Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

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I have been an avid reader of Marvel Comics since 1988. In the twelve weeks leading up to Captain America: Civil War I watched the twelve Marvel movies that came before. I walked into Captain America: Civil War with about as much of a pre-established bias as one can. I am not surprised that I enjoyed Captain America: Civil War. I am surprised that it may very well be my all-time favorite superhero movie.

Civil War had a lot to do in its two-hour and twenty-six minute run time. It had to continue the ongoing story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I had to give us a believable reason that half of the Avengers would be willing to fight the other half. It had to introduce a totally new Spider-Man that was different from any live action Spider-Man before him. It had to introduce Black Panther for the first time in a live action movie and establish who he is and what his motivations are. And lastly it had to give character moments throughout the movie for Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, War Machine, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Winter Soldier, Black Panther, Spider-Man, General Ross, Aunt May, Sharon Carter, Crossbones and Baron Zemo. Oh, and it has to have a compelling story with lots of good action and mind-blowing special effects while simultaneously remaining true to the original comics and putting their own spin on it. Somehow, the Russo Brothers and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Steve McFeely manage to do all of this and make one of the best movies I have seen in years.

This is a movie where everyone is going to have their favorite moment. Many say it’s Ant-Man’s big scene. Some like the final fight. Others like the opening sequence with Crossbones. For me, it was a scene in which we see Tony Stark in 1991. I spent most of the scene wondering how the hell they filmed this scene twenty-five years before the first Iron Man because it was clearly Robert Downey Jr. in 1991. I’ve seen incredible de-aging effects before (most recently in Ant-Man with Michael Douglas), but this was some next level stuff. I am no longer concerned about actors being too old for a part. They could make Indiana Jones 5 right now and set it five years after The Last Crusade with Harrison Ford and we would think they found it on a shelf somewhere. And on top of that, the scene in question is a vital piece of what makes Tony Stark tick as a person.

Civil War has a ton of action, but that action is entirely character driven. Over and over again things happen not just to further the plot but because that is who the character is and if anyone else did it then it would not make sense. We know this because most of these characters have been around for at least two or three movies. This is one of the advantages of franchise filmmaking. And yet with Spider-Man they had the exact opposite problem. How do you re-introduce a character we’ve seen played by two different people in five movies over the last sixteen years and make it better than anything we’ve seen in any of those movies and yet fit into this ensemble cast? They manage to do that and more even though Spidey probably isn’t in the movie more than fifteen minutes.

I’m doing my best to keep this review mostly spoiler-free, but there is one thing I really want to talk about and it requires spoilers. So skip the next paragraph if you have not seen Civil War and want to remain unspoiled.

 

Okay. So the trope of hero vs. hero is about as old a comic book cliché as there is. Invariably it revolves around a fundamental misunderstanding that results in the two fighting until they realize they are really both on the same side and then they go after the real bad guy. We saw this done in the most clumsily possible fashion a few weeks ago in Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. They do it in Civil War too. Iron Man and his crew are certain the Winter Soldier is responsible for the attack. Then Stark realizes that he wasn’t and heads to Moscow to help. What happens next is that after the fake reason to hate Winter Soldier has been exposed Zemo reveals to Tony Stark a much more personal reason for hating both Bucky and Captain America. Revealing that a brainwashed Bucky was responsible for the death of Stark’s parents took some serious inspirational brilliance. And the fact that Cap never told Tony that his parents were killed by Hydra makes it all the more painful for him. This is after everything else that has happened. After Ultron. After Pepper left him. After he failed to keep the Avengers together. After Rhodey was severely injured. After Black Widow stopped supporting his cause. After all of this he finds that Captain America, the guy his father revered, lied about the death of Tony’s parents. The resulting fight is exactly the opposite of what nearly every other superhero movie of the last twenty years has been. Instead of saving the world, these people are trying to save a friendship. Hell, they’re just trying to save themselves.

