Tony Stark War Machine

The trailer for ‘Captain America: Civil War’ premiered on Tuesday night, and somewhere out there Steven Spielberg of “superhero movies will go the way of the Western” fame wiped egg off his face.

For those who don’t remember, The Hollywood Reporter noted Sept. 2:

Two years ago, Steven Spielberg famously predicted an “implosion” of the movie industry because of its over-reliance on big budget summer blockbusters. In the wake of the success of Jurassic World, which Spielberg produced, that hasn’t changed, he says.

“I still feel that way,” Spielberg told The Associated Press while promoting Bridge of Spies, his upcoming Cold War-era thriller. “We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn’t mean there won’t be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns.”

Spielberg didn’t “predict” anything because his diagnosis of what ails the movie industry is not even correct. It has been big-budget summer blockbusters allowing the industry to tread water now that Hollywood is just one of many outlets Americans use for entertainment and escapism. But I digress.

Tony Stark says to Steve Rogers:

Stark: Captain, you seem a little defense.

Rogers: Well, it’s been a long day.

Stark: If we can’t accept limitations, we’re no better than the bad guys.

Rogers: That’s not the way I see it.

Stark: Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect teeth.

Boom. Stark nails it.

In a world populated with beings as strong as gods, capable of mind control, or able to alter space and time, the federal government would have a vested interest in knowing who those individuals were. To not track human nuclear bombs walking among the civilian population would constitute a level of negligence by elected officials worthy of prison time.

Tony Stark Rhodey Civil War

The problem Marvel will face on the big screen will be the same one faced by its comic book writers — who failed miserably with Civil War. They heavily put their thumb on the scale to make Steve Rogers the “good guy” and Tony Stark the “bad guy” instead of telling a nuanced tale.

Captain America Civil War

If directors Anthony and Joe Russo demanded more of their writers than Marvel Comics did with Civil War, then fans may get the best MCU movie to date. If they did not, then Steve Rogers will once find himself fighting for Kilgrave’s “right” to anonymously rape young girls.

Bucky Winter Soldier

Will the MCU be one where it’s right for the government to demand an ID to get a drivers license but wrong if a man has the power to blow up an entire city? Let us hope the Russo brothers once again rise above the petty politics routinely demonstrated by Marvel’s comic book writers. If they do, then Mr. Speilberg will be picking egg out of his beard for many years to come.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

28 comments

  1. Don’t care, TOTALLY looking forward to Legends of Tomorrow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7LlmaFg0lw.

    nah, I’m looking forward to Marvel movies too, though for what’s ailing hollywood, RedLetterMedia had an interesting conversation with Max Landis about that.

    I don’t know about you, Doug, but back in the day, watching Batman animated on a 20 inch TV… I never even THOUGHT about seeing these days, did you? Truly we are spoiled. 😀

    1. It’s really hard to explain to younger people what it was like growing up in the 80s in terms of superhero movies, television, etc. Even when a project disappoints these days, I still can’t help but think about how good we have it.

  2. What I love is that the trailer keeps it’s tightly focused on Cap and Bucky, their relationship is key to the themes of this story, and it’s not just an Avengers movie.

  3. “In a world populated with beings as strong as gods, capable of mind control, or able to alter space and time, the federal government would have a vested interest in knowing who those individuals were.”

    It’s kinda funny that a year before Marvel stunk up the joint with “Civil War,” “Justice League Unlimited” did a pretty solid storyline that featured a lot of accountability of heroes and how they’re perceived. Cadmus was belligerent towards the heroes, but it was also a government agency charged with providing defense. Green Arrow argued in one episode that they had a point; that normal people like him couldn’t stand up to Superman or other Leaguers if they did decide to take over. In one scene, that storyline demonstrated more nuance and maturity than what Marvel ultimately put out.

    “They heavily put their thumb on the scale to make Steve Rogers the “good guy” and Tony Stark the “bad guy” instead of telling a nuanced tale.”

    “Civil War” had an almost bile fascination to it, what with how downright schizophrenic Marvel made Stark. In one title, he’s deeply conflicted about his actions but soldiering on; in another title, he’s a downright fascist salivating at the opportunity to fight his friends and hiring super-villains to do his dirty work. Sheesh, who was more at fault: the writers on the soapboxes or the editors who were asleep at the switch? It’s just amazing that Marvel had no qualms about completely destroying a character who had been around since the Lee/Kirby days. It was like “Superman Returns” on steroids.

    Then there was that downright silly Gitmo allegory. Y’know, it was bad enough to have heroes advocate against being held accountable, but then they offer up the sermonizing about how unfair it was to lock up super-powered repeat offenders in the Negative Zone. “Locking these super villains away in another dimension is a greater crime than, uh, all the things these same super villains do whenever they break out of existing prisons… which they do a lot… hmm. What was my point again? Oh, right, go anti-reg!”

    “If they do, then Mr. Speilberg will be picking egg out of his beard for many years to come.”

    Spielberg’s attitude reminds me of Whedon’s whining about “Jurassic World.” I never once believed Whedon sincerely thought the movie was misogynistic; I believe he was just jealous that another franchise picture would be eclipsing his own (which it certainly did financially) and said that other crap to get SJW plaudits for his pity party. Spielberg? Yeah, sounds like sour grapes that he’s being regularly out-grossed and out-praised. You’d think he’d be used to that by now, anyway. “Lincoln” left an impression, sure, but in a “Wow, a good Spielberg movie; haven’t seen one of those in over a decade” kind of way.

    Y’know, Robert Redford used to denounce big budget movies on a regular basis… until someone offered him a check for “Winter Soldier.” I’m certain Spielberg would do similarly if Marvel came knocking on his door.

    1. “Civil War” had an almost bile fascination to it, what with how downright schizophrenic Marvel made Stark. In one title, he’s deeply conflicted about his actions but soldiering on; in another title, he’s a downright fascist salivating at the opportunity to fight his friends and hiring super-villains to do his dirty work. Sheesh, who was more at fault: the writers on the soapboxes or the editors who were asleep at the switch?

      That was certainly a problem. At first it seemed as though citizens with super-powers would just have to register, and then the writers realized, “Oh, crap. That’s kind of rational. We should force them to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. and other government agencies.” They just had to have their weird Bush administration allegory, even if it diminished the product. Sad.

      I thought the same thing about Spielberg having a case of “sour grapes.” He’s on the outside looking in as Marvel Studios continues to pull in mountains of cash. As a producer, he is in direct competition with much of what Marvel Studios does. It makes sense that he would publicly downplay or denigrate its success.

    2. I loved Justice League and Unlimited. IMO, DC has never been as good as Bruce Timm’s work. The story’s and dialogue were mature, well thought out and intelligent. It was far better than Marvel’s garbage at the time, which I’ve had the horror to thumb through over the last few months. Obviously, Bruce thought good dialogue, interesting stories and treating characters with respect and a sense of fun was adult storytelling without having to alienate the audience with pointlessness.

      Marvel thinks that’s what ‘mature’ means…lots of screwing and violence. It’s pointless and distracting most of the time, even when the story is good. I like Jessica Jones…but they still haven’t grown the hell up. Waiting for Luke Cage and Jessica to finish their overblown, clothed grunt scene was painful…as if this means anything other than the writers masturbating to their own ‘edginess’. I thought they made a hot couple…the scene ruined it, I don’t need to see them screw…or pretend to…I’m quite familiar with the act. It all makes me yawn…hard.

      I loved how Bruce simply refused to just hammer which way was right or wrong into your skull. Huntress doesn’t play along and gets kicked out of the league, so she throws her membership card at MM and tells him to choke on it…I think there were very few people that didn’t cheer at that scene. Rather than be ‘shown the error of her ways’ she sticks to her code and continues on the show. Hawkgirl had some of the best one-liners ever…from remarking on Flash having a hard time getting a date (fastest man alive!) to asking Superman if it chafes to straddle the fence all the time remarking on his need to play peacemaker. Captain Atom and Green Arrow playing Green Arrow/Green Lantern…good stuff.

  4. When you think about it, the evil Senator from the first X-Men movie really has a point. “We must know who these people are, and above all what they can do.”

    Registering people who can level cities seems pretty reasonable when you get down to it, especially when so many things can happen to turn them evil or dangerous involuntarily, such that having a plan to take them down isn’t even about distrusting them.

    The whole Civil War thing was bizarre. Really Stark being on the wrong side turned largely on poor decision-making by his side and pointlessly evil (and unnecessary) acts by them. Why do they even need supervillains if they have all these newly registered heroes? They didn’t need them before, and now they have far more resources to work with!

