I really, really liked Civil War.
Black Panther was dope as hell. Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers has inherited the mantle of Christopher Reeves’ Superman as the cinematic embodiment of a superhero. Tony Stark’s guilty conscious continues to pull the character along on a compelling trajectory. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo, co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and company manage to adeptly juggle a dozen plus different characters in a film that bounces between comedy and tragedy without giving the viewer whiplash.
I really, really liked Civil War. I just can’t for the life of me come up with anything insightful to write about it. It’s a roadblock I run into with pretty much every Marvel movie: they’re just too damn difficult to be pretentious about. I mean, the best I could come up with for Age of Ultron was that it was a comic book movie that was a lot like a comic book. Staggering, I know. Which is a bummer because now I can’t use that premise to write about Civil War.
What I can do, though, is come up with a vaguely insightful cop out for not writing anything vaguely insightful about Civil War. Which is to say that rather than do my homework I stared at it for an hour and eventually came up with a compelling excuse not to.
The Empire Strikes Back wasn’t defined by whatever the New York Times had to say about the film in 1980. It was defined over decades by the kids in the theater who saw it as eight-year-olds and again as eighteen-year-olds and again as thirty-year-olds on and on into adulthood, building an evolving relationship with a piece of cinema as they reencountered it at different stages in their life. It’s a relationship I have with Jurassic Park. When I was five it was cool dinosaurs eating people, but as I grew up it became a much funnier and much more intelligent movie.
The real insights into the Marvel Cinematic Universe are still years out. In two years kids who saw Iron Man when they were eight are going to be going to college. There’ll be adults that have grown up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not just one film or a trilogy that they continue to revisit, but new entries continually unfolding as they grew up. What a perspective. What does Civil War look like to them? Does it feel like the Empire Strikes Back? Does it ring with a greater emotional nuance? What are the brief, forgettable snippets that ring true to them? The quiet, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments that’ll be referenced in the sitcoms these MCU kids grow up to watch and write?
They’re the ones who should be writing about Civil War. They grew up with Cap and Iron Man, I was already basically a grown ass man when this nonsense started. I can only emotionally invest myself in a film so much because I’m a grown up with real life grown up problems and real life grown up brainwashed, robot-armed friends. Kids gotta go to the movies for that kind of thing. Much as I adored Civil War I can’t imagine it doesn’t register deeper and truer with fans who either have a childhood attachment to these characters or are currently in their childhood.
So I guess I do have something to say about Captain America: Civil War. That’s stream of consciousness for you.
Civil War is like a formal statement of fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to be, like, a whole thing. Something people have a lifelong relationship with. Something characters in indie films quip and banter about. Something mainstream audiences know minute trivia about. And it’s going to be very interesting to see how that all shakes out in years to come. Who’s the MCU’s Boba Fett? Who’s its Admiral Ackbar? What’s its Tuskan Raider cry or Jawa chirp?
Nobody really gives a shit about some sixty-year-old’s story about seeing Star Wars for the first time on the big screen at the age of twenty five. We care about the first time a five-year-old saw Star Wars, whether it was on the big screen in 1977 or on VHS in 1996. I saw Iron Man the summer before I started college on the back of a headrest on an airplane, but there are kids who saw Iron Man in theaters when they were six, and saw the Avengers assemble when they were ten and now their voices are cracking and Civil War is raging. The retrospective think piece they write about Civil War when they start a blog in college is the one that’ll really be worth reading.
So, you know, I shouldn’t have to write one.
Yeah, either that or “a dog ate my blogpost” or whatever.