 

I have mentioned the directors and writers and special effects teams, but really none of this would have worked if they didn’t have what appears to be the world’s best casting directors. This cast is amazing. Each embodies their character on a level that makes it difficult not to think of them when I read the comic book. Veterans like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans continue to do great work, but newcomers like Tom Holland as Spider-Man and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther absolutely nailed their roles too. The camerawork and stunt work is still being done by the same people who did Captain America: Winter Soldier and it shows.

I give Captain America: Civil War my highest recommendation. Everyone brought their A-Game to this movie. Go see it. Stay for both after credit sequences. They’re worth it.

– Jack Cameron

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What’s Next From Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy is the biggest movie of the year. Marvel Studios has become the most profitable franchise in history. Millions of people who will never read a comic book are flocking to see these movies and Marvel just announced what movies we’ll be seeing from them over the course of the next five years.

I’m going to go over each of them and my thoughts about them. For those of you wondering where the X-Men, Fantastic Four, or Spider-Man films fit into this, they don’t. Years ago when Marvel was far from a household name, they sold the rights to those franchises to other studios. For more information on that, feel free to click here where I talk about it more.

So what’s next for Marvel?

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May 2015 – Avengers: Age of Ultron
The next Marvel Studios movie is the second Avengers movie. They’ve just released the teaser trailer for this. Everyone (except for Loki) is back for this along with some new faces. Joss Whedon is writing and directing again so the dialog will be snappy and the possibility that a major character might die will be ever present.

For those who don’t know Ultron is an artificial intelligence bent on destroying humanity. In the comic books he was created by Hank Pym, but in this one, it looks like it’s going to be Tony Stark who makes the mistake. In addition to Ultron, other new characters include the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Vision.

Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were both seen in the after credits sequence in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s worth noting once again that this Quicksilver has nothing to do with the Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. While both based on the same character, it’s safe to say that Quicksilver and his sister, the Scarlet Witch will have very different origins in Age of Ultron as Marvel can’t use mutants (or the father of the two characters in the comics, Magneto).

The first Avengers movie made over a billion dollars and is still an incredibly watchable movie. I expect much the same will be true about Age of Ultron.

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July 17, 2015 – Ant-Man
This year the big risk from Marvel Studios was Guardians of the Galaxy. It was the first of the Marvel Studios films not to have any major film star or popular comic book characters. Needless to say, the risk paid off. Next year’s big risk is Ant-Man. While a founding Avenger in the comic books, he’s still relatively unknown and after the big action of Avengers: Age of Ultron just a couple of months earlier, Ant-Man is going to seem like a dramatic shift in gears.

For those who don’t know, Ant-Man can shrink to insect size, talk to ants, and grow really big. He does this using something called ‘Pym Particles’ named after their inventor and original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. In the movie he’s played by Michael Douglas while Paul Rudd is playing Scott Lang, who eventually becomes the new Ant-Man.

Originally this was going to be the funny Marvel Movie with Shaun of Dead’s Edgar Wright writing and directing. Unfortunately, creative differences forced Wright to leave. He’s been replaced with Peyton Reed who’s a less original voice but still capable of bringing the funny.

There’s also the question of whether or not Ant-Man might make his debut in Age of Ultron which would definitely help this movie’s success at the box office.

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May 6, 2016: Captain America: Civil War
Winter Soldier is my personal favorite super hero movie and the fact that the same creative team is back for Captain America: Civil War makes me all sorts of excited.

In the comic books, Civil War was a massive crossover in which hero fought hero. Essentially the fight boiled down to Tony Stark and others believing that heroes need to be regulated and registered and Captain America and others feeling otherwise.

Robert Downey Jr. has been confirmed as a costar in Civil War. So it’s clear that the movie will likely follow similar themes. It’s also worth noting that in the comic books, Civil War ended with Captain America getting killed.

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Nov. 4, 2016: Doctor Strange
There’s a lot of buzz about this movie right now because Benedict Cumberbatch is said to be playing the illustrious Dr. Strange. He’s a fine choice and I hope that it turns out that he gets the part. (Though personally I wanted Alan Rickman.)

