EDITORIAL: What Marvel Gets Right & What DC Gets Wrong With Their Movies (And Vice Versa)
I am not a DC hater. My favorite comic book characters have been Superman, Batman and then Spider-Man. My favorite comic book movie of all time is Superman: The Movie. But lately I have been enjoying Marvel’s movies and not so much DC’s.
A Brief History Of Marvel Movie Rights
Both Disney and Marvel had an uphill battle when they launched their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Due to hard times and poor management, in 1997 Marvel sold the movie rights of most of their popular comic book characters to various studios.
The X-Men (Fox)
The Fantastic Four (Fox)
Black Panther (Fox)
Ghost Rider (Sony)
Luke Cage (Sony)
The Hulk (Universal)
The Punisher (Lionsgate)
Black Widow (Lionsgate)
Iron Man (Paramount)
Captain America (Paramount)
On December 31, 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion dollars. During that time, Disney made it clear that they were looking to distribute future Marvel movies but only after previous deals made with Marvel and other movie studios had expired. In 2010, Disney purchased the distribution rights to Iron Man 3 and The Avengers from Paramount Pictures. In 2013, Disney worked out an arrangement with Paramount to distribute all of Paramount’s Marvel movies and reacquired the movie rights for all of Paramount’s Marvel characters. Slowly Disney was able to acquire the movie rights back for many of its comic book heroes and some just reverted back to Marvel. In 2015, Disney and Sony announced a mutually beneficially agreement that would bring Spider-Man into the MCU.
As of today, the movie rights that Disney does not have are The X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool and Spider-Man. The good thing is that you can scratch off Spider-Man form that list because he is now part of the MCU, Marvel has creative control and I am still hopeful that they will get the rights back from Sony. The Fantastic Four is a very likely candidate of coming to the MCU after last year’s disastrous reboot and Fox just has no idea what to do with them. That leaves The X-Men (and Deadpool). That is going to be the toughest uphill battle for Disney and Marvel. The X-Men and Wolverine (and now Deadpool) have always been financially successful at the box office. X-Men: Apocalypse is being released this week and so far it has received mixed reviews. How this affects the box office, we’ll just have to wait and see. But if this really bombs (which I doubt), something could be in play. How many “good” adaptable X-Men stories are left?
Warning: SPOILERS Ahead!
Now before we get started, I want to mention that starting now I will get into SPOILER territory for Captain America: Civil War and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. So if you haven’t seen these movies, and are planning to see them, you may want to avoid the rest of this article.
“Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice”
“Captain America: Civil War”
Captain America: Civil War and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice have very similar stories and themes.
Both movies have two of their most popular superheroes (one being a multi billionaire and the other being a superhuman) battling each other.
They both have the public being afraid of superheroes even though these heroes have saved the lives of millions of people.
They introduce new superheroes.
There is a villain behind the scenes pulling the strings.
They all love their mothers.
But one of them was praised by the critics and moviegoers and the other one wasn’t. So what happened?
Marvel Took Their Time Building The MCU
The first movie in the MCU was Iron Man, which was released on May 2, 2008. Since then, they have released close to two Marvel movies each year. Iron Man alone has been in 6 MCU movies and even made a small cameo in The Incredible Hulk. Robert Downey Jr was excellently cast as Tony Stark and Iron Man and through the years we just got to know him; his personality, his humor, his genius. We have seen his triumphs and failures along with his strength and vulnerabilities. Marvel later released individual movies for Captain America and Thor. The Incredible Hulk movie is also considered a part of the MCU and with those 4 components, they combined all of those characters from their individual movies to join forces in one epic event movie, The Avengers. The movie was a critical and financial success. Marvel has released 13 movies in the MCU and all of them have been financially successful. Warner Brothers saw the financial success that Disney and Marvel were having and decided that they wanted a piece of the box office pie. As mentioned previously, even though Disney owns Marvel Entertainment, the film rights to some of it’s most popular character are at different studios. Warner Brothers does not have that problem but they are rushing to catch up with Marvel and by doing so not giving the audience the chance to get to know the characters.
In my opinion, Batman V Superman is a bad film with some great parts and Captain America: Civil War is a great film with some bad parts. BVS gets so much wrong and Civil War get so much right. Superman does not like Batman because he feels he is operating outside the law, is a vigilante and he is destructive. Batman does not like Superman for the same exact reasons. I have no idea what Luthor’s motive is in this except at first he wants to kill Superman and then he changes his mind and wants to kill Batman. Then he decides if they cant kill themselves he’ll create something that will kill them both and the whole world, including himself. Superman saves Lois from some terrorists and later he is accused of killing people…….with bullets.
