There is no denying that Marvel has achieved a lot with its cinematic universe. In less than ten years they have released 17 movies, with an additional 7 planned for release in the next two years. A total of 12.7 billion dollars at the box office so far for the releases in the cinematic universe. All of the movies have been well received by critics and fans alike, some of them receiving widespread critical acclaim. Light hearted, great humor and an excellent cast, these movies are a joy to watch, even if you are not a comic book fan.
But how well does their cinematic universe compare to that of DC?
Let’s find out…
On the other side, DC Comics have begun creation of their own shared universe with Man of Steel in 2013 and have released three additional films, with a fourth one to be released in three weeks. Although they made a decent amount of money at the box office, they have failed miserably in every other aspect. They decided to take a different approach than Marvel by making the movies in a darker tone, hoping to capitalize on the success of The Dark Knight Trilogy.
It failed big time. While The Dark Knight Series had a very realistic approach, its dark tone a trademark of the trilogy, this shared universe that they have created does a poor job at being serious and dark at the same time. To be honest, you can’t take superhero movies so seriously.
What really made the difference between these two shared universes was the planning. In 2005 Marvel Entertainment created Marvel Studios, the first independent movie studio since DreamWorks, with a clear plan to create a shared universe based on the comic book characters. Since Marvel still owned the rights to the core members of the Avengers, they planned to release multiple individual films, culminating in a crossover film. Another important aspect that helped the quality of the films was that Marvel formed a creative committee, made out of mostly “fanboys” who were familiar with the comic book characters and lore. The final part in their planning was picking their actors and directors.
The project started in 2008 with Iron Man. Jon Favreau was hired to direct and he had to go to war with the studio when it came to casting the lead actor. While the studio wanted to cast a newcomer in the role because they considered that Iron Man should be the main star, Favreau wanted to cast Robert Downey Jr, because he believed RDJ being a fan of the comic and his troubled past would both make him perfect for the role.
And we all know how that turned out…
Iron Man received critical acclaim upon its release, creating the proper stepping stone for the rest of the project. Four other movies were released, including an Iron Man sequel, detailing the origin story for the other characters, each one containing small bits and hints that would form the basis for The Avengers. Everything was going as planned.
On the other hand, Warner Bros. Pictures had the idea of creating a Batman vs. Superman film as early as 2002. Later, in 2007, they were in talks to create a Justice League script, but the project was put on hold in 2008.
Fast forward to 2013 when Man of Steel, a reboot of the Superman franchise, was released. Although not exactly planned as the first film in a new shared universe, the film contained multiple references to other characters from the DC Universe, so in case the movie would be a financial success, it could finally launch the long awaited shared universe. Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice was the next movie in the series, followed by Suicide Squad. Both movies failed to achieve the studio’s expectations at the box office, while also receiving negative reviews from movie critics. The fourth movie to be released, Wonder Woman, is often considered the best in the series, being the only one with positive critiques and the highest earning at the box office. From my point of view, this movie is sort-of DC’s versio of Captain America. An origins story, a character out of sync with the time the events take place, fighting and turning the tide in a world war.
From my point of view, the main issue with the DC Universe is a lack of patience. The project feels rushed. After the first film in the series, the characters just start jumping out of nowhere. Out of the blue Batman decides that Superman is a menace and wants to go 12 rounds with him. After they realize that their moms share the same name and become buddies, Wonder Woman decides to give them a hand in a climatic battle (although she does get her origin story in a different time context). While all of this is happening, Batman finds a list of 3 other meta humans and decides he should hang out with them in the next movie.
Another thing that I find annoying about the DC Universe is that it seems to lack a soul. The characters seem so flat. You don’t see what drives them. What makes them become super heroes and what keeps pushing them forward. It seems like this project was made strictly for money and nothing else. Even the actors seem out of place. Although most of them are good, proven actors, they do not seem right in these roles. The only actors that I think truly fit the roles are Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Robbie Margot as Harley Quinn. Also, I consider that Ben Affleck played a pretty decent angry and vengeful Batman. But as I said earlier, you can’t understand his motivation, nor his anger.
These movies are not helped at all by the thin script and plots lacking inspiration. Even in the super hero industry, they seem to lack coherence. Just a story written and thrown in the mix. No grand picture in sight. No reference to a political crisis that happens in real life. Just shallow and empty.
So, at the moment, I don’t see how Marvel and DC can possibly ever be on the same level. While Marvel grows and innovates with every movie, DC just seems to follow the same pattern. I will write again after the release of Justice League and give my notes after that one. Although initially I was skeptical about the movie, after seeing the last trailer and finding out that Joss Whedon is finishing up with a lot of re-shots, maybe there is some hope that they will chance the course of franchise.
But until then Marvel is everything DC hopes to become.