Clark Kent had nestled into his seat in the darkening theater. Depressing the button at his side his legs began to rise and his back began to recline, all while balancing a bucket of popcorn precariously on his stomach. He smiled to himself; a child like smile. He had to make a case to go to this theater; it was always packed and sometimes noisy but it had reclining seats!
A quiet shared chuckle came from two seats down where Shiera Hall and Diana Prince were talking. Shiera had gotten Diana’s attention and nudged her to glance over to Clark who presently looked like a kid out on a movie night with his parents.
Selena Kyle glanced up as well; seated next to Shiera but currently sitting quietly. She didn’t join in the laugh but she got the joke none the less. The most powerful being on Earth excited by something as simple as a recliner in a movie theater. The levity only lasted a moment before a sullen look eclipsed her smile and her eyes drifted back down to the phone sitting in her lap with an impatient look in her eyes.
Jon Stewart appeared around the corner of the steps at the theater’s entrance. He was struggling to carry a bucket of popcorn and two drinks at the same time. In spite of everything he was; everything his girlfriend, Shiera, was, he still wanted to open the door for her, pull out her chair and get her drinks for her. Shiera had relented when he insisted, even though it seemed so silly.
J’onn J’onnz sat quietly on the other side of Clark, staring ahead at the screen saying and doing nothing. He had agreed to participate in this outing of his allies; but moments like this were mostly lost on him.
The dim theater was a canvas of subtle noise; voices and movement and crunching popcorn amidst the dim shadows of the darkened space. A quiet sigh cut through the din like the thinnest knife.
Selena was gazing down at her phone, which cast pale light across her Italian features. She was staring at something that had noticeably soured her look and the brown of her gaze smoldered as she dropped her phone carelessly back into her lap and folded her arms, staring blankly at the screen ahead.
“Bruce isn’t coming.” The baritone voice came from two seats down in Selena’s direction. It was J’onn, leaning forward as he looked past Clark to her.
Selena didn’t immediately back to him, but she tensed, tightening her jaw. You really are a socially awkward telepathic freak, aren’t you? She wanted to say. Instead, she cut her eyes towards him, putting on a sarcastic smile and replied, “No.” A single flat, bitterly disappointed word.
“I’m sorry, Selena,” Clark added quickly and quietly, feeling obligated to be involved considering he was between the two.
Before Selena could reply, J’onn spoke, “He was the one that invited you; now that he isn’t coming, you’re wondering if you want to be here. You are among friends, Selena. Please stay.”
Selena was paused; then a devious smile crept on her lips. She leaned over the vacant seat that was being saved for Bruce and looked J’onn in the eye, “Only if you read my mind.”
J’onn was surprised. That was an uncommon request; typically telepathy was considered an invasion among non-telepaths. After a moment of consideration he complied and focused himself on her and as she looked into his eyes he looked into hers. Then, without thinking, he let the words he found there roll off of his tongue, “Bruce wants everyone to think he is fearless but he wets his panties at the thought of genuine social interaction.”
A crack of laughter broke from the opposite end of the aisle. Diana, Jon and Shiera had tried to politely ignore the awkward moment but were completely disarmed at Selena’s cutting assessment of Bruce; especially when it came out of J’onn’s stoic mouth.
Shiera’s hand clapped over Selena’s, “You aren’t going anywhere.” She managed to say in the middle of a laugh.
Selena just sat back quietly, amused with herself, at least for the moment.
“J’onn, take Bruce’s seat, please.” She said to the Martian.
“Is that appropriate?” J’onn asked of no one in particular, glancing between Clark and Selena.
Clark had no answer, but Selena’s was quick and certain, “I’m not going to sit next to Captain Awkward’s empty seat through this movie. Now come sit.”
After a bit of shuffling of seats, everyone was relaxed and ready. The lights dimmed even further and the previews began to roll. Clark’s elation was almost contagious. No matter how much everyone wanted to be there or not they were buckled in for the ride and so after what seemed a life time of annoying previews the title began to roll.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
A few awkward souls in the theater tried to start an applause at the title screen. One of them was Clark. Diana, who had switched from sitting beside Shiera to taking J’onn’s former seat beside Clark quietly closed her hands over his and arched a brow as if to say, “Really?”
Silence fell across the group, as they all focused on the screen, and each absorbed it in their own way, seeing parts the others may have not…
And so the credits rolled. The movie had finished. No one could halt the applause this time. The group sans J’onn and Clark were standing in the theater hall discussing where they’d wind up now. Whether they’d go their separate ways or do dinner after. Bruce ditching on the get together made everyone question how committed to the evening they were now.
J’onn appeared, a slightly confused look on his face. Diana was the first to notice, “Was the movie so good you didn’t want to leave, ‘Jonn?”
