WARNING: the following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Captain America: Civil War
Yes, there are a ton of differences between Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War, and they originate from more than just the fact that the former is the official launching-off point of the DC Extended Universe and the latter is the 13th(!) entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: there’s been a huge discrepancy in critical opinion, ticket sales, and, even, social media chatter.
And yet, for all of that, it turns out that there is quite a few similarities between the two movies – so much, in fact, that one could argue that, structurally speaking, they are actually two slight variations on the same theme. Don’t believe us? Let’s sit down and index the 10 Eerie Similarities between Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman.
(Before we get started, you might want to refresh yourself on Civil War’s biggest spoilers and reveals, just to help you follow along.)
10 They really are civil wars
Yes, both Batman v Superman and Civil War have narratives that cover many different bases and service many different threads, and, yes, both films have a Darth Sidious-esque arch-villain that pits the heroes against one another (more on this in just a moment), but, ultimately, the heart of each movie is the titular brawl between our protagonists – neither is a clever (or not-so-clever, depending on one’s perspective) marketing gimmick simply meant to get audiences in the theater.
Batman’s (Ben Affleck) fight with Superman (Henry Cavill), which starts off being philosophical and ends up literal, is the defining moment of that story, the core around which everything else rotates; Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) forming his own rival team of Avengers to take on Captain America’s (Chris Evans) squad provides the narrative glue that keeps everything bound together, from the opening flashback to the two future-heavy post-credit scenes.
9 The puppetmaster
Although Marvel has been keen to show the many differences in temperament and worldview that exist between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers (and to even have them boil over and explode into fisticuffs, as quickly happens in Avengers: Age of Ultron), there is an external driving force that pits the two former comrades onto their titular collision course – and, no, it’s not the intervention of the international community that one ends up agreeing with and the other fundamentally rejects. It’s actually Colonel Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), a man who has become obsessed with extracting revenge against the Avengers for inadvertently killing his family during the Battle of Sokovia, who conspires to turn the two leaders against one another, realizing that only one superhero could end up besting the other.
On the DC side, it is none other than Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who is solely responsible for making the two superpowered heavyweights duke it out, taking a much more proactive and direct hand in doing so – he subtly manipulates Bruce Wayne over the course of the past 18 months, stoking his flames of fear and resentment against Superman, while simultaneously kidnapping Clark Kent’s mother and threatening to murder her unless Supes gets in the ring and kills Batman.
8 Superpowered menaces
It’s not enough that Zemo and Luthor pull our protagonists’ strings and force a faceoff – they also have as part of their mastermind plans a superpowered menace to reign down on the heroes, a seemingly unstoppable force that proves to be one of the most challenging foes either set of characters have yet faced. For Batman v Superman, it’s Doomsday (Robin Atkin Downes), a genetic monstrosity bred from a mix of Kryptonian DNA and Lex’s own blood; in Civil War, it’s none other than the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) himself, who has his HYDRA brainwashing kicked back in at the deft hands of Helmut Zemo.
What’s interesting to note here is precisely how these baddies factor into their respective stories. Doomsday is Luthor’s contingency plan, his backup scenario in case those silly superheroes Batman and Superman find a way out of killing one another; Winter Soldier, meanwhile, is part-and-parcel of Zemo’s meticulous agenda of ever-more-tightly ratcheting up the tensions between Team Cap and Team Iron Man.
7 The villains’ fates
Just in case the byzantine machinations and the unleashing of supervillains wasn’t enough, the parallels in Captain America’s and Dawn of Justice’s antagonists continues with their ultimate fates. In the former, Helmut Zemo, confident that vengeance will at least be satisfied from knowing that the Avengers will never be a whole team again, attempts to find solace in a quick suicide but is apprehended by Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman); in the latter, Lex Luthor is arrested by authorities once they realize that Doomsday’s rampage across Metropolis was at his hands.
Having both adversaries wind up behind bars may seem like nothing extraordinary – that’s the common resolution for most bad guys in Hollywood, after all – but the fact that Marvel typically disposes of its baddies by the end of each film makes this a noteworthy parallel. Additionally, both Marvel Studios and Warners Bros. have already announced that both characters will end up playing a role in the future of their respective cinematic universes, adding to the importance of their end statuses.
6 A new fighter approaches
As Superman and Batman are busy attempting to keep Doomsday at bay, a mysterious figure pops up in the midst of battle to help and try to turn the tide: Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who was revealed to be a metahuman earlier in the film but whose true powers aren’t revealed until the climactic battle. Similarly, as Captain America is attempting to rescue the innocent Winter Soldier from authorities, the enigmatic Blank Panther appears seemingly out of nowhere, attempting to claim Bucky’s hide as his own. Viewers soon learn this is T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda, and his quest for vengeance is so great, he allies himself with Tony Stark’s Avengers in order to get a second chance at killing the Winter Soldier.
In both instances, the arrival of this superpowered third-party dramatically alters the dynamics of the story – and of their universes’ futures.
