This week Marvel Studios will release Captain America: Civil War, the latest in their line of what seems to be unstoppable box office smashes, to theaters nationwide. The hype for this film is through the roof with both Spider-Man & The Black Panther making their on screen debuts for the first time in a Marvel production. Not only this, but Marvel has shown the ability to make various genres of films work all while staying true to the formula that has proved to be the winning combination ever since the first Iron Man. While some will say that not every one of the Marvel films have been great, (here’s looking at you Thor) their box office returns and continued anticipation for whatever is coming next on their slate remains high. They also show no signs of slowing down at the box office, or on the home front with their Netflix series now being three for three and Agents Of SHIELD turning into the most improved show on television right now.
On the other side of the coin is Warner Brothers & their staple of DC Comics characters. I mean what else can be said about them that hasn’t been said in the past? With the recent release of Batman V. Superman, DC has proven their ability to take two of the greatest characters in comics and turn out a film that has been one of the most divisive films in fandom. At the same time, DC has long ruled the animation front, turning out decades of entertainment that many consider to be the benchmark of long form animated storytelling, as well as many incredible one off animated films and short movies. Their recent forays into television have also been given strong reviews and love from long term fans of the properties as well as new converts to the cause. The Flash in particular has become one of the best shows on television when it’s hitting its marks and easily rivals any of the Netflix shows with Marvel, which have the added benefit of not having to deal with the constraints of network television.
So why can DC get their characters correct on some platforms but fail to make the transition to film? Why has Marvel proven that one can stay true to the characters and stories that long term fans love and still make them work on the big screen? Is it really just a difference between light and dark? Between comic book films & films grounded in reality? What does reality even mean when you’re dealing with an alien who somehow looks human but has the powers of a god?
Traditionally people will say that the Marvel films are all bright & cheery and don’t deal with the reality of super powered individuals living in the real world, while the DC movie universe deals more with this concept directly. But that is far too simplistic to say & does a disservice to both universes and the films that have been made to represent them.
While Marvel does have a much brighter look to their films and DC seems to want to throw a darkness filter over everything they shoot, to say that one is light and one is dark isn’t really the case. Marvel, especially with their Netflix series, have shown that they are willing to go all the way with the adult themes, violence, sexual situations and relationships are all depicted. On the flip side, DC has also shown that they can take a light hearted character such as the Flash or Supergirl and still deal with very adult themes and concepts.
We also have to look at what Fox has done with the X-Men franchise. When the first wave of X-Men films were released they were considered some of the best superhero films ever made. Years later, after several disappointing outings and Marvel showing that sticking to the source material works, they are not held in such a high regard. But with the success of Deadpool the studio now has the fans back on their side and there is a renewed interest in not only the Deadpool franchise but all of the upcoming X-films such as New Mutants and to a slightly less degree X-Men: Apocalypse.
So perhaps the only problem that DC faces is that they are stuck behind the vision of Zack Snyder, who while being a capable film director doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate the characters which he has been charged with steering to the silver screen. Given the recent departure of the director of The Flash film and the behind the scenes drama of The Aquaman franchise, perhaps DC is reconsidering the direction that Snyder has taken their franchise. But seeing as how Zack is still directing the upcoming Justice League film or films perhaps they still have not learned the lesson that their ticket receipts have been trying to tell them.