Friday, May 13, 2016

Captain America: Civil War Succeeds in Every Way Batman v Superman Fails

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Statistically speaking, if you are a male under the age of 35, and over the age of 10, you've probably seen Captain America: Civil War.

The superhero mega flick has already taken in over $215 million domestically, and over $765 million worldwide in its first six days in theaters, passing Deadpool at the international box office for the title of top hero flick of the year... So far.

This hot start is made even more impressive by the fact that the film's premier came before middle and high school kids were released for the summer (sorry nerdy adults, kids are still the primary audience for superhero movies).

Cap's fight with his former buddy Iron Man has also drawn nearly universal praise from critics, earning a 90% from critic aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, and garnering glowing reviews from the New York Times, Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal.

But wait, didn't a superhero fighting another superhero movie already come out this year, and didn't everybody hate it?

Minimal spoilers below.

Yes, it's true, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released about two months ago, though it seems like longer. The film bombed with critics and viewers, despite bringing in a better-than-decent $327 million domestically, and $862 million worldwide. That's not chump change, but the fact that Warner Bros. has put director Zack Snyder on a leash, and is already re-thinking some aspects of the upcoming Justice League film clearly shows the studio is wary of future superhero projects.

Now, there is an obvious reason why Captain America works and Batman-Superman doesn't, and it sort of speaks to the way that Disney has handled the Marvel Universe vs the way Warner Bros. has built the DC Universe.

Captain America is colorful and fun, while BvS is dark and depressing.

Yes, we like gritty superhero movies, sometimes, but even the Dark Knight had its fun moments.

Watching BvS seemed like you were doing your duty as a superhero fan, but never really got to enjoy it. It was the "eating your vegetables" of action flicks. Meanwhile, Captain America gave you endless fan service with cool, fun fight scenes, and *gasp* used humor to keep things from getting too dark or serious.

Heck, even the costumes are light and bright. Compare the new Spider-Man suit to Batman's dark, heavy, brooding outfit, and tell me which one is more fun. Obviously, I don't want to go back to an Adam West Batsuit, or one with nipples, but even Superman is wearing a heavy dark blue costume, while Iron Man (a man literally wearing a giant, heavy metal costume), is flying around quickly, light as a feather in a bright red suit.

So yeah, being fun and light works in Captain America's favor, but other than that, these two movies hit almost all the same notes. Cap and his buddies just play them much better.

So, here are all the ways Captain America succeeded where BvS failed.

There Was a Real Reason to Fight

Do you even remember why Batman and Superman were fighting? I just re-read the plot and I still only sort of understand why they resorted to tearing each other apart instead of teaming up. Vigilante Batman, who basically murdered people, was mad at Superman for not saving every single person on Earth when a team of aliens came to destroy the entire planet.

Then Lex Luthor captured Superman's mom and told him he had to kill Batman, and Superman, instead of using his super speed and X-ray vision to find her in two minutes, was like, K.

But he was actually going to talk to Batman, but Batty wasn't listening, and it was all a big misunderstanding, or maybe it wasn't… Either way, it was convoluted and stupid, as was the reason they stopped fighting (Martha!).

Captain America, on the other hand, gave us an actual reason for these heroes to fight. The Avengers, like Superman battling General Zod in Man of Steel, had wrecked some stuff while they were saving the world over the past few years. The governments of the world wanted to have some control over them, so they decided to draw up some accords that would give the United Nations power over The Avengers.

Of course, that sounds stupid, but when you consider that the Avengers were just moving across borders, fighting whatever crime they felt like, you could see why different countries would be a bit alarmed. Ultimately, Iron Man was so moved by the story of a child dying in one of their past battles, that he thought the Avengers should sign on and be accountable to the world's governments.

Captain America, beacon of freedom that he is, disagreed, and thought it really only shifted the blame to someone controlling The Avengers. After all, members of The Avengers already felt accountable for the lives they didn't save, and what if the United Nations didn't agree to send The Avengers somewhere they were badly needed? What if a slow-moving bureaucracy hampered the group's effectiveness?


Because of this disagreement over the very future of their group, they had a conflict. So, did they immediately say "I hate you now, let's fight to the death" like BvS?

No, because that wouldn't make any sense.

It was a slow build toward a giant conflict, with Captain America helping his friend Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier) escape the clutches of The Avengers (long story), and Iron Man's buddies finally moving to arrest him.

When we finally do get our giant fight scene, nobody is trying to kill anybody, because they all have relationships. Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow even drop a "we're still friends, right?" line while they're fighting each other, and Falcon apologizes when another character on the opposing side is badly injured.

Instead of a death match, Captain America and his friends are trying to escape to thwart a different baddie, while Iron Man and his cohorts are trying to "bring them in."

The stakes get raised a bit later, when Iron Man is legitimately enraged, but even then, most of his anger isn't directed at Captain America.

Basically, this movie gives us a reason for our favorite heroes to fight, but never makes any of them look like the bad guy. Unlike BvS, where there was no real reason to fight, and Batman was a total tool.

Another thing working in Captain America's favor was that different people could pick different sides. It was pretty hard to side with Batman in BvS, even though I liked Batman better, but in Civil War, I found myself flip-flopping on who I thought was right, even though I came into the movie positive I was going to root for Iron Man.