“You guys missed the after credits scene!” Came Clark’s voice, before J’onn could answer, walking a few people just behind the Martian.
He glanced around with an excitement no one really shared. He could tell everyone’s engines were running a little low, but he wasn’t willing to give up the night so quickly. “We should go grab food somewhere – anyone else hungry? We can talk about the movie.”
Everyone glanced around at each other; no one sure what the other was thinking and everyone wanted someone else to be the one to decide. Always the one driven to action and make choices, Diana was the first to end the stalemate, “I want hashbrowns.”
SOME TIME LATER, WAFFLE HOUSE
Crushed into a booth because Clark insisted on a booth instead of the bar, where they’d be more comfortable but further apart, the group’s food had arrived and he finally decided to take the reigns of the conversation.
“Ok,” Said the still excited Kryptonian, “So let’s start… what did everyone think?” He asked, glancing around, eager for the first opinion.
Shiera threw out her opinion first, “The action was great. Really great. I mean that scene when the Avengers had their show down – wow, that was fantastic. And the production value was good too. Some of those Marvel movies you drag us to are boring as hell – sorry, Clark, I know you love them, but I’m going to say it, some of them put me to sleep. The action and production though are always so polished.”
Clark furrowed his brow at Shiera, “Which ones didn’t you like, Shiera?”
“Uh, let’s see,” The Thanagarian dropped her fork on her plate so she could use both hands. She started counting off on her fingers as she ran down the list, “Winter Soldier. Sucked. Boring and really long. Iron man 3. Put me to sleep, boring, really long and probably the worst villain of the film franchise. Even Age of Ultron was way too long and although I loved the start and the finish that middle made me want to get up and find something else to do.”
Clark looked a little disappointed. He was the consummate fanboy; he always saw the best parts of the films and was often overly forgiving to the bad. “Really? I thought the fight scenes in Winter Soldier were some of the best ever filmed!”
Diana patted her mouth politely with a napkin as she chewed the last of a mouthful of hashbrowns, and then entered the conversation, “The battle between Winter Soldier, Captain America and Black Widow was well orchestrated, fluid and enthralling. Like a work of art. But the movie, Clark, was lacking. I couldn’t watch it a second time.”
Stewart added in, “And Iron Man 3 sucked, Kent. Hard. I didn’t know what they were going to do with the Mandarin; he could potentially be an offensive character with his fu manchu mustache and a name like ‘The Mandarin”. I liked a lot of what they were doing with Ben Kingsley, I was excited to see this version of the Mandarin bring out his rings and give Iron man a great fight. You know I’m a huge comic book fan. But dude – that twist was worse than a Shyamalan film. Seriously? Iron Man is running around fighting Thor and the Hulk and some guy with really hot hands can pull his suit apart? Naw. No sir.”
‘Ok, that’s fair,” Clark said, “Iron man 3 was definitely one of the weakest films. But what did you think of Civil War, Stewart?”
Tapping his fork on his waffle, Stewart glanced around, “It was good. Good solid film. I like Cap. Military man. But he’s got to do what he knows is right. I get that.”
Selena was the next to speak, looking across the table from her spot next to J’onn, “Is that all you have to say about it, Stewart?”
He furrowed his brow, “What do you mean?”
“It’s the first major release comic book film I can think of – ever – that had a solid number of non-white leading characters. What did you think of that?” Selena was probably the only one bold enough to ask.
“Oh,” Stewart said, “Yea, I mean, growing up, I loved comic books. I guess I didn’t really have a lot of black super heroes to look up to when I was a kid. Actually one of my favorite super heroes was Storm–”
“I LOVE Storm!” Clark blurted out.
“Oh my god,” Selena covered her mouth and glanced quietly away trying to restrain the urge to chuckle at Clark’s attempt at a fanboy fistbump with Stewart.
“Yes, well,” Shiera speared at some food on her plate as she interjected, “I think as long as Fox has the rights to X-Men you’re probably not going to see a decent interpretation of that character. Sometime in the year 2040 when Disney owns literally everything we might get a genuinely decent X-Men movie.”
“By then Disney will have bought LexCorp and we’ll be saving the world from Mickey Mouse,” J’onn was the one that said it, though in the moment everyone heard it no one could believe it.
The table erupted into laughter; only J’onn was silent. It was evident he wasn’t being factitious. As the laughter subsided he contemplated the remark while lifting his coffee to his lips.
“I think it was great,” Selena took on a slightly more serious tone, “All these kids. Watching these movies. White guy. White girl. White guy. White girl. Same shit. When I was a kid growing up Italians were always mobsters and hit men and prostitutes. Which is what I actually grew up around, but I didn’t want to see that shit when I went to the movies. I think a lot of little kids out there are getting the chance to have their own heroes.”
