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Marvel and DC are the top two when it comes to recognizable superhero names. So why has one had virtually all the luck on the big screen while the other struggles to find footing amongst the fans? There are some very good reasons and probably a few people wont agree with.
Marvel so far has created a much wider field of play while DC has struggled to create a film that is compelling from start to finish. In the newest crop of films designed to begin what is now being called the DCEU there have been many flaws from casting to writing and almost everything in between from a production standpoint.
Here are my top five reasons why Marvel has been successful. Not necessarily my personal opinion on what constitutes a good film but merely thoughts on why Marvel seems to get it right every time with the critics and DC is left scratching their heads as their films receive mediocre to poor reviews. With Justice League around the corner, here are the five things DC could have done differently to have secured themselves a much easier path to success.
It is quick to see that Marvel opts for a more audience-friendly tone with their films and a grittier approach to their TV lineup whereas DC has taken the same approach to almost every project so far. Dark and brooding is the name of the DC game and many fans are tired of it. While many people argue it creates a winning formula for Marvel on the big screen it has also translated well to the small screen or streaming service. Daredevil and Jessica Jones are two examples where darker tones served Marvel well and Spider-Man: Homecoming and Doctor Strange are two examples of why the films are so diverse.
DC has done a good job making all the television crossovers feel forced for enhanced viewership where Marvel has done it purely for the drive of storytelling.
The Arrowverse is good on its solo ventures or creating spinoffs but not good when they try and bring all the characters back together. Marvel has weaved a better narrative through both film and television inching closer and closer to both the Avengers and the Defenders through storytelling.
For the big screen movies, we have been treated to a colossal failure in BVS and a critical success in Wonder Woman — leading into the Justice League. It's going to be hard to feel that The Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman and perhaps a new iteration of Green Lantern are just going to fit like a glove even though they all have complex origins of their own.
It's definitely not to say DC films have done a bad job of casting — it just does not feel like they can hold down an actor. There have been 5 actors in my life who have become Batman (Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, Bale and Affleck) where there has only been one Iron Man, one Captain America, One Thor, even on the villain side there has been one Loki compared to the multiple actors who have played the Joker (impacted severely one can imagine by the tragic passing of Heath Ledger in 2008).
There just has not been definitive portrayals that stand out in the DC film universe. Marvel has just had tighter productions and usually, the first step to creating a great film is casting and really the only issue Marvel has had was finding the right actor for the Hulk but Ruffalo is that guy. Marvel has even been making it a point to right their own wrongs in casting by bringing Spider-Man back on board and recasting Daredevil after the disastrous 2003 film and now recasting The Punisher after a slew of mediocre films.
Marvel creates anticipation with their castings, especially that of Tom Holland as Peter Parker and Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle while DC just continues to create doubt with their casting when they decided to separate their own film and television universes. Will see Grant Gustin and Ezra Miller together on screen? Most likely no and that was immediately a hot topic among fans. Why even cast another actor?
This may be the hardest one to argue across the board. Each company is rich with amazing source material that could if done properly provide films for decades. Story content can be debated depending on which company you feel the most loyal to. From a graphic novel standpoint, my collection says DC.
My Netflix queue most certainly leans towards Marvel. My single film ratings most certainly play more favorable in the direction of Marvel. My TV recordings are neutral. Gotham and The Flash are two shows I watch weekly but are also two shows that had boxed themselves in sometimes in terms of story and the end result is a sloppy version of a comic book storyline that was long anticipated.
Marvel has an endgame in mind and with the exception of Iron Man 2 and Ed Norton's Hulk they have done a good job progressing towards their big event. DC has been all over the map with the story and where they are eventually taking their main series.
Most of the crucial members of the Justice League don't even have more than 5 minutes of screentime in this DC universe thus far yet DC producers hope they fit in well and the audience loves them by the end?
For DC sequels, since they have launched their preamble to Justice League, the only sequel we have had was Batman Vs Superman and that movie had enough flaws to merit its own article. There was nothing definitive about BVS. It had too many characters, too many subplots and too many homages to things that quite obviously happened off screen but we don’t care about. Also was it necessary for the only Marsha/Thomas scene be their death scene? Do something different, potentially have Alfred thinking back on one of his favorite memories which leads to more potential for the Flashpoint film and more emotional substance for Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan.
Marvel plants seeds better for future characters and future endeavours. DC is just blunt about having Bruce just straight up in possession of footage of both The Flash and Aquaman. The fans already know what they do. The Flash cameo in Suicide Squad was much better and served a good purpose. BVS tried way too hard to steer the ship towards a fantastic Justice League film but forgot to be fantastic itself.
Marvel always presented phases that had endgames. DC then figured it is time to catch up so let's do what took Marvel 10 years in one film and it failed. There was no proof Ben Affleck is the definitive Batman or that Gal Gadot is our next generation Wonder Woman (her solo venture has since confirmed this). It's hard to care about the plethora of DC side characters when Marvel has given us 10 years of solid investment into characters like Happy Hogan and Maria Hill.
DC needs to catch up and fast, but I think that ship sailed when Justice League is happening before Flash, Cyborg and Green Lantern all get their chance to shine on the big screen.