The shared cinematic universe gimmick will have been going strong for nearly a decade pretty soon, and there does not appear to be an end in sight. You, the consumer, see these comic book movies being marketed and it seems like they are everywhere and that there are all these different kinds.
The year 2016 is a first for the genre, it marks the first big year where two studios (Warner Bros and Disney, owners of DC and Marvel respectively) will be competing in a major way.
The two studios have already released their first films of the year; maybe you saw them, Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I wanted to weigh the two against one another to see how they stacked up.
Now both films have similarities. Both follow established superheroes as they are inevitably pitted against each other. Both try to deal with big themes regarding either politics or religion. In Civil War, the political aspect is a result of the movie that’s already been made. There are certainly a lot of heroes that appear in the film, Civil War doesn’t feel laden down with several dozen different ideas.
BvS on the other hand, overplays its hand. The film wants to be a huge tent-pole for the DC cinematic universe; it wants to be a masterstroke that will incite analyses for years to come, it wants to outperform the competition at such an expedient pace that Marvel would never catch up.
Things didn’t go as planned.
BvS underperformed, was slammed by critics, and confused audiences. Civil War is on track to continue Marvel’s winning streak, on track to make the most money of the year so far, and liable to come in second when everything is said and done, behind Star Wars: Rogue One. What did BvS do? Some might say it was too dark, but that would undercut the emotions at play in Civil War. I have a couple of ideas.
1. BvS had a muddled script
Hear me out: one of the things that really works about Civil War is how, when you break it down, the plot is very simple. Tony Stark gets onboard with the Sokovia Accords to have the Avengers reined in by the Government because he feels guilty about all of the destruction he has caused, Steve Rogers thinks it’s a bad idea because a third party could prevent them from doing the right thing when the right thing needs to be done, and Helmut Zemo is scheming to destroy their trust in each other because of a personal grudge against the Avengers. It’s never anything less than crystal clear what these characters are doing and what their motivations are.
What is going on in Batman v. Superman? Superman is angry at Batman for torturing and murdering people, and Batman is angry at Superman for unintentionally nuking a city. Meanwhile Lex Luthor is planning to turn them against each other because…I’ll have to get back to you. Yes, there’s some big point about moral ambiguity there, or something, but the audience has no reason to care. Why should we care about this?
2. Civil War hits the right mark
The first two Avengers films were fine, I suppose, but I don’t really like the way Joss Whedon writes. I think his scripts are typically cartoonish and overwritten. The Russo brothers don’t make that mistake here, nor do they make the mistake that Zack Snyder did. Civil War is neither cartoonish, nor overconfident like BvS, it is simply a movie. That is all anyone needed it to be.