The Marvel Cinematic and DC Extended Universes are in full-swing, with the two franchises set to release a combined five films in 2017. Marvel will kick things off with its fifteenth film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, in May followed by Spider-Man: Homecoming in July, and Thor: Ragnarok in November. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. will try to keep pace with the release of Wonder Woman in June and then Justice League just two weeks after Thor: Ragnarok in November. In a time when shared universes are all the rage, these two are at the head of the pack.
With fourteen films already released (compared to the DCEU’s three), the MCU is clearly the more established universe so far, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it bests the DCEU at every turn. Of course there are plenty of qualities that paint the MCU as the superior franchise (the fact that it’s been in existence for going on a decade is testament to that), but there are plenty of areas where the DCEU actually has the advantage. Poppycock, you say? Well then, read on.
Here are 8 Reasons the DCEU is Better Than the MCU And 8 Reasons It’s Worse.
16. Better: It has a speedster
The powers that be at Marvel have made it abundantly clear that they are not in the business of killing off their characters (not yet, anyway). Loki, Bucky Barnes, Agent Coulson, Pepper Potts, Nick Fury, and Thor all seemingly die only to be resurrected either later on in the film or in a subsequent one. Unfortunately for Quicksilver and Groot, however, they are the only heroes to die and stay dead. And while Groot did (somewhat) return in the form of Baby Groot, the death of Quicksilver leaves the MCU one speedster short of, well, one speedster.
The MCU’s Quicksilver may have been a bit of a bore, but Fox has proven with its own Quicksilver that speedsters can absolutely steal the show when handled with the right care. The fact that Barry Allen will be a major player going forward bodes well for the DCEU and gives it a distinct advantage over the now Quicksilver-less MCU. If the creative minds at Warner Bros. treat the Flash with the same care that Fox did with its speedster, then the DCEU will have a fun character that the MCU simply cannot duplicate.
15. Worse: It’s Too dark, with almost no comic relief
One criticism hurled DC’s way ever since Henry Cavill’s exquisitely-chiseled Superman first graced the screen in 2013’s Man of Steel is “the films are too dark.” Despite its main character having the Kryptonian symbol for hope emblazoned on his chest, the film itself is rather hopeless and contains only one real joke in its entire two hour and 28 minute run time. (The “he’s kinda hot” one. Not the trees-impaled-in-the-rig one. That wasn’t funny. It was property damage, and Clark owes that trucker quite the hefty sum. Better start freelancing, Kent.)
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice did very little to change this perception as it too had few moments of levity (although Martha Kent’s response after being rescued by Batman and learning he is a friend of her son’s was pretty hilarious). And while Suicide Squad did throw in a few more jokes, the overall tone of the film was disjointed. Batman and Superman don’t need to quip as often as Iron Man and Rocket Raccoon, but they shouldn’t be constantly brooding either. The trailer for Justice League suggests DC is at least trying to lighten things up, which is a step in the right direction.
14. Better: It’s not hampered by its tv shows
To say the Marvel Cinematic Universe is expansive is a bit like saying getting kicked in the face by a horse will hurt. It’s accurate but also misleading. The MCU is a massive, intricately designed web of stories that has grown to include fourteen feature films, five television series, five short films, two digital series, and dozens of comic books. Having everything connect to create a single, cohesive universe is admirable, but it also limits the stories the MCU can tell. To make a long story short, the television characters will not interact with the film characters any time soon.
By having two distinct universes (one on film, one on tv), DC is able to tell countless stories that it would not be able to explore otherwise. If the Flash were limited to only appearing in Justice League movies and a solo film once every four years, then there surely wouldn’t be enough time to introduce villains like Reverse Flash, Zoom, and Gorilla Grodd. And if he were limited to television only, then fans wouldn’t get to see Barry Allen appearing on screen alongside Wonder Woman and Batman. Creating two universes that are independent of one another allows the DCEU to tell whichever stories it chooses without being hampered by the television series.
13. Worse: Double casting characters already on tv could alienate fans of the shows
Distinct universes giveth. Distinct universes taketh away. While the DCEU does have much to gain by keeping its television and film universes separate, it also risks alienating certain sections of its audience by recasting roles that fans have already come to love. This includes any character that has already appeared on television but the most glaring example so far is the Flash, already played by Grant Gustin for the last two and a half seasons on the CW.
