By TATUM MAPES
It is very hard to imagine the summer movie season without the release of a Marvel blockbuster. The critics rave, the fans gawk and wallets are depleted of cash because of ticket purchases. Marvel Studios created such a successful franchise that it seems that they cannot fail. None of their movies have been complete critical failures, and the studio holds fans in the palm of their hand.
With the box office domination that came with the films, it was inevitable that other studios would try to get on the bandwagon and do the same, most notably DC, which has been competing with Marvel ever since the golden age of comics. With Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” trailer blowing up the internet, and DC’s “Justice League” being a flop with both critics and audiences, it seems like the right time to discuss why Marvel remains the champion of the cinematic universe.
Movie banners for Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” releasing May 2018, and DC’s “Justice League,” which released November 2017.
Almost a decade ago, Marvel Studios released “Iron Man” into theaters. The movie about the billionaire building a combative suit did not just dominate the box office, grossing about $580 million at the box office, but it was also critically successful, boasting a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
However, “Iron Man’s” biggest success was that it launched the powerhouse that is known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, also known as the MCU. It was a huge risk, but Marvel managed to pull it off, bringing together some of its most iconic comic book heroes like Thor, Captain America, the Hulk and most recently Spiderman to the big screen. With a string of cameos, references and crossovers sure to make diehard fans squeal with delight in the theater, Marvel slowly but surely crafted a meticulous storyline with expert planning, gaining a fierce, loyal fan following. They took their time to create this iconic franchise, which has aged like a fine wine in the eyes of moviegoers.
Now, one must look at DC, or Detective Comics. With world-famous characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash, the comic book company was not lacking in any source material. It was about time they took down their biggest competitor, but was their attempt successful?
DC released “Man of Steel,” a mediocre superhero movie according to fans. It was not great, and it was not horrible, but it did pretty well at the box office, grossing about $668 million worldwide. Finally, after recasting Batman to Hollywood veteran Ben Affleck, DC released “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” to kickstart the DCEU, or DC Extended Universe. The result was disappointing.
Not only was “Batman v. Superman” a terrible movie, filled with CGI-heavy action sequences and an overly-serious tone, but it tried to rush what Marvel took six movies to perfect. Marvel set up individual movies for Iron Man, Thor, the Incredible Hulk and Captain America, with appearances of Black Widow and Hawkeye, before the release of “The Avengers.” The attention to each character paid off, as “The Avengers” remains one of the most successful movies of all time, making nearly $1 billion worldwide. DC, however, took a different route. They released one solo movie, 2013’s “Man of Steel,” a crossover, “Batman v. Superman,” another crossover, “Suicide Squad,” another solo movie, “Wonder Woman,” then, what was supposed to be pinnacle of the franchise, “Justice League.”
Do not take this the wrong way, because “Justice League” was decently entertaining, but the newly-introduced characters had no previous development for the audience to get attached to them. Yes, it was better than “Batman v. Superman,” but after the near perfection that was “Wonder Woman,” “Justice League” was extremely underwhelming. On the other hand, while there were one or two characters who were undeveloped prior to the release of “The Avengers,” director Joss Whedon managed to make audiences somewhat care about them. For “Justice League,” however, if a main character who wasn’t Wonder Woman died, no one would have even cared.
Back one year or two to the wild card in movie universes began the introduction of unpopular team-ups. In one corner, there is Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” which came out in 2014. In the other corner, there is DC’s “Suicide Squad.” Both movies comprised of relatively-unknown characters teaming up with no previous character development. Most critics and audiences agree that “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the superior film, filled with heart and laugh-out-loud humor. It barely had any connection to the rest of the MCU films, except for a looming figure in the background with barely any dialogue, and it did not try to force a connection.
Meanwhile, “Suicide Squad” tried too hard to connect to the rest of the DCEU, with three pointless Batman appearances, rather dull subplots, and a villain that tried to be new and different by being a forgetful antagonist that looks like she is constantly hula-hooping.
All of these factors do not mean that DC has no shot of redemption for their films, because they do. All they need to do is plan and try not to force pointless connections. Their overly-serious approach to most of their movies does not fare well with viewers, so a more lighthearted approach would be an improvement. Moviegoers know that DC is capable of creating an amazing film. They have shown that they can through their highly-successful Wonder Woman movie, but DC needs consistency. Marvel consistently makes carefully well-thought-out films, that are all for the most part well received, and the average viewer knows that the movie they are watching is worth the money. With DC, the audience does not know if they can expect a good film or a bad film while walking into the theater, which may lead to the movie universe’s utter demise.