They Introduced a New Character the Right Way

One of the few bright spots of BvS was the introduction of a totally bad ass Wonder Woman, but let's be honest: Gal Gadot succeeded as the Amazonian Princess in spite of the setup the movie gave her.

She got barely any screen time, and we learned, essentially, nothing about who she was and what her motivations were. She was just a hot, powerful chick that showed up, said some cool things to Bruce Wayne, then joined the fight when stuff got real. I guess they just assumed most of us know Wonder Woman's backstory, but they could've at least given us a reason for her being there.

WW's appearance was probably the best thing about the movie, but it could have been far better. Speaking of that, Civil War introduced Black Panther, a character most people aren't familiar with (and even wonder why he's still called "Black Panther"), in much better way.

First, we were introduced the fictional country Black Panther comes from, and given reason to feel sorry for him. Then, we see him lose someone close to him, and we're even explained why he is the Black Panther, and what his suit is made of, plus we're sort of given a peak into why the Black Panther is needed in his country.

All that is done in a matter of minutes, but we now know this character's background and motivations, which makes his awesome fight scenes all the more meaningful. Wonder Woman was great, but I couldn't help but wonder (pun sort of intended) why she was even in Metropolis/Gotham on those exact days, and where she had been before that when Superman was fighting Zod.

With Black Panther, we get those answers, and he's freaking sweet. Seriously, I can't wait to see what they do with him in his own movie.

They Re-Booted a Character Without Getting Bogged Down

BvS was re-booting Batman, cinematically, for the third time in my lifetime. Surely we didn't need to see his parents get murdered again. Surely we didn't need to get dragged back down into his depression and anger about that one horrific event.

Oh wait, yes we did! You see, while the movie took no time to introduce or flesh out Wonder Woman, a character that hasn't been on the big screen since… ever (she had a TV series and TV movie in the 70s), it went into gritty detail about, and actually opened the movie with, Batman's origin story.

I mean, I know this is a new Batman, but we've seen this all before, pretty recently. It reminds me of when they re-booted Spider-Man a few years ago and killed Uncle Ben for the second time in a decade. Did we really need to go through all of that again, and waste another 10 minutes of screen time?

Speaking of that, Civil War nailed its mini re-boot of Spider-Man. Not only do we not have to see Uncle Ben die (because that would waste a ton of time in a 2.5 hour movie where a bunch of other things are happening), we still get to meet Peter Parker and Aunt May in their home, and get to see footage of what the teenage webslinger had been doing before he entered the movie.

Also, they actually made him a teenager. Tom Holland, though 19, is as close as you're going to get to an actual high schooler playing Spider-Man, and his squeaky voice, not to mention eager attitude, make him a great Spidey. Add in the fact that they actually made Spider-Man funny, something he always is in the comics and was on the animated series, and that he was essentially "trying out," and they really couldn't have started Spider-Man out any better in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Oh, and just like in the comics, he keeps talking during the fight scenes, which gets pointed out in a pretty funny way by Anthony Mackie's Falcon.

We Had Reasons to Care About the Characters

I don't want to say you need a certain number of movies to build up characters before you have them fight each other, but clearly the on-screen relationships between The Avengers made their conflict juicer, and a bit more tragic, even though they didn't fight with the psychopathic rage of Batman or Superman.

Civil War gave us a fight we wanted to see, but we still wanted them to make up at the end, and we never wanted them to truly hate each other. Also, we knew where the characters agreed and disagreed, and we actually cared about them from watching two Captain America movies, two Avenger flicks and three Iron Mans.

Contrast that with BvS, where we were meeting this new Batman for the first time, and seeing Henry Cavill's Superman for only the second time. If they had given us another Superman movie, and crossed him over with Christian Bale's Batman, there would have been some character built up, but instead they had to try and build up the new Batman and continue to develop a barely fleshed out new Superman.

That caused them to essentially make a Batman origin movie, a Superman sequel, and a Justice League prequel all in one film, while Civil War could simply focus on creating a conflict between a number of established characters.

I know Warner Bros. saw the success of The Avengers and decided it had to cash in with the Justice League, but they moved far too quickly. Think about all the Captain America/Iron Man/Thor/Ant-Man/Hulk/etc movies we got before these guys started fighting.

Also, doesn't it feel like BvS did it backwards? They made Batty and Supes fight to the death, and now they're going to team up later? All because their moms are both named Martha?!

Civil War, meanwhile, came after all these characters had been built up on their own, then successfully teamed up, and now they are fighting it out (but not trying to kill each other) over an issue that could change their group forever.

It also gave us more minor characters that mattered. He wasn't a major player, but this movie wouldn't have been the same without Paul Rudd's Ant-Man. BvS certainly could have used more characters of consequence (and less of Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor).

Perhaps Warner Bros. should have done a re-boot of Batman, then some more Superman films, a Wonder Woman movie, and then a Justice League movie, before having these two heroes clash...

Nah, gotta grab that mega flick money.

1 comment :

Lisa Jones said...

im stuck between a warrior and iron man. at the end of it all i just want a my hero which ever he his. ironman cosplay