6 Lessons We Learned From 2016’s Superhero Movies


6) Film First, Franchise Second

Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

In this age of cinematic universes, superhero movies are becoming less like standalone blockbusters and more like feature-length television episodes, telling one part of an ongoing story. The trick is in balancing the two; serving up a compelling movie with a beginning, middle and end while also linking into the wider shared universe. In 2016, there were two movies, in particular, that had to deal with this issue. Generally speaking, one handled the task a lot better than the other.

On the positive side, Captain America: Civil War mostly succeeded in this respect. On the one hand, it was a film heavily reliant on preceding movies and left a big question mark at the end that will be picked up in Avengers: Infinity War. Likewise, it introduced characters like Spider-Man and Black Panther who will appear in their own solo movies soon. Despite the lengthy checklist it had to tick off, however, the movie managed to handle them with a deft hand and ensured that, first and foremost, it worked as a standalone piece. At the very least, it managed to serve up enough thrills in itself that we didn’t mind the unanswered questions.


As the title suggests, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice went the other way. Ostensibly a sequel to Man of Steel, it piled on the elements in a rushed attempt to kickstart the DC Extended Universe. Meeting Ben Affleck’s Batman should have been enough, but we also got an extended cameo from Wonder Woman and a laughable sequence of teaser trailers for Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg.

Oh, and let’s not forget those head-scratching dream sequences which presumably hint at the plot of Justice League. On the whole, BvS totally forgot that the first step in creating a franchise should be to make a great standalone movie first. In short, the film’s excessive teasing of the future just left us wishing we could cut out the middleman and go straight to Justice League instead.

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