Why ‘Civil War’ Worked But ‘Batman v. Superman’ Didn’t

What is the single factor as to why Captain America: Civil War worked and Batman v. Superman didn’t?

Adaptations Comics & Graphic Novels Pop Culture

Before I address the subject at hand, I would just like to remind you that it’s possible for somebody on the internet to be a fan of both Marvel and DC. I believe both properties introduce something unique and engaging to comics, and it’s only with them working together that makes the superhero genre so great. Unfortunately, there’s something different to be said about their cinematic universes. While the MCU has become a cultural touchstone – I’d go so far as to declare it this generation’s Star Wars – the DCEU has desperately tried to ride the coattails of Marvel’s success, and nowhere is that more clear than in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I’m far from the first to compare this to Captain America: Civil War, but I think doing so will most accurately illustrate why Marvel has gained such tremendous success and why DC has not.

The main conflict of Civil War is that the world’s governments have all banded together and created the Sokovia Accords, a set of legal documents designed to regulate the activities of the superhumans that, so far, have had free reign do go wherever and do whatever they wanted. Tony Stark is willing to sign the Accords, believing that, after he almost doomed humanity by creating Ultron, he and the others should be “put in check”. Steve Rodgers believes otherwise, saying that governments are run by people, that people have agendas, and that “the safest hands are still our own”. Both sides raise very convincing points, and people are still arguing online which one was right to this day. 



Now what’s the main conflict in Batman v. Superman? Batman doesn’t trust Superman because of his immense, god-like powers, and that, if he were to suddenly turn against humanity, nobody would be able to stop him. On the other hand, Superman doesn’t trust Batman because of the excessive violence he exerts against criminals; he sees him as a dangerous vigilante that shouldn’t be left to roam free. I’m convinced that this by itself could have been a really great movie, but the only problem was everything that eventually leads to Batman and Superman fighting each other was orchestrated by Lex Luthor. 

Batman sees Superman as too much of a threat because of the thousands of innocent lives he indirectly took when he fought General Zod in Metropolis in Man of Steel. This is by far the single best idea in Batman v. Superman, and could have granted the film the philosophical weight it so desperately desired to have. Can one man have too much power, even if his intentions are good? The problem is that Batman doesn’t decide himself to stop Superman, only after Lex Luthor provoked him by sending him anonymous letters. 

Superman, however, doesn’t even know that Batman is gunning for him. Lex Luthor doesn’t waste much energy manipulating him, instead repeatedly picking at Batman’s scabbed over wound. Superman only fights Batman at the end because Lex Luthor is holding his mother hostage until he does, and this is why Civil War worked where Batman v. Superman didn’t, because in Civil War, the fight was personal. 


Iron Man and Captain America’s climactic fight | Imagine via CinemaBlend


Tony Stark and Steve Rogers fought because of a difference in philosophy. They were best friends, but they felt so strongly about their stances that they couldn’t let the other do what they thought was wrong. Now I know what you’re probably thinking, and I know that there was a villain in Civil War that sewed division between the Avengers, but what Zemo did differently to Lex Luthor was that all he did was release information – specifically, that Bucky Barnes, Steve’s best friend, was the one who killed Tony’s parents. Even though Bucky did so while under the mind control of Hydra, Tony, blind with rage, tries to kill him, and Steve tries to stop him. The fight between Tony and Steve becomes even more personal with Zemo’s interference, while the exact opposite happens with Lex Luthor.

Civil War worked because the stakes were personal, while Batman v. Superman didn’t work because the stakes were impersonal – which is a real shame to say, because I don’t like that the DCEU failed, but maybe that’s for the best. DC has abandoned the cinematic universe, and instead has been releasing self-contained stories of their characters, and with the success of Shazaam, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Joker, maybe they finally have their own identity again, instead of just being known as the company trying to copy Marvel.

image via whatculture.com