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  • 12.04.15

What If Ken Burns Made A Documentary About The (Marvel Comics) Civil War?

With Captain America and Iron Man set to go to war in Marvel’s next film, take an historical look at the comic book event that inspired it.

What If Ken Burns Made A Documentary About The (Marvel Comics) Civil War?

No one lends gravity to history like Ken Burns. From his signature cinematic style of sweeping across still photographs to bring them to life to his reliance on firsthand accounts, delivered via voiceover, to capture the emotional resonance of distant events, Burns’ facility with capturing the mood of an historic event–or even an entire historical era–is unparalleled. And for fans of the auteur who’ve long wondered what would happen if he turned his eye to the Marvel Comics crossover event “Civil War,” the inspiration for the upcoming movie Captain America: Civil War. Well, the answer is finally here, in the form of this note-perfect imitation of Burns’ style from YouTube filmmaker Patrick H. Willems.

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Using Burns’ signature techniques–letters between Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and more get read aloud, as the panels of their lives get panned over in glorious slow-motion–Willems unpacks the story: It all starts when New Warriors member Speedball makes an irresponsible attempt to capture supervillain Nitro in suburban Connecticut that results in massive casualties (many of which were schoolchildren). Because back in 2006, it was (hilariously, depressingly) considered a fait accompli that anything that killed a number of Connecticut schoolchildren would immediately result in massive political action, a war broke out between Iron Man (who wanted to ban superheroes) and Captain America (who played the libertarian in the struggle). As Willems’ captures, the less-than-ten-years-old series is dated now in more ways than one–using a Burns-style voiceover from the front, a reporter interrogating Captain America notes that his lack of a MySpace account proves he’s out of touch with the American people, which is a thing that was actually published as though it were a salient point.

With Marvel’s forthcoming movie adaptation due out in the spring, those anticipating a battle between Iron Man and Captain America rooted in ]whatever it is that’s happening in that trailer may be surprised to learn the complex, convoluted conceit behind the comic book event on which the film is nominally based. But, fortunately, there’s now a Ken Burns-style documentary that captures how silly that one was without making anyone curious about the source material actually read it.

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.

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