movie review: batman vs superman vs captain america vs the avengers

Ok, so clearly the movie events of the decade were the bringing together of our favorite comic book heroes in two mega-hyped films. The majority of the critics panned Batman VS Superman and liked Captain America: Civil War.

The problem is, they got it backwards.

Let’s start off at the drawing board of both movies: Marvel needed to have some sort of battle between Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Antman, Spiderman, the black guy, the red guy and the guy with the bow and arrow.

DC had to focus on a conflict between two legendary characters, Batman and Superman.

Now, class, what’s the number one lesson they teach you in art school?

Less is more.




The thing that made Captain America: Winter Soldier one of the best comic book movies of all time was that it was actually about Captain America. Captain America: Civil War is maybe 51% about Cap and 49% Avengers (its focus on Cap is loose at best – why they didn’t make this a straight up Avengers movie i’ll never know).

Another popular aphorism is too many chefs spoil the soup (or in this case, the super heroes). All those characters feel crammed into the movie just to lead up to a fight I never wanted to see in the first place. Maybe diehard Marvel fans thought this would be cool, but ultimately the story felt like it was trying too hard to get these guys on opposite sides of the fence. The focus on Captain America just wasn’t there – a big disappointment considering the first two films.

On the other hand, Batman VS Superman has been a mainstay of the DC universe since the dawn of comics, and something even the general public can easily identify with. Every human on Earth is pretty much born with the knowledge of who Batman and Superman are, and just the thought of these guys duking it out evokes memories of Ali VS Frazier, Holmes VS Moriarty, Kirk VS the Klingon, tastes great VS less filling.

But the Marvel version is like Donald Trump: Civil War featuring Donald Trump VS Ted Cruz VS Jeb Bush VS Ben Carson VS Chris Christie VS Jim Gilmore VS Lindsay Graham VS Mike Huckabee VS Bobby Jindal VS John Kasich VS George Pataki VS Rand Paul VS Rick Perry VS Marco Rubio VS Mark Santorum VS Scott Walker. Not exactly a classic confrontation we’re dying to see again.

You can argue that Batman VS Superman also brought along another character with Wonder Woman, but she was woven into the plot in an intelligent and mysterious way and wasn’t forced to fight the good guys (and at least the gratuitous scene where other DC characters have a forced cameo is mercifully short).

Furthermore, much of Supes VS Bats is based on what many consider to still be the best comic book of all time, Frank Miller’s genre-changing epic The Dark Knight Returns. Here’s a page so you can see how close the film came to it:

And here’s what it seems like Civil War is based on:

In addition, it can’t be ignored that both films have largely the same plot: the government and much of the general public are wondering if these “heroes,” who operate outside the law, are more of a menace than a benefit (featured is the collateral damage we’ve seen in their previous films).

In the various Avengers movies, yes, we’ve seen cities get pretty wrecked, but it was mostly by the bad guys.  However, in Man of Steel, half of Metropolis seems to have been devastated, much of it caused by Superman haphazardly flying through buildings and indiscriminately zapping things with his heat vision (in Superman II, at least Superman spent just as much time saving civilians as he did fighting Zod and his cronies). Why didn’t Superman just take the fight to the middle of nowhere?  Fans universally criticized this aspect of the movie.

And, much to our delight, this is exactly what is addressed at the start of the film!  We see a replay of the end of the battle in Man of Steel from a whole new perspective – by the people who suffered and died as a result of it.  The focus is on what Bruce Wayne witnesses, and his failure to get everyone out of the Wayne offices. This turns the most negative aspect of Man of Steel into a positive one and forms a largely single-minded perspective for the entire film: Superman may ultimately be too dangerous for this world and Batman is the only one who can stop him.

If I had to consolidate the plot of Civil War into a paragraph, I’d say the government wants to control the Avengers, which causes a rift between them. This leads to a ham fisted super-confrontation between people who are essentially friends and the whole thing just feels forced.

Neither film is perfect in execution – they both have faults and their fair share of dumb scenes – but I always excuse poor execution for a story that, at its core, is worth telling (Star Trek VI wasn’t perfect, but the basic story of a military establishment wanting to prevent peace at all costs was admirable).

Now while I felt pretty much all of Civil War was a disjointed mess of conflicting tone, Batman VS Superman was consistent until the very end, when it fell into the groan-inducing cliche of good guys get together to fight a really BIG bad guy (in this case, Doomsday was randomly pulled out of nowhere).


