In spite of the brilliant recent Wonder Woman movie, the DC Extended Universe still has a hell of a lot of catching up to do if it wants to consider itself to be a genuine rival to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is, of course, the highest-grossing movie franchise of all time).
The MCU obviously had a head start on its DC counterpart – it began in 2008 and there have now been fifteen movies released in the franchise, whereas the DCEU began five years later in 2013 and there have only been four movies released in the franchise – and DC and Warner Brothers can’t be blamed for that, as they were busy with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy when the MCU began (which, let’s face it, was fantastic).
Numbers of movies aside, the DCEU just isn’t as good as the MCU – and there are a number of reasons for that.
In this article, we’ll take you through just a few of them, as we look at seventeen reasons the DC Extended Universe is pathetically inferior to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
17. It’s Rushed
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been slow and methodical. Five movies were released before the Avengers joined forces and four out of six members of the original team had starred in at least one solo movie of their own by that point (Black Widow had also been thoroughly introduced in Iron Man 2, while Hawkeye had appeared in Thor in a cameo role).
The next movie in the DCEU is going to be the Justice League movie at the end of 2017. By then, only two members of the team will have had their own solo movies – one of whom is dead for the time being – and we’ll barely have gotten to know Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg at all. To say that it seems a little rushed (and desperate) is an understatement.
16. Rate Of Releases
The Marvel Cinematic Universe releases movies at a rate of knots. Two movies were released in the franchise in its maiden year and, after four years, six had been released in total. The DC Extended Universe, however, has been around for four years and only four movies have been released, and it took three years to release a second movie after the first instalment Man of Steel.
With that in mind, the MCU is always going to be ahead of the DCEU. Marvel Studios are showing themselves to be more ambitious than DC and Warner Brothers, and at the rate they’re currently releasing movies (three a year), they’re always going to come up with the fresh ideas first, keep fans more interested and dominate at the box office on a yearly basis.
15. It Began With A Whimper
A great movie franchise should always get underway with a great movie. The Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with a bang with the release of one of the most defining superhero movies of all time in the form of Iron Man in 2008, but the DC Extended Universe did so with a whimper in the form of 2013’s Man of Steel.
Man of Steel wasn’t a bad movie, per se, it just wasn’t great. It was too long, took too long to really get going, and it ended up being a little boring and underwhelming as a result – which is a far cry from the near-perfect Iron Man. It was always going to be an uphill task for the franchise to garner excitement and become a definitive success after that – something the MCU had no problems at doing.
14. It Takes Itself Too Seriously
Superhero movies are intrinsically ridiculous. By definition, men and women in crazy costumes, using wacky powers and gadgets to battle other men and women in crazy costumes, is indeed ridiculous. With that in mind, they really shouldn’t take themselves too seriously.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe clearly doesn’t. They’re fun, popcorn flicks that are teaming with jokes and you can tell that they’re very self-aware in that sense. The DC Extended Universe is very different. There have been some jokes – there’s no denying that – but, on the whole, it’s been very serious and dark in tone. Nobody wants the DCEU to be a carbon copy of the MCU, but if it would just take a leaf out of the MCU’s book and lighten up a bit, it would fare a lot better in the long run.
13. It Lacks Originality
When the Marvel Cinematic Universe got underway with Iron Man in 2008, everyone knew it was going to offer something different. Granted, The Incredible Hulk followed that same year, which had been done before, but subsequent movies about the likes of Thor, The Avengers, Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy have differentiated the universe from previous Marvel movies in a big way.
When the DC Extended Universe got underway with Man of Steel in 2013, it was a case of “oh no, not another Superman movie”. Then Batman was introduced, yet again, in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and, more recently, we’ve had Wonder Woman, who has been seen in live action on television before. Granted, Suicide Squad introduced a new group of characters, but even that had to include the Joker to ensure viewers had a familiar face to look at. It would just be nice to see a bit more originality in the DCEU.
12. The One Time It Tried To Be Different, It Failed Dramatically
Speaking of Suicide Squad, it was meant to be the Guardians of the Galaxy of the DC Extended Universe’s. It was supposed to be a quirky attempt at introducing a relatively obscure group of characters (at least in a mainstream sense) to prove that DC and Warner Brothers could make a good job of such a task. Sadly, it just wasn’t in the same league as Guardians of the Galaxy.