Speaking of which…
5 The newcomer as bridge-builder
When the dust settles at the end of both movies, the superhero status quo has changed – perhaps irrevocably so. In BvS, Clark Kent lies dead, and Bruce Wayne vows to round up the collection of metahumans that Lex Luthor had been keeping track of so assiduously for the past year-and-a-half; in Cap, Steve Rogers rescues his imprisoned teammates and forges a new team with a new base of operations for themselves, attempting to stay one step ahead of the law.
What’s so interesting in comparing the two – beyond the simple fact of having new (counter) teams being birthed – is the central role that the mysterious newcomers to the respective narratives play. It is Diana Prince who agrees to help Bruce scour the globe for the various metas indexed in Luthor’s files (and given her centuries of experience and Batman’s rather dour personality, he’s going to need it); T’Challa is the one who not only grants the Secret Avengers political asylum in Wakanda, but who also endeavors to help cure Bucky Barnes of his HYDRA brainwashing.
4 The lesson of self-control
Almost out of necessity (to justify the inter-conflict-ridden premises), Civil War and Dawn of Justice are filled with heaping helpings of vengeance, fear, and anger (more on this, again, in a moment). What’s interesting to note is that at least some of the characters involved in the proceedings – and, arguably, the most caught up with the notion of revenge – end up learning an important lesson about the value not necessarily of letting go, but certainly of holding back.
To wit: when Black Panther finally catches up to Colonel Helmut Zero and is ready to claim his life, he sees what price the Sokovanian has paid for with his vengeance – and what it’s currently doing to Iron Man downstairs, in the heart of the Winter Soldier compound. Instead of murder, T’Challa choses justice, apprehending the terrorist and turning him over to the authorities. And Lex Luthor finds his bodily well-being spared twice over – first from an irate Superman, who declines to kill the wily businessman after learning that his mother has been kidnapped, and then by Batman, who opts to withhold his savage practice of branding his victims.
3 Murder in his eyes
This really is one of the most important – and one of the most delicate – developments in either film; it pushes protagonists on both sides of the cinematic divide into dangerously anti-heroic territory, potentially compromising audience identification with or support of them. In both Civil War and Dawn of Justice, some of our superheroes do everything in their power to be murderers.
Of course, the movies also go to great lengths to justify the characters’ rationale for the attempted homicides. For Iron Man, it’s a crime of passion, learning at the very end of the film that it was none other than the Winter Soldier who killed his parents 25 years previously; for Batman, it’s a cold and calculated move, weighing the effects of what a Superman-gone-rogue would have on all of humanity – even if there’s just a one-percent chance of this ever happening – and deciding that definitively killing one individual against millions of potential causalities is a no-brainer.
2 A change of heart
Bruce Wayne wants to put down Superman thanks to the sheer potential for mass damage should the alien decide to turn against humanity, and the Dark Knight goes to great lengths to enact his plan, stealing Kryptonite, designing a battle suit of armor, and engaging in a vicious, no-holds-barred fight. Once he’s forced to stop for just a moment and hear Clark out, however, he realizes that his foe actually is human (well, metaphorically, at least), and that, furthermore, he’s been manipulated by Lex the entire time.
In exactly the same vein, Tony Stark gears up for battle against Steve Rogers, even going so far as to recruit a number of former Avengers and brand-new enhanced individuals who are (relatively) new on the scene in order to create the perfect task force to take him down. Once fists are flying and some of Cap’s team is incarcerated, though, Iron Man comes to realize that the whole reason behind his now-rival’s actions was correct – Bucky Barnes is innocent of the United Nations bombing. As such, Stark ends up violating the Sokovia Accords himself to go and lend a helping hand (in this scenario, however, the era of good feelings proves to be a short-lived one).
1 Spinning off (even more) movies
It’s always a delicate balancing act in these shared-universe mega-event films, servicing previous continuity while setting up future storylines, and what is arguably the most interesting parallel between DC and Marvel’s latest is how both companies opted to take the exact same approach to doing world-building: by dropping in brand-new characters out of the clear blue sky for the express purpose of teasing future spinoff movies.
For Captain America, there are two new arrivals, each of whom gets a decent amount of screentime in the film proper and even has an after-credits scene to foreshadow their future individual adventures in their respective home environments: T’Challa is now the king of Wakanda and the new Black Panther both, and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is given a Tony Stark-designed and -built Spider-Man costume – along with a direct line of communication to Iron Man himself.
For Dawn of Justice, it’s half of the Justice League roster: the Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), although their presences are limited here to just a quick cameo appearance in the form of a short video clip stowed away in Lex Luthor’s comprehensive databank. It’s just enough to quickly introduce the essence of each character – and, in the case of the Flash, to do a bit of time-traveling, to help set up a future plot point from Justice League, Part I.
Have you found even more similarities between the two tent-pole films? Would you have liked to see either less or more of these parallels? Let the world know in the comments.