By James Nelson
Based on various leaks and announcements from the set of Civil War we’ve learned that this movie is going to be action packed and stuffed to the gills with heroes. Everything I’ve heard about this movie makes it sound like it’s going to be like a third Avengers film, and after all it’s the beginning of Marvel Phase 3, so they’ve got to start with a bang. That being said, I’m worried that the sequel to my second favorite marvel movie is going to be a disaster. Here’s why:
The movie’s called Captain America, not Avengers
Every Marvel movie has followed a pattern, stand alone story arcs with a large event film tying the various stand alone characters into one mega blockbuster, and this makes sense. In the comics Avengers is the grand book that features amazing set pieces, stories with an epic scope, and basically feature villains so powerful that literally no one villain can stand up against them. That being said, when things get too big for even the Avengers, you have the event comics, like Civil War and Age of Ultron and currently Secret Wars. These events are so massive they usually span across multiple comics and has repercussions that last until the next big even shakeup. So then, why is what is ostensibly Captain America 3 being turned into a massive event movie?
Partly because the comic off which it’s based is one of Captain America’s (Steve Rogers) finest moments. In it he stands against the government he’s served and becomes a rebel fighting to keep superheroes identities secret.
Even still, It doesn’t make much sense to me. We already started a very specific quest for Cap in Winter Soldier, and that’s to find his best friend, Bucky, and help him find redemption (or at least peace). I know that this movie will no doubt take a different tack than the original comic (similarly to how Age of Ultron was like the original comic in name only), but I can’t imagine how they can tie in this very personal quest to a scenario in which Cap and Iron Man are both leading Avengers teams that will be fighting each other. Which leads me to my next point.
There are WAY too many characters
I’m not exaggerating when I said two entire teams of Avengers. So far we have Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Falcon, Agent 13 (Sharon Carter), War Machine, Hawkeye, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man, and Gen. Thunderbolt Ross. That’s thirteen previously established characters. We’re also going to get our first introduction to Spiderman in the MCU, and the first time we’ve ever seen Black Panther. That puts us at fifteen. That’s before we even look at villains or “secondary” characters. There is no way they can accommodate this many characters into one movie and give each of them enough screen time to get more than a couple of lines of dialogue. That’s enough characters to justify an entire season of television around, and still feel like someone was shorted on screen time. It’s overstuffed, bloated, and just on the face of it looks like a bad idea to have that many characters in it.
How can you not expect to have that many characters in a stand alone movie and it not hijack it from Captain America? You can’t. They should have just called it Avengers 3.
The Avengers Problem
I have a major problem with the Avengers movies thus far, and it’s a problem that I don’t feel gets touched on enough: they’re fun movies, but they’re not good movies by themselves. If I had never seen the five other movies in Marvel Phase One (well, except for Incredible Hulk), I would have been really confused as to who these people were and why I should care about them. Take Hawkeye for example, literally the only people who care about his character knew him from the comics. It didn’t matter that he was a bad guy most of the movie, you weren’t invested in the character, We were all more invested in the accountant type that is Coulson than we were in Hawkeye. These movies rely on you having seen the eleven movies leading up to it to have any idea what is going on and even still, you’re probably not going to care that much, because there will be pretty colors and explosions, so who cares that the story relies entirely on your knowledge of a connected universe that you had to essentially invest a minimum of $90 (average ticket price is $8.17 as of 2014) into understanding.
The Marvel Model Problem
The above problem is only symptomatic of a much larger one connected to the premise of the MCU itself. When Iron Man first came out I saw it because I’m a giant comic book nerd, and although Iron Man is one of my least favorite characters, it looked way better than almost any previous comic book adaptation (The Dark Knight would prove me wrong later that year). It was a great movie (still my third favorite) and was great in spite of the after credits, not because of it. The reference to SHIELD when Coulson showed up satisfied my inner nerd, but it could have been any other shadowy government agency and I would have been fine. The movie, by itself was great.
In Phase One, Marvel continued this trend of building their universe with a light touch. Each movie stood by itself with slight nods to the others. The exception to this is Iron Man 2, and although a decent movie (and before you say it’s bad, go back and watch Daredevil or Ghost Rider and then come back to me) it was drowned in trying to hold together this nacent connected universe until Avengers. It also became more apparent as the movies continued that key macguffins in these movies would serve a purpose later down the line (The Tesseract for instance).
Fast forward to now, we missed a certainly excellent movie by loosing Edgar Wright on Ant-Man all because he didn’t want to shoehorn Falcon into the script. Instead of getting an epic in scope Age of Ultron that would have been three and a half hours long, we got one that was cut by almost an hour. Hopefully with the new shakeup at marvel things will start to improve and story will be more important than connecting the movies.
But on a positive note
We are getting great Marvel TV with Daredevil and Agents of SHIELD and soon to get more with Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. And the MCU has generated movies that even when at their worst are still better than movies that came out before it.
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