While I waited for the steelbook to arrive at my door – because collecting cool physical media will never go out of style, despite what your girlfriend may think – I decided to re-watch Captain America: Civil War. It was a film I first saw and enjoyed during one of those early fan screenings in April, and I enjoyed watching it a second time. It has its share of problems, but for the intense amount of characters it juggles, it does quite well for itself.
And it was nice to actually hear all of the dialogue and music in the scene where we are introduced to Peter Parker. Because I’d been at the fan screening, the fanboys just laughed and cheered from the moment the word “QUEENS” appeared on-screen, right through until Stark properly recruits young Peter. So that was a lovely bonus.
For years I was never one to really side with Marvel and how they were conducting their extended universe nonsense, that everyone has since tried and failed to properly mimic. It is still a sticking point in some areas, but I have mostly gotten past it. I have also gotten past how much the Thor movies suck, but hold out hope for Thor Ragnarok specifically because it stars Jeff Goldblum in a supporting role (even though that did not stop Independence Day: Resurgence from being one of the single biggest trainwrecks of the summer). And I have even gotten past how Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron were basically filler movies created specifically to set up future adventures rather than act as their own films.
Somehow I was stupid enough to pay for tickets to see both of those movies, and then buy the movies on Blu-ray. Shame on me – but I am a sucker for steelbooks. And Robert Downey Jr, obviously.
But what I have not gotten over is Marvel’s inability to kill any of their heroes. No matter what happens to them, they always get back up and keep fighting. Key supporting players have a knack of going through even more misery, but they too do not die. Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan lived through a massive explosion in Iron Man 3 that vaporized nearly everyone else in his vicinity, and he apparently just got cast in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Even then, these characters still have future opportunities to come back in flashback scenes or even other movies entirely.
And that’s my biggest complaint about Captain America: Civil War. Outside of Tony Stark’s parents (who were already dead, gone and buried well before the events of the film) and T’Challa’s father, no one else dies. Not even the paralyzed Rhodey, who Stark seems keen to turn into some kind of Frankenstein’s monster at the end of the film. What gives, Marvel? I know general audiences will not buy the idea of characters dying and coming back to life like they would in the comics, but this is getting a little out of hand. The fight at the end of the film is surprisingly brutal for a Marvel film, but it ends with barely a whimper. Scratch that, it ends with the thud of Cap’s shield hitting the floor. Yes, I am intrigued about what is going to happen to the former Captain America going forward, but think of how much more resonant that ending would have been if he had died. How much more surprising and brave would it have been if they killed off Tony Stark?
Say what you want about the DC Cinematic Universe that Warner Brothers is so desperately trying to make happen, but there are a solid handful of characters that have bitten the dust and stayed dead (Superman and his apparently black suit notwithstanding).
We keep saying everything is leading to Avengers: Infinity War and whatever epically goofy name they give to the fourth Avengers film the Russos are filming back-to-back. But how can we keep caring about these characters if their losses and sacrifices mean nothing? How can we care about any of the stakes if we already know half the cast is coming back for the next film? We cannot fear Thanos is going to kill them all off – because somehow, they will still come back to save the day.
Marvel seems scared to lose their beloved stable of characters, and it feels like despite all of their successes, they keep moving backwards instead of forwards. Civil War is an exciting film no doubt, but it feels safe when it should feel reckless. I know Marvel has perfected the formula that DC cannot seem to properly utilize (save for Affleck’s awesome Batman), but how long can they possibly think it is going to work if comic book fatigue is genuinely becoming a real thing?