From the moment Justice League was announced, fans of Arrow and The Flash wondered whether Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow and Gustin’s Flash would reprise their roles on film. When Ezra Miller was cast as Barry Allen, a certain portion of the audience was undoubtedly disappointed, having wanted to see Gustin continue in the role. As the DC film and television universes continue to grow, there will be more and more character overlap, which will likely lead to fans souring on one version of the character in favor of the other. It’s inevitable, and not one the MCU will encounter.
12. Better: It will have the first female-led and the first underwater superhero films
When DC decided to dip its toe in the shared-universe pool with 2013’s Man of Steel, it knew it was partaking it what would be an uphill battle with Marvel. By that point, Marvel had already completed Phase 1 with 2012’s The Avengers, and launched Phase 2 with 2013’s Iron Man 3. Trailing Marvel by five years and six films, it seemed highly unlikely that DC could produce anything fans haven’t seen before, and yet it will.
Despite having produced fourteen films to DC’s three, Marvel has yet to produce anything with a female lead, a feat that DC will accomplish later this year with the release of Wonder Woman. (Marvel, by comparison, will have its first female-led film in Captain Marvel, set for release in 2019.) DC will also have the first underwater film with 2018’s Aquaman and has already shared some behind-the-scenes images of the visual effects. Marvel, meanwhile, has not shared any plans of producing an underwater film of its own.
11. Worse: There’s a clear lack of long-term planning
When it comes to its cinematic universe building, Marvel can never be accused of lacking a plan. From a glimpse of the Infinity Gauntlet in Thor to Captain America’s shield making an appearance in Iron Man 2 to a Stephen Strange name drop in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s clear Kevin Feige and the powers that be at Marvel have always had a clear plan for their films moving forward. In fact, Feige himself has said several times that Marvel usually has a vague idea of where the MCU will go several years in advance.
From what we have seen of the DCEU so far, the creative minds at Warner Bros. don’t seem to have a comparable plan of their own. The first hint came at the end of Man of Steel when fans stayed through the end credits hoping for some sort of tease for future films and came up empty. Then came the fact that following the release of Man of Steel in 2013 Warner Bros. took three years to produce Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. (By comparison, Marvel produced and released five films in that same time frame.) In terms of overall planning, the DCEU is clearly the inferior franchise.
10. Better: It has the more iconic characters
DC and Marvel are both absolutely teeming with amazing characters that have stood the test of time. On the Marvel side you have the likes of Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk; and on the DC side you have Green Lantern, Aquaman, Shazam, the Flash, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, and Atom, to name a few. In terms of having the more iconic heroes, however, DC has the clear advantage.
Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are three of the most popular superheroes of all time, and their presence gives the DCEU a level of star power that Marvel simply cannot match. Thus far, Marvel has done a fantastic job of elevating its superheroes on film (let’s be honest, Iron Man was a B-player until Robert Downey Jr. made him a God), but they still aren’t on the same level as the DC trinity. As long as the DC trinity is treated with the same reverence that they have for the last 75 years of comics, then the DCEU will have a slight advantage over the MCU.
9. Worse: Rushed world-building
The greatest thing that can be said about the MCU so far is it has established a formula that works. For proof, one need only look at the box office returns of the universe’s crossover films. Marvel introduced its main characters in solo films and then brought them together in The Avengers and the film made more than $1 billion worldwide. They followed the formula again and Age of Ultron grossed another billion, and then Civil War followed suit. Seeing these results, the decision-makers at Warner clearly decided the best way to make a profit was to begin producing Justice League movies as soon as possible.
The problem with producing a Justice League movie so early in the franchise’s timeline is it requires rushed world building. As opposed to following the Marvel formula of introducing characters in solo films before bringing them together in a team-up (a formula that, again, worked to the tune of $1 billion), DC decided to introduce Batman and Wonder Woman in the same film and then threw in cameos by Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg for good measure. This turned what could have been a solid Man of Steel sequel that also introduced Batman into a bit of a bloated mess. The fact that only Wonder Woman will receive a solo film before Justice League is released next year does not bode well for the franchise’s first superhero team-up.
