Marvel Movies vs. DC Movies – The Differences in Approach

Published 1 year ago by , Updated June 27th, 2013 at 6:14 pm,

DC Marvel Movies Discussion Differences Marvel Movies vs. DC Movies   The Differences in Approach

DC and Marvel are prepared to battle it out in movie theaters during coming years, with Man of Steel paving the way for Justice League against Marvel’s Avengers. It’s not hard to see that each studio has, to this point, taken a very different approach to adapting their comic book heroes, but with Iron Man 3 delivering humor over the more serious comic book source material, we’ve come to wonder: how serious is too serious for superhero movies? And where have the studios planted their flags on the matter?

Rather than simply distinguishing between ‘serious’ and ‘funny’ entries in Marvel and DC’s offerings, we believe the differences go much deeper than tone or believability, and make up two extremely distinct approaches to not only adapting comic book characters, but laying the foundations of a shared movie universe.

Although some claim otherwise, we’re not entirely convinced that writers on each studio’s side approach the issue of adapting comic book heroes by first deciding whether their movie will be depressing, or hilarious. Even so, comic book films to date can be filed into two rough categories, and how ‘funny’ a story or character can be is just the tip of the iceberg.

Read on for our extensive breakdown, or jump to any one section via the links below. You can also VOTE IN OUR POLL found on the last page of the article:

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The Marvel Approach

The Avengers 2 Scarlet Witch Quicksilver 570x357 Marvel Movies vs. DC Movies   The Differences in Approach

Let’s start with Marvel: a world where fantasy is the norm, and fantastic things happen, albeit with serious implications. Iron Man actually had quite a serious plot to begin with – terrorist kidnapping, the death of a close friend, and a call to defend those who had been victimized. However, by the film’s finale (Tony facing off against his mechanized-suit-wearing friend and partner), it was clear that Jon Favreau had chosen to cast off drama in favor of adventure.

Iron Man 2 picked up right where its predecessor left off, skipping over the serious in favor of maintaining tone. Whether it was a drunken Tony fighting his best friend – set to some thumping club music and played for laughs – or the infection slowly killing Tony being cured by S.H.I.E.L.D. in a heartbeat, the overall message was clear: Tony doesn’t have to deal with issues the way real people do. And that, dear reader, is what’s known as ‘escapism.’

Sure, fans complained at the time that Favreau had once again ignored the landmark “Demon in a Bottle” comic story (following Stark’s descent into alcoholism) for a quicker, shallower take on the idea of chemical dependence and self-destruction. But with hindsight, it’s easy to see that the world of Iron Man 2 wasn’t one designed to accurately portray – or pay respect to – addiction.

Iron Man Demon in a Bottle Marvel Movies vs. DC Movies   The Differences in Approach

Sure, addiction was hinted at in the film, along with Tony’s father’s own dependence on alcohol, glimpsed in a brief home video. Since Tony’s world wasn’t meant to be seen as the real one in any meaningful way, dealing with such a heavy-hitting issue would have broken the escapism, and seemed out of place among the film’s more “comic booky” tone.

In many ways, consistency is more important for success than the specific story or degree of believability decided upon; it doesn’t matter how serious a comic book movie the director chooses to make, so long as they stick to the decision (*cough*Green Lantern*cough*).

That’s why adapting any comic book story into a film, let alone an annualized franchise is so difficult. Any comic fan knows that for the most part, comic books don’t offer an accurate reflection of reality – not superhero books, anyway. There are commonalities, but with parallel universes, magic in surplus, and invading armies bent on exterminating the human race a monthly occurrence, the superhero genre is fiction through and through.

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NEXT PAGE: Marvel: The Fantastical over The Serious…

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TAGS: aquaman, batman, captain america 2, green lantern, hawkman, iron man 3, justice league, man of steel, Suicide Squad, superman, the dark knight, the flash, thor 2, wonder woman

494 Comments

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  1. i have to admit iam bias for DC. i read both comic, but as i was growing up, i find Marvel’s storyline, character profiles/background, and stories overall are a little childish. As for DC, they really know how to catch m full attention. Its like reading a great book, where i want to keep turning the pages and buying the next issue to find out what happened. i didnt get that from Marvel (no offense).
    Other than that, in my POV They need to reboot every other character, but here is some food for thought; Reboot green lantern b/c it was an abomination, find a more suitable actor for the character. maybe read couple of his issue to get an idea of Hal. Take Ryan Reynold, and make him the Flash!! he is perfect for the character with his witty/comical comments and its just his style. AS for Wonder Woman, PLEASE DO NOT get Megan Fox. i really cant think of a suitable candidate, but i can tell you who wont work, and she definitely dont fit the role. and same goes for Aquaman, Martian Manhunter…and of course the Billion Dollar question…the next Bruce Wayne***Christian Bale did an excellent job, i say wither reboot the character with him, or you gotta find someone thats gotta be DAMN good.

    • look i dont want to start a war here but buddy don’t pull comics in comparison with the movie marvel is know as killer of characters in most brutal way they could ever do remember gwen stacy and marvel started to make their characters flawed first

    • Agreed :D

  2. For me,good reviews or bad,i leave that to the fanatics.as for me marvel and dc are doing a good job in bringing back the child in everyone especially at these times of choas,famine,war and etc.These movies take a bit of load off all on us dads wanting to earn for our families and at the same time pass to our children the past in where we as children believed in in our own times of problems.

