Captain America: Civil War Review

Even though it has the title “Civil War”, it actually has very little to do with the comic storyline it takes the title from. There’s the core starting point: registration for all super-powered beings on earth. And like in the comics, Tony Stark sits on one side while Captain America sits on the other. But that’s about where the similarities start and end.

This version of Civil War deals with the search for the Winter Soldier after he supposedly blew up a political conference, killing several high profile people including the father of The Black Panther. This sets him on a quest for vengeance, Tony Stark wants to arrest the Winter Soldier, and naturally, Captain America wants to find his friend and keep him safe.

SRyYQZ.0.0You may be led to believe that the villain of this film is someone named Zemo. He has nothing to do with his comic book counterpart in this film and more or less meanders around the movie. His entire purpose exists to be a plot mechanic instead of an actual antagonist. He moves around the world, causing problems and setting up things in order for the movie to move along. But in the end he does very little, especially since his plan hinges on people being in a certain spot at a certain time, at the same time. It’s all very convenient and kind of damages the impact of certain scenes.

But the real action of the movie has to do with Cap and Stark. Their relationship has always been one of begrudged friendship and that’s been crumbling steadily since the opening of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Things go into overdrive over the course of the film, and thanks to a third act revelation, pretty much falls apart entirely. Civil War is a movie that – like other Marvel movies – you can more or less enjoy without having seen the others, but things wouldn’t have the same impact if you’ve been following the movies since the beginning. These characters have come super far since the original Iron Man movie and this movie feels like a culmination of that.

There are a few additional standouts. Black Panther is pretty amazing in this movie. Chadwick Boseman’s fits the role so well that the movie is immediately better when he’s on screen. I’m definitely excited to see how Black Panther’s solo movie turns out.

3058531-1280_captain_america_civil_war_black_pantherThe other is of course the one and only Spider-man. Spider-man is one of the best and worst things about Civil War. Tom Holland is great in the role, and Spider-man’s action scenes are great. But you can tell that Spider-man wasn’t meant to be in this movie originally. The plot literally stops for fifteen minutes in order to introduce Peter Parker and get him up to speed with the rest of the movie. It’s unfortunate, as the movie suffers from enough pacing problem as it is.

Of course the most important aspect of a mash up movie such as this is the action. What we really want is to see our favorite heroes knock each other around and boy does this movie live up to that. There’s a really good fight between both “teams” in the middle of the movie where everyone from Spider-man to Ant-man gets to show off their skills. The fight kind of suffers from a “why didn’t you open with that” mentality a bit, but otherwise it’s really exciting.

The fight towards the third act is not only way more brutal, but more tragic. It’s here that you realize the damage that’s been done by both people can’t be repaired easily and both are looking to spill blood. This one isn’t made for cheering and popcorn fluff, it rings more sad than fun.

captain-america-civil-war-still-1The movie also attempts to deal with some heavy themes, as most comic book movies do. In this case it’s the idea of a world police and the freedom to choose. It’s here that the movie feels almost too short, as the ideas aren’t nearly as explored as they could be. The movie takes more time dealing with the comic book-y aspects of the plot and sort of passes off the debates of these themes after the first act. By the time the movie finishes, you’ll forget entirely that the movie began because of a registration act.

Overall Captain America: Civil War is a great film. It isn’t as tight as Winter Soldier, or even Guardians of the Galaxy, but it ranks up there as one of Marvel’s top films. The implications of this film on the wider MCU are large and will no doubt take their toll on films to come (in a good, dramatic way that is). It’s worth remembering that this is the last time we’ll see most of these heroes – Black Panther and Spider-man not withstanding – for several years to come. So for things to end on a tragic note is bittersweet, but one that feels earned over the course of three Iron Man movies, two Avengers movies, and three Captain America movies.

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The Fantastic Four (My Version)

You know whenever there’s a horrid comic book movie most people say they could write a better movie? Well, that’s what I said when the latest Fantastic Four movie was released last August. I didn’t even see the movie, the reviews were so terrible. But I knew as someone who understood basic storytelling, that I could write a better movie than what was being put on screens.

