Well for those of who've read my other works, hello old readers and true believers. For those who have not, hello new readers and true believers. Everyone and their mothers made up their minds on which side they were on in the fight that cannibalised the fight between Batman and Superman, or pro-registration vs. rebels.
The fight between... BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DoJ and Captain America: Civil War. The first meeting between Batman and Superman on the big screen, and the first live action outing of Wonder Woman v. THE event film (to be fair, the event film is Marvel's The Avengers, but this is second).
So, this blog might've arrived lately, but I wanted to wait for the Ultimate Cut of Batman v. Superman before comparing the two. I'll try to keep personal preference to a minimum, and dedicate this blog more on how the two set themselves apart in their own respects. But when I say minimum, I mean there'll still be a decent amount of that seeing as it's a point of contention I'd like to share my opinion on.
Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person that loves BOTH films to varying degrees. But I'm sure there's more of you.
Right off the bat, I want to establish that Captain America: Civil War is the more competently made film. Not on all fronts, but if I were to contrast the pro's and con's of each film, Civil War is unbiasedly better than Dawn of Justice. By a lot. If not for anything else other than writing. Both develop their stories in differentiating ways. Captain America: Civil War unfolds like a drama, each story beat unfolding via straightforward yet compelling plot advancements. Dawn of Justice is more abstract, ambiguous, and utilises undertone, allegory and symbolism to get it's story across.
Each are prominent in their own respect. Personally, Dawn of Justice is more repayable because of the attention to detail, which drew be back to the film again and again, and the reason I watched the film 6 times. Things like the Man-Bat sequence being an allegory for Batman's good will being corrupted by his hatred for Superman. Or Bruce Wayne asserting early on the film that promises are worthless ("we've seen what promises are worth, Alfred") then promising Superman that Martha won't die tonight.
This, in addition to the beautiful cinematography -- almost every frame in this film could be a painting. Not only is the film visually pretty, but Snyder uses cinematography as a storytelling technique. My favourite example being the Superman montage. Almost every frame in that stretch of the film encapsulates the notion that Superman is distant from humanity. Such as the Day of The Dead shot of the human beings extending their hands and failing to touch Superman with the tip of his fingers, Superman in the midst of empty space rescuing the satellite, and Superman dragging the ship in the middle of the ice, or something. I dunno.
Snyder's directing should not go unnoticed. Regardless of your opinion of him as a storyteller, his directing is often outstanding. Batman scurrying across the ceiling like a xenomorph, and vanishes like a bat is an imaginative and animated introduction to the character and certified him as a badass. Wonder Woman's entrance as Zimmer's and Junkie XL's Danny Elfman's "The Spy Kids" inspired theme of the character is one of the finest minute moments of the film.
Let's contrast all of this with Spider-Man's entrance in Civil War - directed by Anthony and Joe Russo... two directors who became famous for writing and directing Television. Superman's in suit entrance in the film is rather straightforward and bland. This is a personification of Batman v. Superman's sublimity in directing, in contrast to the bland and uninspired directing of Civil War, in which Spider-Man just kinda . It's fun, but nothing interesting from a directing standpoint.
Similarly, the pro registration and rebel team respectfully assembling side by side to oppose each other is boringly filmed. Dawn of Justice, on the other hand, when the Trinity first assembles, Snyder cleverly framed the trio from behind in a beautiful shot before panning to an upfront shot of the trinity.
Polarising as he may be, Zack Snyder is often poised as one of the most interesting action-directors of the 21st century. The Dawn of The Dead opening is testament to this. To shamelessly self plug, I wrote a blog breaking down the action sequences in DoJ and concluded the action had more than it's share of flaws. The best thing being the phenomenal warehouse sequence.
This is where The Russo Brother outclassed Snyder. The CGI is excessive in parts - in particular Tony's face looking like Robert Downey Jr's head floating behind a green screen, and Spider-Man looking a tad bit out of place. But the action is dynamic and plausible.
In Dawn of Justice, the action sequences play more like animated storyboards, with each fighter slowly making their movies. For example, Doomsday standing as Wonder Woman unleashes a blast against him. Or Superman standing as Batman reloads his Kryptonite grenade gun.
Writing is where Civil War excels the most. This exists not only as cargo to unload unto the Snyder hate train (to quote @mazahs117 on this thread), but also as a testimony to Markus's and McFeely's talent as writers. Their ability to set up so much in so little is outstanding. Tony's introduction in the film doesn't only introduce the character, but also sets up his relationship with his parents, Pepper leaving him for breaking his promise, and the mother's reaction to her son dying.
In the span of 2 hours and 27 minutes: Iron Man and Captain America's dynamic is explored, Bucky as a character is sympathetic AND badass, Scarlett Witch is portrayed as fearful of her own powers, Sam Wilson and War Machine both share their own perspectives, Black Widow is the most familial / caring of the family, comforting Steve after Peggy's death, and checking up on Tony after the Airport Battle. Hell, Black Panther completes a character arc in 10 minutes. Which, for such a minor character, is impressive.
DoJ on the other hand, had less characters, but struggled to utilise them to at least the same degree of Markus and McFeely's work on Civil War. Martha is a plot device with less dialogue then you can count on two hands, Lois Lane is barely a character, Superman and Batman lack gravity, and even if, like me, you love the film, you've gotta admit that two lines for each character is very disappointing for the first ever live action meeting of the two characters.
Likewise, when the film wants to slyly set something up, be in thematically on narratively, Terrio finds the need to halt the film. The Man-Bat dream supports my claim.
That said, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice explored it's themes in ways that Civil War DIDN'T. In a recent thread, user @slayz highlighted that the Metropolis opening of the film depicts how humbled the presence of gods on earth makes humans feel. Snyder catches a LOT of flack for just telling instead of showing. When, in the case of Civil War, you are literally shown a montage of the death of blank-faces. Compare that with Batman v. Superman, which brought you up close and intimate with the humans to an incredibly relatable degree.
I'm about to say the most controversial thing on this blog. That's this: I find Lex Luthor to be a better villain than Zemo. Don't get me wrong, Zemo is far better than every other Marvel villain that ISN'T Loki. His attempted suicide after his lap victory towards the end of the film is a fantastic character moment. But we don't GET Zemo's motivations till the final 15 minutes of the film. It can be argued that Lex's motivation isn't explored till the Rooftop Battle, but his personality and character came out through every scene. In Daniel Bruhl's case, his character, leading up to that end, was a blank case, which doesn't make a strong case in favour of him.
Something else that bothered me in Civil War above everything else is the final 5 minutes of the film. Imagine if Batman resolved with Gotham before they sent off The Dark Knight. They undermine Zemo's victory by having Steve and Tony reconcile by the end of the film. In Dawn of Justice: yes, Superman is resurrected minute's after, but that doesn't undermine the impact of his death at all. Batman is still inspired, and still putting together the Justice League himself.
Thank you for reading. Signing out.