Re DC vs Marvel movies DC is not as succesful despite powerful, iconic characters - Why?

I’m not all that impressed overall with the way DC has handled most of it’s movies based on it’s iconic comic characters. Even with big budgets the results don’t seem as compelling as what Marvel puts on the table. Granted DC did well with the Joker-Batman a few years ago, but that was (IMO) mostly due to a great villain and Marvel had a flop with Daredevil, but overall Marvel seems to be executing better than DC in this realm. even with Superman (based on the last one) they seem to be bobbling the ball.

Why is that?

I’ll point out that Daredevil was a pretty darn good movie in the Director’s Cut version, which featured better pacing and an overall stronger character arc. It’s a textbook example of how editing can make or break a film.

While some people wouldn’t agree, I do think you’re on the right track here. In fact, I’d be willing to say that those iconic characters are the very reason why DC has issues. (No pun intended.)

Superman, for example, is a great character, but he’s also a character that’s hard to do right Any movie featuring him needs to explore a bit of why he’s an interesting person, but also fit him into some great action scenes. It’s not easy to mesh those two, precisely because he’s so iconic. Doesn’t mean it can’t be done - the DCAU is a stellar example of how to write superheroes that are interesting and relatable human beings (or Kryptonians). But it’s not a trivial task and one that many Hollywood types are not up to. With a television show, you can step back and see your work develop - if Superman isn’t coming across well in one episode, you get to see the direction and can correct it. In a movie, you get one two-hour finished piece and have to get it right the first time.

I’d also say that Marvel has done a much better job of keeping the scope of each movie limited to something sensible. There’s generally one major supervillain in each. The villain has simple - but not shallow - characterization. His resources are ample but not unstoppably huge. And the reason is pretty clear: tighter challenge and more personal stakes are more interesting. And Marvel was planning an Avengers movie at least as far back as Iron Man 2 - which meant that each character needed a clear role and specialty the others lacked.

Most if not all of the Marvel characters have notable flaws and human weaknesses. Indeed, the tension in The Avengers was almost entirely based upon the weaknesses of the hero characters and their conflicts with one another. Not to underrate Tom Hiddleston, who has played a phenomenal villain in Loki, but we all know that Loki will be defeated. (“Puny god!”) The question is, will The Avengers get their collective shit together enough to stop sniping at each other and come together to protect humanity from the external forces that Loki has brought upon them? Even the most ostensibly virtuous of them–Captain America–has to deal with the fact that he is a man out of place and time, with everyone telling him how much he doesn’t belong. In the end, the film is more about the team coming together than the protracted battle sequence in New York (but which Joss Whedon managed artfully such that it didn’t just seem like the Iron Man and The Hulk doing all of the work).

The D.C. pantheon, on the other hand, is comprised of such innately virtuous characters that they a) don’t have any real flaws and any weaknesses are pretty much concocted out of thin air, b) don’t really have much in the way of conflict with one another (setting aside the asinine Batman vs. Superman thing) and c) aren’t really very interesting personalities. I mean, really, who gives a humping fuck about Superman and Lois Lane? They’re the most vanilla coupling ever, and only Larry Niven could possibly make that interesting. On the other hand, Jean Grey and Wolverine are an intrinsically complex pairing, destined to result in some kind of Othello-like tragedy. And at their heart, comic books are the modern equivalent of Shakespearian tragedies, albeit with characters that are resurrected in unlikely fashion.

None of this applies to the Fantastic Four, and especially Sue Storm who may be the most idiotic superheroine ever. Let’s just pretend they don’t even exist. They’re Marvel Lite. Wait, holy shit, someone is attempting a Fantastic Four reboot? Oh, in the name of…why? And who is this hack, Josh Trank, directing it?


I think the real answer has nothing to do with character, power-sets, costumes, iconography, nor any of the other interesting aspects of superhero comics. I think it comes down to the competency of the respective studios and their creative teams.

