Be warned: minor spoilers ahead for Civil War and Batman v. Superman. So if you have not watched those films yet, I would hold off on reading this article.
Let’s get one thing out of the way, I am not a huge marvel fan. I don’t hate marvel movies, I actually like a lot of them, but sometimes I have a hard time with the way Marvel handles their plots. I just feel that Marvel as a company is more concerned with the monetary value of their characters than the value those characters have in a narrative sense. Marvel wants to continue to make spin off movies with their characters because those movies make boatloads of cash; so they don’t allow their characters to ever come to any meaningful harm. To me, this makes it harder to take the plot seriously, because I can rest assured that none of my favorite characters will suffer any consequences that can’t be explained away in the next film.
With that being said, I think Civil War was a really good movie. Probably one of my favorite Marvel movies up there with Deadpool and the first Iron Man. The action scenes were masterfully done, the dialogue was as witty as ever, and the plot was engaging without taking itself too seriously. All in all, I think the movie worked really well.
The reason the movie worked so nicely was because it understood what it was. It’s a colorful adventure full of snarky banter and insane superhero throw downs; not a grim-dark tale of death and despair. The directors of Civil War understood that fundamentally, they were making a comic book movie. With this understanding they were able to, for the most part, leave the social commentary out and focus on creating an engaging setup that allowed us to watch our favorite superheros beat the crap out of each other. Civil War understood that it is closer to a kid smashing his action figures together than a Shakespearean Drama, and it was better for it.
I’ll be honest, when I left my screening of Civil War, I was upset that no one really important had been seriously injured or killed. I felt like the marketing for the film had promised me that this movie was going to contain some serious consequences for its characters, not a feel good ending where everyone essentially makes it out scot-free. I get that now the Avengers are divided and a lot of them are now in hiding, but that just didn’t feel like something that can’t be fixed as soon as the next big baddie comes along and the world needs the Avengers to protect them again. I was just disappointed that the movie had a happy ending when it seemed that we were going to get something with a little more gravitas.
After thinking that through a little bit though, I don’t think I would have had the film end any other way. It’s a comic book movie, it’s supposed to have a happy ending. The movie is about the ability of its characters to weather the storm, to triumph over their hardships. Civil War is not supposed to be an art film about the moral and physical tole being a hero takes on a person. If you want to watch that movie, go see Watchmen.
Speaking of movies directed by Zack Snyder, that idea of making a comic book movie a serious character study is exactly why Batman V. Superman didn’t work. Snyder tried to make a billionaire in a bat costume fighting a demi-god in tight blue pants a serious reflection on the folly of mankind and its fear of the unknown. Those things just don’t gel well with each other.
Snyder failed to recognize that he was directing a comic book movie, not a Greek tragedy. Civil War’s directors knew that they were creating a story about witty people with superpowers hitting each other really hard, and still managed to inject a certain amount of seriousness into the plot. That’s why Civil War worked; not because it was a rumination on the consequences of our actions, but because it understood that in the end, all we wanted to see was Captain America punch Iron Man in the face.