Clark was beaming, nodding to everything Selena was saying. Stewart was the first to speak, though, “Yea.” He said, as though he was thinking about it more now, “And Black Panther was great. I mean right on time. Loved the suit, his action scenes were great and I just loved the character. Great addition.”
“Yea, maybe he’ll replace Hawkeye,” Shiera said.
“You don’t like Hawkeye?” J’onn asked.
“I am so bored with that entire situation,” Shiera replied, “Did you ever see that movie Mean Girls?” She asked J’onn.
Everyone at the table collectively froze, no one could be more anxious to hear the Martian’s reply. “Lindsey Lohan. Tina Fey. Of course.” He replied matter of factly. Sipping his coffee.
Selena brought the comparison to a brief pause, “Could you please give me a quote from the film, J’onn? It’s just one of my favorite films. I’d love to hear it.”
J’onn, more than happy to oblige, readied himself and with perfect inflection stated: “Oh my god, Karen! You can’t just ask people why they’re white!”
Eyes all across the Waffle House shot towards the table as it exploded in laughter. It lingered for a good solid while before subsiding, and Shiera, dabbing tears away from her eyes, managed to pick up the conversation again, “Whoa – wow. Ok. So like I was saying. Hawkeye – in the Avengers franchise – is like fetch. They keep trying to make him happen. He isn’t going to happen. He’s boring AF -”
“AF?” Diana interrupted to inquire.
With a sigh, Stewart clarified, “As fuck. Damn, Shiera. You spend a lot of time on instagram for an alien from an advanced civilization.”
Shiera gave Stewart a sour smile and pulled him in for a quick kiss on the cheek, “Anyway. Yes, he’s boring, he feels like he’s in the movie because he’s supposed to be, but it’s obvious while every character has their little niche, he’s just hanging on. I don’t even know what he’s supposed to be. Black Widow I get as a government agent – Hawkeye is like a cosplayer trying to fit in with the real deal. Please, let him retire. He’s got kids right? Yea, retire. Let Black Panther or Spiderman take his place. Or hell how about another female superhero like Captain Marvel?”
“Yes,” Selena agreed, “As happy as I was with the number of non-white faces in the film I still feel like we were left with our two token girls. One for each side of the fight, and I like them both a lot -”
“Whose your favorite?” Clark asked quickly.
“Scarlet Witch,” Selena answered.
“Really?? I thought you’d say Widow. She seems like your type.”
“You mean she fights like I do,” Selena corrected Clark, “But Wanda is a great addition to the team. She’s powerful. She’s an outsider. She’s conflicted and she started as one of the bad guys.”
“And now she sits at the table with her former enemies, because in spite of everything she is driven by a sense of honor and integrity even if that does not always align with the law.” Diana stated, but it’s clear she wasn’t talking about the fictional Witch. She gazed firmly across to Selena, to ensure that she understood her meaning.
“Thank you, Diana,” Selena smiled to the Princess.
Clark smiled as well between the two, but lingered a little bit longer on Selena. “I’m really glad you stayed, Selena. I think Bruce would have shot holes in every little flaw or imperfection in the film.”
“Believe that,” Shiera was quick to agree.
“In the future,” J’onn began, “Would you feel comfortable joining us without Bruce’s invitation?”
“I don’t know if that was an unofficial overture for some kind of decoder ring style situation but I will never be a part of the League. If that’s what that was. But I will always make myself available for movies and waffles.”
Smiling at Selena’s remark, Clark jumped in, “What did you think about Vision, J’onn? You said you wished we got to see more of him in Age of Ultron. Did you like the way he was portrayed in this film?”
“A being wholly alien to his surroundings – forced to compute every circumstance outside of his own experience.” J’onn began, his tone critical and matter of fact, “Indeed I do empathize with this being. Even simple struggles – such as when he phases through the wall, not understanding human social norms – all struck me as similar to my own experiences here on Earth. I think, though, that were I in the same scenario I would have remained neutral. While the League is of greatest importance to me, the policies of Earth are not for me to decide. If the governments of Earth should decide we answer to them so be it. If we stand alone so be it. All that matters to me is that we are pursuing a path that is right.”
Stewart glance past Shiera to Diana, “How about you, Diana? Some seriously bad ass women in this film. Are you a Widow fan or a Witch fan?”
“Neither,” Diana stated with unexpected flatness, “They are both worthy warriors in their own right, but they’re human beings with human struggles.”
“Diana is a Thor fan,” Clark said.
“Really??” Stewart said incredulously.
Diana arched a brow to Stewart, “Indeed,” She said, quite seriously, “A warrior from another world – reminiscent of an ancient civilization from Earth’s past, with great strength and responsibility and the heir to a future kingdom. I understand Thor very well.”
