This piece was entitled for concision. Its longer, more accurate title would be “Why Captain America: Civil War is a Bigger Deal for the MCU than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is for the DCEU.” This is not about which flick has higher anticipation, box office numbers, or Rotten Tomato scores. This is not about which will be the better picture. 2016 is going to be a huge year for the superhero genre, and no two movies are going to be “bigger” than these two. This is an argument that Civil War plays a much larger role in the overall story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than Dawn of Justice does for its respective universe.
In terms of building suspense, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment could have handled their upcoming film much better. The companies have everything to lose; this is the bedrock of their shared universe. The plot isn’t even the issue at hand. Sure, it’s a cliché: heroes meet, they fight briefly, they come to an understanding. Even so, it still has the potential to be a great blockbuster. The real missed opportunity is on a much larger scale: the way they’ve incorporated the Justice League.
Fans expected nothing when Iron Man came out in 2008; it was just a new standalone comic book adaption. But everything changed when Nick Fury appeared after the credits to discuss the “Avengers Initiative.” Suddenly, there was curiosity, anticipation, and excitement over what was to come. Dawn of Justice may have a similar post-credits stinger, one that reveals a city under the sea, or shows a red streak zip through Central City. That would be amazing, but it wouldn’t have the same effect as the “Avengers Initiative” reveal.
DC has already announced a full slate of films from 2017 through 2020 (Aquaman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Shazam, Green Lantern Corps, a Justice League two-parter, and a number of still unnamed projects). Fans know what’s coming; the suspense is gone. The DC Extended Universe has virtually nothing at stake with Batman v Superman.
The MCU, on the other hand, has everything at stake with the upcoming Captain America. Take a look at Marvel Studio’s slate for Phase 3, post-Civil War:
- Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017
- Untitled Spider-Man film – July 7, 2017
- Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017
- Black Panther – February 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 – May 4, 2018
- Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018
- Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019
- Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 – May 3, 2019
- Inhumans – July 12, 2019
Two original Avengers are on this list are in Ragnarok (Thor and Hulk), and neither one of them are in Civil War. Meanwhile, Ant-Man and Spider-Man are both in the film, but presumably won’t be center stage. Black Panther is the only character on the list that looks to be a quasi-major player in Cap, and he’s only being introduced in it.
Civil War is not the same old “heroes fight, then become friends” cliché. At least one character is going to die in the line of duty, presumably. Speculation suggests that it will be a secondary character, like War Machine or Falcon (or both). However, there’s a very likely possibility that a core Avenger will fall during the film’s climax. Marvel can easily go the route of the comics, as many are suspecting, and kill the titular Star Spangled Avenger. Or, since readers will be expecting that, the filmmakers may decide to sacrifice the billionaire that ignited the MCU: Iron Man.
The bottom line is that no one knows what the Avengers line-up will look like in the wake of the war. You can suck the fun out of it by saying, “well, ‘Actor X’ has another movie on his contract,” or, “‘Actor Y’ said that he wants to return.” The fact remains that no one knows for sure. This is the world of Marvel; even if someone dies, he or she can make a comeback, somehow.
That an argument like this can even exist proves the point. There will be no in-depth speculation pieces written about the future of DC after their summer blockbuster; it’s all easily inferred from the promo material. Marvel, on the other hand, has generated nothing but speculation about the future of the franchise.
DC is not entirely at fault. We live in a post-Avengers world; fans expect big, shared cinematic universes. Even if Warner Brothers had kept their slate a secret, fans probably would have been expecting it anyway. Maybe they figured, “why bother?” or didn’t want to be accused of copying Marvel’s formula. No one can blame them for trying to be original. Still, it would have been nice to go into BvS with some sense of wonder. Hopefully Zack Snyder manages to surprise fans with something not yet announced.
It’s unfortunate that these two flicks are both coming out in 2016. The close proximity to one another has already led to countless comparisons and arguments (like this one), when they’re really trying to accomplish different goals. Civil War is the thirteenth part of a franchise that’s looking to remain fresh. It should have much larger repercussions, especially when compared to only the second installment of a franchise. The Avengers would be a more apt comparison to Batman v Superman, and The Avengers had nothing at stake for the MCU’s arc either.
Dawn of Justice will hopefully be an amazing, gritty superhero story. But that won’t change the fact that it leaves very little suspense for its Cinematic Universe, especially when compared to its 2016 rival, Civil War.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens March 25, 2016.
Captain America: Civil War opens May 6, 2016.