Thoughts on the Marvel & DC Cinematic Universes

For starters, as a pre-teen I read dozens of Marvel and DC comic books, though not in any particular order, just as pure entertainment. I also watched all the 90s cartoon and movie versions of the superhero franchises and I have always loved them. So yea, I am a geeky nerd girl at heart and I do know a thing or two about both universes and its characters. I never actually had a preference but lately I can’t help but notice how the Batman and Superman movie franchises (heroes which I adored as a child) are barely, if at all, keeping up with Iron Man, Captain America, X-Men and Thor. Now I do know there’s a whole weird split studio thing going on with X-Men, but there are originally Marvel characters, so bear with me. The point I want to make is: why are movies with Marvel-based characters such successes while movies with DC characters seem to be struggling?

Of course, by now you know I am referring to the total and utter flop that Batman v Superman is/was/continues to be. And I don’t mean money-wise, because I know plenty of people went to see the movie on the premiere weekend (I stood in line and everything). I mean the reception by both critics and audiences. First off, I don’t ever have high cinematic hopes for ANY superhero movie. I completely and utterly comprehend that these are just action-packed blockbusters with about zero actual depth; they are meant to entertain, not challenge or disrupt our thought processes. Nevertheless, Batman v Superman might just be the most terribly written movie I’ve seen in the last few years and that’s taking into account the fact that it had a huge budget and could have totally invested in a better writer. The lines were just awful. I cringed whenever Superman opened his mouth and I love the actor; I think he completely embodies Superman looks-wise, but there’s just a complete and utter lack of believability to the way the lines are delivered (which, again, might have to do with the fact that the lines are AWFUL). Ben Affleck as Batman was not actually off-putting to me. I think he’s a great actor and I loved him as Daredevil. I also think that there was something interesting in his portrayal of Batman as a superhero seeking accountability from an alien being who is beyond the control of any human institution. Actually, it echoes the general plot of Captain America: Civil War. Nevertheless, Marvel has one HECK of a team on its payroll because it’s movies are just AMAZING.

Captain America: Civil War…the ugly? It wasn’t really a “Captain America” movie, but that’s to be expected since most Captain America plots take place back in World War II. Another ugly, at least for me, is that the females are seriously lacking in this film. There are a total of three and they are at best half-dimensional. I think the only one that had any actual depth was the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) (another note: the little Olsen sister has some serious talent!) with her struggles to deal with others’ fear of her and her power and the consequence of it and her own desire to do good. Also, there were some interesting romantic vibes with Vision there that I would definitely appreciate seeing explored further in another film. Anyway, we also got our first taste of the new Spiderman in this film and I have to say that I liked it. There was something to this smart-mouthed and overly talkative teenage kid that was both hilarious and earnest. They may have FINALLY hit on the perfect balance of gawky and awkward chattiness and insecurity combined with sincerity, honesty, and a desire to set things right that makes Spiderman, well, Spiderman. Tony Stark was a bit annoying in this film, yet also delivering on the complexity of being a superhero, having a normal relationship, and dealing with the consequences of “collateral damage”. Captain America is perfect…nothing further to state. In general, this film had the appropriate screenwriting that added depth to what was basically nearly three hours of smash and bash. As an audience member you were forced to reflect on the appropriate place of superheroes in society and the very real effects that their most notorious battles have on the people surrounding them. Yes, some people had to die in order to save all of humanity, but who were they to decide unilaterally?

Batman v Superman seemed to be working with the same storyline, but failed in the delivery. In the end it was revealed that there were no true moral motives behind questioning Superman, just a genius with a jealousy-complex. Or, rather, the moral imperatives were downplayed or not as developed as they could have been. Again, the females were lacking in dimensions and their lines were minimal. The whole final battle scene seemed somewhat unnecessary and overly drawn out. Also the fact that Batman and Superman could be so easily duped really reduces their street red (just saying) and the way they made up after lots of pointless fighting is utterly incomprehensible. But I digress. The core of the issue worth exploring is: do Marvel characters inherently have some elements that appeal more to contemporary audiences than DC characters? Marvel characters are, well, marvellous: mutants with superpowers, Norse gods, a super advanced sentient and somewhat organic robot, an enhanced human, etc. These characters are more than just you and me. DC’s Superman is also somewhat marvellous in that he is an alien with practically unbeatable abilities, and yet he doesn’t inspire that same awe as the Scarlet Witch. But why? Really, there may be no reason beyond bad writing, but the question is worth asking.

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