2016 is going to be an important year for the superhero/comic book film genre; not only in terms of the sheer number of superhero movies that will be reaching theaters, but also the variation in content and tone of these films (raising questions about how useful the “superhero movie” label is, anymore). Tim Miller’s Deadpool and Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange, for example, are both based on popular niche Marvel Comics characters, yet they are completely different animals – the former of them being a raunchy action/comedy, the latter a trippy fantasy with elements of supernatural horror – and look to prove as much when they arrive next year.
The three superhero movie “events” that will be arriving in 2016 – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, and X-Men: Apocalypse – have all received new trailers, just in time for the December 2015 holiday film season – more specifically, the theatrical release of Star Wars: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens. These three comic book tentpoles have their similarities too, yet are quite different in their own ways – and if all goes well, each will prove to be a worthwhile addition to the genre. But, for the sake of discussion, we pose the question: which looks the most promising so far, based on their most recently-unveiled theatrical preview?
Of course this isn’t an indication of how much money these films will ultimately make, just a fun look at how the three trailers help build hype for their respective movies. Feel free and weigh in with your own thoughts as we break-down the situation, below!
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
The Good: The latest (last?) Batman v Superman theatrical trailer effectively showcases Kal-El/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) exchanging verbal and physical blows alike in Zack Snyder’s movie, while at the same time setting up key elements of the larger DC Extended Universe – specifically, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Furthermore, this preview suggest that the movie has the potential to continue expanding upon the narrative and themes of Snyder’s own Man of Steel, while at the same time organically integrating characters like the Caped Crusader into the mix – and providing the impressive action/drama that one would expect from Superman/Batman’s first live-action big screen crossover/showdown.
The Not So Good: However you felt about the preview’s Doomsday reveal (e.g. whether or not it was a spoiler), the new Batman v Superman trailer does raise bigger concerns that the intriguing Superman foe will end up being reduced to a one-and-done punching bag for DC’s Trinity to defeat in Snyder’s film (see the common complaint about villains in Marvel Studios movies). It’s likewise difficult to gauge how well Batman v Superman will be able to deliver a standalone Superman/Batman story, while at the same time fulfilling the universe-building responsibilities implied by its Dawn of Justice subtitle, based on what’s been shown. And when all is said and done, will these new interpretations of characters like Batman and Luther (and their relationship to Superman) actually resonate with the masses… or divide them (a la Man of Steel)?
The Short of It: With David Ayer’s Suicide Squad set to arrive less than six months after Batman v Superman hits theaters and Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman solo movie already in production, it’s safe to that Snyder’s film won’t derail Warner Bros./DC’s shared cinematic universe plans (a la The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Sony’s abandoned Spider-Man film universe) – regardless of how it’s received. All the same, everyone wants Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman’s first time sharing the screen together to be a good time – and for the time being, there’s (arguably) just as much reason to remain optimistic that this will happen as there is reason to be worried that it won’t.
Next Page: Civil War & Apocalypse Trailers
Captain America: Civil War
The Good: Captain America: Civil War hales from the same screenwriting/directing team that brought us Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the film’s first trailer suggests that Civil War could be an entertaining superhero political thriller in the vein of its predecessor – perhaps even smarter and more emotionally impactful by comparison, in addition to being “bigger.” Moreover, much like the Batman v Superman trailers, the Civil War theatrical preview suggests this film builds upon the foundation laid by its predecessor(s) – in this case, both of the previous two Captain America installments and Avengers movies alike – and includes the elements necessary to work as both a standalone sequel as well as an important building block in its respective shared universe (e.g. the Marvel Cinematic Universe).
The Not So Good: Civil War must not only carve out sufficient screen time for many returning Marvel movie characters (including every previously-introduced Avenger, save for The Hulk and Thor), but also introduce important Phase 3 superheroes such as T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and the new Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) – meaning, there’s a risk it will feel overstuffed in terms of characters and subplots. Moreover, since the first two Captain America films had rather different styles and genre flavors (WWII action/adventure and ’70s conspiracy thriller), there’s a risk Civil War will feel more like a rehash of The Winter Solider (in terms of tone and temperament), by comparison.
The Short of It: There are key similarities between Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War (including, how both films examine the often-strained relationship between government authorities and superheroes), though it’s fair to say that Civil War is the one that has less to prove – and seeing as Marvel Studio is a well-oiled production machine at this point, it’s also more of a surefire bet to clear a certain bar, quality-wise. Then again, that’s also an issue for Civil War; Marvel movies are a brand at this point and moviegoers know what to expect from them, in terms of their strengths and weaknesses alike. So, for those who’ve grown a bit tired of the Marvel formula at this stage, even something as ambitious as Civil War might not prove to be as interesting as it would have been, just a few years ago.
The Good: Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past reached a newfound level of critical/commercial acclaim for the X-Men franchise, and the X-Men: Apocalypse teaser trailer leaves no doubt that Singer and his collaborators are swinging to knock one out of the ballpark with their followup. The Apocalypse trailer also illustrates how this installment will tie back around and bring the narrative arc that began in X-Men: First Class full circle – bringing back characters like Moira McTaggert (Rose Byrne), while also building directly on the events that transpired during Days of Future Past. Plus, the addition of the acclaimed character actor Oscar Isaac as the eponymous Apocalypse already looks to payoff well, while the casting of several promising youngsters (Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi-Smit McPhee) as young versions of well-known X-Men could lead to bigger things in the actual film… and beyond.
The Not So Good: X-Men: Apocalypse‘s first trailer has already prompted concerns about the film’s ability to effectively adapt the Apocalypse comic book story for the big screen, while at the same time closing off the over-arching story threads for the First Class trilogy cast and thoroughly developing the younger versions of Jean Grey, Cyclops, and so forth. In addition, even more than Days of Future Past, Apocalypse looks to embrace a splashier and more theatrical style/tone that brings to mind the beloved X-Men carton series from the 1990s. Question is, will that style translate well into live-action, or result in a movie that feels overloaded with flashy, but flimsy, CGI and spectacle?
The Short of It: X-Men: Apocalypse has an overall easier job to manage than either Batman v Superman or Captain America: Civil War; seeing as Singer’s movie is not only closer to being purely a sequel than either of those films, it also arrives at a point in the X-Men franchise’s run where it doesn’t have to devote that much time/effort to setting up future installments. Nevertheless, as noted in our X-Men: Apocalypse trailer breakdown, there’s a lot that’s happening in just the movie’s first teaser alone. Question is, will the film be able to handle juggling all of those balls at once? Or is this X-Men: The Last Stand all over?
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens in U.S. theaters on March 25th, 2016, followed by Captain America: Civil War on May 6th, and X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27th.