The shocking moment for some viewers was the death of Superman. So after just one movie, they decide to kill off Superman in his second movie. Is Superman gone for good? No. There is an Inception like ending at Superman’s coffin showing dirt rising from his coffin. At worst, he is in a coma. Now if Superman and Batman had around 6 movies in total with a few movies with both of them in it, his death would have meant something. Batman spent most of the movie trying to kill Superman. They both become friends because both of their mother’s names were Martha. Batman is friends with Superman for 10 minutes and then Superman dies. Again, there was no weight to that moment no matter how sad Batman looked. In Captain America: Civil War, what should have happened is Captain America should have died. That event happened in the comic books right after Civil War and this would have had tremendous weight because Steve and Tony had known and worked together for years and they were friends. No one cares that Superman dies, especially the audience, because we never got a chance to know him and let’s face it, he was a downer.
Not Every Superhero Movie Has To Be “The Dark Knight”
Without a doubt, Batman has been the most popular and financially successful superhero in their line of movies. It all began with Tim Burton’s Batman, which was heavily inspired by Frank Miller’s comic book, The Dark Knight Returns. No longer was Batman doing the Batoozie and had a sidekick in shorts and pixie boots. This Batman was very dark. He was brutal, uncaring to criminals and was as scary as some of the criminals he faced. Years later the series was rebooted with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight series. This series was very successful and for the most part these movies stood on their own even if you eliminated Batman from the equation. The problem with the Dark Knight movies is even though they contained Batman in the films, this was more or less Christopher Nolan’s vision of the character and didn’t really reflect the actual character that was found in the Batman comic books.
The only character that has had a good track record financially is Batman. WB did not have confidence in Superman in order to give Man Of Steel a proper sequel so they added Batman to the mix. Batman will be in Suicide Squad. Batman will be the leader of The Justice League. Ben Affleck was star as Batman in a new Batman Trilogy. For WB, it’s a Batman world. They need to get the actual comic book writers involved and not give so much power to the directors. Make that director because Zack Snyder has directed Man Of Steel, Batman V Superman and will direct Justice League Parts 1 and 2. All of Zack Snyder’s movies (300, The Watchmen, Sucker Punch) exist in dark worlds. He is a dark director, the majority of the DC superheroes are not.
Superman was never meant to be dark. Go back to the Christopher Reeve films. Yes, the last two movies were bad but if you just focus on Reeve’s performance, he was still excellent as Clark Kent and Superman in those movies and that included adding humor for both characters. The audience laughs at Clark’s bumblings because they know he is doing it intentionally so that people could never associate him with Superman. They look up to Superman as a defender of Truth, Justice and The American Way. That character does not exist in the current DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU). Christopher Reeve’s Superman is a superhero first, an American second, an alien last. Henry Cavill’s Superman is an alien first, a superhero last.
There is no humor in Man Of Steel or Batman V Superman. For the most part, I cant think of any Marvel films displaying dark heroes. At worst is The Hulk and he actually provides a lot of comic relief in the Avengers movies. Even “Thor Dark World”, which has the word “dark” in the title, is one of the funnier Marvel movies. Now if you want to see a dark Marvel superhero, watch “Daredevil” on Netflix. But his character has always had a dark past and they execute it perfectly in the Netflix series. It’s about staying faithful to the character, which Marvel gets and WB does not.
Captain America Is More Superman Than Superman Is In The DCCU
As I had mentioned before, Superman is my favorite superhero. If I had a chance to save either Captain America or Superman, I’ll just say that I would really miss Captain America. The biggest mistake you can make with Superman is going against his core values. Superman was saved by his parents from Krypton’s destruction and Earth was made his adoptive home. He was raised by an elderly couple from Kansas, who shared their values with him and made him the good man and hero he would become. Superman felt a debt of gratitude to the people of the planet Earth because he was given a second chance at life. That is why Superman felt it was his duty to protect the people of this planet with his life. Zack Snyder’s version of Superman was all wrong. In his version, his adopted parents taught him not to trust people and filled him with anxiety that if his powers were found out, the government would take him away. In Man Of Steel, Superman was a reluctant superhero. Jonathan Kent tells young Clark in MOS, maybe you should have let all of those children in that school bus in the river just die. What? In BVS, Superman is more miserable than ever. A lot of the population see Superman as a threat to their existence and that just gets him down. His mother tells him, you don’t have to be a superhero if you don’t want too. Superman has some crappy parents in these movies.
Captain America on the other hand, what is his main goal in every movie? To save the people. He doesn’t care if people like him or not, his first concern is always the people first. When he is informed in Age Of Ultron that they have to blow up floating Sakovia or else it will kill billions of people below, his first response is, “I am not leaving these people.” Like Superman, Captain America does feel like an outsider but he puts that aside because he loves this country and what it stands for, even if at times it loses it’s way. He believes in the fundamental beliefs that this country was founded on. That is what Superman should be and unfortunately he is not in the DCCU.