This will be another risk because it will be the first Marvel Studios movie dealing with magic. They grounded Thor and his magic by basically saying they’re an advanced alien race rather than Gods. It will be interesting to see what grounding, if any, they give Dr. Strange.

It’s been said that this will not be an origin story. This is probably a good idea if only because half of all super hero movies end up being origin stories. It’s too bad though because I like the origin of Dr. Strange. He’s an arrogant world-renowned surgeon who crashes his car and crushes his hands. He then seeks out a new path in Asia and becomes Sorcerer Supreme. Fun stuff.

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May 5, 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Not much is known about the sequel except that much like the Cap movie, everyone is back again, both in front of and behind the cameras. Given how much fun the first Guardians of the Galaxy was, this one is likely to be even more so since they don’t have to spend time establishing characters. We’ll likely get to see more about Star-Lord’s father and I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a bit more Thanos. After all, so far we’ve only seen two Infinity Stones, and we need six for the Infinity Gauntlet.

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July 28, 2017: Thor: Ragnarok
Last time we saw Loki he was on the throne in Asgard pretending to be Odin. Nothing good can come of this so it’s not a surprise that Ragnarok is the result. Marvel seems to be keeping the solo movies to three movies so it also makes sense to end the Thor trilogy with Ragnarok.

Given how much The Dark World embraced the Thor mythos, we can only expect that Ragnarok will embrace it even more so. The question remains as to whether or not the happenings in Ragnarok will be connected in any way to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or if it will be like the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie where it’s still in the same universe but nowhere  near anything else that’s happening.

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Nov. 3, 2017: Black Panther
Most Marvel Comics originated back in the 1960s at a time when African Americans weren’t even allowed to vote. Diversity in classic superheroes is rare. The Black Panther is an exception. He originally appeared in 1966. Leader of the technologically advanced fictional African Nation of Wakanda, the Black Panther is both monarch and hero. At the press conference today, they announced not only that the character of Black Panther would make his debut in Captain America: Civil War, but that he’s going to be played by Chadwick Boseman.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen much of Boseman’s work, though his guest appearance as ‘Flex’ on Justified a few years ago was memorable and so far Marvel’s casting has been spot on. So while I would have LOVED it if Michael K. Williams got the part, I’m still looking forward to Boseman. No director has been announced for this one yet.

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May 4, 2018: Avengers: Infinity War – Part I
Since we first saw Thanos smile at the end of Avengers, the seeds of Infinity War were planted. This was no surprise. The big surprise is that they’re splitting it into two movies. While there was an Infinity War comic book crossover, it’s safe to say that these movies will much more likely be drawing on Marvel Comics’ The Infinity Gauntlet for inspiration.

In the Infinity Gauntlet Thanos kills literally half of the universe with the snap of his fingers (such is the power of all six Infinity Gems together). Needless to say, the remaining heroes show up to stop him. The interesting choice is that they aren’t doing Part II next. There are two movies between Infinity War Part 1 & 2. Do they continue the story of Infinity War or are they entirely separate? What will be their connection, if any? We’re going to have to wait and see.

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July 6, 2018: Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel is a well-used name. Over at DC Comics, it’s the other name for Shazam. At Marvel Comics more than a couple of people have had the title ‘Captain Marvel’. However, at the press conference today they made it clear that Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Carol Danvers.

This will be the first solo female hero movie by Marvel Studios and it’s a good choice (though there’s an argument to be made that Black Widow should have had her own movie). Carol’s known for being both Earth-bound and cosmic. It’ll be interesting to see which direction they take it. Perhaps she’ll be part of the glue between the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

With the movie only announced today and a release date four years away, almost everything else is speculation.

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Nov. 2, 2018: Inhumans

Over in Marvel Comics, there has been a big push for the Inhumans so it’s not surprising that they’d be featured in their own movie. Inhumans are basically humans that were genetically modified by the Kree thousands of years ago and once exposed the mists from special crystals they manifest unique super powers. In the comics, there was a worldwide bomb set off that caused random people with trace amounts of Inhuman blood to develop powers.