    I didn’t like the way Stark and Richards wanted to control everyone, but that doesn’t really seem inherent in the idea of registration. Also, Ultimate Spider-Man did a story right before or after that somewhere where Spider-Man was going to be trained by the Avengers because they felt that if he was going to be fighting the big stuff he needed serious training. Then he died, in part because he didn’t have backup and didn’t get the training. So that also seemed to go against the whole “registration/reasonable controls are bad” mindset.

    If nothing else, if people have mind control powers and other scary abilities that can violate the rights of other citizens, it seems negligent to just let them do whatever they want with no oversight. It seems like you either need registration or you need super-powered police.

    1. Wasn’t Professor X on Captain America’s side? Captain America was fighting for Charles’ “right” to use Cerebro. Heh. At least the federal agencies are required to get search warrants, etc. when it comes to surveillance. Professor X gets to track people whenever he wants because…he’s a cool guy? Thanks, but no thanks Captain America.

    2. Would a mutant/superhero registration remain a “reasonable control?” As the first “X-Men” movie pointed out, most mutants want to remain unregistered because ones with public identities are treated badly, if not outright threatened. The system could lead to abuse, as in “X2,” where Col. Stryker uses government records and other sources to first launch an illegal kidnapping raid on the X-Men and plan a mass murder scheme.

      I don’t really see anti-registration as being the same as “let everyone do whatever they want.” Possessing superpowers isn’t illegal in and of itself, it’s how they’re used. So, if a mutant, Gifted, or whatever the term is, uses their powers to commit a crime, then it’s time to arrest them. As Black Widow pointed out in “The Winter Solider,” people like her are needed when stuff like this happens, so it’s not like the authorities are letting people do as they please. As far as registering superheroes goes, the vigilante problem is kind of built into the superhero genre and all I can say is that . (I’ll agree that there’s no clear cut answer for the right way to solve this in real life, but, also in real life, requiring mandatory registration for any specific group of people has never ended well.)

      “Ultimate Spider-Man” could be argued to be a little more complex in regards to gov. oversight. Ultimate S.H.I.E.L.D. is far more amoral than in the movies — although they helped protect his secret ID from people, like the Kingpin, they were illegally spying on Norman Osborn in the “Legacy” arc and tried to illegally arrest Peter in the “Clone Saga.”

      It’s also interesting that USM has the running idea of the villains usually trying to use science to upgrade themselves above the rest of humanity; “trying to be more than they really are,” as Curt Connors put it in the “Venom” arc. So, USM seems show the need for some kind of control, but the system in place isn’t pure as the driven snow.

    3. Remember, Lurker, the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t have mutants, so most beings with superpowers are those who at some point in their life decided to be a superhero. And if you choose the be one, you also choose the consequences that go with it, including some form of reasonable control.
      Most people will see that the system isn’t pure and needs oversight, it just seems that this movie seems to understand where comic-book Civil War took major mistakes.
      Case in point if you are trying to paint a “both sides make a point” argument, it is helpful that you avoid really bad writing like “Fantastic Four 540 : civil war”, where Pro Registration Reed Richards is singing a song about Werner Von Braun and uses the argument of “just following orders” when he is shipping people to Space-Gitmo.

    4. It looks like the Russo brothers are going to handle this well. Anthony Russo told Superhero Hype:

      “The challenge was, we’re doing the story of Civil War,” Anthony Russo adds. “Which everybody knows is nominally about superhero registration. And in a lot of ways that can be a political issue, and we didn’t want the conflict of the movie to solely exist on that level. We wanted to figure out very personal reasons why everyone’s relationship to this idea of registration is going to become complicated. That’s what the relationship between Steve and Bucky allowed us to do, to get very personal in terms of why people would lean one way or the other.”

      Marvel’s comic book writers can learn a thing or two from Joe and Anthony Russo.

    5. In response to “bvdmier” on there being no mutants in the MCU (I can’t find way to reply directly to that comment, so I hope this’ll work):

      True, the MCU doesn’t have mutants in the sense of people being born with the X Gene and being the next stage of human evolution (or the most out of control super solider serum re-creation experiment ever, if you live elsewhere in the Marvel multiverse). But there are the “Gifted,” people who develop superpowers without any obvious origin, like the one-time character “Scorch” on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The MCU also has the Inhumans, like Daisy “Skye” Johnson, who’re born with powers, like a mutant would be. And that’s not even including people like Jessica Jones, who have superpowers, but have decided that the whole superhero thing is bad news.

