The following has been written under the assumption that you’ve already seen Captain America: Civil War. This is your courtesy spoiler warning. Head here for our spoiler-lite review.
As Captain America: Civil War neared its epic, hero vs. hero conclusion, a depressing thought overtook me: I can’t believe I have to wait two more years for the next episode.
Not the next movie; the next episode. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is like a giant TV show that takes months if not years off in-between episodes. Whereas Age of Ultron was more of a filler episode setting up necessary plot points Civil War feels like the best season finale ever, dropping cliffhanger after cliffhanger on us and introducing multiple new, exciting characters (Black Panther, Spider-Man) for “next season.” As a result, 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 has been turned into a giant mystery, and I can’t wait to see what happens.
Of course, I was wrong to harp on the two year gap in-between Civil War and Infinity War. The next Marvel movie or episode or whatever you want to call it is Doctor Strange, and it comes out in November followed by Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarock in 2017. Black Panther, the soon-to-be-retitled Infinity War Part 1 and Ant-Man and the Wasp arrive in 2018.
With such a full slate of Marvel movies, the last thing I should be worried about is the wait between installments. Just give it a couple of months and we’ll be watching Benedict Cumberbatch learn magic (as he always should have been, what with his name sounding like a J.K. Rowling madlib). Not too long after that, we’ll finally get to see how much Baby Groot has grown since last we left him him dancing to the Jackson 5.
And so on, and so on, and so on. These Marvel characters are all coming back (well, not so much Thor’s mom. Still dead, last I checked). We’ll see them again before too long. However, maybe I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, but I couldn’t stop wondering about all the cliffhangers:
When will we see Captain America again? He’s officially a criminal now, on the run from the law, and those (Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Falcon, Scarlet Witch) who supported his cause are all criminals as well. We can guess that once the shit hits the fan, Tony Stark will use that burner phone to call Cap for help, but that sounds like an Infinity War-Part 1 cliffhanger. So, is Civil War the last we see of Captain America until 2019?
When will we get to see the next stage of the Scarlet Witch and Vision’s developing relationship? They were on the opposite sides of the ethical divide splitting the Avengers in half in Civil War, but by the end they apologized to each other, reinforcing their bond as two people struggling to understand their identities. If this is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s potential romances of the moment, when will we see it consummated?
What does all of this mean for Ant-Man and the Wasp? Will Scott Lang still be a wanted criminal by that point, or will he be absolved by the events of Infinity War Part 1? And now that the Russo Brothers used up the debut of Ant-Man’s, um, Giant Man abilities in Civil War what even cooler thing can Peyton Reed possibly come up with for Ant-Man and the Wasp?
Did that mid-credits sequence set up the Winter Soldier as the MCU’s new human McGuffin? Will the conflict in Black Panther be all about people trying to collect Winter Soldier and deliver him to justice?
Since Tony Stark is on the outs with Pepper Potts, and since Robert Downey, Jr. has agreed to appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming does that mean Tony’s flirtation with Aunt May and continual praise for her looks is actually building to something more than a couple of easy jokes? Probably not, but it’s the not knowing and related wait which is killing me.
These are the natural questions to ask after a movie as jam-packed as Civil War, but I should be working harder to pause and appreciate the moment. After all, as seemingly thousands have already argued (read Julianne’s review), Civil War is easily one of if not the most satisfying entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
That is, however, if you are someone who already loves the MCU. I find it hard to argue that Civil War is actually a complete movie that can stand on its own. It’s even more indebted to Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron than I expected. Tony Stark’s “the end of the path I started us on” line from Age of Ultron could have been used in Civil War instead and it would have worked nearly as well. This is the end of a narrative path which started the moment Nick Fury popped up in Tony Stark’s mansion, or when Bucky Barnes fell from that train somewhere in the mountains during WWII. But the first moment an innocent civilian died during one of the climactic battles, Civil War became inevitable, and our engagement in the conflict was always going to be greatly enhanced by the relationships we’ve formed with these characters (and they with each other).
Romances we care about have ended off-screen in-between movies, and ones we only slightly suspected took a big step forward (good for you, Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter, but also, ewww, that’s Peggy’s niece!). There’s a gut wrenching funeral scene for anyone who’s seen First Avenger, Winter Soldier and every episode of Agent Carter. Tony’s lingering grief over his dead parents (which was more of a season 1 thing in the larger MCU) came back in full force, and he emerged as an emotionally broken man, his love life finally torpedoed by the broken promises from Iron Man 3 and his conscience overburdened after Ultron. Even a relatively minor player to Civil War‘s plot like Ant-Man was granted a brief moment to reference Hank Pym’s feud with Tony’s father, nicely reminding us how exactly Scott Lang fit into all of this.
As season finales go, though, it’s also bit shaggy at times, and there are areas which invite nitpicking, such as how exactly and when Steve figured out the Winter Soldier killed Tony’s parents. Plus, while it was far more true of Batman v Superman, there is also an element of Civil War where much could have been avoided if these people simply sat down and talked to each other. They were never going to agree on the Sokovia Accords, but the whole “Bucky’s been framed, and I have proof” thing could have been discussed more openly.
But when the result is that instant-classic airport fight sequence or the gripping final fight between Captain America and Iron Man – Steve and Tony finally following through on the tensions they expressed in the first Avengers – who are we to judge? I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how it would all end.
Of course, I ultimately knew it wouldn’t end, not really. These Marvel movies never really do. As Collider argued in 2014:
[Kevin Feige] is, in effect, the “showrunner” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, responsible for breaking the story (and possibly even acts) of each of their films before signing a director to execute said vision. This of course ensures that every Marvel movie has strong connective tissue with the films that precede and follow it, but it also puts creative constraints on the filmmakers.
Yes, we get to see familiar characters inhabit each other’s films, but the tradeoff is that none of the films are really filmmaker-driven. Moreover, when each film leads right into the next, stories don’t really end. Every Marvel movie concludes in the “To Be Continued” style of a two-parter on TV—except in this case it’s an “undetermined-number-parter” that could go on for decades.
But, wow, if Batman v Superman is what this kind of things look like when there is a filmmaker-driven vision then screw that freakin’ noise. Let Kevin Feige continue to serve as Hollywood’s best showrunner, and trust writers like Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors like Joe and Anthony Russo to keep us hooked with each new “To Be Continued…” ending.
Sebastian Stan, the Winter Soldier himself, put a more positive spin on this “Marvel movies are giant TV show episodes” idea earlier this week on Stephen Colbert, responding to a question about whether or not movies are truly more important than TV, “I’m not sure what the difference is these days. I feel like we keep repeating the movies the same ways. We want to revisit characters the same way we see them on TV. Marvel, in a sense, is like a TV show when you look at it, right. Every few years the characters evolve, just the same way as they do on TV. Isn’t that similar?”
I can’t wait to see the next evolution or episode or movie or whatever you want to call it.