Prior to Batman Begins, WB was really exploring some serious risks as to the direction of the Batman franchise. After two Schumacher flicks, WB had the whole crisis/opportunity thing going, so they kicked around the idea of swinging for the fences with Batman. Frank Miller and Darren Aronofsky were brought in to develop/direct an untitled Batman project. The arthouse director generated a lot of positive buzz with college kids who hated at least 2/4 if not 4/4 Batman movies, plus the inclusion of Miller strongly suggested a tonally darker, more serious take ala Dark Knight Returns 1986 comic. Ultimately, their concept was too out there including a blue collar Batman and Alfred as a mechanic called Big Al.

The groundwork had been laid for an arthouse direction though – enter Christopher Nolan – who pre-Inception and Prestige, only had small pics like Memento and Insomnia under his belt. Long story short we know how well this creative team worked out – BUT WB was not ready with a cohesive plan ala Marvel/Disney’s build-up to Avengers. Additionally, the Nolan/Goyer built Batman continuity felt too closed from the spectacular and too grounded. In a Chicago-as-Gotham where great pains were taken to explain how a billionaire could glide, one would never believe that “a man can fly.” Neverless, 2006’s Superman Returns was supposed to eventually tie into the Nolan-verse, but Singer’s film was a turd.

Post Batman, the Green Lantern movie was supposed to be fresh start and springboard for a cohesive DCU on film. Also a flop.

Finally, a passable Superman movie was made, and for once WB isn’t tasked with polishing a turd, however, everything is being tacked onto the Superman/Batman movie in the least organically built up way possible – for better or worse.

Look at Marvel’s failures by comparison. Hulk was bad, it was followed with an “Eh” quasi-reboot, which was followed by a recasted Hulk/Banner in Avengers. Then you’ve got ten seconds of Nick Fury tacked onto to an Iron Man flick just in case it’s a hit - it was. Point being, Marvel Studios is at once more fast and loose and better at mapping out a connected film universe. Sam Jackson’s cameo cost them nothing compared to two failed flagship flicks like Superman Returns and Green Lantern.

Marvel movies are WAY more fun.

Superman is boring and Batman is gloomy. Iron Man and Spiderman are neither.

I like superhero movies, and I think I’m probably pretty typical in that I don’t read comics and I don’t give a hoot about complicated backstory and deep characterization. I just want to be entertained. Some of the DC movies have done well and have been very well-received, but they tend to be a little more serious. But it’s no surprise that Marvel has done better overall.

IMHO: Marvel rights are owned by Disney, a studio that knows how to make FUN movies that entertain. DC is owned by Warners, yes, but ultimately by Time Warner; and Time Warner doesn’t like the characters, doesn’t understand them. Where Disney focuses on the fun (OK, sure, characters can have some dark problems, but that’s not where the emphasis), Time Warner focuses on the dark underside. That worked well for them with Batman, but it doesn’t work with the other characters. And they’re trying to turn all the DC heroes into dark brooding Batmans.

I think that Smiling Bandit has it right: perfection is boring. Superman was so perfect that they had to invent a glowing green rock to slow him down. Batman can handle anything (if he’s prepared)- and is a freakin’ genius billionaire athlete detective. Green Lantern can fly across the universe and create anything he imagines- as long as it looks like a St. Patrick’s Day parade float.

How do you create a living, breathing, believable movie experience when your most iconic characters are walking deus ex machinas?

But on the other hand, we’ve got:

Daredevil- he’s blind. The X-Men are hated and feared by the people they protect. Spiderman is just a kid, trying to handle kid things, while being distrusted and feared by damn near everyone… and his lack of action led to his father-figure’s death. They’re all more interesting, because they each have some element in them that the audience can connect with.

Perfection is boring. A movie about “All-Being, mutant alien son of the gods” would tank.