So I did! It took a long time, mostly because I took about a three month break to finish school but in the past few days I went from 52 pages to 91. It’s probably shorter than it should be, but I don’t really have a clear idea on how to write action scenes. So those are probably much shorter than they would be on screen.

(For those curious, the script will be linked at the bottom of the post and in the screenplays section of the blog)

So when coming up with the plot for this movie, I decided that I would ignore licensing issues and write this movie as if it were being included in phase three or phase four of the MCU. The Fantastic Four desperately needs the support of the universe and other movies. Without it, it doesn’t make their conflicts seem threatening. The added weight of what’s come before is extremely helpful.

It also helps with certain characters. One of Doctor Doom’s strongest abilities is his magic. In fact he was the Sorcerer Supreme after Doctor Strange. So instead of giving him nonsensical telekenesis or whatever else he gets assigned in older movies, he has something that ties into the larger universe. When the cosmic radiation hits, his magical powers are enhanced ten fold.

I was also able to layer in a few hints to additional Fantastic Four mythology. Characters like Maria Hill and Nick Fury opened up several opportunities for such things.

Reed Richards and Ben Grimm remain mostly untouched in terms of powers and abilities. I made it so Ben evolves over time due to the level of radiation he receives. So he’ll start out kind of small and grow larger over the course of the movie.

Reed has more personality changes than anything else. He’s definitely as arrogant as always, but it hides a larger weakness in which he’s actually more cowardly than he seems.

Sue and Johnny are the ones I changed the most. I made them twins for starters. I did this so they I could make their powers intertwined. This allowed Sue to be more active in action scenes and for some really fun power combinations.

The basis of the plot involves the usual origin, they group goes to space and gets hit by cosmic radiation that gives them various powers. Only because this film is set in the MCU, it has additional context. They’re going up there to study alien signals and figure out where the portals from the first Avengers came from (and if they could detect others before they happen).

The cosmic radiation is from the Silver Surfer, who is going to earth to prepare it for Galactus. He serves as the main antagonist of the movie. But as I list below, he isn’t featured super heavily in the movie and that’s something I would need to fix in a second draft.

The script isn’t perfect, far from it. It’s only a first draft though. I’ll go back one day and fix the various errors within. But for now here’s a basic list of what’s wrong:

  • Script is very plot driven
  • The rule of threes isn’t as obeyed as it needs to be
  • Not enough conflict between some of the characters
  • Certain motivations need more explaining
  • Characterization needs to be carried throughout the entire film
  • Probably need to drop more hints about Dr. Doom being an actual villain
  • Silver Surfer has…. four scenes? Probably should include more
  • Various dialogue/formatting touchups

These are the eight that I can list off the top of my head.

If you’re curious about a cast, well, do I have a list for you. Though it lacks any explanations because those are boring. This is simply to give you someone to visualize when you read it! You’re free to ignore it 🙂

Doctor Doom

Reed Richards

Sue Storm

Johnny Storm

Ben Grimm

And here’s the script! If for whatever you reason you lose this post you can find the script up in the top right corner area that says “Screenplays”.

Fantastic Four

The Fall of Infinite Crisis

Due to the rising popularity of games like League of Legends and DOTA 2, everyone was looking to get in on the MOBA action. EA had Dawngate in production for awhile, Crytek has Arena of Fate, WB put out a MOBA based on the Lord of the Rings a few years back, there are games like Smite and Heroes of the Storm, and finally, there’s Turbine’s Infinite Crisis. So clearly there’s something worth exploring in the MOBA genre.

The problem, is that many of these companies assumed that making a MOBA popular was easy. But EA cancelled Dawngate, Arena of Fate has faded into obscurity – I forgot it was still active in any way – Guardians of Middle Earth has shut down, and Turbine just announced a few days ago that Infinite Crisis will be shutting down in October. The only new MOBAs to take off in quite some time are Smite and Heroes of the Storm, and that’s more likely due to the changes they make in the core gameplay, making them unique compared to the other big two.

