital, Latin Spanish 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital
UHD Subtitles: English SDH, Latin Spanish, French Canadian, German, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Cantonese, Korean, Thai
BD Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, Latin Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese
DVD Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, Latin Spanish
Digital Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, Latin Spanish
Digital & DVD Captions: English
Pencilers are not always satisfied. Maybe they’re never satisfied. They’ll take a page or panel that they’ve drawn and if they don’t like it, erase the sucker and do it over. If they do it too often, it gets all gray and muddy. I got a page to dialogue once that was erased so often that I couldn’t really tell what the figures were doing. Based on the plot, I threw on a lot of sound effects and hoped for the best.
You can do that as a writer as well. You can worry a plot or an idea to death, to the point where nothing really makes sense. At that point, it would almost be better to scrap it and start over.
Comic book companies (we’re talking about DC and Marvel) can do the same thing with their universes. For decades, DC had a stable universe – to the point of static. It was easier; the stories in one book were rarely if ever connected to any other story in that book or the larger DC Universe.
Marvel changed all that; their universe was very interconnected with stories and characters from one book often appearing or referenced in another. However, they were also proud of the fact that the continuity, once laid down, didn’t change (in theory if not lf not always in practice) even when that continuity creaked and groaned with age, begging for change.
These days, the universes (and some of the characters on them) flit by, get trashed, re-written, usually in a great company-wide crossover that promises that “Nothing will ever be the same again!” I’m not saying change is not a good idea; DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths was a landmark event that DC desperately needed at the time. Marvel desperately needed barnacles scraped off its editorial hull.
It seems to me, however, that these “events” are simply marketing ploys designed to make the reader buy as many tie-in books as necessary. They’re not born out of a need for anything but sales.
The problem (again, it seems to me) is there appears to be no plan for where they want to wind up. Even Crisis suffered from the fact that there was no clear concept of who the characters would be at the end and what the DCU would look like.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been doing a fine job of connecting the dots that are their movies and have had a real plan for where they were going and how each film fit into and furthered that plan. The DC Cinematic Universe… less so. They opted for dark and broody, broody, broody. Man of Steel, for any other faults it may have had, suffered from a Batmanization of its worldview.
Now Warners Bros (DC’s parent company) has announced that, in the future, not every film will fit together with the other films; in other words, like the DC Comics University of old. Some will fit together but not all and that seems to me to be a mistake. That invites confusion and there’s one thing that the general public will not appreciate is confusion.
The comics themselves, both DC and Marvel, also seem to be wrapped in confusion. It doesn’t help when the origin or the nature of the character is radically changed or the whole universe is re-stacked and changed. I think you run the serious risk of losing readers. You can erase things and redraw them so often that you turn it all to mud. You don’t grow the audience and, with the success of the superhero franchise films, you should be able to add readers. However, the event-driven books these days are not very accessible to new readers. Maybe there should be a line of a limited number of books that would be accessible and thus draw readers into the respective comic book universes. Even I, an old hand, am finding it hard to get into what’s going on. Constant change just becomes constant noise.
Find a good story. Tell it in as few issues as necessary. Otherwise, the reader starts to suspect you don’t have enough good stories to tell.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I assume at some point in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe we’re going to come across a threat that unites every character in one movie to fight against it in some budget-busting assembly of talent. I am starting to dread this moment because between Tony Stark, Peter Quill, Scott Lang, and now Stephen Strange, I can’t imagine anything could ever get done between giving all four of them chances to show how little they care about anything that happens in favor of getting in some quip or another. Ironic detachment has become the house style in the MCU, and I’m not sure why Doctor Strange was my breaking point but it was. I’m sick of people saving the world by not caring about it.
It’s not that Benedict Cumberbatch is the problem with Doctor Strange. I found him surprisingly acceptable playing a native New Yorker. He isn’t bad at doing pithy dialogue and this might be projection on my part because he’s English but he’s masterful at appearing above it all. He does a good job climbing over the mountain of unlikability the script puts in his path. Honestly, I’m not sure at what part of “arrogant doctor crashes his supercar while rejecting pleas from sick people to get help” is supposed to make us think he’s a good guy, but his subsequent petulant rejection of all of the advice of his doctors so he can regain the use of his hands so he can go back to being a jerk of a surgeon doesn’t do it either. Stephen Strange is an unlikable crater in the middle of Doctor Strange, but Benedict Cumberbatch is just reading the words off the page.
I don’t like Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. I don’t like that she’s playing an Asian man and even though they go out of the way to say she’s Celtic, there’s nothing she does in the entire film that isn’t out of the mystical Asian man playbook. I think it’s cowardly that Marvel changed the character from Tibetan so that they could have an easier time accessing the Chinese film market. All the talk of censorship I’ve seen in media these past few years— we get actual government intervention in a movie, and so few people seem to notice.