      So, the MCU does have their own answers to the mutants, so I think my point could still stand, although I’ll concede my argument may not be that well-written. My position is that an involuntary superhuman register is a bad idea (historically it’s been a first step towards persecution, and in a superhero setting has been proven to be a dangerous weapon against heroes when the wrong people misuse it) although I’ll agree that there needs to be some kind of way to respond to superhuman threats.

      I’ll concede that the “MCU” seems to be more interested in who, if anyone, active superheroes, should be accountable to. That seems to be a more complicated issue (and hence, a more interesting movie, if handled well); I could see a good argument of setting up a system where legal superheroes had to be licensed by the government, even though I do think you could argue against it.

    6. I think the Russo brothers are going to treat this with the nuance this deserves, because there would have to be a registration of some kind in the MCU. There really wouldn’t be any way around it.

      Say a guy didn’t break any laws, but he was a walking nuclear weapon. Or someone like the Hulk. The first time that guy goes off the deep end or inadvertently destroys a residential neighborhood, the public at large would demand — and get — legislation. A civil society that requires a registry for child molesters would demand a registry for people who can turn themselves invisible and phase through walls. A government that regulates guns would regulate people who are living weapons. There’s really no way around it.

  5. The one thing that has always irked me with politics is that too many people have the opinion that one side of the political spectrum is the “good guy” and the other is the “bad guy”. Any healthy political system requires input from both sides, particularly on policy. Without it, you end up with a system of government similar to the Galactic Empire from Star Wars (maybe that’s what the comic book writers at Marvel want lol).

    Personally I hope Civil War shows more maturity than the comic book counterpart. I think it would be kind of cool if they approached the movie with the perspective that Cap and Tony and both right and wrong.

    1. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 😉 People on both sides of the political fence often wish their “team” had prolonged control of the government and the ability to ram their preferred public policies into existence. That’s usually a recipe for tyranny.

      Madison puts it well in Federalist #51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

  6. Are we entirely sure that Spielberg won’t be proven wrong? While I think the blockbuster is here to stay, how do we know that superhero blockbusters won’t wane and wax again? Fads do come and go. I mean, biblical epics aren’t as common anymore. Disney is slowly returning to the Broadway-style animated movies they drifted away from for a time after the Disney Renaissance.

    With DC joining in the superhero movie trend, the next several years are going to get pretty packed with movies about superheroes. Knowing how fickle the public can be, how can we really say that people won’t eventually get tired of them and want a break? If in a few years, when Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes are going strong and people haven’t tired of them, then we’ll see.

    If you think back to some of the more successful superhero movies, most of them are not just a generic superhero movie, but blend it with another genre; “The Incredibles” was part parody/Saturday morning TV show/midlife crises and how it affects the whole family, the Raimi Spider-Man movies told a love story (yeah, most of these movies have a girlfriend character, but how many put that front and center?), “Winter Soldier” doubled as a spy movie, the Nolan “Batman” movies filtered superheroes through a “real life” setting, etc.,

    I think if Disney, Warner, and the rest are smart, not only will they strive for well-made movies that are more than just popcorn entertainment, they’re try to continue the trend of making not just “superhero” movies, but superhero movies with something else.

    1. If in a few years, when Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes are going strong and people haven’t tired of them, then we’ll see.

      Why do we have to wait a few years? The “superhero” genre took off with the success of Blade in 1998. That really busted the door open and made producers think, “Holy cow. We don’t just need to do Batman movies. These comics have serious potential.”

      Right there you have 17 years of the superhero movie train rolling along. People like Spielberg have been predicting doom since Spider-Man 2 (a success) in 2004. There is a big difference between waning interest and “going the way of the Western.” Westerns were box office poison for decades. As you point out, the superhero genre has wiggle-room, which is an added benefit.

      Even if Spielberg were right…and his prediction came true in 10 years, that’s nearly 30 years of superhero movies dominating the box office.

    2. I think we’re kind of talking at cross purposes here. I’m not suggesting that superhero movies haven’t been a smash hit for years now. As you’ve pointed out, we’ve observed that that’s a fact.(Although I’d argue that “X-Men”/”Spider-Man” may have kicked off the superhero craze on the grounds that Blade isn’t a superhero and the former two seem to be precursors to the most common style of modern comic book movies; “X-Men” took a darker, grounded tone that eliminated the sillier aspects of the source material, like the Nolan “Batman” movies. “Spider-Man” took a lighter tone and embraced the comic book conventions, but the characters had dimension and problems that were taken seriously, much like the MCU.)