If this sounds a lot like the X-Men, there’s a reason for that. Marvel can’t use mutants, but they can use Inhumans. So this basically gives them the ability to tell whatever mutant stories they might want to tell by using Inhumans instead.

That’s not to say that the Inhumans are mutant ripoffs. They have their own back story and they have some genuinely unique characters. Their leader, Black Bolt has a voice that can shatter mountains. So he doesn’t talk except when using his voice as a weapon. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of actor they get to play a part that’s essentially non-speaking.

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May 3, 2019: Avengers: Infinity War – Part II

Four and a half years from now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe culminates in Avengers: Infinity War Part II. Given that by this time Robert Downey Jr. will be 54 and many of the actors playing other characters might well be tired of playing those characters, there’s a reasonable chance for some major changes.

This will be the end of an era for Marvel Studios and it will mark the start of something new. What comes next after the Summer of 2019 for Marvel is anyone’s guess.

And of course this isn’t even taking into account Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter shows, much less Netflix’s announced Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and Defenders shows, all of which also take place in the shared Marvel Universe.

All in all, it’s a great time to be a Marvelite. And as I’ve said before, if you can’t wait five years for all of this, don’t. Get down to your local comic book shop and start reading.

– Jack Cameron

Marvel Movies Cinematic Universe FAQ

Marvel-Movie-Montage-smallX-Men: Days of Future Past comes out this weekend. It’s the third movie in two months based on a Marvel Comic. Those who watched Amazing Spider-Man 2 saw a preview for the new X-Men movie. Meanwhile over in Captain America: Winter Soldier, viewers saw a glimpse of a disturbed and speedy character comic book fans know as Quicksilver along with his sister, the Scarlet Witch. However, if you watch X-Men: Days of Future Past, you’ll find Quicksilver running around in the 1970s.

I know this is likely confusing for people who aren’t aware of comic books in general and the movie rights of comic book properties in particular. So I’m writing this to explain things in a way that hopefully will make sense. So here are some FAQs when it comes to Marvel Movies.

Do all these Marvel movies take place in the same ‘universe’ like in the comic books?
No. It wasn’t until 2008’s Iron Man that Marvel started making and financing their own movies and integrating different Marvel movies into one cohesive cinematic world. Before that they would sell movie rights to different movie studios.

Why would they do that?
In the late 1990s Marvel was on the verge of bankruptcy. They were too busy trying to stay in business to even think about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on movies. This was especially true because at the time, comic book movies were far from a sure thing. The Batman franchise had fizzled out. It wasn’t until 1998’s Blade (and then X-Men in 2000 and Spider-Man in 2001) that comic book movies really took off.

Isn’t Marvel owned by Disney?
Yes. Disney bought Marvel in 2009.

So when it comes to Marvel movies who owns what?
Sony owns the movie rights to Spider-Man.

Fox owns the movies rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four.

Marvel owns pretty much everything else.

What about Daredevil, Punisher, Blade, and Ghost Rider?
All of these characters had movies made by other studios. However, the rights to these characters have all reverted back to Marvel.

If Spider-Man movies are done by Sony and X-Men movies are done by Fox what was that X-Men preview doing at the end of Spider-Man?
Amazing Spider-Man 2 director Marc Webb was supposed to do a movie for Fox as a follow up to his 500 Days of Summer. Instead Fox made a deal where Sony got Marc Webb but they had to put a preview of X-Men at the end of Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Why don’t all the studios get together and merge everything?
Because it would take a level of collaboration these studios are not comfortable with. Fox has even gone on record as saying they don’t even want to crossover X-Men and Fantastic Four despite owning the movie rights to both.

Okay. So Marvel movie characters owned by different studios shall never meet. Then what’s up with this Quicksilver character being in X-Men Days of Future Past AND the upcoming Avengers Age of Ultron?
In Marvel Comics, Quicksilver is the son of Magneto and started out as a member of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He soon defected from that group and joined the Avengers along with his sister, the Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye. All of these were former villains turned heroes. So due to Quicksilver’s history he is both an X-Men character and an Avengers character. Both studios are using the character but the character is being played by two different characters and have no connection to each other except that they are based on the same Marvel character.

