I’ve been looking forward to seeing Captain America: Civil War ever since I saw ‘Winter Soldier’ two years ago. Yet when I went and actually saw the film, my friends and I (who by the way are pretty big comic book and sci-fi fans), left the cinema feeling a bit “meh.” Don’t get me wrong; we enjoyed the film – the comedic fight and reintroduction of Spider-Man was a high point. We just weren’t that amazed by it unlike some of the audience who had clearly just walked out of Forbidden Planet next door and into the cinema. I was genuinely surprised that so many people were whooping and cheering at the slightest thing. For me, Captain America: Civil War was a fun but forgetful few hours of entertainment that could have done with being forty minutes shorter. Just like Batman v Superman.
Whether Critics Are Right or Wrong
I have mostly enjoyed Marvel’s comic book films. They’re fun and occasionally ask a few interesting questions like, “How far should a nation go to protect its population?” Mostly though, they are fun. They are pure escapism, just like a superhero film should be. Last month my brother and I booked tickets in advance to see Batman v Superman. We thought it was a pretty enjoyable film. It wasn’t an amazing film, but we didn’t feel it was as awful as the critics and many comic book fans were making it out to be. I was genuinely shocked at the levels of vitriol being thrown at the film. Personally I thought that the opening hour was one of the more exciting hours I’ve seen in a comic book film. It does kind of fall apart towards the end which is a shame, but it wasn’t enough to make me hate the film and cast it down to Hades. It seems I was in a minority as millions of fans who went to see it, left the cinema tweeting their discontent. I haven’t even mentioned the critics yet.
There has been an increasing disconnect between critics and moviegoers. The majority of reviews for Batman v Superman came in at around the two star mark, yet that hasn’t stopped the film from making over $700,000,000 at the global box office. This despite negative reaction from critics and fans. So who else was watching the film? My guess is that after the opening weekend and following the negative backlash, the average cinema goer became a little more interested in seeing the film. Yet still, Batman v Superman is being seen as a failure by critics and uber-hard comic book fans. Let’s compare the film plots and execution.
Batman v Superman: Super-powered man is seen as a threat to world security following the devastation of a city he was trying to protect. Political leaders call Superman to account and decide whether or not he should have political oversight before engaging in superhero activities. Rich billionaire who uses gadgets and weapons to terrorize criminals feels he must stop Superman before Superman becomes a bigger threat. Cue eventual fisticuffs between said heroes before they unite against a bigger threat.
Captain America: Civil War: Super-powered man and his friends are seen as a threat to world security after the devastation of several cities they were trying to protect. Political leaders decide to call Captain America and his Avengers to account and impose oversight before engaging in superhero activities. Rich billionaire, who uses gadgets and weapons to terrorize criminals and terrorists, feels he must stop Captain America before Captain America and his renegade teammates become a bigger threat to world security. Cue eventual fisticuffs between heroes before they unite against a bigger threat.
Is it just me, or do these films have almost the exact same plot? So why will Captain America ($200 million opening weekend – $30 million more than Batman v Superman achieved) be hailed as a triumph when Batman v Superman is being consigned to the garbage? I think there are several reasons:
- Marvel has spent the last 8 years building its cinematic universe and has established huge amounts of trust from a global audience. This despite several films which weren’t that great (Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and Iron Man 2 were all a bit rubbish people).
- DC finished the lauded Dark Knight trilogy, looked at what Marvel had been doing and went, “Hey! We want some of that!” They don’t want to do the same thing, so they try and inject more “seriousness” into their superheroes. Man of Steel opens to mixed reviews in 2013. Trust is not strong at this point.
- Marvel has now engendered so much trust with fans that they and critics will forgive almost any flaw a Marvel film has, even when it has many.
- DC is struggling to build trust with a fan base that is (perhaps unfairly) expecting the same kind of content that Marvel have been providing.
Are fans and critics being fair?
I wonder if many fans and critics have become so enamored with Marvel’s output, that they are unwilling to give any other comic book (specifically DC) film a chance. The only differences I can see between Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman are the jokes and tone. Captain America has more jokes. Batman v Superman has few jokes. Captain America is light and fluffy. Batman v Superman is dark and somewhat grim (though Wonder Woman’s brief appearance was cool. More of her please, DC.)
Perhaps this is where DC is going wrong. Perhaps they need to find more fun in their superheroes. The danger however, is that they might then be accused of copying Marvel and get castigated for that. Personally, I like a bit of variety in my comic book films so I hope they can build on what they’ve started. Now, again I’m not saying Batman v Superman is perfect (far from it), but guess what?
Neither is Captain America: Civil War.
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