Barely anybody knew who the Guardians of the Galaxy were before their first movie in 2014, but the MCU proved its ability to succeed while taking risks in making a movie about them. The DCEU… not so much. Until the DCEU succeeds both critically and commercially with a movie that isn’t deemed to be a safe option, it can’t be considered to be in the same league as its far superior Marvel counterpart.
11. Its Biggest Movie To Date Was Terrible
Every time Marvel Studios has released a “big” movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it has been, at the very least, quite good. The Avengers was spectacular, Guardians of the Galaxy was fantastic, Avengers: Age of Ultron was okay, and the biggest movie in the franchise to date – Captain America: Civil War – was absolutely superb. Oh and they all either met or exceeded expectations at the box office.
Compare that to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It was all over the place and a massive disappointment. Captain America: Civil War hammered it at the box office ($1.153 billion in comparison to Batman v Superman’s £873 million) and it was run close by the likes of Deadpool and Suicide Squad. For a movie with the two biggest names in comic books in its title, that’s a huge disappointment. For a critical comparison, Batman v Superman is rated at 27% at Rotten Tomatoes, while Civil War is rated at 90%.
10. The Villains
So, you think the Marvel Cinematic Universe has poor villains – well what about the bad guys in the DC Extended Universe? The MCU can at least boast Loki, Red Skull, Ultron and Ego – as well as the likes of Kingpin and Kilgrave from the television shows. The DCEU, on the other hand, hasn’t had a single standout villain yet!
General Zod was okay but unmemorable, Enchantress was absolutely ridiculous, Doomsday looked like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and the whole Ares/Sir Patrick Morgan thing was every bit as weird as the Mandarin/Trevor Slattery thing in the MCU. More to the point, fans have got Steppenwolf to “look forward to” in the first Justice League movie – and he’s not exactly the kind of household name they expected to see fighting against DC’s flagship superhero team on the big screen.
9. The Heroes
It isn’t just the villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that are far superior to their DC Extended Universe counterparts – the heroes are too. Wonder Woman has certainly just risen to the upper echelons of live action superheroes, following the release of her titular solo movie, but Henry Cavill’s Superman is dull, Ben Affleck makes a decent Bruce Wayne but a pretty average Batman, and the other heroes have only had bit-parts to date (but they don’t exactly have the world on tenterhooks with excitement to see more of them).
Really, does anyone in the DCEU come close to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark? Wonder Woman is the closest thing, but she’s no closer in popularity to him than the likes of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Chris Evans’ Captain America or Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord – the MCU has popular heroes in abundance! Essentially, the characters in the MCU are just infinitely better than those in the DCEU – it’s as simple as that.
8. The Cast
On a heavily related note to the last two points, regardless of whether their characters turned out to be popular or not, no Marvel Cinematic Universe castings have resulted in a major negative public outcry, because Marvel Studios are trusted to get castings right. Granted, it hasn’t always worked out brilliantly, but barely anybody has ever said “that actor was wrong for that role” with regards to an MCU casting.
The DC Extended Universe, however, is notorious for controversial castings. Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman resulted in arguably the biggest negative response from fans in cinema history! Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor just doesn’t fit at all. And there are too many relatively small names – like Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher – taking on prominent roles. The casting of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Black Adam looks good, however, so hopefully DC and Warner Brothers are learning their lesson on this subject.
7. The Scheduling & Related Issues Are All Over The Place
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a well-oiled machine. Fifteen movies in and the only real alterations that have been made to the schedule are that Ant-Man changed from a Phase Three movie to a Phase Two movie (and had its director changed), the Inhumans movie was cancelled and became a television series, and Avengers: Infinity War went from being a two-part movie to having the second movie left untitled for the time being.
The DC Extended Universe has gone through so many scheduling (and related issue) changes that it’s hard to know where to begin – and it’s only four movies in. There are seven supposed upcoming movies without titles (whether or not they end up being made is open to debate), directors are constantly being changed (Ben Affleck, for example, stepped down as director of The Batman and several directors have dropped out of The Flash), release dates are constantly being changed (the Justice League sequel was pushed back to make room for The Batman and some movies that had release dates now don’t) and it all just seems very disorganized and haphazard.
