We live in a world where your opinions on pop culture have the ability to define you as a person. You can learn a lot about someone based off whether they’re Team Edward or Team Jacob, or Team Gale or Team Peeta.
Those, of course, are age-old debates that are slowly simmering down as time moves forward. Now, one of the biggest pop culture debates finds itself rooted in Marvel Comics and DC Comics.
The two have ruled the world of comics since they came into being. Recently, they’ve begun to rule the movie world, too. Nowadays, Marvel seems to be the more popular of the two, at least in the cinematic universe.
In a poll put out by Pleiad, of the 39 respondents 95 percent prefered Marvel to DC, a preference which is not limited to just the Pleiad’s respondents..
From an economic standpoint, Marvel tends to rake in more money than DC, at least recently. “Captain Marvel” easily passed “Aquaman” in its ticket presale, and, after its release, its trajectory of grossing more money has continued. Even so, “Aquaman” did remarkably well and made a considerable amount of money, making it easy to call it one of the most successful films of 2018.
Still, “Aquaman” not as successful as recent Marvel films. Why? One would expect that such similar comic/movie fandoms would see similar successes, but digging deeper into the world of Marvel and DC brings some vital pitfalls of DC into the picture.
Back in the 80s and 90s, the golden years for DC films, DC was more competitive with Marvel because…. Back then, DC movies were much different than Marvel movies. They held a darker edge, an edge which has been lost due to what seems to be an attempt to emulate Marvel.
Marvel has found success in its movies now partly because its created an interconnected superhero universe. This could have spurred DC’s recent attempts to create a connected universe as well. But, for a number of reasons, the DC connected universe has not taken to audience’s likings as successfully as Marvel.
Marvel’s approach to doing this kind of connected movie series,where many individual movie series come together to form a larger series, seems very systematic and planned out. In 2008, “Iron Man” was the first movie of Marvel’s connected universe to be released. Over a decade later, the Avengers universe is still building. Releasing each movie has been a slow, strategic system, giving audiences time to digest each movie in anticipation of the next.
Meanwhile, DC’s approach to creating a connected universe feels like it has happened at a much faster pace. While “Man of Steel” came out in 2013, DC then employed a significant, three year gap before releasing the next component of the connected universe, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” in 2016. Hardly a year later, “Justice League” was released in 2017. Given how many movies have to come together, it’s no wonder DC’s strategy hasn’t worked as well; viewers barely have time to fully form a complete understanding of one movie before they’re on to the next.
In addition to the pacing at which the movies have been released, the sequential order of their release is also a vital component for success. Before the release of “The Avengers,” in which audiences saw many Marvel heroes compiled in one film for the first time, Marvel had released introductory movies for each of the primary Avengers.
Before the release of “Justice League,” however, DC had only released “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” thereby not allowing audiences to have a real understanding of each character before they came together in a connected film. After “Justice League” came out in 2017, movies like “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman” followed, giving viewers more insight to some of the heroes who made up the Justice League. This, however, feels more like playing catch-up than building a connected universe.
On top of the problem caused by the sequence of movie releases, there are some issues within the DC movies themselves. Marvel movies seem to have found a way to delicately balance humor and drama. Humor is something which wasn’t a prominent component of earlier DC movies or even the Batman trilogy of the early 2000s, but the lack of it worked well for DC.
More recently, despite the melodrama of most DC movies, viewers have found more attempts at the inclusion of humor which either goes over the audience’s head altogether or just feels forced.
The special effects, too, are lackluster in DC compared to Marvel, making them feel entirely fake. The Marvel special effects enhance the movie, pulling viewers into their universe, encompassing them in the plotline of the film. The low-quality CGI in “Aquaman,” on the contrary, is distracting from the plotline, pushing viewers out of Atlantis rather than pulling them in.
As DC movies have begun to closely resemble Marvel, fans seem to be gravitating away from the franchise, ironically going to Marvel, the perceived source of DC’s latest inspirations.
If DC wants to make a comeback, it’s high time they turn back to their roots. Cut the cheesy jokes. Abandon the poor CGI. Bring back the edge of the 80s and stop trying to follow Marvel’s lead.