One of the biggest aspects of a MOBA is their character design and the variety of characters they can have for people to play. One issue using a licensed property for a MOBA is that there just aren’t enough characters to make a large list. Guardians of Middle Earth had this such problem. In fact, there are very few universes I could imagine a MOBA working for. Star Wars is one, because there are thousands upon thousands of characters, ranging from the well known to the culturally obscure. Comic books are another. Marvel and DC have hundreds of characters, and there are even multiple versions of the same characters.

Atomic Era Green Lantern
Atomic Era Green Lantern

That idea is the crux of Infinite Crisis. Named after the major event in the DC universe that brought all versions of the staple characters together, many of the heroes were the same “character”, like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and so on, but they all had a prefix attached that made them different versions. Examples are Red Sun Superman, Vampiric Batman, and Earth Two Green Lantern. They even invented some versions of their own, like Atomic Era Wonder Woman (the main picture featured in this post). So there definitely wasn’t a lack of variety in Infinite Crisis. In fact, as someone who enjoys MOBAs, this game seemed perfect on the outset.

Unfortunately there were a majority of problems when the game launched into beta. Many of the maps were circular, taking after the domination mode in League of Legends. They involved taking over five different control points around the map, and holding those points while they dealt damage to your opponents next base. This isn’t the traditional formula for MOBAs and while I can’t blame Turbine for trying to be somewhat unique in their design, they might have gone a bit too far.

Atomic Era Poison Ivy
Atomic Era Poison Ivy

One of the biggest problems with the game was the shop. I played the game on and off for months throughout beta and launch and the shop was never fixed in a way it needed to be. The items all looked the same, there was very little description of what the items did, or how to upgrade them. The shop was also cluttered looking. It was impossible to find what you needed and even harder to put together some kind of build for the character you were playing. This made it very frustrating to play as someone who tried it out for months. I can only imagine how it was for someone just joining in.

There was also the problem of snowballing. It’s a problem all MOBAs have tried to deal with in different ways. DOTA 2 deals with it by giving the team who is behind more gold when they kill the leading team. This allows for them to buy more items and hopefully even out the playing field. There was none of that in Infinite Crisis. If you lost the first few kills you could kiss the rest of the game good bye. There might be a few instances of holding on, but once a team took the lead it was straight up domination until the game was over. This made it very frustrating for the losing team. There was no balance.

Atomic Era Joker
Atomic Era Joker

Due to these problems it isn’t some kind of grand surprise that Infinite Crisis lost most of its player base and that the game will be shutting down in a few months. They had a golden concept, comics are ripe for the MOBA genre. But they made it too complicated to get into and over time didn’t boil the gameplay down to just the essentials. That and the lack of overall balance made it an unfortunate cocktail just waiting to turn players off.

Hopefully a game like this doesn’t turn other people off from trying to create a new MOBA with a licensed property. As mentioned above, Star Wars would make an amazing MOBA. Even something like Nintendo, with their vast library of characters, would work. There are just a few key areas that need to be nailed down, balance most of all. If something like that is handled, then you might just have a new hit on your hands.

Fantastic Four

If you haven’t heard by now, Fox Studios released the first trailer for their new Fantastic Four movie. If you don’t remember (and who could blame you), Fox had put out two previous films nearly ten years ago. They were both awful. So naturally when it came time to re-up the rights to the characters, people begged Fox to give them back to Marvel so they could make something good – or at the very least decent – out of it. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Fox traded Daredevil for an extension of the FF rights and here we are today.

But that’s not exactly the whole story. There’s been a lot of talk about this movie. Most of it has been about the production of the film. There were casting issues, script issues, and reshoots… so many reshoots. From what it sounded like, this movie got taken apart and put back together at least twice. If anyone recalls Superman Returns, you know that never works out well. So I’m being kind when I say that the expectations of this movie are beyond low. And that’s not just from racist fanboys who can’t stand the fact that Johnny Storm is black. Every word on this movie has been a cautionary one.

