The Reviews Are In: Captain America Civil War

captain-america-civil-war-robert-downey-jr-chris-evansMost superhero movies (actually, most movies in general) are more than willing to do the ethical legwork for you. The bad guys (easily distinguished by facial scars, a dark color pallet, or customary bad attitude) are always wrong, and the good guys (identifiable by their steely-eyed commitment to the greater good and general dishy-ness) are always right. Even those films that dip their toes into moral relativism always eventually find their way to the safer, more solid narrative ground of Righteous Hero v. Dastardly Villain. But what happens when everybody looks like a good guy? What is expected of us as an audience when everyone’s actions, including the guy in spandex we came to see, can be understood as right or wrong? For once, maybe the question of morality is open to our interpretation.

Such is the case with the third Captain America stand alone, Civil War. The film opens like 3049303-56d4dc054b73ayou’d expect: good guys going after bad guys. But when the good guys (here represented by Cap, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Falcon) make a mistake with fatal consequences, there is a global outcry for a little accountability, in the form of UN sanctioned panel that would oversee the Avengers from here on out. Some, like Iron Man, Black Widow, and Vision, see this as a necessary compromise. Others, namely Cap, Scarlet Witch, and Falcon, see it as an undermining of what the Avengers are supposed to be- a group a super friends with the autonomy needed to keep the world safe from handsome alien conquistadors and shapely, artificially intelligent robots. The result can only be described as a, ahem, civil war.

1401x788-Captain-America-Trailer.jpgIf you’re worried that this movie sounds too much like a talky political drama, rest easy. Civil War has even more than the usual amount of ass-kicking. But what’s really cool about this movie is how the Russo Brothers managed to take out almost all the cartoonishness of superhero violence. There’s a scene, pretty early in the film, where Captain America falls from a ledge and gets beaten around like a rag doll before making an uncharacteristically graceless landing. And, even more surprising, he doesn’t immediately bounce back. Right away we get the feeling that, in this film at least, violence has consequences. And unlike many other action movies of it’s kind, it feels as though the fight scenes are built around the set pieces, and not the other way around. The characters have to adapt to and use their surroundings in a way that makes the idea of a super-soldier and a guy in a cat-suit going at it feel a little more grounded.

Also, I’d like to take this moment to mention Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, andbuc0410-trl-v0141027-173551 everything I want to say can be summed up in one onamonapia: meow. Seriously, don’t change a thing.

In fact, there isn’t one weak link in this cast. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is predictably wonderful, Robert Downey Jr. is invariably the coolest guy on screen, and Chris Evans
continues to give Captain America a depth and charm that has managed to turned one of Marvel’s most stoic (and frankly, boring) heroes into a surprisingly relatable  dude.

In this humble Fangirl’s opinion, Civil War is the best superhero movie we’ve gotten thus far. It’s beautifully made, and asks more of its audience than to simply Captain-America-Civil-War-Movie-Wallpaper-5go along for the ride. You feel obligated to choose a side, and for once, it might not be the same side as the guy with his name on all the posters. Right and wrong is a matter of perspective and actions have far reaching consequences. Does that sound a little familiar?

Whitney Weldon

 

 

 

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Why I’m Ca-REY-zy about The Force Awakens (See What I Did There?)

*Spoilers dead ahead. Proceed at your own risk. 

Last Monday I made my usual two mile pilgrimage to the one and only movie theater in my current place of residence (go ahead and cry for me, Argentina). This time I was dropping my Benjamin’s on a third viewing of JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens.  While standing in line for my ticket I ran into a neighbor who was headed in the same direction, with his six year old daughter in tow. He admitted that she was the only one of his four children he could drag along to see the newest Star Wars installment. One look could tell you that this forbearing youngster was only there out of filial obligation; she looked about as unenthused as it is possible for a six year old to look.

88086bfd-09c8-4d00-a09d-9a31055356d7-2060x1236But I knew something she didn’t. I knew she would walk into the theater a bored moppet, but would emerge a card-carrying superfan of the galaxy’s newest mamma jamma, Rey.