Marvel Knows How To Introduce New Characters Without Origin Stories
If you ask anyone who has seen BVS what did they like best, almost everyone will say Wonder Woman. She looks great. She kicks butt. But why is she there? She is there because she wants to steal a digital copy of a photo of her from when she was alive back in World War I. I don’t know how smart Wonder Woman is but if you steal a digital copy, you have the photo now, but so does the guy who had it originally. Not her fault but poor script writing. They also introduced Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash, who just happened to be on that same flash drive and we see a few second clips of Aquaman beating up a camera with his trident and stuff like that. In Civil War, Spider-Man is introduced into the MCU. Tony tracks down Peter Parker and reveals he knows he is Spider-Man and needs his help to take down Team Cap. We dont get an origin story again. Peter says, “When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you.” That’s all we need to hear becasue we know he is talking about what happened with Uncle Ben and him. Tom Holland steals the show in this because he is a perfect Spider-Man and Peter Parker. He has Spidey’s moves and he never shuts up during the battle and that is Spider-Man. We are also introduced to Black Panther and for the most part with him, we don’t need an origin story. We know he is a prince, his father was killed and he is out for revenge. He dons his Black Panther suit and works with Tony because he believes Bucky killed his father. This movie showed for even people who never knew about the character, you don’t want to mess around with Black Panther. In the end we saw Black Panther as a leader, a hero and a rational man. After Civil War, most people looked forward to seeing Spider-Man and Black Panther in their own movies. After BVS, people were interested in Wonder Woman but no one gave a damn about Aquaman, Cyborg or Flash.
So What Does DC Get Right That Marvel Gets Wrong?
Marvel definitely does a lot right but they aren’t perfect and could use some help from DC movies when it comes to these issues:
The Musical Score – Hans Zimmer has scored the soundtracks for The Dark Knight Series, Man Of Steel and BVS and each one really adds to the movie so much that the movies would not have the same impact without them. Superman has a theme. Batman has a theme. Wonder Woman has an amazing theme! Can you hum Ant-Man or Thor’s theme? Probably not because they really aren’t memorable. For the most part the musical score for MCU films are just generic action movie music. I hope one day that changes. Star Wars was very successful but a lot of that success came from that score by John Williams. Get your act together Marvel. Hire someone like Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, John Powell, Thomas Newman or Michael Giacchino. I’m sure you have the money.
The Costumes – DC movies do an excellent job with costumes. For the most part, Marvel has too but there have been some exceptions. I think the Falcon costume really needs more color and needs to look less military grade. The Scarlet Witch’s costume just looks like she is going out for a night out on the town. I have never really liked the Captain America costumes (loved his Winter Soldier costume though!). More like tolerated them. The best move they did was to show his ears finally. Fix that red middle stripe on Cap’s costume already! Two movies it’s been like this?
They Kill Their Heroes – Yes, DC killed off a major superhero, Superman. No, they shouldn’t have killed him so soon. But they had the guts to kill him. Only one superhero died in the MCU after 13 movies and that was Quicksilver, which was a minor character. Captain America should have died in this movie and been replaced by Bucky as the new Captain America. War Machine definitely should have died in Civil War. I like both of them but sometimes heroes have to die in order for their adventure to have meaning. Thanks to Taylor Katcher and Ron D’Anna for pointing this out to me.
Keep Your Masks On – You rarely see a comic book hero in the comic with his mask off, but if you are paying Robert Downey Jr. $100 million to play Iron Man, they want to make sure you see RDJ’s face as much as possible. Even worse is Chris Evans who half of his movies he goes around in civilian clothes or his mask just happens to get conveniently knocked off. Never saw Batman take off his mask once (maybe once).
The Villains – It’s tough to beat Heath Ledger’s portrayal as The Joker. The Joker is probably the world’s best known comic book villain. DC also has Lex Luthor (if they ever get him right), Darkseid, Sinestro, Braniac, Black Adam and Deathstroke. So far the only good villain we have seen in the MCU has been Loki and maybe Ultron. Thanos is coming but he hasn’t done much yet. If Marvel ever gets the movie rights to The Fantastic Four, they will get Doctor Doom (Fox never got him right) and that would make the MCU very interesting.
In the end, I guess it could be summed up as DC movies are dark, Marvel movies are fun, not everyone has to be Batman and don’t rush your movie franchise. We now live in a great world where we can expect to see at least three superhero movies a year. I just want them to be as great as they can be and not have the bad ones emerge over what could have been. I love Marvel. I love DC. I want to love all of their movies. And maybe, just maybe one day, we may see all of these heroes and villains (Marvel and DC) on the big screen battling each other.