Kenneth Turan‘s 5.5 L.A. Times review of Captain America: Civil War contends that the film will play much better for hardcore Marvel devotees than for the less fanatical or the uninitiated. The underlying suggestion is that perhaps Turan himself struggled to recall all the backstory connections when he saw it, but we’ll let that go.
While reading this a related thought came to mind, which is basically that there may be a current of personal expression in CA:CW as well as Batman v Superman that hardcore fans might be missing. Okay, so it’s not related.
Both are about responses to blowback over mass urban destruction caused by battles between superheroes and supervillains. Batman is hugely pissed at Superman for the destruction caused by his battle with General Zod in Man of Steel, and the Avengers have been told by governmental authorities that vast wreckage and public trauma caused by previous slugfests requires them to agree to U.N. supervision.
You could theoretically use the following as either a subtitle or copy line on the ads for both films: Out of control, gone too far — now it’s time for consequences.
But all this chaos and charred rubble (which has also been abundant in the last couple of Transformer films not to mention San Andreas and a few Roland Emmerich films I could mention) is not really character-driven. Yes, Superman and the Avengers had to do battle because it was the right or necessary thing, but the vast, cacophonous scale of the destruction was created by the filmmakers — by Zack Snyder and the Russo brothers because big-ass buildings toppling over and whole sections of cities being drowned or falling into huge earthquake pits and transformed into 9/11 ash heaps looks cool.
And yet — if this isn’t a snapshot of the arrogance of the Hollywood superhero machine I don’t know what — the filmmakers have then turned around and forced their characters, who live, of course, in the realm of story and film, to deal with the blowback from mass destruction brought about by Snyder and Russo brothers — by a kneejerk belief in intense destructo-porn on the part of the whole corporate team (filmmakers, CG technicians, production and marketing execs, corporate employers), all of whom live, of course, in the non-fictional, real-deal, profit-seeking realm of here and now.
You could almost argue that in this particular sense BvS and CA:CW are fourth-wall breakers.
You could go further and view BvS and CA:CW as cinematic guilt-therapy exercises. In a sense these films are about Snyder and the Russo brothers throwing up their hands and asking themselves “how fucking shallow and rote and robotic are we as alleged creative types that, for all of our talent in terms of narrative discipline or visual trippiness, we rely so excessively and repeatedly on CG destruction in order to really get a rise out of audiences? Maybe we need to not only address this in our own lives but transfer this shit onto our characters and make them deal with it, and in so doing we can maybe experience some form of self-examination and punishment by osmosis.”