The rest of the cast is great. Chiwitel Ejiofor is too good an actor for the small part this movie asks of him. He wrestles with his morality over the course of this film and you can see the conflict on his face and in his posture in a way you just don’t see in genre films. He’s deserving of more, and I trust if we get a sequel we’ll get more of him. Benedict Wong is also excellent in a small part. He has a great physicality in a movie dominated by bodies skinnier than a life dedicated to martial arts would suggest. He is the focus for much of the humor in the second act and he carries it well. Mads Mikkelsen wouldn’t have been my first choice for a magical martial arts bad guy but I’m thrilled to have been proven wrong. Because of the magic roots (and the liberal use of stunt doubles) it’s not like he has to carry any of the difficult work himself, and it gives us a gifted actor skilled at playing menaces to carry the heavy weight a villain must shoulder in a superhero film. The best part of the entire film is a quick comedic exchange between Cumberbatch and Mikkelsen, and I’m not sure anyone but Mikkelsen could have made it work.
The story is as predictably lifeless as one would expect from a superhero origin story these days. Bad thing happens, person gets extraordinary power, some sort of betrayal requires that power to be directed against evil, and then there’s a new status quo. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times now and there’s nothing new or exciting about the way it’s written up here. The been-there-done-that feeling also extends to the special effects. I’ve read rave reviews of the visual effects and while they’re nice, there’s nothing here I haven’t seen in Inception or The Matrix franchise. While they’ve turned those visual concepts up to 11 this time out it didn’t particularly impress me; I’m not looking for more and bigger with effects as much as I am smarter and more effective. Doctor Strange looks like someone put a kaleidoscope in front of the projector after it had already been shot rather than having a coherent design.
It must seem like I didn’t like Doctor Strange and that honestly isn’t true. Marvel Studios has gotten very good at making these films and it’s almost impossible to sit through one and not be entertained. I’m just starting to see the strings a little more, the same old things, and the clichés that dominate these movies particularly the origin stories. I had a good time watching the movie but it’s not fresh like Iron Man was; it feels more like watching a movie where a police officer has only one day until retirement. Perhaps as we get in to a round of sequels we’ll see a lot less of this, but until then I’m going to be writing a lot more reviews complaining about a movie that’s honestly above average.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been chugging along for the past eight years. For the most part, almost all of their films are considered hits with the fans. Their most recent offering is up to par for Marvel, pleasing comic and non-comic fans. In fact, there is only one big glaring mark against Marvel – for me at least. Where are my female-led movies?
We are talking eight years of a major blockbuster franchise. In the MCU, there is only one central female character, Black Widow, that has been in it from almost the beginning, and a handful of female supporting characters, like Pepper Potts, Sif and Jane Foster. You can make the argument that Scarlet Witch is now a central figure but she is still very new to the universe.
Before you start yelling at me, yes I know there is a female-led movie on the Marvel schedule. Captain Marvel is set for March 8th, 2019. So almost three years from now. So, eleven years into the MCU, we finally get a female-led movie that fans were asking for four years ago. But even before that, since the moment Scarlett Johannson appeared in Iron Man 2, fans have been asking for her to get a solo film. Or toys (or as I liked to put it, any recognition at all), as in the Black Widow flash mobs in 2015.
Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios, has finally gotten the hint. He told Deadline that they are committed to doing a Black Widow movie, after the current slate of films is done. So, maybe early 2020s, if we are lucky.
Traditionally, movie studios like to point to underperforming female-led movies and blame the gender of the character for a bad box office rather than any other issues, like script, direction, plot, editing, set design, general stupidity of the film. Really, who is to blame for Catwoman: Halle Berry or the writers/director/producers? Meanwhile, any high-grossing female-led film is ignored as a happy accident.
What it looks like to me is that Marvel is waiting to see how Wonder Woman does first. BvS might have been horrible, but Gal Gadot’s few minutes on screen really did the character justice. If Wonder Woman can strike gold with a lesser known actress for a troubled DC Cinematic Universe, then things will look brighter for Black Widow. Then on to Ant-Man and Wasp in 2018, to see how fans react to a female character in the title of the film. Finally, if Captain Marvel does well in 2019, I think Black Widow will be greenlit.
I don’t doubt Feige’s sincerity in wanting to do a Black Widow solo film. He has helped mold the character into a rock for the Avengers to lean on. To take her to the next level would be a dream. However, Marvel is traditionally stingy with pay and Scarlett Johannsson has proved her box office worth time and again. She can ask for a larger sum and it is totally justified. With Captain Marvel, they can pick a lesser-known actress and pay her less money for the honor career boost of being in a Marvel film.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has given us a lot – most of it we didn’t even know we wanted until we had it! (Guardians of the Galaxy, am I right?) Still, fans have been asking from the second movie in for a Black Widow film. We have stuck with you this far Marvel, don’t let us down.
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.