By GraniteSoldier 10 Comments
In light of the pre-reviews for Suicide Squad (my most anticipated movie this Summer) being less than kind, I decided I wanted to take a look at the DCCU thus far and the MCU and what each one does right and wrong and how big an impact it has overall.
Now I don't frequent the site right now (personal life/work related issues going about), so my opinion is purely my own and undiluted by the thoughts and opinions of others. I don't know how other people feel about this, but this website is the best place I can think of to have this discussion and I'd like to start by getting my own uninfluenced thoughts out there first.
This is not Marvel vs DC. This is not MCU is amazing DCCU is balls, this is a real look from a lifelong comic book reader, fan, and collector of both companies. The fact I need to include that disclaimer should be warning enough how bad the Marvel vs DC nonsense has gotten.
But let's begin:
I've said time and again that the greatest strength of the Marvel films are their casting jobs. Chris Evans looks like a real-life Captain America. Chris Hemsworth carries himself with the bravado one would expect of Thor. Even the more side characters such as Nick Fury and one-off villains like Obediah Stane are treated with respect as a character and well portrayed. It's had it's stinkers in Ed Norton as Bruce Banner (who few outside comic fans remember and whom was promptly replaced) and poorly portrayed villains (Whiplash immediately comes to mind) but those tend to be in Marvel's weaker films (looking at you Iron Man 2).
DC has done well here as well. However rather than Hollywood lesser-knowns, DC is trying to go big with box office headliners. Outside of Henry Cavill, whom I only knew from the poorly done Immortals film prior to Man of Steel, DC has opted for A-listers like Ben Affleck and Will Smith, and even Jeremy Irons as Alfred. And while Irons was superb in Dawn of Justice as Alfred and Affleck is, in my opinion, the best live-action Batman to date. So I don't really think casting is DC's issue, despite seemingly many (myself included) still having reservations on Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman who felt unnecessary and arbitrarily thrown in to Dawn of Justice with little to do beside wear the costume and swing her sword a little.
Here we see stark differences. Marvel, despite all it's films being labeled as 'comic book movies', has done a great job make each hero's franchise tonally different. Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera, while Ant-Man is a heist film. All three Captain America films are different: the first is an alternate period piece war film, the second is a political thriller, and the third is a film on ethics and stance. Now some may argue that all Marvel films are 'the same' in that Marvel tends to add in bits of humor (some forced, like the Thor films are notorious for). However in Marvel's best works (GotG, Captain America) the humor is natural based on the characters and situations, and in the latter's case it is often toned down due to the more seriousness of the films, and at times is almost cynical.
DC is opting for the Nolan approach, being dark, serious, and morally ambiguous. Which works, for Batman. As someone who is a fan of Man of Steel I don't think it would hurt to make Superman, a character vastly different in outlook and approach than Batman, to actually feel different. I personally think this hurts DC, because instead of embracing their characters individualities they tend to feel like copies of one another. The good news is that it seems DC is learning from their mistakes. The trailer for Justice League feels like a film that knows it's a big-budget action flick and isn't trying to be more than that, as does Wonder Woman's trailer. But I'll get to what the films are in a moment.
Suicide Squad (based on previews) appears to be a film that understands the chaotic nature of it's characters and the trailers have seemed equally lighthearted in their violent nature. While the film will likely be 'dark' it doesn't 'feel dark', if that makes any sense. However only time will tell when I see it this weekend.
I didn't know what to label this section, so follow me on this. Marvel understands that certain characters you can make a little more serious than others. Captain America has decidedly different levels of seriousness than Guardians of the Galaxy. But really, could you get away with talking Raccoons and trees and be serious? Even Merry and Pipen where the comic relief in Lord of the Rings, and they were the ones of course dealing with the talking trees! Captain America (and Iron Man, Tony Stark's wise-ass personality aside but that's who he is) has Marvel's two most serious films, but they are still fun. Marvel knows how to find the right balance with certain characters (Ant-Man GotG being the others, and Iron Man 1 still being one of Marvel's best) but admittedly not all. Thor's movies are consistently bad, and despite people claiming a critical affinity for Marvel they are often harshly criticized. Thor is, in my opinion, a character with very little going on and very one-dimensional storytelling and personality (which is why it seems Thor: Ragnarok is pulling from Planet Hulk, since Thor has very little going on). Look at Marvel's other street work with Daredevil and Jessica Jones. It seems Marvel understands that it is easier to take a story more seriously when the threats and understandable and palpable (like in Winter Soldier) than something abstract and large scale (like Dark World). When the threat is so large, you need to go large. This isn't to say it can't be done more seriously, but it simply tends to feel off. Thor has often felt like Marvel understands Thor's high power is a source of amusement and bewilderment, but instead of go all in on that they try to make it a bit more serious with issues of family and responsibility. But they don't go all in on the lightheartedness either, by forcing comedy and awkward moments. Age of Ultron suffered much of the same issues. It seems like Marvel just has a better handle on certain characters.
