Today, superhero movies come out what seems like every month. Marvel and DC have been the ones to lead the charge with superhero movies. Famous faces from comics such as Superman, Batman and Spider-Man have graced the big screen with multiple movies for each superhero. While both Marvel and DC have created their own cinematic universes, Marvel movies have seemed to always do better than DC movies, but why is that?
Let’s first start with the size of both the MCU and DCEU. The DCEU consists of only 7 movies, spanning from 2013 till the present. “Man of Steel” was the first official movie t for the DCEU, with the second, “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,” coming out three years later. While the DCEU has only made seven movies within a six year period, Marvel has pumped out 23 movies since 2008.
It all started when Robert Downey Jr. stepped into the role of Iron Man. This seems to be one of the many reasons Marvel movies have had more financial and critical success. With more movies produced, it’s easier to focus on the movies that have done well at the box office, such as “Avengers Endgame,” and not on the ones that haven’t done as well, such as “Thor: The Dark World.” More movies also means it’s easier to tie multiple movies together.
One aspect that Marvel has used to their advantage is the intertwining of all their movies. With the release of “The Avengers” came a cinematic feat that seemed unlike any other. Taking Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk, who each had their own individual movies and putting them all together in one movie was truly remarkable. As they continued to make more films, more superheroes became connected.
With “Captain America: Civil War”came the introduction of one of superhero comics’ most beloved characters: Spider-Man.
Finally, what seemed like the two biggest cinematic universe movies ever occurred: “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” With almost twenty movies leading up to these two movies, it was obviously going to be a big deal and bring in lots of money. Now, while the DCEU does have a few similar ensemble type movies, they just don’t carry the weight that the MCU movies do.
In 2017, DC released the movie “Justice League.” While audiences generally enjoyed the film, it ultimately was a big bust at the box office. Similar to the teaming up of the Avengers, this team consists of Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. When the first Avengers movie was made, each of the superheroes had already had their own solo movies. “Justice League,” however, was different. Only Batman and Wonder Woman had their own solo movies at the time within the DCEU. “Aquaman” was released after “Justice League” and the other two superheroes have yet to have their own solo movies. With each superhero having their own movie it adds to the hype of each character for the ensemble movie and people know what to expect with each character. The large array of movies in the MCU before “Infinity War” and “Endgame” is what helped build the excitement for these movies which is one of the things that “Justice League” was lacking.
One big complaint that has come from many DCEU movies is the pacing and poor writing. “Suicide Squad,” for example, was criticized for an unclear plot and poorly written characters. The trend continues with other movies in the DCEU that have a lack of direction and good writing. Marvel movies, on the other hand, have gotten better over time. Movies like “Black Panther” were praised for their writing as well as fully developed characters. The movie not only has a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score, it is also Marvel’s first ever film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
Lastly, while the DCEU only consists of seven movies, there are several other DC-related movies that might have an effect on the overall acceptance of DCEU movies. Since 1943 there have been nearly nine different actors to play Batman on the big screen. Some of the well-known names include Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck and in 2021, Robert Pattison. Depending on the person you ask, they may each have a different answer for who their favorite Batman is. The same can be said for Superman. For Marvel, however, the only characters who have been played by different people are the Hulk, with four actors, and Spider-Man with three. Three and four are not nearly as overwhelming as nine. To have so many different actors who have played the character, it makes it harder to become attached to the character on the screen because of how much they change, so you feel disconnected from the character and not as emotionally invested.
So, how can the DCEU work to make their movies more successful? They need to start by making more movies like “Wonder Woman” and less like “Suicide Squad.” One of their biggest flaws is their writing. Many of their movies have great concepts and very talented actors, but even with incredible actors and beloved characters, if the story isn’t good, people won’t enjoy it.
Next, the DCEU needs to make more movies and make people feel more attached to their characters. What Marvel has done so well is that they have gotten people who have never read a comic book to watch their movies and fall in love with these characters. People fell in love with Iron Man, and more importantly with Robert Downey Jr., so when they killed him off in “Endgame,” it hurt because people were attached to his character. RDJ had been playing Iron Man since 2008 and had appeared in seven movies prior to “Endgame.” When Superman died in “Batman v Superman”it just didn’t carry the same effect. Henry Cavill had previously only starred as Superman in one other movie.
Ultimately, if the DCEU wants to ever reach the level of success that the MCU has achieved, they need to start with better writers and several more movies. Marvel movies come out almost every year and sometimes we even get multiple in a year. People are always talking about them which builds up more hype. With so much time spread out between each movie, the DCEU loses their hype for their movies which results in lower box office numbers. I’m not sure if the DCEU will ever reach the same level as the MCU, but movies like “Wonder Woman” and “Shazam!” are on the right track.