8. Better: It has access to all of its characters
While Warner Bros. has thus far received plenty of well-deserved flak for the ham-fisted cameos in BvS (why did the glass of milk Flash was holding hover in the air while he knocked down the robber? Why was Aquaman hanging out inside of a sunken ship? Why did he appear to be holding his breath?), the studio is at least in the position of having cameos for any and every one of DC’s comic book characters. Unfortunately, Marvel can’t say the same.
For those unaware (all seven of you), Marvel sold off the movie rights to many of its characters in the 1990’s, long before the MCU would come into existence. Some of the sold properties included Spider-Man (to Sony), Deadpool, the Silver Surfer, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four (all to 20th Century Fox). Marvel was able to strike a deal with Sony to bring Spider-Man into the MCU, but as long as Fox keeps making films featuring Marvel’s other characters (regardless of quality), it will maintain the film rights to those characters and keep them out of the MCU. The DCEU won’t have any such problem and is free to use whichever characters it pleases.
7. Worse: Too much studio interference
Before we dive fully into this one, a quick disclaimer. Yes, Marvel has received its fair share of criticism for cutting the legs out from under its directors. Kevin Feige and the higher-ups at Marvel Studios have a particular plan for the MCU and they hire directors to work within the boundaries of that plan. This led to Edgar Wright dropping out of directing Ant-Man, which kind of sucked because a Wright-directed Ant-Man had the potential to be amazing, but the film turned out fine nonetheless. The difference between the interference in the MCU and the interference at the DCEU, however is the latter’s films have suffered as a result.
One of the bigger criticisms heaved at BvS is the aforementioned teaser for Justice League that occurs when Wonder Woman opens her laptop and sees videos of Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg. The inclusion of this scene in the film screams of studio interference and shows the studio’s lack of faith in the film’s ability to pique fans’ interest in future films. The tonal shifts Suicide Squad are another clear result of studio interference. Director David Ayer made a dark film when Warner Bros. wanted a light one so the studio ordered re-shoots and turned the film into a tonally incoherent mess. For future films, it would be best for Warner to take a step back and let their directors do their job.
6. Better: More diversity
If there is one thing the MCU has been lacking so far, it is diversity…and strong villains not named Loki…and character deaths that hold weight. Okay, the MCU is lacking is several areas, but the most disconcerting so far is the lack of diversity both in front of and behind the camera. Every one of its films thus far has featured a white, male lead and been directed by a white, male director (or white, male brothers in the case of the Russos). In a world where much of the population is not white and roughly half is, well, not male, this poses a bit of a problem. The MCU won’t have its first non-white lead and director until next year’s Black Panther and its first female lead until 2019’s Captain Marvel.
The DCEU, however, has fared much better in this regard. Suicide Squad featured a diverse cast that included Will Smith, Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jay Hernandez, and Karen Fukuhara, Wonder Woman will be the first film in either franchise to feature a female lead and a female director, and the Justice League will feature two non-white actors in Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher. The MCU is making strides toward being more diverse, but the DCEU is already there.
5. Worse: It already has “the sequel problem”
The sequel problem is one that has plagued the MCU ever since Earth’s Mightiest Heroes first came together in The Avengers. Basically, once the heroes unite to defeat a common enemy there needs to be a good reason for them to not unite again in future solo films. There was no explanation given for the lack of Avengers when Tony Stark’s home was blown to pieces in Iron Man 3, nor for when the helicarriers launched at the end of The Winter Soldier. Marvel appears to be taking steps to correct this problem since it brought most of the Avengers together for Civil War and will be teaming Thor and Hulk in Ragnarok.
The DCEU, meanwhile, already has a similar problem since Wonder Woman debuted before her solo film and Justice League will premiere before the solo films of Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash. Wonder Woman solves the problem by setting the film before the events of BvS (although that lessens the tension of the film since we know she’ll live to the end), but there’s no indication as to how Warner will work around its other solo entries. The sequel problem is bound to strike any franchise that includes a superhero team-up, and having the Justice League form so early in the timeline only exacerbates the problem.