“How about you, Clark?” Selena glanced across at the Man of Steel, “Are you team Iron Man or Captain America?”
Clark smirked a little sourly, “I’m not a big fan of Tony Stark. I feel like he’s what Luthor would have himself portrayed as in a film if he decided to make one about himself. In my experience, men with ego, genius and money tend to endow themselves with an inalienable sense of right no matter what they’re doing. I liked the way Tony was portrayed in this film and I really understood his side, but generally not really a fan of Iron Man. He’s kind of a douche bag.”
“So you’re a Captain America fan, then?” Shiera asked, wanting to know.
Clark was quiet for a moment, glancing around the faces at the table, “Actually,” He began, almost lacking a little self assurance at the answer that was to come, “I like Wolverine.”
Before anyone could laugh Selena jumped in, “Oh. I get it. Yes, I completely see it. Wolverine, the man of adamantium. And Clark Kent. The man of steel. Two virtually indestructible beings who, because of what they are – have no choice but to constantly suffer a hit, because they’ll survive it, so that someone who might not won’t have to. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Wolverine is hot. Well done, Clark. Would it break your heart if I admitted I don’t think the X-films are very good?”
Clark sheepishly lowered his eyes. He actually kind of liked the X-Men films, but he was probably the only one. “Naw,” He admitted, “But hey, Apocalypse is probably going to be really good. Did you guys see the most recent trailer? Storm looks amazing! And Psylocke is shaping up to be pretty bad ass too. You guys think we could get together to see that one?”
“Isn’t that like a couple weeks from now?” Stewart said.
“Do we have to invite Bruce?” Shiera asked, winking to Selena, “Seriously, though, overall, a good film. Great action. Great production.”
“That Zemo though,” Stewart said, “I’m not sure what the plan behind him was – but that was a really strange interpretation of the villain. Crossbones I got, and he was pretty solid. I actually liked watching Black Widow fight him more than Cap – even though he’s a Cap villain. Zemo though – for being the primary villain of the film he didn’t seem at all related to his comic self. Not a crushing flaw for the movie but a little bit of a let down.”
“That is a common flaw of the Marvel films,” Diana interjected, “The Red Skull and Loki are the only favorable villains in the franchise, and they rely on Loki to be the villain for three of their films and almost certainly to return for a forth.”
“Really?” Clark quirked his head at Diana, finding her assessment of the villains hard to agree with.
Stewart was the one to answer though, “Yea, Clark, I’m on board with Diana here.”
“Yea,” Stewart nodded, “I loved everything about Ultron, except for how they used him in the film. James Spader? Love his voice work. The design for Ultron? I enjoyed that too. But I wanted more from Ultron, and less from the endless cache of disposable Ultron-bots. Sorry man, it’s true. Hopefully Thanos will shape up to be a really good villain.”
There was a lull, obviously Clark, as the real fan of the franchise, didn’t agree. But sometimes when you’re the die hard fan, you tend to see things completely differently from those who go in a little less in love and a little more critical.
“Some of the action sequences dragged on a bit,” Selena broke the silence, “I think movie times are becoming artificially inflated. I would have edited a fair bit of that out.”
Even Clark agreed, “It can be hard to get people to agree to watch a film when they find out it’s going to be almost three hours. If it’s something they’re already really into – like me – it’s an easy sell. But when you tell a lot of people they’re going to be watching three hours of comic book fight scenes their eyes glaze over.”
J’onn hummed in, “Then it is agreed. A good movie. The plot is coherent and consistent. The character development and deployment throughout the film felt good. The action sequences were worthy and enjoyable to watch, and overall we were left feeling compelled to watch the next in the series. Age of Ultron left us wanting to see more of the Witch and Vision, and we were given much more of both. In the trailer we were promised Spiderman and Black Panther – and we got a satisfying amount of both, but little enough to leave us wanting more. The primary villain lacked – but the conflict of the film satisfied. A victory.”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself,” Clark agreed.
“Cheers,” Selena chimed in.
“So, Apocalyse?” Shiera asked, leaning into Stewart.
“Lord please let it be good,” Stewart said as he threw an arm over the Thanagarian, “Or give me decent, I’ll go with decent.”
“I guess we’ll find out in a little while when we reconvene for the next get together,” Clark said with a smile.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR was a success. Even for those who weren’t invested fans of the comics, or simply not following the franchise, it managed to be a solid block buster worthy of the hype it had received. Though it had it’s flaws, it seemed to bring the pages of a comic book to life in a very faithful way. It delivered on every promise the trailers’ had made and certainly piqued interest as to the movies to come. Keep delivering, Marvel, you do good work.
Conversation drifted, the night drew on, but overall everyone felt satisfied with the time spent. Now to discuss less important things, like saving the world…