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.
Avengers: Age of Ultron, is the 11th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe®, the 2nd big Marvel team-up helmed by beloved nerd auteur Joss Whedon where Earth’s Mightiest Heroes™ must band together, squabble with each other, party together, argue and also save the world from a deadly threat unleashed by themselves. Apparently, The Avengers’ goal was for the world not to need them anymore, but it seems like the world will always need the Avengers as long as the Avengers are around. Which is kind of a metaphor for how this multi-billion dollar franchise of interconnected films has become. 11 films into this series have had their ups (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and downs (Thor: The Dark World) but mostly a lot of it has begun to feel middling (Guardians of the Galaxy). You can really feel the bubble that has been the Marvel superhero films begin to burst, if not strain with this iteration that provides a solid and entertaining time at best, but at worst seems like a 2 & ½ hour teaser for over 9 upcoming films. These films have essentially become their own marketing vehicles. However, there is an impressive spectacle on display here in the ways only a big Hollywood movie can provide, not to mention a fun character playhouse that only a theater-junkie like Whedon can provide when not pulled by the requirements of the ever-insular Marvel movie lore.