      Anyways, the thing I was saying was that there’s no guarantee that the super hero movie genre won’t go out of style someday. That’s got nothing to do with the genre’s past successes. (And when reading Spielberg’s comment, I don’t think he was denying that success either.)

    3. I think what Spielberg was doing was more of a dig than it needed to be — due to the extent Westerns became box-office poison. It almost has to be needlessly harsh, because no sane person would argue that cultural tastes swing back and forth like a pendulum.

      As I said in a different post awhile back, I can respect someone who says, “The market is saturated and eventually something has to give. There will be a correction.” That’s rational. But there is a big difference between a market correction and a total rejection of the genre.

      In terms of comics-movie history, Blade (1998) helped set the stage for X-Men (2000). I probably should look into it, but I’m willing to be there are some good articles out there on just how important Blade was for the genre.

    4. Thanks, Google. That was easy. Here’s an Aug. 21, 2013, piece from Forbes magazine: “When ‘Blade’ Began The ‘Spider-Man’ Era Of Comic Book Films”

      “Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of the release of New Line Cinema’s Blade. By itself, that’s not a particularly important occasion. Blade is a solid enough action picture, and its curtain raiser rave sequence is pretty terrific. A week after I watched The Avengers, I was relieved to see a big-budget fantastical action movie that was actually competent. Fifteen years later, Blade is still one of the few major comic book franchises to both star a person of color in the lead and be R-rated. While it was arguably sold as an action vehicle for Wesley Snipes that happened to be based on a Marvel comic book, its success kick-started the second era of comic book cinema. … Blade led to 20th Century Fox’s X-Men, which led the way to Sony’s Spider-Man, after which it was open season on this next phase of comic book superhero adventures.

  7. The “Civil War” trailer looks pretty good. I’m looking to seeing the new Spider-Man, despite the fact that I think that franchise has had a couple reboots too many and both of them came too soon after their predecessor. This version looks like it’s an adaption of “Ultimate Spider-Man,” which I’m happy with. That’s my number one favorite comic book of all time, partially due to the strong similarities it has with the Raimi movies (my favorite superhero movie series of all time and my favorite iteration “Spider-Man” period).

    I’d really like a closer adaption to the “Ultimate” comics than we got with the Mark Webb movies — e.g. Mary Jane as the leading lady, an Aunt May closer to the Ultimate version in regards to personality and relationship with her nephew (Ultimate Peter’s relationships with his aunt and MJ were the emotional core of the series and generated some of the best scenes), the punk Gwen Stacy (with all respects to Emma Stone, Ultimate Marvel has the most interesting version of Gwen), the disconnect between Spider-Man and the “professional” superheroes — than we’ve been given before. And I’m really hoping that J.K. Simmons will play J. Jonah Jameson again somewhere down the line (I don’t think anyone else can play this character, any more than Sir Patrick Stewart being replaced as older Professor X). And for Mysterio and some adaption of the two gang war stories USM did with the Kingpin (Spidey insulting the Kingpin is some of the funniest material ever written for the character).

    I’ve never had the desire to read the original “Civil War” comic, since it was a stepping stone for Marvel in setting up “Spider-Man: One More Day,” although the idea has alway sounded interesting, even if it’s basically a self-ripoff of any of the “X-Men” mutant registration stories. Hence, why I’m looking forward to the movie; it’s a way to experience the story without annoying myself because it was used to do something I really hate.

    I’m kind of skeptical that the MCU Bucky Barnes is going to become the second Captain America, given that the trailer seems to show that the government wants him dead.

    1. I’ve never understood why Mysterio wasn’t turned to as a big-screen villain for Spider-Man. I always thought he had incredible potential. You would people who depend on special effects for a living would understand…but I guess not. 🙂

      In terms of who can and cannot be Captain America, I would creatively buy the argument that he no longer has to be officially sanctioned by the government. He has become a symbol that is bigger than any one administration. You could write it in a way where guys like me would see him as a modern-day “Minuteman,” and guys on the left would equally see him as a “man of the people.”

  8. Marvel’s Civil War became a bonkers screed against George W. Bush as well as a liberal’s fantasy of what conservatives believe, which then warped the whole series. Marvel is so mindless in its liberalism, they could only pretend to rep both sides, which they never did. The issue was something like, “We have a masked citizen walking around with tiny invisible nuclear cannons permanently attached to both her forearms. Do you think we should know who she is, and where she is at any given time?” The answer is obvious, so Marvel had to force the pro-reg side to be evil, or else their whole screwy universe collapses.

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