Despite what many think, Captain America: Civil War really isn’t a good movie, but Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is.
That’s right, folks: you read the title correctly. If you dare to have this unpopular opinion, you’re sure to be bombarded with reasons as to why Captain America: Civil War is apparently the better film starting with the treatment of superhero destruction to just ending the argument with how cringe worthy the infamous “Martha” scene was. But the truth is that both of these movies hit the same beats to the same effect but for some reason, Civil War is praised for it while Batman v Superman is criticized. And the question is: why?
Before I delve further into this argument, I’ll start by saying that I enjoyed Batman v Superman. Enjoyed is an understatement, actually—I loved it. When critics panned the movie for being poorly edited, poorly paced and basically a massive failure of a superhero film, I was discouraged to say the least. Critics hated it, fans were divided but I knew that I had to watch the movie for myself to form my own opinion.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew there was something strange about the film when I first saw it. It wasn’t a bad feeling, but I knew that the film didn’t feel like what a superhero film usually feels like. It didn’t look like it either, and that’s when it hit me—Batman v Superman didn’t follow the formulaic superhero narrative that we’re used to seeing.
This is where Civil War comes into the picture—we all know that the MCU has and will continue to release a million movies and we flock to see all of them. The MCU follows a very specific blueprint, as if it’s not obvious by this point. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the problem occurs when a movie like Batman v Superman comes along and is very different than what we’re used to seeing.
We’ve unknowingly set expectations for what we think a superhero movie should be that we reject when one tries to be different. Batman v Superman isn’t poorly edited or paced, it intentionally edited to be like a comic book. The white title screen introducing Metropolis, the dramatic cuts to black, the switch in tones between characters as the story progresses, and of course, Zack Snyder’s stylistic shots…these are all elements equivalent of flipping the pages of a comic. It was a radically experimental decision, and it did feel strange at first but once I realized what the film was doing, I loved it. How can I put a movie down for trying something different in an industry that always does the same thing?Photo – Disney
That’s why The Winter Soldier is undoubtedly the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—like Batman v Superman, it was more than just our general definition of a standard superhero film. The Winter Soldier delved into the complexities of Steve’s life in this new world. Many forget that he’s in a completely different time period, nearly everyone he knew from his past is dead and he suffers from PTSD. He’s similar to Batman in many ways; both of them have PTSD due to traumatic events in their lives and they’ve both lost people that mean a lot to them—Bucky and Martha Wayne.
A common complaint about Batman v Superman is the “Martha” scene. That scene is just so horrible and laughable to many people and I don’t understand how they can mock that scene when the exact same thing happens ten minutes into Civil War. Bruce loses focus because Clark says his mother’s name and Steve loses focus because Crossbones says Bucky’s name. Obviously the context of their names being said are different—Clark said it because he thought he was going to die and he wanted his mother to be saved (and no, it actually doesn’t make sense for him to say “save my mom” instead because “mom” is ambiguous. Saying Martha humanizes her and would make it easier to find her) and Crossbones says it as a low blow so Steve could get distracted, which is exactly what happens and as a result he has the time to set off a bomb that ends up destroying a nearby building.
Like I said, Bruce and Steve have PTSD and it’s completely understandable that they would have these reactions because Martha and Bucky died in front of them. But no, Bruce’s scene is just dismissed as a comedic moment while Steve’s is praised as traumatic. PTSD isn’t a competition, guys.Photo – Warner Bros.
Another complaint towards Batman v Superman is the Doomsday fight—because of the destruction that happened during Man of Steel, the trinity wants to make sure that they take on Doomsday in an area where people won’t be killed. By taking the fight to an uninhabited island they’re preventing mass death. Civil War does the same thing when Cap’s team and Iron Man’s team fight in an empty airport and destroy it in the process. So why does Batman v Superman get criticized for the line that a government official makes when he says that he island is uninhabited but no one says a word when it’s stated that Tony evacuated the airport so that they could have their showdown?
