With superhero films becoming a staple of the blockbuster summer lineup, it’s natural to compare how the two comic book movie titans are doing.
And honestly, right now, at this exact moment in movies: Marvel is straight up DESTROYING DC.
It’s not even a competition, especially this year with DC releasing TWO very hyped up films, Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, that ended up being VERY disappointing for fans and critics (I’ll try restrain myself and not to go off on what an utter PIECE OF SHIT Suicide Squad was).
To be honest, Batman VS Superman wasn’t that bad, but that’s not the most glowing review. Especially since Captain America: Civil War was AWESOME and the highest grossing film of the year. Then there’s Deadpool (yes, I’m including it in the Marvel Universe because it’s MARVEL and I don’t acknowledge the studio BS about who owns what property), probably the biggest surprise hit of the year and it was the perfect blend of R-rated violence and comedy. Granted, X-Men: Apocalypse was the worst X-Men flick since X3, but it was still better than the aforementioned DC debacles. And then there’s still Doctor Strange coming out next month, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
So why has Marvel had more hits than compared to DC lately? Let’s take a look at probably the biggest reason:
STORY AND CHARACTER
Since the MCU officially started in 2008, with the exceptional Iron Man and the (surprisingly) pretty darn good The Incredible Hulk, Marvel Studios have been doing their homework on their writer/director choices. In the writing department Marvel just seems to know who is the exact perfect writer for that specific film. They once even had their own Marvel Studios writing program with their own little stable of writers, which is where Nicole Perlman came from to help knock Guardians of the Galaxy out of the park.
In the case of Iron Man, writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby were flying by the seat of their pants most days when there wasn’t a solid script written by the time filming came, but they had to shoot something. According to it’s trivia page on IMDB, they stay focused on story and character, which is why a lot of RDJ ‘s lines were ad-libbed. And yet the end result was still pretty stellar.
The point I’m taking too long to get to is the writing focuses more on the character and story, and not about having as many set-piece scenes as possible. They took the time to craft a great back-story for all the characters, whether it be an ensemble film like The Avengers, or a single-hero outing like Thor. Okay I’ll be honest, neither of the Thor films out so far did much to excite me, but they nailed the casting with Chris Hemsworth, and spend a significant time in the first film to set-up his story. Plus the first Thor was directed by Shakespeare thesp Kenneth Branagh, a pretty interesting choice IMO.
With Batman VS Superman and Man Of Steel, it felt like the studios glossed over their origin stories, either from sheer laziness or assuming everyone knows their back-stories by now. The latter could be true considering the DC heavyweights are easily the two most recognizable superheroes in the world, but their set-up was still lacking, even if I’ve seen Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot like four times by now.
Marvel’s clearly not afraid to takes risks on unproven comics, considering the recent success of GOTG and Ant-Man. Sometimes it doesn’t always pan out exactly like they planned, like ALL the Fantastic Four movies for example, but more often than not, they do really well at the box office and score with fans/critics.
One of the other reasons I’m loving the MCU right now is the directors they choose, who they’re also not afraid to take a chance on. Sometimes they’ll make an obvious choice, like Joss Whedon or Shane Black. But who could’ve predicted how well GOTG (can you tell I’m a fan?) ended-up turning out thanks to director James Gunn, previously known for lower budget films like Super and Slither. Even back in 2008 when John Favreau directed Iron Man, he at was just starting to direct bigger films and was still unproven, but now he’s a bonafied blockbuster director. And honestly, who in the hell had the foresight to pick the Russo Brothers, previously known mainly for television shows, to direct that last two (and really effing good) Captain America films?
Kevin Feige that’s who. The Marvel Studios head is as a big a film nerd as he is a comic book nerd, and he just seems to be making one smart decision after the other. He’s almost single-handedly turned the studio around, as it was struggling in the early/mid 2000’s with disappointing films like Daredevil and Electra.
Just look at two of Marvel’s future releases, Thor: Ragnarok (2017), directed by Taika Waititi , and Black Panther (2018), directed by Ryan Coogler. Waititi is mainly known for obscure, indie films, and Coogler only has TWO features under his belt, granted his last one was the Oscar-nominated Creed.
Side note: if you have the chance to watch Waititi’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople, DO IT, it’s freaking hilarious.
DC has kept it mainly on the safe side. Sure, Christopher Nolan was clearly the best choice for the truly spectacular Dark Knight Trilogy, but he was also kind of obvious. Then there’s screenwriter David S. Goyer, who DC can’t seem to make anything without some kind of input from him (not knocking him as a writer though).
And now practically the entire future of the DCEU lies squarely on the shoulders of director Zack Snyder, who, let’s be honest, has only done a mediocre job so far. While David Ayer was an interesting choice for writing and directing the (disastrous) Suicide Squad, the result was a total, absolute mess, but who knows who fault that really is, **cough** Will Smith stealing spotlight **cough**.
Ben Affleck is penning and directing the next Batman movie (aptly titled The Batman), and while he has a good track record, it almost seems like it doesn’t matter what Oscar-winning director they pick, their movies just end up being a big let down. I honestly don’t even know if I want to spend any more money on a DC film, considering I was burned twice in a row this year 🙁
THEY PLAN AHEAD
It feels like DC has been trying to play catch up in the last few years. The three phases of the MCU were all planned out in a specific order, with every Marvel movie coming out until 2019 and beyond already in the works. And phase four is definitely being mapped out right now.
It’s only been recently that DC has tried to expand, FINALLY releasing a Wonder Woman film next year, and a Justice League film, also directed by Zack Snyder. A film that will no doubt be one long, heavy-handed set-up for each of characters solo film in the coming years. But are they going to keep playing it safe?
Currently, the DCEU has films set to release up until 2020, but beyond that, there’s rumors of a Lobo film (which has been a rumor for a LOOONG time), Swamp Thing, and a Joker film, among others. But why in the HELL has it taken them this long to make a Joker film?? It seems like the studio is desperate, but still not enough to try something different. I guess time will only tell how that pans out for them.