Sunday, May 8, 2016

Thoughts on Captain America: Civil War (2016) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe

I saw CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR yesterday in a surprisingly empty theater. It was pure luck since most other screenings were either packed (I saw the lines) or sold out (I saw the word on the boards). It also helped that the film was showing in theaters on multiple screens on the blue subway line  on 3 stops (23rd,34th and 42nd streets for a totals of about 15 screens).

I like the film. I think once it gets going it is very good. At the same time I suspect that the film shows when the Marvel films work and what the dangers are going to be with the the series from here on out.

First thing I do have to say that there were a couple of things I loved- I love Tom Holland as Spidey. If that's the new film I'm thrilled. I love the unexpected appearance (sort of) of another Hank Pym alter ego. I also love the relationship between Wanda and the Vision. The nailed it.

And you'll notice that it's all about characters - the things I loved were the characters....

...and if Marvel loses that, as they have with the last Avengers film and they lost with both Thor films, the Marvel Universe is going to die.

Walking in I didn't know what to expect. I'd heard good things. I heard bad things. I went in to the film, not wanting to see it then but wanting to get out of my heard for a while. If the film distracted me all the better.

The first half hour or so I was wondering why is this a Captain America film when it's playing like an Avengers film. Yes it was good, but it was too big and too many characters. I didn't love it. It was more of AGE OF ULTRON.

Then when the team began to fragment and it became a series of character driven sequences the film took off. Here was why we loved the earlier films and here was why we read the comics- the characters.  Cap and Natasha, Cap and Tony, Cap and Sam. We got the new characters T'Challa, Spidey and even Scott- they all delighted because we had real people there.  We had people doing things we cared about.

And thats important because if you think about the the actual plot thread- the one that's finally revealed at the end- you kind of go- all of this for that? To me what it's all about is so weak that if it wasn't for the characters I would have been so disappointed. Now I barely think of that.

Of course I suppose the underwhelming is better than the over done nightmare of AGE OF ULTRON. I mean that was just too much. It was the point where the series started to jump the shark. Its a feeling that carried over to the early scenes of CIVIL WAR.  Thankfully they pulled it all back.

But I'm left wondering if the series is going to explode  after this. Will the next Avengers movies do away with characters and plot and just be big spectacle? God I hope not.

To be honest I'm afraid of what the future brings at this point. I say that because the film is on the edge of a cliff  that isn't just the small story vs big spectacle one-we've also reached a point where in order to see most of the films you need to have seen all the others. I think we're at 14 or 5 films now. I know Marvel loves it because it assures an audience since if you want to understand say the next Avengers films you'll have to see everything that is coming out.

That really sucks, because what if one of the new films sucks? We still have to suffer through it to get to understand whats going on.

For example the Thor films as a whole stink. Sorry they do. They are not stand alone films, they are films that simply move things so the next Avengers film can happen. You need to see them to fully grasp whats happening in other films and frankly they suck. I mean the pieces are fine but the plots are awful messes.  Given a choice I will not see the next Thor film because the other two films stink...but I know I'll see them out of a need to understand whats to come.

Watching CIVIL WAR I suddenly realized that had I not seen ANT MAN the night before I would be clueless about Scott Lang and a couple of several bits concerning him. Also as good as CIVIL WAR is I can't show it to some people because they still haven't seen a couple of Marvel films.  I know it won't affect ticket sales here- lord knows the theaters were packed yesterday, but down the road, if the Marvel series begins to fail and people stop going then what?

I've railed about this before -and I will again- but more and more you need to watch the films in order to have any hope of knowing what the hell is going both on the character levels but the big plot levels- too many details, past the introductory films, are being tied to the big picture.


And the thing is the series is going to run into the danger that long running comic series and serial TV series run into which is if you don't give the audience an occasional way in you're going to lose them. I suspect Marvel is assuming comics readers will be fine, and they are hoping that everyone will be devouring all the films so they won't need it. But I and a good number of people I know in various circles will not start on a series of its too deep in. For example everyone in my office is talking Game of Thrones- but a bunch of us haven't and we simply listen to the talk going on around us. Everyone tells us we should watch the show but that's 6 seasons to catch up on, and then there are all the other series that we have to go back and catch upon.

Where is the time?

I don't have it.

If I don't get on early I tend to stay off and that is what may happen to Marvel- people may stop watching if  they start missing films. Worse what if you start to put out films that interest people but are so tied to earlier films that people decide they don't want to go?

They may not, and they won't for a while, but I can see trouble down the line, especially if their luck with good films doesn't hold. Marvel has been lucky in that for the most part all of the films are good (for this purpose I'll include the Thor films which don't stand up on their own)

This may also become a problem with the Star Wars films.

But I'm digressing a bit.

I like the films, I'm looking forward , warily to the next one but ultimately all I know is that Marvel is sitting on the edge right now- I'm just worried they are about to go off the cliff either by making the stories too interconnected or by losing the characters in the name of spectacle...

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