As a fan of DC Comics in general and Superman specifically since, well, the moment I learned how to read, it pains me to say this.
But Disney’s Marvel Film Studios yet again showed DC how it’s done.
Captain America: Civil War, on its own merits, is easily one of the best comic book superhero movies ever made — only the existence of the previous studio’s previous Avengers movies and Captain America: The Winter Soldier keep it from being the absolute best — and also an incredible action/political suspense movie that provides commentary on current real-world issues that non-comic book fans could easily enjoy, and it manages to have a lot going on all the time yet still never feel bloated or too busy.
Thanks to the release earlier this year of DC’s attempt at building an Avengers-like cinematic universe for its Justice League characters with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, though, it is impossible to look at either movie without comparing them. And in the end, there’s simply no comparison. Civil War succeeds at everything Batman v Superman tried and failed miserably to accomplish.
It begins with that cinematic universe building, too. Civil War is Marvel’s 13th movie in this universe, so we’ve spent a lot of time with these versions of these characters. And from the start, Marvel Studios has shown an understanding and care for the characters themselves that is unparalleled in any other book-to-film adaption. Chris Evans’ Captain America IS the Captain America from the comics, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man IS the Iron Man from the comics, and the same can be said for practically every other character in Civil War.
We know these characters. We’ve seen them grow and go through a lot together, and never once have we questioned their motivations or thought “that’s not what Captain America would do in that situation!” But with the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe — veterans of in-the-know nerd favorite TV shows like Arrested Development and Community — directing, that’s not a surprise at all. The same cannot be said for Batman v Superman (*cough* Martha *cough*).
This also shines through in the dialogue. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who also wrote the first two movies in the Captain America standalone trilogy, penned a terrific piece of cinema, full of funny, touching and haunting moments while showing how dangerous it can be when the people in power have a difference in political ideaology and are unwilling or unable to compromise.
The best part about that, though? All of the dialogue actually feels like real people speaking to one another. And none of it is out of line with what we know of these characters from the previous movies — none of the witty quips feel planned or out of place. That’s just the way Tony Stark is. In Batman v Superman, however, everyone was too busy giving long-winded, well-practiced and tought-out speeches in order to show just how smart and important the director of the movie is that they couldn’t be bothered to remotely resemble their comic book selves (Superman and Lex Luthor, particularly) or to speak like normal human beings.
Honestly. I love DC Comics and its characters. But get over yourselves, Batman v Superman apologists. It was terrible by every measurable metric, both objective and subjective, and we DC fans deserve better. Accept it.
Marvel, however, knows that it’s the little touches that make a character feel like a person, not just a vessel for the director’s thoughts. Even with all of the amazing and thrilling action sequences, the on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense and intrigue and the real-world political drama, my favorite part of the entire thing was two people arguing about the position of a car’s seat.
Civil War continues to build on the foundation that’s already been laid down, focusing on the consequences of everything that has happened in the previous Avengers and Captain America movies. The world’s governments have decided that someone must be held accountable for the events in New York, Washington D.C. and Sokovia. The Avengers may have been protecting the world and doing what they thought was right — but even they can’t save everybody, and someone had to clean up the broken cities and people left in their wake.
The way the government decides to do this makes sense — and splits the team. Team Stark thinks that oversight is necessary, while Team Cap thinks that the team should maintain its freedom and autonomy. This plays out in a different way than in the comics, but the changes made for the screen make complete sense and still remain faithful to the spirit of the source material. This is a personal story about two friends that disagree about how their team should operate, and the ramifications of their argument could have dire consequences.
Of course, there’s even more going on, especially in a movie with so many characters. This movie could easily have been called Avengers 2.5, since it brings back many of the heroes we’ve already been introduced to, and they all get their moment in the sun (especially Ant-Man). It also introduces us to new ones, like the awe-inspiring Black Panther and the rebooted yet again, but this time to absolute perfection Spiderman.
The movie may not be perfect, but it’s as close as it gets. And on the heels of Batman v Superman, it just looks even better. If you like comic books, or movies, or simply being entertained, see this movie.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.