DC Comics and Marvel Comics are the two giant entertainment companies in America and they are equal rivals in this competitive entertainment market. However in terms of movie segment, DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is kind of… losing behind Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Naturally, fans from both DC and Marvel are constantly “arguing” over this movie competition. But no matter how we argue, there is one straight fact which cannot be denied: MCU has more popularity and higher box-office numbers than DCEU. And this leads us to a question: “Why is that? Why DCEU is falling behind MCU?” And such question will be our main topic for today and let’s try to answer this question as objective as possible.
We agree that this seems to be a stupid question but let’s hold on and have a brief round-up of both of these cinematic universes. So, what are DCEU and MCU are about?
DC Extended Universe
The DC Extended Universe (or DCEU) is a cinematic universe based on the world of DC Comics, including the famous superheroes and villains like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Joker, Lex Luthor, General Zod, and more…
DCEU first started with the Man of Steel movie released in 2013. And yes, that also means the fans’ favorite The Dark Knight trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan are not including in the official DCEU franchise. So far, there are 5 DCEU films released in total:
- Man of Steel, 2013
- Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice, 2016
- Suicide Squad, 2016
- Wonder Woman, 2017
- Justice League, 2017
By far, most of released DCEU movies are not really high-rated in overall. For example according to Rotten Tomatoes:
- Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice only got 27% point from critics and 63% point from audiences,
- Suicide Squad even got lower score with 28% point from critics and 60% point from audiences.
The first DCEU film Man of Steel seemed to have better reception with 55% point from critics and 75% point from audiences. While the best DCEU film so far is Wonder Woman with 93% point from critics and 88% point from audiences. Even the latest movie Justice League only got 40% point from critics and 74% point from audiences.
As you can see, DCEU is doing not so good especially when compared to the MCU (which we will talk about later). Of course, all of these given scores are highly subjective, but it should give us certain idea about the current state of DCEU.
Marvel Cinematic Universe
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU) is, of course, the movie franchise based on the famous universe of Marvel Comics, featuring just-as-famous heroes and villains like Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Red Skull, Thanos, and Loki.
Unlike DCEU, MCU has a much longer history with their very first movie Iron Man dated back in 2008. MCU started 5 years sooner than DCEU and clearly it creates a huge advantage for MCU since they have gained more knowledge and experience regarding this movie segment. Interesting enough, MCU has prepared a whole plan for their future films ever since Iron Man 2008. They have gone through 3 Phases so far and the Phase 4 is about to kick off in 2019-2020.
Considering the box-office numbers and review scores, MCU is winning with many highly rated movies recently like:
- Spider Man Homecoming 2017 with 92% point from critics and 88% point from audiences
- Thor Ragnarok 2017 with 92% point from critics and 87% point from audiences
- Black Panther 2018 with 97% point from critics and 79% point from audiences
- Avengers Infinity War 2018 with 84% point from critics and 91% point from audiences
- Ant Man and the Wasp 2018 with 88% point from critics and 80% point from audiences
Even the old MCU movies used to have a good reception, for example:
- Iron Man 2008 with 93% point from critics and 91% point from audiences
- Thor 2011 with 77% point from critics and 76% point from audiences
- The Avengers 2012 with 92% point from critics and 91% point from audiences
(All the scores were taken from Rotten Tomatoes)
Of course, comparing a 10-year-old movie franchise (MCU) with a 5-year-old one (DCEU) is not fair. Still, we can’t deny the extreme popularity of DCEU over MCU, especially after the huge hits like Black Panther and Avengers Infinity War. Clearly, DCEU will have to do something if they want to keep up with this rivalry. But before coming up with a counter-plan, they will need to understand what their current problem is. And here we would like to share several opinions regarding the matter from our perspective:
DCEU seems to lack planning comparing to MCU
This is one thing which we believe many other people will agree on: MCU has better planning than DCEU. Ever since the first MCU movie Iron Man 2008, MCU has carefully set up their future movies in the best way possible. These movies are put in chronicle order and thanks to this; audiences get to enjoy the story continuously and logically. And most importantly, audiences get to see their favorite characters get developed throughout each movie (which we mention in later section). Some people may argue that it’s all thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s charm as Tony Stark character, but we still believe that it would mean nothing if MCU did not have a clear strategy ahead.