Marvel has been getting it ‘right’ for a very small window of time. DC has had successful popular adaptations in both movies and television for decades. Going all the way back to George Reeves. Marvel, meanwhile, gave us the Hulk tv show. Their other movies and tv shows have been terrible for decades.

They’ve recently hit a rich vein with their movie universe. Jumpstarted because RDJ was such an awesome Iron Man. But I tend to look at it as just that. A rich vein. After decades of awful. It’s not like they suddenly unlocked some secret that DC doesn’t know. They’ve just finally gotten their act together and are milking it for the moment.

Disney’s ownership of Marvel is pretty recent. They had nothing to do with the movies leading up to Avengers and minimal input on Avengers itself.

It’s simple: The people currently working for Marvel in their movie division are just better at what they do than their counterparts over at DC. This hasn’t always been true, and it won’t always be true, but it is right now.

Just one nitpick: it’s “Spider-Man”, not “Spiderman”.

Gee, I’m anal.

I agree with drastic quench and Chronos; the difference is studio-driven, not character-based. The first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies and the Michael Keaton Batman movies were spectacular. They explored the inner conflicts driving the outwardly perfect characters, and they made the love stories compelling. It can happen again.

Tony Stark is a freakin’ genius billionaire athlete (perhaps not ‘detective’ though a puzzle solver for sure). The main difference is that, when he gets punched, he quips. When Bruce Wayne gets punched, he glowers. Quips are a lot more fun in my book.

Right. And “dark & gritty” was all ‘the thing" for a while there, but it’s passe’ now.

Note the Superman the Movie was the first & possibly greatest big screen mega-success for superheroes. The early Marvel flicks actually hurt to watch.

Captain America: Big man in a suit of armor. Under that what are you?
Tony Stark: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.
Black Widow: {nods in agreement}


DC characters are larger than life. They work better in the comic medium they were created in. I think it’s telling that I find DC better in Comics and in Animation but prefer the Marvel movies (over all).

Marvel’s MCU movies (as distinct from properties controlled by other studios, such as Spider-man and Fantastic Four) are designed to snap together like puzzle pieces, so each individual hero’s movie builds up to the Avengers, and then post-Avengers they’re free to introduce new movies and new heroes, such as the Guardians of the Galaxy, to further populate this gigantic fictional world. Each movie can stand on its own merits as a fun, entertaining scifi and/or action flick with relateable characters, humor, and pathos. They’re perfect for a date night or to take the kids to.

WB/DC, instead of building up their franchise, have resorted to remaking Batman and Superman every few years. They sank 300 million into a lifeless paint-by-numbers Green Lantern movie that looks like it was expected to fail. The Batman and Superman movies have become so relentlessly grim that its hard to say that you enjoyed seeing them.

Marvel’s willing to take some risks. Guardians of the Galaxy has no big stars, and the characters are far more obscure than even Iron Man was when his movie came out. As a colorful scifi caper set in space, its a radical departure from any of their other movies. Contrast this with WB/DC, who will remake Batman and Superman until the heat death of the universe. WB/DC thinks Wonder Woman is too risky for their audience; Marvel says “Here’s a raccoon with a machine gun, have fun.”

I have seen this statement on the interwebs so much that I sought it out to watch and it was just 30 minutes more of the same moviemaking that made me cringe to watch.

Disclaimer: This is just my two bytes. My personal taste is in no way an arbiter of actual artistic merit.

Like others have said, I think DC’s characters are often times limited by their power. Superman is always the best, Batman is always the smartest, etc. And remakes after remakes have kind of diluted those characters a bit. Not to mention the near absence of the other supporting characters. Sure they have Arrow on TV now, but no Flash, no Wonder Woman, no everything else? How many different versions of Superman do they expect us to stomach before they get it right?

I’d pay “going to the movies” bucks to see any portion of the DCAU in a new film, whether it was Batman, Superman, or the Justice League.

The shows that make up the DCAU (specifically Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited) are some of the greatest animated accomplishments in comic history.