Rey is the hero I wish had existed when I was six. She’s jaded, and compassionate. She’s brave, and smart. She’s bad-ass, and approachable. She commands the respect of every other character lucky enough to share the screen with her.

Drawing comparisons between Rey and characters like Katniss and Tris rey-2and Lisbeth Salander and Black Widow is unavoidable. For as long as I can remember, we’ve been conditioned to think that a female protagonist couldn’t be compelling if she wasn’t sexy, damaged, or vulnerable, preferably all three.  Enter Rey, a woman whose sexuality is irrelevant. Her past, though tragic, doesn’t define her. She puts the needs of others before her own interests and is unambiguously good. In short, she’s everything that a little girl (or, what the heck, boy) should want to pattern themselves after.
But the really revolutionary thing (and the thing that struck me the most) wasn’t Rey herself, but how others responded to her. Within the first five of meeting Finn, the storm trooper turned rebel fighter, she chases him though a crowded market, brains him with a stick, accuses him of theft, and rescues him from the decidedly Third Reich-y organization The First Order. And to Finn’s infinite credit, he gladly follows her lead. He Star-Wars4doesn’t resent being occasionally shown up by a girl because he admires her strength and smarts, too. A bad-ass in his own right, Finn is confident enough to recognize Rey’s value without letting it threaten his own.

The best part is that Finn’s reaction to Rey isn’t the exception, it’s the rule. Han Solo offers her a place on the Millennium Falcon. Kylo Ren openly admits that her power not only matches, but probably exceeds his own.

As I left the theater that day, I caught up with my neighbor and we chatted for a while, about the movie and how cute BB8 was and how we couldn’t wait for the next one. I asked his little girl what she thought, and her big blue eyes articulated everything her vocabulary couldn’t. She was in love, and I was right there with her. I hope that little girl knows how lucky she is. I grew up in a time when the world wanted girls to believe that they could be anything. She gets to grow up in a time when the world is starting to believe it, too.

Whitney Weldon

 

 

Fan Rants: Why You Should Be Watching Agent Carter

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with one of my Fellow Fems about female under representation in pop culture (like many a pretentious, twenty-something, bra-burner before us). She made the inevitable leap to how unfair it was the Marvel’s Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) doesn’t have her own stand alone movie. My initial response was, ‘right on, sister’. Then I asked if she’d been watching ABC/Marvel’s new series Agent Carter. She answered that, no, she wasn’t. Come again?…

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It’s probably the worst kept secret in network TV history that Agent Carter is serving as a dry run for strong female leads in the MCU. If smart, empowered, beautiful, charasmatic Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) can’t draw crowds with a limited run TV show, why should Marvel shell out millions upon millions to make a female driven superhero movie? And let’s not kid agent-carter-pilot-hayley-atwell_article_story_largeourselves, Carter is enjoying pretty abysmal ratings, despite the fact that, in my opinion, it’s a good show. It’s got a great lead in Atwell, James D’Arcy as bulter Edwin Jarvis makes for an awesome Girl Friday, and frankly, it’s been much fresher and more entertaining than Agents of Shield ever was in it’s first season. So why in the Susan-B-Anthony can’t this show seem to thrive?

I keep coming back to one thing. Because really, there is only one reason I can think of why audiences would be more receptive to a Black Widow stand alone than a Peggy Carter one. Black Widow is defined by her sexuality. I mean, yeah, she can quip with the best, and kick all the necessary ass, but she’s also severely underwritten and hyper-sexualized.  If Peggy Carter ran around in a black cat-suit, would that make her more marketable? I’m actually scared of the answer. la_ca_0325_captain_america

I guess what I’m getting at is, let’s not perpetuate the idea that Marvel’s fan base won’t support strong, independent, female leads with more to offer than their butt-kicking capacity and deft application of feminine whiles. Let’s promote female characters with emotional depth and intelligence and appeal that isn’t directly related to how good they look in skin-tight stealth suits. Watch Agent Carter, Tuesday’s at 9 on ABC, and you’ll see what I mean.

Whitney