DCEU and the “Curse of The Dark Knight”
If we ask “what is the best Batman movie” to date, for most of the time we will receive the answer: The Dark Knight trilogy by Christopher Nolan. And true, the beauty of The Dark Knight trilogy lies within its compelling storyline and characters which constantly develop alongside each other. Unlike many superhero films nowadays, the trilogy gives out a true sensation of fear, pressure, and tension throughout the story.
Let’s recall the second film The Dark Knight? The Joker, the infamous villain portrayed by Heath Ledger, is an extremely terrifying villain. He is truly insane, a lunatic who “just wants to watch the world on fire”. This guy did not fool around; in fact, he messed up with everyone in Gotham City, including even Batman. The Joker is not a mere villain who does evil stuffs, he is an idea – a crazy one and he haunted our hero Batman even in the later 2 sequels. Even after he “failed” by the end of the film, he successfully put an unfathomable fear upon the city, and more importantly, corrupted Harvey Dent who was supposed to be the White Knight. As we can see: the danger here feels real, everything feels like on the line. Audiences cannot predict what would happen because it was The Joker himself who actually in control the entire film. And that was what made The Dark Knight felt extraordinary, or in other word, a fascinating “dark superhero story”.
But here’s the thing: The Dark Knight accidentally put an extreme pressure upon later DCEU films. DCEU films are often expected to be “dark, serious, and filled with adult elements”. And so, it is like a curse for DCEU. For some reason, we feel like DCEU focuses too much on the word “dark”, and if it’s true then DCEU is really hitting the wrong mark. The problem with DCEU is not about “dark story”; it is actually about consistency and coherent story with coherent characters. Take Batman v Superman as example: the story in this film is supposed to be about the conflict between Batman and Superman. Yet, it lost too much time on Easter Eggs and hints for the next movie. It loses focus on Batman and Superman’s plot and therefore, the impact upon audiences was none to be found. There was no significant tension build-up, nothing.
Then coming to Justice League 2017, while this movie is not entirely bad, it has a huge problem in creating a believable tension and character development. Steppenwolf looks rather uninspiring and he does not feel like a threat, at all. Furthermore, characters like Batman feel so… bizarre. In previous films like Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad gives viewers an impression of a dark, serious Batman. But in Justice League, he said jokes as tension reliever… which was so out of character.
Overall, we believe the issue of DCEU is not about having dark, serious stories. It is actually about having a coherent story and character. That was what made The Dark Knight trilogy great. It has an idea, it has a consistent story and every character develops with it, both villains and heroes. But so far, none of these elements are seen in current DCEU films.
Currently it lacks character development
This is a problem discussed quite a lot among fans and we have to agree with this idea. As we mentioned, DCEU films currently lack a coherent story with coherent characters. And as the result, this resulted in extreme lack of character development – an important aspect which people want to see in every film and movie.
If we take a look at MCU, they in fact have done a great job in doing their characters justice. Since MCU always plans ahead of their upcoming movies, they are able to develop proper character developments. To certain extent, we can say MCU does respect the characters. They treat these heroes as true human being with individual stories. For example: remember back in the first Iron Man movie, Tony Stark was initially represented as an arrogant, egoistic playboy who did not care much about how his inventions might affect other people’s life. But when he was captured by The Ten Rings terrorist group, he got see witness the terror caused by his creations. This led him to a change of heart as Tony realized how dangerous his creations were and ultimately dedicated his company’s future to create beneficial things for the people. Then in Iron Man 2, we saw a broken-down Tony Stark who found out that his old reactor was infecting his body. We saw Tony went through various emotional breakdowns, but at last he discovered a solution and finally backed to the game.