4. Better: Its films have been financially successful and it already has an oscar
The sad truth regarding the DCEU is its films have been panned by critics across the board. The MCU films tend to receive Rotten Tomatoes ratings in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s with the lowest-rated film thus far being Thor: The Dark World at 66%. Rotten Tomatoes is far from the authority when it comes to judging film quality but is often a good indicator of how films are received. By comparison, the DCEU’s highest rated film so far is Man of Steel at 55%. BvS currently sits at 27% and Suicide Squad at 26%. Despite these scores, however, the DCEU films have been about as financially successful as Marvel’s.
The worldwide grosses of the MCU films so far have ranged from $263 million for The Incredible Hulk to $1.5 billion for The Avengers, with the average MCU film raking in approximately $779 million worldwide. The DCEU films, despite the aforementioned poor ratings have averaged around $760 million. This doesn’t account for inflation, but the comparable averages bode well for the DCEU. If the quality of its films improve, it’s likely the box office draws will as well. Plus, Suicide Squad won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, giving the franchise exactly one more Oscar win than its competitor.
3. Worse: It Squandered The Death Of Superman Storyline
The Death of Superman is one of the most iconic comic book storylines in history. It features the debut of Doomsday who lays waste to several superheroes on his way to a one-on-one confrontation with the Man of Steel. The fight sees the two combatants go toe-to-toe and ends with both of them dying from their wounds. The next issue’s cover features Superman’s funeral with virtually every DC hero in attendance and Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Robin carrying his coffin. This was an event more than fifty years in the making and should have been treated accordingly on film. It was not.
Instead of building Superman’s relationships with the rest of the Justice League (or at least, you know, introducing him to the rest of the Justice League) over the course of several films, thereby allowing his death to have more of an impact not only on the audience but also on his fellow league members, the creative minds at Warner decided to kill him off in movie number 2. This was a baffling decision and a complete waste of one of the greatest comic book deaths of all time.
2. Better: Bolder Decision-Making
One of the bigger critiques levied at the powers that be at Marvel Studios thus far is their decision to play things relatively safe. Many of the films are formulaic and the studio rarely makes any bold decisions. Aside from, you know, launching an unprecedented shared universe that spans multiple films and protagonists and has ushered in a new age for cinema. Other than that, they tend to err on the side of caution, often focusing on the light side of superhero exploits as opposed to the dark. The first trailer for Age of Ultron suggested a shift in tone, but the film was for the most part just as light-hearted as the rest. (Sure Quicksilver died, but who really cared?)
The DCEU, on the other hand, has shown it is not afraid to make some bold decisions, for better or worse. First came the decision to have Superman snap Zod’s neck. It was bold and polarizing for audiences but could have led to some interesting character development for Clark in future films. Then came the decision to not only introduce Batman in the next film, but to focus nearly the entire film on the conflict between the two. Warner Bros. could have followed Marvel’s template, but instead made the bold decision to pit its most iconic heroes against one another. Some other bold decisions include introducing and then killing off Doomsday, hinting at an Injustice storyline through Flash’s message to Batman, and, of course, killing off Superman. Not all of these decisions have been great, but the DCEU is at least showing a willingness to try something bold.
1. Worse: It Has Had Several Critical Missteps Already
The problem with bold decision-making is the potential for critical mistakes, of which the DCEU has made several already. Having Superman kill Zod was a bold decision that angered some fans but could have led to some interesting character development for the Man of Steel. Having Superman lay waste to Metropolis, however, showed a lack of foresight that made Superman seem apathetic and hurt the franchise. Pitting Batman against Superman in the franchise’s second film was also a bold decision that could have worked if it were better executed, but having the heroes seemingly resolve their differences immediately because their mothers share a name felt like a cop out.
The DCEU’s films have been plagued by these mistakes thus far. Forcing too many characters into BvS made the movie feel bloated and took the focus away from the two main characters. Forcing Suicide Squad to do re-shoots in an attempt to make the film more humorous made the film feel disjointed. And killing off Superman in the franchise’s second film wasted what should have been an amazing moment in a film down the line. The Justice League standing over one of their fallen members should have been one of the biggest, most emotional moments in the history of either franchise. Instead, it underwhelmed, and is one of the reasons the DCEU is worse than the MCU.
What do you think of our list? Which franchise do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.