Full disclosure here: I am a DC nerd.
Seriously, it doesn’t get any better than DC, right? Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman…I mean that’s the Trinity right there. Add in Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern (my personal favorite) and a slew of additional awesomeness and you have the perfect recipe for superhero badassdom.
So why are Marvel movies so much better than DC movies? Let’s break it down.
I’ve never been a huge comic book guy. But when I did read the comics (or graphic novels as I try to sell the idea of them to my wife), I always gravitated to the DC universe. Outside of the occasional Spider Man or Hulk comic, Marvel was pretty much completely off my radar. Captain America was cheesy and lame. And I always thought Thor was a bit of a cheat, because of the “I’m a god” thing. You can’t be a god AND a superhero, right?
Flash forward to 2008. Marvel launched the MCU with Iron Man and the pitch perfect casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark.
Fucking huge. I mean this put Marvel comics on the map for so many people, myself included. Iron Man, essentially a C-level character in comicdom, launched what was to become one of the most ambitious cinematic plans in modern history.
I mean, we had other Marvel heroes before. Spider-Man, Hulk (both Bana and Norton versions), Fantastic Four (ecch), Blade, even fucking Howard the Duck graced the screen. However, due to studio film rights, quality control and whatnot, there had never been an attempt like Marvel was trying to do beginning with Iron Man.
What was DC doing in 2008? Christian Bale in the Dark Knight.
I’ll go on record and say I love the Nolan-verse Batman films. They’re gritty, and real and an overall good time. If you can get past the ridiculous raspiness of Bale’s Bat-voice, the movies are tonally on point with the overall darkness of the Batman character as he’s come to be popularized.
However, with the success of the Marvel-verse onscreen I think DC realized that they really needed to do something quickly. Avengers was huge. They needed a Justice League movie. Pronto.
Enter Man of Steel in 2013 with Henry Cavill as Superman. This was another instance of “reality-based” superherodom, that followed in the footsteps of Nolans Batverse.
Not a bad idea. In fact I enjoyed, for the most part, Man of Steel. I walked away thinking it was an interesting take on the classic character, despite it being overly violent, and the ending completely derailing Superman’s longstanding and well established code of ethics. Fuck it though. It’s Superman right? I was just glad to see him onscreen again (with memories of the Brandon Routh take slowly fading).
This was the launching point for DC. Shortly after Man of Steel, a Batman v. Superman movie was announced that would then dovetail into the much-anticipated Justice League movie that I had been waiting for all my life.
Seriously, Ive been wanting a JL move for about as long as I can remember. I’m a nerd. Please see the first sentence of this piece.
When Batman v Superman came out (2016), Marvel had already released twelve superhero movies including Iron Man since 2008. That fact does not include the new iterations of Fantastic Four, X-Men, Deadpool and whatnot, as they are not Marvel Studio properties.
One of the main reasons that Marvel is so decidedly ahead of the game when it comes down to Marvel v DC in the cinematic arena is the history. Marvel has taken it’s time developing it’s characters and history to develop a world that people want to know more about.
The DCU, realizing it’s need to catch up, has essentially rushed things. In an attempt to build up the world they started to develop in the Nolan films, they’ve over-reached and ended up coming to the party late. Because they are trying to play catch up, the scripts they are turning out are underdeveloped and significantly lacking in character development.
It’s almost as if a studio head said “well everyone knows these characters, lets just make them fight. People will pay to see that.”
And they did. Batman v. Superman made a killing in the box office. Not as much as people wanted, but enough to ensure that the Justice League movie would get made. However, would it be good enough to unseat, or at least rival Marvel? No.
Here’s the top 5 reasons why Marvel beats DC:
- Timing. Everything with the DCU feels rushed. Marvel took their time to establish the characters/universe, etc. They have a game plan for the next decade or two of Marvel films (and TV). In short, they’ve thought about it. As mentioned, DC is scrambling.
- Tone. The DCU takes itself very seriously, almost to it’s own detriment. The Marvel films have a sense of fun about them. They are in some serious situations, but rarely is there a shortage of some much needed levity, which is another attribute that people see these movies for: they make them smile. The DCU, while (kinda) cool, is pretty bleak. I don’t remember smiling during Man of Steel once.
- Casting. Downey was perfect as Tony Stark. The backbone of Marvel has been based on that casting choice alone. Since then, they’ve been pretty pitch perfect (Gwyneth notwithstanding). On the DC side, I’m still undecided on Cavill as Supes in the DCU. I like Batfleck. Gal Godot as Wonder Woman looks promising, as does Momoa as Aquaman, but again, nothing has been seriously established in this world. Please note that I am ignoring the Flash and Cyborg characters because I think they look dumb (and I say that as a Flash fan).
- Brand Loyalty. The nerds love their comics. The fact that Marvel launched an entire universe of films (and TV) based on the success of a mid level character speaks volumes. They followed with movies about Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy which all were almost tonally perfect within the universe without sacrificing the core of the characters. Simply put, they were just well written with a love of the characters. DC hasn’t done any of that. Wonder Woman looks promising, but, again we’ll see…
- Fun. Hand in hand with tone, I guess. I think people have more fun with marvel and how they’ve developed their world(s). It’s almost like a game in each movie now to try to figure out the inter-connectivity between films. Us geeks love it.
When it comes down to it, I’ve realized I’ll watch anything with superheroes in it. I still gravitate towards DC (just recently ordered a couple of Flash and GL
comics graphic novels – don’t tell my wife), but I have to admit I am decidedly more interested in the new Guardians of the Galaxy (May 2017) movie than I am about the new Justice League (Nov. 2017) movie.
I’ll still see them both, however because nerd runs deep.