I don’t have a problem with how either movie handled these scenes but I can’t help but to feel some animosity towards Civil War because audiences and critics are so willing to give the film a pass for doing same thing that they criticized Batman v Superman for.Photo – Warner Bros.
But I bet you’re still wondering: why exactly is Batman v Superman a better film? Along with the fact that it followed a unique narrative, it actually showed respect for its characters. A lot of people dislike Zack Snyder for “ruining” Superman—many go as far to say that he hates the man of steel. But how can he hate Superman when he’s still the idealistic character that appeared in the comics, the only difference being the setting that he’s in?
This is the world that he DCEU has set up—much like Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, we’re viewing these fictional characters in a world that’s presented as non-fictional. The reactions that society has towards Superman are incredibly similar to what we would see in this world and as we know, this world is cynical. Obviously not everyone likes that approach but I find it incredibly hard to believe that Zack Snyder hates Superman when he’s portraying him as a superhero who is still just starting out and has understandable doubts about his place in the world. I don’t know about you, but if millions of people thought I was either a god or a demon, I would question my existence too.
To criticize Superman’s characterization while praising the characterization in Civil War confuses me and ultimately leaves me skeptical because Civil War blatantly disrespected the characters it should’ve been focusing on. Although this movie is called Captain America: Civil War, it should’ve just been called The Avengers 2.5 or better yet, Iron Man: Civil War. Steve Rogers is thrown to the sideline in favor of Tony’s story and in doing so, the characters involved in Steve’s life are even more reduced than him. Then again, I can’t really say I’m surprised by the outcome of the film when Robert Downey Jr. pushed to have more screen time. Nonetheless, the results were incredibly disappointing to watch.Photo – Disney
The first person that comes to mind is Peggy Carter. We all know that Peggy is Steve’s first love and in The Winter Soldier, it’s revealed that she has Alzheimer’s and therefore she’s failing to remember those precious moments that she shared with Steve. This clearly hurts him because he loves her and one would think that in the third movie, we would see more of that but Peggy gets reduced to a text message saying she’s dead and a short funeral scene where Steve spends the entire time ogling her niece, Sharon. Yes, Steve and Sharon are a couple in the comics but that doesn’t excuse the fact that their relationship in the movies had no build up.
In The Winter Soldier, Natasha would jokingly suggest women that Steve should date and Sharon was among one of the choices. It remained an inside joke throughout the movie with no actual indication that they would move forward with the relationship. So to see their relationship jump a million steps forward with no natural build up was just forced and out of place. And then to never bring Peggy up again after the funeral? Steve loved her and Civil War never even showed a scene where he properly mourned her. I can’t be the only one thinking this especially when Peggy Carter herself said that she thought it was disrespectful.Photo – Disney
But what’s even worse is how Bucky Barnes’ character is completely destroyed in this movie. Many may not know this, but Cap 3 was never supposed to be Civil War. As soon as word got out that Batman v Superman was being made, Marvel decided to make the third Captain America film a direct response to that instead of what it was originally going to be—undoubtedly a smaller, intimate film that would’ve been the proper sequel to The Winter Soldier. The heart of The Winter Soldier is Steve’s relationship with Bucky—his best friend, who “died” in front of his eyes, is still alive but he’s now a ruthless brainwashed assassin.
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The end of The Winter Soldier promised us a redemption arc for Bucky but instead we got the revelation that multiple Winter Soldiers exist. Whoever made that decision is so, so wrong because creating multiple Winter Soldiers completely diminishes the actual character of the Winter Soldier. The second movie made a specific point of stating that the Winter Soldier is a lone figure, credited for multiple assassinations in the last 50 years. The fact that Steve’s best friend is the cause of all of that is a gut punch. This dangerous, unknown mystery is actually his only living friend. He is THE Winter Soldier, not A Winter soldier. Now he’s just one of many when he should’ve stayed the only one.