Likewise, Civil War ended with another Big Man On Campus, this time with AntMan turning into ridiculous Giant AntMan (I don’t care if it’s been done in the comics, in the movie it was just plain ridiculous).  Unfortunately, in a major contradiction to the plot, this final battle also results in millions of dollars of collateral damage and essentially destroys an airport (and some 747s). At least much of the battle at the end of Superguy VS Batdude, most of the damage is held to a pier, some very angry fish and one disappointed nuke.

Again, the nuke scene is directly quoted from the classic Dark Knight:

Whereas giant AntMan:

Ultimately, both films are imperfect and have their own fans, but after viewing each, I walked out of Civil War underwhelmed, bored and confused, and after Batman VS Superman I was pretty much along for the ride until the last ten minutes.

Why did the critics – and many of the fans – see it differently?  Maybe you can help me understand this in the comments below!



4 Responses to “movie review: batman vs superman vs captain america vs the avengers”

  1. 1 Jason
    July 13, 2016 at 2:06 am

    Why did fans see it differently? I’ll just assume its because you are a DC fanboy.

    The only good parts about Bats vs Supes was the bit setting up the JLA in the 30 second spot where we meet Cyborg, Aquaman, & Flash and the 5-10 minutes of Wonder Woman. You call Civil War a disjointed mess but that’s exactly how I felt about Bats vs Supes. From yet another re-hashed Batman origin scene to the crazy Batman nightmares, where Batman is killing people with a gun and Superman is cutting people in half with his laser in some Mad Max-like dystopia, to Lex Lurthor acting like the Joker, to Batman branding people… Just a giant mess. I won’t even mention Martha. Oops I just did. But honestly the biggest grievance I have with Batman vs Superman is it took the Dark Knight Returns and made it boring. It was 2 hours of dull setup for the payoff of the the actual Bats vs Supes fight, which was over quicker than a virgin popping his cherry on prom night.

    As for Marvel’s movie, sure it was called Captain America Civil War but like you said, it was an Avengers movie. And it was great. It picked up where Ultron left off and carried on. It was everything that Batman vs Superman wasn’t. It was fun. It was action packed. The fight scenes were great. The plot moved along at a great pace. Iron Man & Cap’s motivations were both clear and built off the existing movies. There was no side to pick. You could understand each character’s motivation, especially if you’ve been keeping up with the previous two movies (Winter Soldier & Ultron). And just like in the Bats vs Supes, we got some new characters introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but instead of just a quick glimpse, we got to actually meet Spidey & Black Panther. And they were great.

    Both movies clocked in at 2.5 hours, but Civil War didn’t feel like 2.5 hours, while Batman vs Superman felt like an eternity.

  2. 2 Ted
    July 18, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    To start this comment off, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are not what you would call the ‘best of friends’ given that a lot of their disagreements tend to boil down to actual physical confrontation. Their debate on SHIELD’s practices had Steve telling Tony to “Put on the suit”, and Tony bringing Vision to life actually sparked a short fight. Both of these instances were interrupted because a much bigger issue was at stake that they mutually agreed was more important.

    In Civil War, there are no stakes. The world isn’t being threatened, no world empires are going to fall and everything that’s been causing the problems in this entire movie is all focused on this one guy. A guy who during the climax of the film had already achieved what he wanted and didn’t care who came out the winner if there even was one. What he did was find a way to get two of the most senior members of the Avengers to tear each other apart. Tony was completely set on murdering Steve Roger’s life long friend out of petty revenge and Steve was NOT going to let that happen. And thus the two start a fight and for the first time in this franchisem there is nothing to stop them. No damsel Martha, no Damsel Lois, no Doomsday, no idiot Lex. Nothing. No shared mother’s name was going to conveniently end this fight.

    The stakes are the characters, not some philosophical analogy about what it means to be a god vs. a man. Analogies that I find hilariously obvious in how it attempts to give this whole Batman vs. Superman conflict some depth.

  3. 3 darthmojo
    July 20, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Jason: you lost me at “The only good part about S v B was the 30 seconds of the Justice League characters.” Obviously you get your jollies from movies in an entirely different way from polite society. But that’s ok, there is no wrong reason to enjoy a movie (just silly ones).