This leads me to DC. Man of Steel did a good job of showing you can take a higher-powered hero and make his absurd level of power something still a bit more serious, however what made the Dark Knight films so taught was the didn't overkill the action. Superman's action scenes (while awesome) were very long and dragged away from the theatrical elements they went for. I've seen some praise for DC trying to make superhero flicks 'more cerebral' or 'high art', but DC isn't really doing that. Honestly, they aren't even attempting it in the DCCU. They are really more dark, slam-bang action (which is fine by the way) but they are trying to throw in pseudo-psychology and faux philosophy with very little to back it up. For example, in Dawn of Justice, we have a scene where Luthor talks about gods and men and devils, alluded to a sub-theme of the movie. However very little else in the movie builds on this. In fact it just seems to be dropped. Marvel has it's stinkers, but it's good films know what they want to be and has directors who knows what they are doing. DC seems to be floundering in trying to find an identity for it's films. Do they want to be the psychological superhero films the Nolan Batman Trilogy was? Or do they want to be blockbuster action flicks? Can they be both? I think they can, personally, but how long before people give up on DC?
While I'm at it, let me talk about Suicide Squad in this section. Let me reiterate that I have this as my most anticipated Summer flick. However, just from it's previews, there are issues I've had with it since trailer 1. First: DC is once again trying to be unnecessarily edgy. Why the random tattoos? Why the face tattoos? Why does Joker have a grill? Why does everyone look like they stole their clothes from Hot Topic? Why does Harley look nothing like Harley when Deadshot looks almost spot on? Things like this make DC feel like the goth kid trying so hard to be 'different', when it really just comes off as overcompensation.
Again, I don't want DC to be Marvel. Marvel has it's own messes in Thor, and Iron Man ended on a less than stellar note. Avengers is built to always seem to be nothing more than mindless action (which is fine) but could be much more and the lack of trying feels lazy. I like that DC is giving us a different kind of superhero film. But DC feels like they are afraid to embrace anything that isn't the Dark Knight formula, while failing to realize the Batman formula won't work with every hero.
I've been going on for a bit here so I'll be succinct: Marvel trusts their source material and gives respect to it while DC isn't. Marvel is adapting (as in translating with some differences) their great comic stories into films, while DC wants to create entirely new stories.
I like and have issue with both companies in this. Marvel can be seen as playing it safe, however the times they have taken breaks from the source material (Iron Man 3's Mandarin) they have met criticism. However even when their stories aren't source driven (Guardians of the Galaxy) their characters are still reflective of their source material counterparts.
Superman honestly didn't feel like Superman. I'll just go out and say it. Other than the powers, he hasn't felt like Superman. Batman feels like Batman, but this goes back to what I was saying previously that not every hero is Batman and every hero needs to feel different and unique.
Shut up and wrap up
Ok, so I've been rambling. I get it. So let's just recap. Marvel and DC both have issues, and while Marvel's floor is equal to or lower than DC's right now it's ceiling is way higher. DC's ceiling is decent at best, and lacks direction and identity.
I hope the Suicide Squad reviews are just people being overly harsh due to a still-sour taste from Dawn of Justice. Despite some Squad members looking like Hot Topic clerks it still looks fun, action packed, and looks like DC is going to stick close to their character's source material.
Marvel took it's time to find it's stride, and with the Russo Brothers taking the helm of Avengers it looks like it's going to right the ship of it's big team. I can only hope the Thor films will follow suit. DC is trying to hit the ground running, skipping the crawl and walk phase to catch up to Marvel. I think think is leading to it's harsher criticisms, but if the Justice League and Wonder Woman trailers are any indication it looks like DC might be getting it's feet under it as well.
Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts.