If I’ve learned anything from the final rap battle in 8 Mile, it’s that an effective strategy to win an argument is to address the other side’s points so that they can’t use them against you. So, here it goes: None of the Captain America movies are better than The Dark Knight. I’ll repeat that so you can’t use that argument against me later: As a Captain America fanboy who bleeds Marvel, I can 100% admit that none of the Captain America films are better than the Batman classic, The Dark Knight.
So, there you have it. I agree. But, this article isn’t about whether the middle Captain America movie, The Winter Soldier, is better than the middle Batman movie, The Dark Knight. No, because I know I wouldn’t win that argument. But what I will say is that the Captain America trilogy AS A WHOLE, is superior to the Dark Knight trilogy, AS A WHOLE. You may be thinking that’s ludicrous since you’re so focused on The Dark Knight, but I have five reasons to prove why I feel this way. First Avenger (movies)!… Assemble!
Oh, and spoilers for both trilogies up ahead.
The Captain America Trilogy Had Ripple Effects Across An Entire Cinematic Universe, While The Dark Knight Trilogy Didn't Impact Any Other Movies
Now, depending on how you look at this point, you may hold this against the Captain America movies, as every Marvel/Disney movie is made to further the overarching narrative of the MCU. To wit, you might even respect the Dark Knight trilogy even more for telling a single story within the contained universe of one character. What I mean is, Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy isn’t a cog in the DC machine like Captain America is a cog in the MCU machine. And I get that point.
But I also see why the Captain America trilogy is more special because it’s a part of the MCU machine. Captain America’s arc from the first film, The First Avenger, to the last film in the trilogy, Civil War, shows just what an impact the events in all of his films had on the entire MCU. This makes each Captain America film feel even more vital in the overall thread of Marvel films.
Much more so, I would say, than the Dark Knight trilogy, which fits somewhere in a fragmented, nebulous DC universe where the Joker can have his own side story, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt can be Robin. The Dark Knight trilogy just feels a little inconsequential in the DC universe when compared with the pristine Captain America films in their shared universe.
Captain America: Civil War Is A Stronger Finish Than The Dark Knight Rises
I remember when I first saw The Dark Knight Rises in theaters. My good friend, Brian, asked me what I thought of it, and I gave him a big thumbs down. When he asked me why, I said, “Because it sucked?” Now, that was a very unpopular opinion when the film first came out, but many people now agree with me that it wasn’t the best possible conclusion following The Dark Knight. Bane felt like an afterthought with that whole Talia al Ghul reveal, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman had an undercooked feeling to her, and that conclusion with Batman in the Florence Café felt super cheap. Be honest. The Dark Knight Rises is nowhere near as good as The Dark Knight, and you know it.
But Captain America’s trilogy ends off on a banger. Many people don’t even consider Captain America: Civil War to be a Captain America movie at all since it’s more like The Avengers 2.5 with its large ensemble (I mean, this is the movie where we’re introduced to both Black Panther AND Tom Holland’s Spider-Man). But that’s bull since this is very much a Captain America movie.
The entire plot hinges on Cap’s moral beliefs that superheroes shouldn’t be run by the government. In this way, pro-American, Captain America, is the Republican to Iron Man’s Democratic sensibilities. In the end, both sides have a point, and those points wouldn’t be as salient if we hadn’t seen Captain America’s belief system over the course of three films. The Dark Knight Rises almost feels silly in comparison.
The First Avenger Actually Holds Up Better Than Batman Begins
When I first saw Batman Begins, I thought it was amazing. I loved The Scarecrow, I dug the League of Shadows, and I was really fascinated by Christian Bale’s take on the Dark Knight. In contrast, I found Captain America: The First Avenger to be pretty weak. I thought the period piece origin was lame, I thought Bucky’s “death” felt pointless, and I thought the Red Skull was corny.
But, after seeing where both trilogies eventually ended up, my opinions have flip-flopped. Scarecrow, while cool in Batman Begins, was cheapened in the later films. Ra’s al Ghul was interesting in the first movie, but I hated the reveal of his daughter in The Dark Knight Rises. And the awesome, troubled Batman we got in the first flick had him nodding to Alfred in that cheesy ending in the third.
Inversely, the period piece in The First Avenger feels novel now. Bucky came back as the freaking Winter Soldier in the sequel, and even the Red Skull returned in an awesome scene in Infinity War. So, yeah, Captain America: The First Avenger is better than Batman Begins, and I’m sticking to that statement.
The Dark Knight Is Better Than The Winter Soldier, But The Winter Soldier Is No Slouch, Either
I already admitted that The Dark Knight is better than Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the intro, and yeah, I’ll commit to that statement. Many people consider The Dark Knight to be the greatest comic book movie of all time (Not me, but other people do). And so in their eyes, it’s not even worth considering Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the discussion.
But I say, let’s consider it, since I still find Captain America: The Winter Soldier to be the best movie in the MCU. The Russo Brothers made an enthralling, pulse pounding espionage film that stands out from the other movies in the MCU. It’s a lot more grounded than almost all of the other MCU films, so it has more in common with The Dark Knight than any other Marvel film. It’s also the only film in the MCU that I view outside of just being a comic book flick and would actually compare it more to the Bourne series than the Marvel movies. The Winter Soldier is freaking phenomenal, and while it wasn’t the game-changer that The Dark Knight was, it’s still an excellent second movie in a great trilogy rather than just an excellent second movie in a GOOD trilogy. There, I said it.
Captain America Grew More As A Character Throughout His Trilogy Than Batman
Finally, I feel like Batman never really changes all that much throughout his trilogy. Well, besides costumes, of course. The Batman in Batman Begins is pretty much the same Batman in The Dark Knight Rises. Yeah, sure, Batman wants to hang up his cowl in TDKR and has to literally climb his way out of a hole to come back to being himself again. But at no point do you ever feel like he’s not going to do that throughout the course of that movie. The only film where Batman has massive character growth is in The Dark Knight when it comes to his feelings on Harvey Dent and his role in the city.
Steve Rogers, however, is always growing. From coming out of his era and being a man in a new time, to finding his best friend brainwashed, to fighting against his new friends because what they believe in goes against his core values, Captain America is always growing throughout his trilogy. This makes each movie feel like they’re connected by bridges rather than each film feeling like they’re on separate islands like the Batman movies sometimes do.
Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.
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