And for the simpler version:
Marvel Movies and TV shows all taking place in the same shared ‘cinematic universe’
Iron Man
Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Thor
Captain America
Avengers
Iron Man 3
Agents of SHIELD (TV show)
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ant-Man
Agent Carter (TV show)
Daredevil (Netflix TV show)
Luke Cage (Netflix TV show)
Iron Fist (Netflix TV show)
Jessica Jones (Netflix TV show)

X-Men Movies all taking place in the same shared ‘cinematic universe’
X-Men
X2: X-Men United
X-Men: The Last Stand
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men: First Class
The Wolverine
X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: Apocalypse

Every other movie based on a Marvel character unless it’s a specific sequel (such as Amazing Spider-Man 2) is entirely in its own little world. The short version is that in the movies, Spider-Man will not be swinging by Avengers Tower any time soon.
– Jack Cameron

Captain America The Winter Soldier Movie Review

winter-soldier-70s-poster-paolo-riveraI started collecting comic books when I was 12-years-old. The thing that intrigued me most about Marvel Comics was the concept of a shared universe. The TV shows and movies I watched and the books I read all took place in their own little self-contained universes. No matter what happened on the A-Team, they were never going to end up in Hazzard County. So when I realized that the stuff happening in an issue of Uncanny X-Men had a direct impact on what was happening in X-Factor, I got a bit giddy. The idea of telling separate stories that interconnected and built on each other was just a fantastic concept to me. I would read my Marvel Comics and think to myself, “If only they made movies like this….”

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the comic book movie I’ve wanted to see since I was twelve years old. If you’ve never seen a Marvel movie and you see this, you’ll want to see the others. If you’ve watched every single piece of Marvel cinema so far, you’ll geek out at the level of detail they’ve thrown into this movie.

While previous Marvel movies have had some loose connective tissue between them, this is the first to fully embrace the continuity and use it to build a better story. The way that The Winter Soldier blends characters from Iron Man 2 and Avengers in with characters from the first Captain America and all new characters is so seamless that you almost have to watch it twice to notice.

It helps that they’ve developed a cast that so fully inhabits their characters that you never doubt for a moment who they are. Chris Evans is Captain America. He plays him with equal parts strength and aw-shucks-boyscout. In one of the opening scenes he takes out about a dozen armed guys all on his own with the just the use of his shield and it just works. And yet for all of his heroics, he maintains that man-out-of-time persona that makes him so an intriguing character.

While Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury has been popping up since the first Iron Man movie, it’s not until The Winter Soldier that we really get to see how much of a bad ass Nick Fury is. There’s a car chase sequence early on where Fury gets to be every bit the hero all of the much more colorful superheroes have been in previous movies.

Similarly, Scarlet Johansen probably gets more screen time in The Winter Soldier than she did in The Avengers and she certainly gets to flesh out her character a bit more. The chemistry between her and Chris Evans’ Cap works perfectly. They’ve got nothing in common except their goals, but their mutual respect helps them build the sort of trust that only soldiers really understand.

Speaking of soldiers, the introduction of Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson as the Middle East War vet turned superhero known as Falcon is pitch perfect. The friendship that grows between him and Cap feels authentic from the beginning.

I can’t say too much about the guy who play the title character of the Winter Soldier without getting into spoiler territory, but he’s one of the more inspired villains we’ve seen so far in Marvel’s cinematic universe.

As if this weren’t enough, somehow they managed to get Robert Redford to play Alexander Pierce. In this Pierce plays the control-freak Secretary of State which is a far cry from the fiercely loyal bureaucrat from the comic books, but that’s fine. I’m not someone who feels the movies have to always echo the comic books. Personally, I’m enjoying the differences.

