I’m kind of late with this, but I thought it would still be worth writing about. I went through my annual Black Friday ritual of scouring the shelves at Best Buy and Target for movie deals. Kind of slim pickings this year. I scored X-Men: Apocalypse and Creed on Blu-ray for six bucks each, but that was it. My wife also picked up Shaun the Sheep on DVD for four dollars because we saw it in the theater as a family and enjoyed it.
2016 was the year for mediocre big-name franchises that had awesome trailers and that I was excited and hopeful for, but which turned out to be disappointing overall. Captain America: Civil War and Apocalypse fill the first two slots, and Rogue One completes the trifecta now that it’s out. I look forward to getting it on Blu-ray next Black Friday. Then again, I’m not sure if Star Wars movies are ever part of Black Friday sales — I didn’t see The Force Awakens significantly discounted this year, which is when I would have expected it to have been.
Apocalypse ties the score at 4-4 between good and mediocre/bad X-Men films. I wasn’t expecting anything as glorious as Days of Future Past, but I was hoping for at least a good movie with Apocalypse. Mediocre. That sums it up well. Too much focus on big action sets and mass destruction special effects, not enough on characters and story. That’s typically what creates the distinction between the good X-Men movies and the others. Apocalypse isn’t a terrible movie, but even though I made it a point to get it on Black Friday, it’s still sitting in shrink-wrap.
Civil War is the first Marvel movie I’m aware of where the titular character is the villain. Not that Captain America was an out-an-out bad guy in this film, but when Tony Stark emerges as the voice of reason opposed to Cap over the need for oversight over superheros (or whatever term they use for superheroes in the MCU), I’m siding with Team Stark.
Civil War also made it abundantly clear that part of building a shared cinematic universe means keeping things in a state of relative stasis for as long as possible. Sure, crazy earth-shattering events take place across the almost innumerable movie and TV franchises, but nothing ever really changes. In fairness, this is understandable, as you want to be extremely careful when handling an intellectual property you paid $4 billion for.
Disney/Marvel had the opportunity to make what would have been a bold move in the cinematic universe while staying true to the comics: have Tony Stark kill Captain America and have Bucky become the new Captain America. But they took (what is at least for now) the safer, more commercially-friendly route: tell a relatively self-contained story which has clear and obvious ties to other elements in the expanded universe but which doesn’t disturb the status quo too much and which sets up nicely for more sequels to come.
We’re in the golden age of super hero movies and this is the magic formula for success. But every golden age brings chaff along with the wheat, and the formula will have to change once audiences are glutted on more and more of the same. But Disney didn’t become massively successful by being careless; I’m guessing they’re aware of this and have prepared for it with their long-term plans; maybe we’ll finally see things get shaken up with Infinity War.
Funny thing, Civil War was also on sale for $6. I passed on it because I didn’t feel terribly interested in seeing it again, but I kind of wish I had gotten it now.