Is Civil War better than Dawn of Justice?
The comic book heavyweights have duked it at the box office, and while the dust hasn’t even settled yet, most would declare a clear victor. Disney and the Marvel juggernaught continues to dance around the ring, while Warner Bros and DC are reeling in rewrites as the referee gives them the 10 count. The critics pummeled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for a variety of reasons. And a lot of it was warranted. Meanwhile, Captain America: Civil War suffered from many of the same problems as other Marvel Cinematic Universe films and yet received high praise. So what gives?
BvS’s director Zach Snyder’s certainly knows how to craft an atmosphere and choreographs amazing fight scenes. But his films seemingly get blasted more and more by critics since his debut with the remake “Dawn of the Dead”. The resounding opinion among the critics is that he is quickly becoming the next Micheal Bay. Giving him the reigns to such a huge franchise seemed a little optimistic, but after Man of Steel it appeared that he may have the Justice League heading in the right direction.
When marketing BvS, Warner Bros hit all the right fan boy notes early on. The initial reveal of footage during the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International sent tingles down your spine. The criticized casting of Ben Affleck as Batman was quickly rebuked as we saw one bad assed and pissed off Caped Crusader ready to beat the living hell out of the red glowing eyes of Henry Cavill’s Superman. This was the matchup we all had been waiting for, our bodies were ready to receive.
BvS took a hit however in December 2015 when it released a third trailer. While we all new Wonder Woman would be in the film, this trailer revealed too much, with images of the trio not only united in battle, but against a larger enemy, Doomsday. Fans cried foul and Snyder tried to backtrack the reveal, but the damage was done. Movie goers now knew that the Bat and Supes conflict would be resolved in time to take down a villain, and the look of Doomsday was appalling.
As the opening weekend arrived, things were still relatively positive for the flick. Box office records were expected to be challenged and the hype from the Suicide Squad trailers seemed to boost the BvS sales. Then the critics lashed out, Affleck became sad, and DC was scrambling to pick up the pieces. While it did huge numbers it’s opening weekend, BvS would drop significantly after and find itself asking the question if it was a box office failure or not, despite pulling in over $860 million worldwide.
Meanwhile, Civil War did very little to stray from the formula that previous Marvel movies have done. Lots of hints and nods were dropped in other films, and plenty of social media buzz was released building up to the release date. Many questioned though if this was truly a Captain America film, or Avengers 2.5 with how big the cast became. So to deflect any concerns, Disney dropped a trailer featuring Spiderman and the chattering stopped.
When critics finally got their hands on it, they had nothing but praise for yet another successful romp with Cap and friends. Many even pointed out that the film is much ado about nothing and the lack of a real villain, but that didn’t stop them from gushing about it. With the box office returns all but finished, Civil War will settle in nicely as the 4th biggest Marvel flick ever.
But why can Marvel get away with making millions off of flawed movies? What is DC doing that is so appalling to the critics and fans? And can DC really fix it?
Disney reinvented the wheel of what it meant to make a superhero movie when it started with Iron Man all those years ago. They have slowly and patiently been building their brand and fan base, with a few missteps here and there (Iron Man 2 & The Incredible Hulk), but nothing that was a complete disaster. While there are many things that could be improved upon in each film, there is no denying the entertainment value they have created, which seems to give them a pass for the consistent lack of a great villain and the constant devaluing of female characters.
DC did their own reinvention when Christopher Nolan was brought in to revive Batman. But they made a critical error by not expanding on that universe. Instead, they tried to copy elements of it into Man of Steel and rebrand it as a new universe. Perhaps Synder was not the right man to copy Nolan’s atmosphere. Maybe Superman was not the right character to start with. Critics and fans seem to be torn on the current direction and there is a growing voice that they want the DC’s universe to be more like Marvel’s. I sincerely hope DC does not listen to that cry.
I’m personally enjoying the seriousness and tone that we are seeing DC take. Everything feels bigger and more impactful. There are consequences in this universe, and not everything can be written off in a funny quip. These heroes are not having fun saving the world. Every Marvel movie tries too hard to be funny and sell toys. Each character has to be appealing to the children. There is more interest pushing the next movie rather than focusing on the current one we are watching. And while the odds seem stacked against them, no villain has really lived up to be a true threat to take over.
At the end of the day, I want to revisit BvS because it feels like a complete story that has been told. The characters have depth that I want to learn more about. There is danger that we don’t understand and don’t know how it will be handled. I have no reason to revisit Civil War. It was a very straight forward movie designed to be a spring board to new characters rather than have serious repercussions to the universe.
Aesthetically speaking, Civil War is a better film. But there are many films, including many Oscar winning ones, that are aesthetically pleasing that I never watch again because they simply don’t have much depth. BvS will get several views from me, especially with the upcoming directors cut. Critics be damned, I prefer a universe that is willing to take some risk over one that is trying to sell me a toy.
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