I wasn’t sure about the idea of having Joe & Anthony Russo direct The Winter Soldier. They’re primarily known as sit-com directors and have never done anything like this before, but they pulled it off spectacularly. There’s even a small moment that fans of Community will love. Rumor has it these guys are signing on for Cap 3 and I can only hope that’s true.

Captain America The Winter Soldier is the most confident Marvel Studios movie made yet and definitely the most entertaining. This movie is proof you can do a great Marvel movie without Robert Downey Jr. The most exciting thing for me is how the events in this movie have no choice but to directly tie into the small screen as Agents of SHIELD can’t possibly be the same after the events of The Winter Soldier. The fact that Marvel is so willing to put all of this continuity together just shows exactly how good they’ve become at doing this. Next up for Marvel Studios is their most ambitious film yet; Guardians of the Galaxy. It will be the first movie they’ve done with no big name actors, and no recognizable heroes or villains. But given their track record, I have every intention of seeing it opening weekend.

–          Jack Cameron

Superhero Hollywood

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-PosterAre you excited for the new Captain America movie? I know I am. I’ve been collecting Marvel Comics since I was 12 years old. It’s great to see some of the world’s most talented people making some great movies out of some of my favorite characters. In a very real way it’s like being 12 all over again. Opening weekend, I’m going to be there. And I’ll be there for Guardians of the Galaxy this summer. I’m a Marvelite and I can’t help myself. I love it.

However, I’ve also been collecting comic books for over a quarter century. I’m aware of the history of comic books. I’ve been there for part of it. And so, I feel it’s necessary to deliver a warning to those of you who do not collect comics but do go to see comic book movies. I know there are millions of you because I’ve seen how many people go to the movies and how many people go to my local comic book shop. As I watch these comic book movies make billions I become afraid that the local movie theater is going to end up being like that local comic book shop’s shelves.

Most people think that comic books automatically equals superheroes. This was not always the case. In the late 1950s it was Western comics that were all the rage. Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt Outlaw and Gunsmoke Western were Marvel’s big hits. There were also romance comics and ‘true’ crime comics and horror comics. And then there was Fantastic Four #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15 (The first appearance of Spider-Man). And of course DC had Superman and Batman and eventually the Justice League and whatnot.

By the time I got into comic books in the late 1980s, my local comic book shop was 95% superhero comics. The first comics I bought were GI Joe comics. They were some of the only non-superhero books Marvel published. But soon I was collecting Uncanny X-Men and then New Mutants and X-Factor and Wolverine and Excalibur and then X-Force after New Mutants ended. It was years before I really started to get into comic books that didn’t involve super powers.

Recently my girlfriend started buying healthier food for us to eat. She told me the other day, “I don’t care if you eat it. It’s just a matter of it being available for you to eat.”  Her point was that we tend to consume what’s in front of us. I bought super-heroes mainly because that’s what they had at the shop. This isn’t to say the shop didn’t carry anything else. There were plenty of independent comics that had nothing to do with superheroes, but I didn’t buy them because they didn’t relate to anything else I was buying.

My fear with these incredibly successful comic book movies is that soon, the movies will consist of 95% superheroes. Recently the head of Marvel Studios said that with all of the franchises they’re starting up, it wouldn’t be unexpected if they started coming out with three or four movies a year. Of course that’s just Marvel. That’s not including DC/Warner Bros. or the various Marvel properties that other studios have such as Spider-Man and X-Men both of which are not only talking about the sequels to the movies that are coming out this year but sequels to those sequels.

So my warning is this: Go ahead and see the comic book movies. But please, please, please see other movies too. See Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. See Chris Nolan’s Interstellar. See anything and everything that interests you that doesn’t have a cape attached to it….or prepare yourself for theaters where the person talking in the theater is asking “What’s that character’s power?”

Like I said, I love Marvel’s movies. I enjoy watching them. But I’m also interested in things that don’t involve super powers. Last year, the most powerful movie I watched was simply one man against the elements. He had no super-powers. That movie was All Is Lost starring Robert Redford. This year, I’ll be watching him in Captain America 2.

– Jack Cameron