Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Superhero Beatdowns: Raising the Stakes

Back in March I saw Batman v Superman, which was a real mess of a film.  Yesterday I finally got around to watching Avengers 2.5:  Civil War (ostensibly a Captain America film).  It was better than the second Avengers movie and certainly much better than BvS.

One area in particular was better:  the setup for the fight between the main heroes.  When Batman and Superman fought, there was really little point to it other than to echo The Dark Knight Returns.  There was really no reason for it other than Luthor kidnapped Superman's mommy and Batman had such a hard-on to kill Superman he fell right into the trap.  The resolution of the fight was pretty stupid too, though it did bring to light that strange coincidence their mommies have the same name.

In Civil War the setup is a little shaky in that how did Zemo know Falcon (or anyone else) would give up where Cap and Bucky were going to bring Iron Man there?  But once there, Iron Man learns that Bucky killed his parents as the Winter Soldier and that Cap found out about it after he got unthawed.  So when they get into an epic fight, there's actually some reason for them to fight, to have some hatred of each other.  And it doesn't end as stupidly as BvS; basically Cap and Bucky beat Iron Man and leave him.

In writing there's a lot of talk about establishing conflict.  The difference between these two movies is establishing conflict that means something, as opposed to just having two dudes fight for the hell of it.  For viewers to really care instead of just gawk at the screen, there has to be a convincing reason for them to be fighting.  Even if you're not having superheroes fight, you need a convincing reason for any conflict in your story to happen.  Unlike real life, things in novels can't just happen randomly or readers will get annoyed.  At the same time, it can't be so contrived that it's implausible.  Like if you have a character who's an alcoholic he can't just decide one day to get clean; there has to be an inciting event that causes him to hit rock bottom and change his ways.  Or if you have a character who's being abused, she can't just decide one day to not take it anymore.  And if you have a semi-retired superhero, he can't just decide to kill another superhero because that guy might one day, possibly do something bad.  That just doesn't make sense.

While comparing the two movies, Civil War did a better job of inserting its new characters.  The Spider-Man addition was a little forced, but some of that was probably that the movie was already under production when Marvel got the character back.  Black Panther was inserted far better.  Both were much more smoothly than the Flash and Aquaman in BvS.  Oh, hey, it's Aquaman and the Flash for absolutely no reason!  And they contribute nothing to the plot.  At least Spider-Man does stuff.

And of course far less obvious plot holes in Civil War.  Though I did wonder why German special forces were in Bucharest, Romania.  Germany didn't annex Romania, did they?

For all those reasons and more, Marvel still owns DC as far as cinematic universes go.


  1. Great points and it's good to hear Civil War is worth seeing.

  2. Hi human, Pat,

    A most interesting pawst. Isn't "Civil War", a bit of an oxymoron? Arf!

    Pawsitive wishes,


    1. Axl Rose wondered the same thing in the Guns n Roses song "Civil War."

  3. I absolutely agree with you. Establishing conflict is very important and it seems that some Hollywood screenwriters forget about it or don't know how to it. Your explanation about it is spot on.

  4. The movies are a perfect examples of the good and bad way to establish conflict. BvS felt like the third act was written first and they worked backwards. CW felt like an escalation of tensions we'd seen in several of the previous films. Great points



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