Tag Archives: Marvel Cinematic Universe

Captain America: Civil War

CapCivilWarStake in the ground: Captain America: Civil War is the best Spider-Man movie we’ve had so far.

It is also a solid Avengers movie, an unflinching follow-up to Age of Ultron.

It is a pretty good Captain America film, but there are so many important players in the story it doesn’t really feel like Cap’s movie. That poster is crowded, and it’s still missing two of the costumed combatants¹.

The real question is not whether the film lives up to its title. It’s whether it lives up to our expectations for Yet Another Awesome Marvel Movie. Here I will unequivocally affirm that maybe it does, but it was kind of long, and for the love of Uncle Ben can we PLEASE hold the camera steady?

Yeah. Shaky-cam. A lot of it. During fight scenes, of course, but also on a couple of no-stunt, not much movement shots where we’re supposed to feel tense and off balance.

Dear Hollywood: STOP THAT. Those moments were plenty tense without the wobbly tilt-and-jiggle that managed to induce actual motion sickness.

Here’s a comic-book trick, Hollywood: keep the camera steady, but shoot those tense, off-kilter moments at a slight angle. During fight scenes, keep each shot steady, but give us steep angles. These people are flipping and jumping off of walls. Camera angle will sell their dynamic, athletic heroism far better than shaky-cam will, and will also let you showcase the amazing work that the stunt team has put together². Oh, hey, you already know that trick, because you used it perfectly on Spidey’s action. What’s the excuse for not using it elsewhere?

Fortunately the big ensemble fight was minimally shaky. Unfortunately, I noticed. “Oh, hey, I can finally see what these people are doing!” followed quickly by “I sure wish I could have seen the action earlier. I bet it would have been cool.”

But back to Captain America, and the question as to whether or not this was his film. One of Cap’s best speeches from the comic books (the one that has the word “move” in it, and which I won’t spoil³) is not delivered by Cap in this movie. It is delivered by somebody for whom it is perfectly in character, but it is delivered to Cap, not by him. So, for an audience a thousand times the size of the audience familiar with the original quote (at least) this epic, quintessential Captain America speech doesn’t belong to Cap anymore. So… I don’t think this is really his movie. He’s in it, and central to it, but it belongs to the players around him.

Who are awesome, just so we’re clear.

Captain America: Civil War squeaks past my Threshold of Awesome on the strength of a great story and a strong ensemble, but only enters the list at spot #5 thanks to the weak and trembling hands of whoever was holding those cameras.


¹ Spidey and Ant-Man, who were an exceedingly entertaining addition to the line-up. And yay! This awesome new Spidey is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is getting his own movie!

² I think closing credits for films like this should list the stunt performers right next to the actors for whom they doubled. Their physical performances were a huge part of creating the character on the screen. I bet they’re not being paid enough, either.

³ Okay, fine. It’s behind this link. And don’t get me wrong, the line is delivered brilliantly in the film, and it feels more powerful for not having come from Cap.

When we can actually see them, because as long as I’m still holding this hammer I might as well pound that nail out the back of the board, and then pick it up again and pound on it some more. Maybe with enough nails the camera will hold still.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

I’m not going to convince you to see, or not see, Age of Ultron. I’m not going to spoil anything for you either. I’m just giving you three bullets:

  • AvengersUltronI have a new favorite movie for 2015 (as of this writing.)
  • It earned its high and low points.
  • Marvel has successfully extended their line of credit with me through their next two cinematic releases, no matter what those releases are*.

If you’re planning to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron you are in for a treat. Also, be warned that there are spoilers you definitely don’t want, so don’t delay, and until you see the film you should steer clear of reviews, comments threads, and inconsiderate people.

Once you’ve seen it, and you see that both Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman worked on the score, you may wish to pick up the soundtrack which is available on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play (it’s 50 cents cheaper from Google and Amazon.) I’m listening to it as I write…

(*note: Ant Man and Captain America: Civil War. I checked. Not that it would have mattered.)



The Daring, Marvelous, Marvel/Netflix Daredevil

I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as possible. The Daredevil series on Netflix is worth the investment in a Netflix membership. It’s richer and more powerful than any cinematic superhero story, and while it is dark, it is not the trendy kind of dark. It’s the kind of dark a good storyteller uses so that when we get light, the light is blinding and brilliant.

If you don’t mind spoilers, this discussion of Catholicism in Daredevil is worth reading. If you’ve already finished the series that article will deepen your understanding and appreciation of the series.

The story of Daredevil goes well beyond what’s actually in those 13 episodes, and I’m not talking about what’s coming next season. The very existence of that story, in that format, on Netflix, is the beginning of a much broader narrative about the future of entertainment.

I’ll stand by that statement.

Back in 2013 Kevin Spacey said similar things when he talked about how House of Cards couldn’t be the show they wanted it to be without Netflix freeing them from the “shoot a pilot episode” business model of the networks. Here he is, saying those things.

I got chills when I first watched the excerpted version of Spacey’s speech back in 2013 (full version is here.) I watched it again last night after finishing Daredevil and I am convinced that Kevin Spacey has correctly prognosticated the future of the entertainment industry. House of Cards (which I don’t much like, but that’s irrelevant) and Daredevil serve as proof that Netflix can provide a superior business model for episodic storytelling, and that by so doing they’ll give us better stories.

We talk about storytelling quite a bit over at Writing Excuses.  Brandon, Dan, Mary, and I have recorded well over fifty hours of discussion in bite-sized chunks, and one thing we keep coming back to is the power that can be wielded by storytellers who know what they’re doing, and who have the skills and the space in which to do it. Episodic television has gotten much better in the last twenty years, and it will get far, far better once it finally breaks the shackles of legacy network business practices.

That doesn’t mean that all the stories will be great ones. It means that the great ones are going to amaze us. I’m really looking forward to this.