Here we go again. 8 years after Iron Man kick started a blockbuster movie franchise that’s now 13 films in, Captain America: Civil War is less of an event movie than it is “a very special episode” of an ongoing serial or rather the cinematic equivalent of binge-watching a handsomely budgeted TV show in the span of 2.5 hours for all the positives and negatives that entails. After being thoroughly impressed with the last Captain America-centric movie helmed by Joe & Anthony Russo and penned by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Winter Soldier), this latest installment is less concerned with pushing these films forward the way that one did and more so with keeping things on brand. Despite a strong central concept and thesis, by focusing on “hitting its marks” with little fuss or any guts to do anything but color within the lines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) playbook, Civil War isn’t necessarily a great Marvel movie so much as it is the “Platonic Ideal” of a Marvel movie. It’s the best of MCU and the worst all at once.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier presents the tipping point for Marvel Studios’ labyrinth of interconnected media franchises in the best way possible. This is the first film they’ve produced that is the closest in not being a good superhero film, but a flat out good film PERIOD. Alongside Superman, Captain America is one of the most unfashionable and archaic of all the spandex-clad superheroes that have made their way out of the comics and into movie theaters. In 2014, there’s something bitterly ironic about a living symbol of idealized American might & valor, draped in the stars and stripes of a simpler era. Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger sidestepped such concerns by setting his feature back to his WWII-era pulp-adventure roots in an escapist adventure reminiscent of the Indiana Jones features. However the Marvel Cinematic Universe is continuously growing and changing and a certain superhero team is in need of its old-fashioned veteran patriarch. Now that The Avengers had the genetically-enhanced soldier Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) defrosted on the present side of history, how do creators and filmmakers to confront his dated 20th-century sensibilities to the 21st-century world?
With the announcement of a newly rebooted film adaptation of Fantastic Four comes debates as to the merits of such an undertaking. Personally, I see neither the point, nor the merits. Not only were the two 2005-2007 live action features fairly enjoyable and serviceably/competently made popcorn entertainment – we have already gotten the best incarnation/interpretation of that saga in the medium best suited to tell it: a 3+ year comic run written by Jonathan Hickman. Beyond being one of, if not the outright best vision of the Fantastic Four, it’s one of the greatest stories conceived, and one that could only have been done in the medium of comics.