In 2016, Disney and Warner Brothers went head-to-head with one another over two films that would come to define their superhero universes. Both films have similar characters and plots, but different tones and objectives. One goes on to expand their world while the other becomes torn apart. They both bring in thought-provoking themes and discussions over government intervention, conflicts, and the aspect of choice. Despite their complexity, one succeeds incredibly as the other becomes a pitiful mess. We shall re-evaluate how Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War compared/differed from each other, and how the value of their films remains significant today.
In comparison, both films contain a superhuman who has encountered war in the past and villains believing in genetic uprisings that gets into some altercation with a bomb going off, killing innocents, and sparking controversies and debates. The billionaire wants to defend the order by putting power in check by utilizing their brilliance to fight crime yet feel regret for wrongdoings in the past. A third-party person intends to manipulate the two beings to get into conflict with one another. The loss of a critical parent figure is prevalent in the third act as well for both films.
One of the main themes of both films is making a choice. Civil War stamped the “Choose Your Team” in their marketing. It comes with a problematic understanding as it is hard to pick one side over the other. On the one hand, people with superhuman abilities should have some regulation, not continually spur chaos amongst our world. They may be saving the world (or universe), but it comes at the cost of life and money. On the other hand, heroes have more confidence in their abilities and shouldn’t let a corrupt government (or people) dictate their actions.
Superman’s existence in BvS questions humans’ abilities to decide if they can go their own paths. Some may be thankful, while others will feel weak. It is what causes Batman to fear his existence and continue to torment Gotham the same way criminals have in such a violent and aggressive manner.
That is where the similarities end. Everything else comes from the structure of each film and how they go about in executing. Both are ambitious films, but Captain America: Civil War leaps ahead of Batman v Superman in too many ways.
Batman v Superman contained fascinating thoughts, but it shoved WAY too much content down our throats that it became an overthought atrocity. It is indeed a sequel to Man of Steel and introduces Batman back into the mix. But it also introduces four members of the Justice League, multiple villains, multiple backstories, the “Death of Superman,” and tries to set up a plethora of films in its franchise. As the second film in a superhero series, this was a major turnoff and colossal disappointment. The fact that the writers suggested this amount of information, which would be enough to make several other films, was needed to make this film compelling was preposterous.
In all fairness, Captain America: Civil War was the 13th film of a successful franchise. However, the audiences had spent so much time with these characters and their backstories for years to completely recognize their viewpoints. Marvel could safely introduce new characters like Black Panther and Spider-Man into the mix to bring in new realizations and concepts. This film was also plain fun with its humor, action sequences, and characters. When something serious happens, it strikes a chord with them, and the audience as the feeling comes across as sincere and organic. That is why the fight between Iron Man and Captain America at the end is brutal, arresting, and nearly flawless. It is a street fight hampered down by lies and betrayal, and a friendship that never struck with these two heroes ever since their initial meeting in the first Avengers. Everyone in the fight, including Bucky Barnes, loses something.
In BvS, the fight between the main heroes had a great visual as they “descended to hell.” The problem, sigh, is the revelation is just absurd. Who in the hell decided the name “Martha” would become Batman’s kryptonite? It takes what was a brutal fight scene to a moment where you realize two grown men are wearing costumes and playing whack-a-mole over a mother. The plot point makes zero sense that this alone convinces Batman as he had gone throughout this whole film believing Superman was a threat to this world. It becomes silly, the two immediately become best friends and join Wonder Woman for a fight against Doomsday in a CGI battle. Like, what just happened?
The villain’s motives are similar in wanting to push the heroes to fight but are once again executed differently. Zemo’s plan in Civil War is more personal as he is revenge-driven and utilizes Bucky, the central focus of the film, to push the Avengers to fight each other. Lex Luthor’s plan in BvS is somewhat baffling and miraculously works. His character sounds too much like the Joker plus a mix of Mark Zuckerberg, a gibbering mad man, and Daffy Duck. In this comic-book film, his character portrayal is a huge miss.
When talking about both films in today’s world, they mean something to the overall genre by trying something different. One worked very well, while the other became horrendously damaging to the brand. This writer acknowledges Batman v Superman was trying to be something different, but it got carried away thanks to enormous aspirations and a challenge by Marvel Studios with Civil War. Reception and box-office performance also prove the latter was the better product overall. Maybe DC can one day conjure another film that can push away any derisions one can (and continue) to make about the performance of BvS.