Steve’s character development suffers the most because of these decisions. In The Winter Soldier, he had clear motives and internal conflict that reflected who he was but in Civil War, he’s presented as a half a character. His awkward and forced kiss with Sharon, the complete lack of meaningful scenes between him and Bucky, his dismissal of Peggy’s death…who is this Steve Rogers because this isn’t the same person that we saw before.Photo – Warner Bros.
Unlike Civil War, the women in Batman v Superman were more than one-dimensional love interests or a love interest that’s never even shown on screen. Lois Lane is never a damsel in distress—she may get herself in situations where Superman has to save her but her actions are always intentional and reflective of her strengths in journalism. She’s presented as a headstrong, no-bullshit woman who will find out the truth despite obstacles. And she’s not just a strong female character with no emotion—she’s able balance and sometimes struggle with her relationship with Clark because of who is really is. She’s more than just Superman’s girlfriend, she constantly has a purpose throughout the movie that isn’t solely focused on moving Clark’s story forward.
The same goes for Diana and Senator June Finch; these are women who didn’t have as much screen time as Lois but their motives were just as independent as hers. They had specific goals and when confronted with conflict, they took it upon themselves to solve it. It’s truly disappointing that Sharon’s purpose in Civil War was just to be romantic plot device for Steve. Sharon and June probably had the amount same screen time yet I learned more about June in her short scenes because the movie actually took the time out to show us her personality and background through dialogue.Photo – Disney
How can one criticize the DCEU’s Superman for not being the Superman that they grew up with when the MCU did the exact same thing with Steve? The same goes Bucky—does he suddenly not matter because he’s not considered a major character? Does Peggy not matter because she’s dead now? Or even Sharon because she’s just a love interest? As someone who loved The Winter Soldier and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because of the characters and their relationships, watching Civil War was just offensive. All of the focus went to Tony when it was never supposed to be his film. The emotion that should’ve been for Steve and his relationships were reduced in favor of Tony in order to lead up to the “big” reveal: a brainwashed Bucky killed Tony’s parents.Photo – Disney
This has to be the most glaring plot hole that I’ve seen in recent memory—how exactly is this a reveal for the audience when it was clearly implied that Bucky killed Tony’s parents during the Zola scene in The Winter Soldier? How is it a reveal for Tony when Natasha leaked S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra’s files online a year before the events of Civil War? You cannot tell me that Tony Stark, one of the most tech savvy people on earth, did not find that out himself.
At this point, I don’t understand how someone can look me in the eye and tell me that Civil War is a better film than Batman v Superman. I wouldn’t have such a problem with Civil War if it weren’t for the fact that both of these movies had similar scenes with identical motivations but one gets praised for it while the other gets panned. How can one criticize Batman v Superman for being a bloated film when Civil War shoehorned a teenage Spider-Man in to fight a battle that he had no place in for the sole reason of letting audiences know that “Hey, we got Spider-Man back!” along with giving the other team members paper thin subplots that are never resolved?Photo – Warner Bros./Disney
Civil War only cared about Tony Stark while Batman v Superman actually balanced Bruce and Clark’s stories so that they could both meet in the end. Dawn of Justice was able to focus on Bruce’s childhood, his continuing struggle with PTSD and guilt over Robin’s death while also equally focusing on Clark’s doubt over his place in this world along with his relationships with Lois and his parents. On top of that, there’s side characters who actually serve a purpose more than just being there to fight.
All I saw in Civil War was the Tony Stark show with cameo appearances by Steve Rogers and Black Panther along with shameless promotion for another Spider-Man movie that we don’t need. I know I would’ve felt different if we were given a proper sequel to The Winter Soldier, I might have even said that that sequel is better than Batman v Superman. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and we’re stuck with a movie that’s vastly inferior to its predecessor and the fact that it is widely thought to be a better movie than Batman v Superman is just a tragedy within itself.