6. It Has Too Much To Live Up To
The DC Extended Universe is always going to be fighting a losing battle in many respects, because so many of its flagship characters have too much history to live up to. Heroes and villains alike have been portrayed so well on screen in the past that the actors who take on those same roles now just can’t win.
Henry Cavill’s Superman is always going to be compared negatively to Christopher Reeve, Ben Affleck has both Michael Keaton and Christian Bale’s Batman portrayals to live up to, Michael Shannon was never going to improve on Terence Stamp’s General Zod, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor portrayal has Gene Hackman’s portrayal working against it, and poor Jared Leto hasn’t got a chance in hell of coming across favourably in comparison to Heath Ledger’s Joker. Modern incarnations of those characters are simply never going to live up to fans’ expectations.
Reshoots are, of course, commonplace in movies. If a scene is deemed to be imperfect, it’s only natural to film it again to get it right. But the number of confirmed – and indeed prolonged – reshoot sessions that have taken place for DC Extended Universe movies really doesn’t instil fans with confidence that DC and Warner Brothers have any idea about what they’re doing.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and the upcoming Justice League all underwent extensive reshoots after filming was supposedly finished. When Zack Snyder had to step down from directing Justice League after the tragic death of his daughter, Joss Whedon – who had previously so successfully directed The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – took over and had to reshoot what seemed like the whole movie! It really doesn’t look good when three out of the first five movies in the franchise have undergone extensive reshoots.
4. The Flagship Hero Has Already Died
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been criticized for its refusal to kill off its major heroes. After several appearances each, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and many others are still alive – in spite of the fact that many of them have been fighting well above their pay grade for years.
But the DC Extended Universe has already gone even further in the other direction. After only two appearances, the DCEU’s Superman is dead and everyone now knows that the most powerful member of the Justice League is beatable. Superman will, of course, be resurrected, but he hasn’t been built up to be a threat to the likes of Darkseid and those mega-powerful villains who will inevitably turn up in the future. Essentially, this version of Superman has been depicted as weak. That’s not a good thing.
3. No Television Spin-Offs (Or One-Shots)
The most exciting thing about any kind of cinematic universe is the interlinking of movies to each other. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has gone one better by having television shows (and indeed short films called “One-Shots”) that take place in the same universe as their movies.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist have already aired, The Defenders and Inhumans are scheduled for airing in 2017, The Punisher is due to be scheduled for airing any time now, Cloak and Dagger is currently filming, a Most Wanted pilot was filmed but never aired, and a pilot for Damage Control has been ordered. The DCEU doesn’t have anything like that going for it and, quite frankly, that just makes it less exciting for its fans.
2. Overall Critical Reception
When it comes down to it, movie franchises are measured by two key things: critical success and commercial success. In terms of the overall critical reception of the DC Extended Universe, it has failed dramatically – especially in comparison to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
We’re only four movies into the DCEU’s life and three of them have been critical disappointments (Wonder Woman being the obvious exception). Granted, the MCU has had its duds – Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3 immediately spring to mind as three movies that weren’t particularly well-received – but when you consider that there have been fifteen movies so far in the franchise, that rate of critical failure isn’t bad – and it’s far superior to that of the DCEU.
1. Overall Box Office Success
Now, it goes without saying that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grossed more money worldwide than the DC Extended Universe – there have been eleven more movies in the MCU than the DCEU, after all – but there’s more to this point than that.
Even over the course of fifteen movies, the MCU maintains a larger average worldwide gross per film than the DCEU – and that’s in spite of the fact that the MCU started before the current comic book movie boom and five years before the DCEU, giving the DCEU an inflation advantage. The DCEU’s four movies have averaged a $680 million worldwide gross, while the MCU’s fifteen movies have averaged a $780 million worldwide gross. Wonder Woman may still be earning, but not to the extent that it will make a difference here, as its peak has passed. Simply put, the MCU is a far more lucrative property than the DCEU on the whole.
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