Another good example was Steve Rogers, a.k.a Captain America. In Captain America The First Avenger 2011, we saw a high-spirited Steve Rogers who fully dedicated himself to his country. But in later movies, we started to see a more doubted Steve who begins questioning his government. Also during the beginning of Captain America The First Avenger, we saw a skinny Steve Rogers who got bullied. But he refused to give up and said “I can do this all day.” Then in Captain America Civil War, we saw Iron Man beaten Captain America pretty hard and asked him to give up. But Capt still remained vigilance and said “I can do this all day.” And while he did speak the same words after all these years, each time he said it represented a different time in his life, a development in his character.
Now, we agree that the overall stories of these movies were not exceptional if you compared them to The Dark Knight trilogy. However, one thing they did right was how they portrayed these heroes’ struggles and developments throughout each movie. These struggles, these developments made the heroes felt relatable, thus making the audiences more interested in the film.
On the other hand, we still don’t see the same level of development in DCEU films. To be honest, we don’t think DCEU films are bad, but, they are not great also except for Wonder Woman 2017 and possibly Man of Steel 2013. And here’s the key issue: we believe DCEU is capable of delivering a good story with relevant characters (just like what they did with Wonder Woman film). But what they need is a movie plan, just like MCU. So far, DCEU films feel like random from our perspective. And even they do have planning; it was not a good one. Just like we mentioned earlier, DC films like Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman, and Justice League lost its focus. It sacrifices a part of its time length to put in irrelevant characters to hint the future films. But such decision leads to weakened plot with weakened characters.
Villains… an eternal problem
Frankly speaking, both MCU and DCEU have suffered a lot in villain aspect. But fortunately for MCU, recent MCU films finally had compelling villains, typically Erik Killmonger in Black Panther 2018 and Thanos in Avengers Infinity War. Unlike many previous MCU films, both of these villains have a good background. Each of them have their own, and surprisingly, sympathizable motive. Erik Killmonger put T’Challa in a dilemma state as he had to question his own sovereignty, his own belief. While Thanos challenged other heroes to actually save the universe from killing itself (and to even more surprise, Thanos won!). These villains were truly fascinating and along with good character development, it made these two movies among the best, if not the best MCU films to date.
Regarding this villain aspect, DCEU is definitely losing behind, especially with their latest film Justice League 2017. And as we already discussed, Steppenwolf really failed as a world-threatening villain. He did not give out any sort of danger-vibe. He did not feel like a true threat, but rather, a plot device to give Batman and Wonder Woman a reason to assemble the Justice League. Again, this villain issue is partly because of DCEU’s lack in planning and character development. To certain extent, we felt like DC was rushing carelessly with hope of catching up with MCU. But it was exactly this kind of rushing which made DCEU films lacked so many important aspects to make a great superhero movie. And that’s why we think DC should calm themselves, take it slow, and see ahead what needs to be done, rather than blindly chasing after MCU.
Truth be told this is a difficult question. But so far, we sense a great change of pace in DCEU. For those who haven’t known, DC has several planned movies including Aquaman 2018, Shazam 2019, Wonder Woman 1984, Flashpoint, Birds of Prey, an untitled The Joker Origin movie, The Batman, and more…
By far, Aquaman 2018 and Shazam 2019 look pretty good in trailers and we can see great potentials within these two films, especially Shazam 2019. And it seems DCEU is truly trying to develop a “DC extended universe”, starting by having origin movies for different heroes. They also seem to have a plan for future movies, typically the upcoming Flashpoint movie.
For those who haven’t read the comics, Flashpoint was an important event in DC Universe in which The Flash ran back in time but at the same time, accidentally messed up with the timeline. But luckily, the timeline was finally fixed but such event still left a huge change in the current timeline. If our prediction is true, then DCEU seems to aim for a huge reset (or reboot) which will allow them to reimagine everything and make the future films properly.
How will the future DCEU turn out? We currently have no idea. Every prediction is still wild speculation at this point. Guess we have to wait til Aquaman 2018 and Shazam 2019 and see for ourselves. But until then, thank you and stay tune for more news in the future!
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