Yet here we are today, with the trailer’s release, and I find myself conflicted. First off, it’s a very well done trailer. It reminds me somewhat of Interstellar, talking about the advancements of humanity and what science can do for us as a species. It’s shot very well, which I expect from Josh Trank, who directed Chronicle. It show cases each other characters except our main villain (Toby Kebbell playing Doctor Doom) and some other sprawling shots with a VO from Reg E. Cathey from House of Cards (He’s playing Johnny Storm’s father). The most starling fact is the lack of showcase for the powers. Except for a brief shot of the Human Torch and two small shots of The Thing, you’d have no idea this was a superhero movie from the scenes alone.

It’s an interesting avenue to take. I wonder if Fox – or Trank – thought the seriousness of the trailer wouldn’t make sense in a superpowered montage. I tend to agree, but then I have to wonder what kind of tone they’re going for. Is this some kind of ruse? I imagine we’ll have to wait until the second trailer, or reports from press events, to see if the tone holds. If it does, we may have something interesting on our hands. If not… then we go back to praying the rights return to Marvel someday.

No one wants a bad movie. But the Fantastic Four has a terrible history and the production of this one isn’t much better. The cast is young, but hopefully not too young (IMDB). Unfortunately Mr. Fantastic is the only character with any kind of dialogue, so it’s hard to get a grasp on the kind of characters we’re seeing.

I suppose all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. We’ve only got another seven months to see for sure.

Death In Comics and Why It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

***SPOILERS FOR COMIC BOOK READERS AHEAD***

Wolverine is going to die. Yes, you read that right. The man with the healing ability, who has been alive for over 200 years and even survived having a nuclear explosion go off in his face and having his skeleton ripped out, will be dying sometime in the near future. Does this matter? No. Why? Because Wolverine will be returning without a scratch about a year after his death. It happens every time a major character dies nowadays. They die, they’re “missed and mourned” and then the return story line starts to ramp up. It happened with Captain America at the end of Civil War and with Batman at the end of Infinite Crisis.

Some people argue that death in comics is important and the fact that it never sticks isn’t important. It’s hard for me to agree with this because I see death in storytelling totally differently. While the impact it will have on the world and its characters is extremely important, the impact it has on the reader/viewer (in the case of television and whatnot) is the most important aspect. It’s hard for me to enjoy, or even take seriously the death of a comic book character when I know that within a year they will return.

Death as a plot device when you know it will be meaningful. How does it accomplish that? By being permanent. That’s not something comic book do well. For years characters such as Barry Allen and Jean Grey were dead. For decades they’re deaths echoed through their universes. Their deaths were powerful, meaningful events that took place. Then they both came back. Eventually everyone will come back. There’s very little that remains in comic books and it’s frustrating. How can someone be affected by the death of their favorite character when they can be comforted by that they’ll eventually return, probably sooner than they think.

Death wasn’t always perceived this way in comics. When Superman was killed by Doomsday back in the 90’s, people were shocked. It was a landmark event. People couldn’t help but think “you can’t kill Superman, can you?”. It turns out you can, but not for very long. Over the course of twelve months Superman eventually returned. But that still didn’t ruin the affect it had on people. Death in comics was a strange, new land. But it could never be permanent. And as such, the more it happened, the less it meant. People in the comics business saw the numbers and sales that the death of Superman brought it. So it’s natural to assume they wanted a piece of that action.

But it’s hard to invest in something like that when you know it’s a cash grab. It’s just like those “event” stories that are set across ten different series so we have to buy them all to get the full picture. It’s something of an insult to our intelligence to act like we would care about something that will be reversed within twelve month’s time.

I would love nothing more than if both universes went on a cleaning spree, cleaning out their overstocked character list and creating space for everyone to breathe. But alas, nothing is permanent in comics, except its characters.

The Future of SHIELD

It’s assumed by now that Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD will get a second season. I have to imagine that if ratings don’t pick up, this season would be its last. The ratings have been ho-hum compared to the pilot, but those ratings are inflated. Most people watched that pilot out of curiosity, realized that Iron Man and Thor weren’t in it, and took off for the hills. The rest of us stuck around to see what they would do with the show. Since then we’ve seen the dissolution of SHIELD all due to the events in Captain America 2. By now the show only has two episodes left, so we’re all left to wonder, where will we go after?

