Why I Don’t Love Captain America: Civil War

I took the kids (and some of their friends) to see Captain America: Civil War at 10:30am on Saturday morning the day after in opened. In other words, we have bought into the Disney/Marvel Cinematic Universe in a big way. (In contrast, when my son went to see Batman v Superman and asked if I wanted to come with, I passed.)

So, you think to yourself, the new Captain America movie didn’t live up to your high expectations?

And the answer is no, I think it was quite good.

The trouble is, I came out of the theater feeling a bit assaulted (lots of punching — superpunching) and, well, I couldn’t quite remember what had just happened. I remember some great fight scenes, and some dramatic revelations, I loved the new characters introduced and I enjoyed seeing older characters again.

It took me a week, but I figured out what is bothering me: it’s not a comic book.

Watching the movie reminded me of when I was 14 and collecting comics. My best friend Marcus was an X-men and Marvel collector and I was a Teen Titans/Justice League, DC collector. What allowed us to function this way was that I would go over to his house and read the latest Daredevil, or he would come to my house and see what was up with The Vigilante.

Every once in a while, there was a storyline that couldn’t wait. We would sit in the mall outside the convenience store — or sit on the subway home from the comic book store — and open up the latest issue of the Judas Contract or Secret Wars and read it together. That first pass was just about inhaling plot, flipping those pages as fast as possible to get to the end of the issue before looking up at each other in amazement. Did that just happen?!

That’s how the new Captain America movie felt — did that just happen?!

But here’s the thing about comic books: After that first quick pass, I would re-read the comic, reviewing the dialogue but also just devouring each panel with my eyes. The backgrounds, the facial features, the weird stylized illustration of a “Boom tube,” the careful italicization of a single word in a dense Claremont word balloon… There was just so much to absorb.

Civil War was great and there was a lot to digest and I don’t feel like I have fully absorbed it yet. I want to pore over sequences that happened quickly and think about characters and composition.

You may suppose that what I want is to watch the movie again, or to get a DVD that I could advance frame by frame.

Nah, I just want my son to be old enough that we could sit and have a soda and discuss the movie from beginning to end. He’s almost there but he still gets a bit hung up on applying real science to these fantasies, and he’s still more interested in spectacle than character. But he’s getting there.

It’s going to be great watching Avengers: Infinity War with him. Can’t wait.

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