Spoilers (but not many)
2016 might have witnessed a fair amount of upheaval, but one thing remained constant: Hollywood’s love of superheroes is as strong as ever. While DC sat out 2015, Marvel saw three of their properties in theaters; this year The Big Two had six combined. Next year that will edge up to seven. In addition, geek-favorite franchises Star Trek and Star Wars continued their multi-year missions through galaxies far, far away. Almost all of them raked the ticket sales (analysists were divided on whether Star Trek Beyond fell short of breaking even or turned a modest profit). Either way, neither profit margins nor quantity of films produced equal quality. 2016 was a very mixed year in terms of artistic merit, as fans could be forgiven for experiencing whiplash when trying to create a double bill for some of these movies. Some films excelled by being able to break new ground, while others entertained with well-executed tried and true formulas. Some were an utter mess (and not simply in their murky CGI sequences). It could have been worse; viewers were denied anything quite as terrible as last year’s Fantastic Four. Then again, that is placing the bar quite low.
Continue reading This Year’s Finest 2016: Film
Eight years ago Marvel Studios unveiled their first effort, Iron Man. Since then Marvel has produced 11 more films and four television series while amassing a staggering amount of box office revenue. That is a huge accomplishment which either makes Iron Man seem like just the other day, or a long time ago, depending on your perspective. Regardless, it is hard to argue that Marvel has found a filmmaking approach which works for both them and their audience. Multiple factors are at play here, though, one of the key ones has been taking their time to let their Cinematic Universe expand organically. At first glance this statement might seem paradoxical when applied to an enterprise which since Day One has been geared towards setting up the next chapter. Hence all those mid/post credit scenes which remain one of the trademarks of the franchise. Yet, if nothing else, this emphasis on serial storytelling points towards a shared link between the movies and their source material. More importantly it gives characters room to breathe, allowing the actors opportunity to build on beats from previous appearances. This attention to nearly a decade of world and character building pays off this week with the arrival of Marvel Studio’s latest entry: Captain America: Civil War. It is an exciting, fast paced film which never loses sight of the flawed individuals at the center of its narrative.
Continue reading Review: Captain America: Civil War
A look back at the paradigm shifting miniseries and how Marvel is revisiting it today…
To me, when I think of event books, none top Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Civil War. Blackest Night is cool, Secret Wars was easier to follow than Final Crisis and Infinity was…different. Compared to Civil War though, they all feel kinda small. To understand it completely, you have to examine what preceded it and what resulted from it.
Continue reading Civility and Wartime
The creative team behind the current Iron Man ongoing in addition to Ultimate Spider-Man & All New X-Men of Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez will be working together on a sequel to the best selling Civil War event by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven to debut in May of 2016. More details at Comicbook.com
The first trailer for Captain America 3: Civil War has been released & it’s more than a teaser. Perhaps countering rumors that this would be more of an Avengers film, the trailer centers on Cap, Bucky & Falcon. Plus, a flash of Black Panther. Finally there is a somber tone which suggests a natural continuation from Winter Soldier. The Russo Brothers are back directing, so that would seem natural.
Civil War opens on May 6th, 2016
by Brian Michael Bendis, Oliver Copiel & Justin Ponsor
Last night I was talking with a couple friends about Aaron Sorkin. They’re older then me by about six to nine years and were at a formidable age when the West Wing was airing on television where as I’d only seen episodes of the show in a media studies high school class. The question I posed was from the conversation was; what did they think of Sorkin penned films after the West Wing? We all found common ground in the shared observation that his style of writing going forward from the seminal television series never really worked within the limitations of a standard movie format after his then unprecedented television success. This doesn’t make his post West Wing writing good or bad per say; just that it didn’t fit into the narrative constraints of a film much the same way text from a Cormac McCarthy novel wouldn’t sound good sung aloud to a 90’s country music backing band. It’s a question of form & function within a medium, it’s why you can’t just make a creative team work on a comic and it’s why Civil War #0 is inessential.
There is a thought process that Hollywood no longer makes the “adult movie” because the market has tipped towards genre or films designed specifically to appeal to the awards season zeitgeist. This isn’t true but people say it because “adult movies” don’t have the cultural cache they once did, mostly because prestige television is a better format for those type of stories. When David Chase makes a television show, it was The Sopranos. When he made a movie, it’s Not Fade Away. Complex themes require context and eight to twelve hours of television is a better means by which to layer that context within a story that is addressing said complex themes then a three hour movie. Civil War #0 reminds me of the modern platonic ideal of an “adult movie” It’s a series of conversations from the stories main characters meant to set up the reasoning behind the conflicts for the rest of the series. Besides the fact that there is absolutely no need to make an entire comic with story beats that could easily have been done just as well or better in less then nine pages; it’s also a poor use of the expanded universe continuity of the books setting, the creative talent on the comic or the medium in and of itself. While I’m sure Civil War #0 is the type of comic that Brian Michael Bendis want’s to write and I suppose that Oliver Copiel probably enjoys the challenge of making a superhero comic that plays out like the first ten minutes of A Few Good Men; it doesn’t mean that it works. This is an underrated problem of work for hire comics, the idea that one great writer and one great artist will produce a great comic regardless of context, because it doesn’t. Using She-Hulk, Captain Marvel & War Machine as serious actors in a parable about the debate on security vs the liberty of private citizens in the context of a criminal trial or an informal therapy session is, as a best case scenario, silly. But Civil War #0 takes itself incredibly seriously; which in turn makes it feel even more ludicrous. In that way, Civil War #0 is almost comics completely through the looking glass of The Watchmen, where Moore & Gibbons proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that superhero comics were capable of being on the level of mature film or literature. Civil War #0 is starting from that point without taking into context that this is a comic about superhero’s and unless your irrationally emotionally invested in the characters, there’s no reason to care about what’s happening in the comic. It’s cashing in on the idea of “important people talking about important things” without actually having reasonable proof that any of these things are important or that these are the people that have important thoughts about the important things and then it undercuts all that by not taking into account that She Hulk, before anything else, is a giant green women with super strength. It’s like the reverse of those bad lip reading youtube videos, where what your looking at deviates so strongly from the intended tone that it almost feels like this was a script from aTV political courtroom drama that was tweaked just enough to be drawn as a superhero comic.
The question isn’t so much why does this exist but more why does it exist as a superhero comic? Because as we’ve seen over the last seventy eight years of superhero comics; the genre is perfectly capable of approaching serious and adult themes on it’s own terms. To dress it up as an adult drama is to take away everything that makes a superhero comic special. I’m not above a corny middlebrow Good Wife debate over the implications of the NSA peering into our private lives on the principles of freedom that we’ve established in the United States, but superheros as a genre and comics as a medium have the potential to approach that question in a way that is far more interesting and exciting then what’d you see on a network TV show because the parameters are so much wider and by proxy, the genre and medium allows for much larger existential questions then the type of idea’s being approached in a Time magazine article or Anderson Cooper segment. That doesn’t mean the Civil War can’t disregard all that and approach this very common and well worn subject matter in a very common way that been utilized in fiction countless times prior but the debut issues fails to give a sufficient reason as to why they would.