There are two major possibilities. By the time that SHIELD’s second season comes to an end it will be just before Avengers: Age of Ultron is released. It’s fair to assume that the events of the second season of SHEILD will tie into that movie. The question is what do we do with all the remaining time?

Well Nick Fury is confirmed to be in the season finale. While we can assume that he’s there primarily to give Coulson answers, he might also be there to give them their new mission. That mission? Go to Europe and help take down the remaining Hydra installations. At the end of Captain America 2, Nick Fury mentioned that he was heading to Europe in order to take down any remaining Hydra bases while they were weak. At the same time, Baron Von Strucker – revealed in the post credits scene of Captain America 2 – revealed his desire to throw the remaining Hydra bases to the wolves in order to preserve their anonymity.

The second possibility isn’t as likely. The other theory is that Coulson will reform SHIELD as an underground intelligence agency. Perhaps bankrolled by Stark Industries? Since How I Met Your Mother has ended I would love to see Cobie Smulders join the show full time. It would be a great way of keeping the presence of the movies known in the show and give us someone to replace Ward. This would also allow them to take on a “Star Trek” persona, using the plane as their “Enterprise” going around, exploring the unknown and so on.

I would prefer the first option though simply because it gives the show a serialized approach. Once Captain America 2 was released SHIELD kicked into high gear, finally able to focus on a true goal. The Centipede angle was fine for the beginning, but there were several episodes that had nothing to do with that. The show needs something to focus on and the dissolution of Hydra would be an excellent goal.

We’ll know for certain over the course of the month whether SHIELD is actually getting renewed and no doubt get details on season two at San Diego Comic-Con. What do you guys think about the future of SHIELD? Is there a storyline you would like to see them tackle?

Is SHIELD Finally Where It Should Be?

*Spoilers Ahead for SHIELD and Captain America 2*

For the longest time, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD had been struggling both creatively and ratings wise. While the latter is still an issue for the program, the former is finally finding its place. It took nearly the entire season though, and that’s something I’ve learned isn’t entirely the fault of the writers. Jeph Loeb (producer of SHIELD) told several interviewers that they were stuck in something of a holding pattern because they were waiting for Captain America: The Winter Soldier to be released. Now that the movie is out, the show can now deal with the fall out of those events.

Those events of course, are the infiltration of SHIELD by Hydra. What remains of SHIELD is at war and Coulson’s team are on the run from Colonel Talbot. At this time we also learned that one of Coulson’s own, Grant Ward, is a Hydra spy. Though how far he subscribes to their doctrine is unknown. He seems to be mostly tied to his SO: John Garrett. That’s fine, and it makes me glad that the writers decided not to go the brain-washing route. That would be such a TV trope and Whedon isn’t necessarily known for using those.

The greatest gift this show received from Captain America was a goal. The show’s plot is now focused on one thing: defeating Hydra while preserving what’s left of SHIELD. It’s something the show desperately needed. I admit that before Captain America they were focused on hunting the Clairvoyant. But that only came to a head a few episodes before Cap 2 debuted. Now the show has a larger, overarching goal to reach for. This will no doubt drive the show until its end in May. Perhaps their hunt for Hydra will continue on through season two, up until the second Avengers movie.

More importantly though, this goal has shaken up the characters. For so long everyone followed their predetermined mold. Many of the characters had the personality of paper dolls. Now everyone is a bit more varied and we’re finally getting some depth. This is SHIELD’s chance to build on this depth and deliver us characters we can engage with.

For now, I think it’s easy to look at SHIELD as a show worth watching. It’s somewhat disappointing it took this long to get there, but it wasn’t exactly the fault of the show. It’s a strange new thing when your show is directly tied to a movie franchise. This has never been done before so there will be roadblocks. As time goes on I have no doubt we’ll see smoother transitions and a better show overall. I simply hope that the ratings tick up so we’ll get to see that show.