Daredevil v Punisher Was Everything Batman v Superman Wanted to Be
2016 is the year of huge superhero team-ups, or more accurately, the year of huge superhero battles. In the Marvel vs DC debate, Batman v Superman most often draws comparisons to Captain America: Civil War, since they're both tentpole blockbuster films. But in both basic plot structure and philosophical ambition, BvS is much more similar to another Marvel superhero battle: Daredevil vs. Punisher. And while I'm generally a DC person, in the battle of the superhero battles, Marvel most definitely reigned supreme.
Superficially, the overall formula for Batman v Superman and Daredevil vs Punisher was exactly the same. Both properties were ostensibly about the earnest, Boy Scout-esque hero, but the spotlight was stolen by the comparatively dark, tortured antihero. In both works, Boy Scout criticized the antihero for "taking the law into his own hands," even though he had been doing the exact same thing, with somewhat controversial results. Just as Punisher is, at his core, Daredevil on a "bad day," so is Batman's branding, torture, and murder the logical end of Superman using his power to enact justice on society without their permission.
The main difference between the two properties? Daredevil, while not perfect, was a successful exploration of these themes, while Batman v Superman was an utter failure. The Punisher arc of Daredevil's second season effectively laid out the philosophical conflict, contrasted the thought processes and personalities of the two heroes, and showed the pros and cons of both ethical positions. I was looking forward to seeing a movie that pitted Superman's idealism against Batman's grounded cynicism, but in Batman v Superman, the conflict was completely muddled. Batman hated Superman because people he cared about died in the battle against Zod. That part made sense. But then that got all mixed up with that confusingly shot desert scene in which Superman apparently didn't kill anyone, but everyone was mad at him anyway, and the explosion at the Capitol, which wasn't his fault at all. The notion that Batman would think Superman was simply too powerful to exist is a worthy one, but that theme got completely lost in useless subplots about experimental bullets, a perfunctory introduction to the Justice League, and a CGI-heavy showdown with Doomsday.
Daredevil vs Punisher was not only more intelligent and intellectual than Batman v Superman, it was better for basic fan service and action sequences. It would have been disappointing, but understandable, if BvS had been a dumb popcorn flick that was at least satisfying by virtue of providing several throwdown drag-out fights between Batman v Superman and an awesome team-up battle with a huge, scary villain. But instead, Batman and Superman didn't even meet each other (outside of their masks) for a whopping forty minutes, during which nothing of note happened, and their first "fight" was little more than a pleasant chat following an extended commercial for the Batmobile. Their second fight was a little more satisfying, but couldn't compare to Daredevil's gritty, brutal fight choreography, in which you feel every punch. Daredevil had a little bit of build-up to the Punisher's onscreen arrival, but didn't drag it out, and the Daredevil vs Punisher fights were more than satisfying on a pure fan service level, even without the philosophical underpinnings.
Overall, Daredevil vs Punisher did everything Batman v Superman was trying to do but couldn't: gave fans a conflict between two very different superheroes that successfully explored the similarities and differences between the characters while also providing a few goosebumps-inducing fights. Plus, (spoiler!) it didn't have the heroes kiss and make up because their mothers had the same first name. That helped, too.