    Ted: But see, your description of the Civil War plot is exactly my problem it – it’s so convoluted. In fact I initially thought you were describing what you DIDN’T like about it! It was just too many characters to reasonably include with enough plot to go around. I mean seriously, the introduction of Spider Man is Tony Stark just “figuring out” that some random YouTube kid is Peter Parker??

    And as far as the philosophical analogy of God vs man, all I’ll say is that was part of what The Dark Knight Returns was about, and no one is arguing the genius of THAT work. No, the movie wasn’t spot on in excecution, but I still feel it was telling a more compelling story and I B v S was the only way to do it. Yes, much of it was too melodramatic and humorless, Batman killed too many people, Luthor was too young and acted way too much like the Joker, but those are background problems with what I thought was a good movie mired under poor excecution.

    Civil War just felt like an excuse to get all these guys to fight each other. And that does not a good movie make.

  4. 4 Ted
    July 22, 2016 at 5:05 am

    Convoluted, eh? Let’s look at Honest Trailer’s list of Luthor’s plans throughout the movie.

    1. Find out Superman and Batman’s secret identities.
    2. Lure Lois Lane to Africa to interview a rebel general.
    3. Out CIA operative “Jimmy Olsen” to get the general to capture Lois to ensure Superman’s arrival.
    4. Murder the rebels and burn the bodies so Superman can be blamed.
    a. If any evidence gets left behind, I’m screwed.
    5. Bribe/coerce African villager to give false testimony to Congress so they will call Superman to testify.
    6. Gather information on metahumans
    a. Make sure to give each one a superhero name and comic book-y logo design.
    7 Ask Congress for an important license to acquire a huge kryptonite rock so I can make a weapon in exchange for access to General Zod’s body.
    a. Don’t forget, creepily feed a Congresman a Jolly Rancher.
    b. Batman will steal this kryptonite later to kill Superman – is this part of my plan?
    8. Remove General Zod’s fingerprints with a kryptonite scalpel.
    9. Hire inmates to kill criminals in jail with the Batman brand.
    a. This will totally piss Clark off if he investigates this instead of covering a football game.
    10. Mail photos and newspaper clippings to Clark Kent with crazy writing.
    11. Intercept disability checks of former WayneCorp employee.
    12. Mail the checks back to Bruce Wayne with crazy writing.
    a. This will totally piss Bruce Wayne off too.
    13. Invite Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent to the same charity event.
    14. Introduce them to each other, make it as awkward as possible.
    15. Give disgruntled WayneCorp employee a lead-lined wheelchair.
    16. Pee in a jar.
    17. Blow up the Capitol building with Superman present.
    a. If Superman hears the bomb or somehow stops the explosion, I’m screwed…
    18. Assume that this will push Batman ti the edge.
    19. Use stolen Zod fingerprints to access crashed Kryptonian spaceship
    20. Combine DNA with Zod’s dead body to create a deformity.
    a. Possible name – Doomsday?
    22. Reveal to Lois Lane that I’m an evil genius. Hopefully she dies or something.
    23. Blackmail Superman into fighting Batman.
    a. This negates earlier work to turn Clark Kent against Batman – don’t worry about it.
    24. Hopefully, Batman kills Superman.
    25. If Batman doesn’t kill Superman, hopefully Doomsday kills Superman.
    26. Sit back and run the company until daddy comes back.
    a. If Superman survives, I’m screwed.
    b. If Lis Lane survives, I’m screwed.
    c. If Doomsday survives, I’m screwed and so is the planet.
    d. If any one thing in this impossibly intricate plan over which I have almost no control over anyone’s actions goes wrong, I’m screwed.
    e. Don’t forget the holly ranchers!!!

    And what grand scale motivation does Lex Luthor have that would cause him to fully commit to everything on this list without a hint of hesitation or doubt? Did Superman kill someone he cared about? No. Does he hate the idea of aliens living on Earth? No. Does he hate how Superman is stronger than he is? No. Why unleash a potentially world destroying menace when he can bend literally anyone to do his bidding? Heck, Superman’s fight with Zod in MoS just gave Lex a lot of contract work. If anything, Superman is keeping Lex relevant and successful. Maybe it’s because Lex doesn’t like relying on a super hero to maintain his business? No.

    Lex is doing all of this… because he’s freaking bored.

    Civil War may seem convoluted, but Zemo had a point.

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July 2016

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