  3. Honestly I have always liked Marvel better than DC but both are really great at entertaining our fantasies, and really the only character I like from DC is Batman because of his will power…when Man of Steel came out and Superman killed Zod I was alittle surprised but realized that in the comics superman did have to kill in order to protect the lives of millions although he didn’t exactly want to, but batman has never and will never kill because he knows he can’t afford to cross that line, but yeah I’m sure Marvel and DC will make good movies in the future and hopefully collide the two universes like in the comics.

    • Batman has killed in the comics. Many times. Batman won’t kill the “Joker”…

  4. Well, we now know that there was no hope in MAN OF STEEL, which was a bleak, depressing, diatribe on the benefits of staying in the closet and how inherently not worth saving mankind is, and that saving people comes in last after killing your enemies.

    I go to a Marvel movie and I am entertained…I got to a DC movie and I am more often than not depressed. I can understand that approach to Batman, but I feel it is fundamentally flawed for Superman. Superman was designed to do the impossible, even at his earliest as a crusader for social justice in REIGN OF THE SUPERMAN, he was designed to inspire hope and do the things we cannot do ourselves. Instead we get a murderer that commits genecide against his own race and makes out with Lois Lane in a field of ash surrounced by destruction. Really hopeful.

    • If you find an action blockbuster depressing then may you never watch a drama or you might hang yourself. Also, “saving people comes in last after killing your enemies”?! Why the hell do you think he was forced to kill Zod in the first place? Superman “was designed to inspire hope and do the things we cannot do ourselves” and he did just that: he saved mankind from Zod, you can hardly be more hope-inspiring. And “a murderer that commits genecide” (sic)? Please! Regardless of your odd definition of a genocide, does anyone really have a choice in a kill-or-be-killed situation? That’s not what a murderer is to me, nor to the law. And yeah, there can still be love in the midst of destruction. Really hopeful (not sarcastic).

      • But it was a depressing movie and while we are on the topic not really deserving of the term an “action” blockbuster as the first hour or so of the movie was just poorly written dialogue. (The movie itself had tonnes of holes and the motivations for characters was silly such as why would the dad commit suicide to save a dog? I have a dog and love him but have to say would not jump into a tornado for him…sorry. Some might but I doubt a hardened farmer as his dad is made out to be would.) The second half we see almost no dialogue and just a costumed man flying through buildings, so I have to agree with ForeShadow, it’s weak.

        • Many people do stupid things in the heat of the moment to try and save their loved ones. It’s not like he had the time to pause and think of what to do. That hardly qualifies as “suicide”. I knew someone who died in a flooding years ago in an attempt to rescue his cats. He was an otherwise intelligent, reasoned man who enjoyed life very much, yet he cared enough about his cats to try and save them regardless of the odds. It didn’t work but I’ll never call him silly as he definitely wasn’t. The irony is that one cat actually survived. These things happen, you just can’t call love a silly motivation, especially in a situation like this when all one has time to do is react. You claim you wouldn’t do it as you’re idly sitting behind your computer, typing, but you can’t know for sure what you’d do in a similar situation.

          And yes, the first half of the movie is mainly exposition. So what? Setting the characters and plot needs time to be done properly and I’m actually glad it wasn’t rushed in 10 minutes. This is not your typical disposable brainless Michael Bay turd and it sure delivers on the action later on, so yeah, I stand by the “action blockbuster” definition and I refute the “depressing” argument. Granted, the tone is more serious than in the Marvel movies but in no way depressing. And rest assured that the action/exposition ratio will be higher in the sequel.

          • “Depressing” isn’t an “argument”, it’s an emotional reaction. I, too, found Man of Steel depressing. The effects and action were stunning, but there was no warmth there, no charm, no heart; I just felt bludgeoned in the end. Both “The Avengers” and “Man of Steel” can be considered action blockbusters, and “Man of Steel” arguably has more impressive action, but I found “The Avengers” much more FUN. This despite the fact that, as a comic book reader, I historically preferred DC. I nonetheless have hope that the franchise will improve as it develops.

            • The Avengers is classic Joss Whedon style, so of course it’s fun. MoS wasn’t meant to be fun but realistic, just like the Dark Knight trilogy. When destruction occurs on such a large scale, it’s quite hard to be fun anyway. But not fun does not equate depressing. Like I told ForeShadow one month ago, if you find an action blockbuster depressing then may you never watch a drama or you might hang yourself.

    • Genocide? The kryptonian race at the beginning of the movie had been long dead. Zod was clinging on to a ghost of a planet. So you would have just let the kryptonians kill an innocent race? Not everything is black and white. This decision was very gray. If you actually paid attention to the movie you would have noticed that when Clark learned what zod wanted to do at first he was conflicted. When zod and him were in the scout ship and zod yelled at kal that he would be killing their race kal at first hesitated than yelled back “Krypton had its chance.” And he was right. They blew themselves up. Why do they deserve to come to our planet and kill all of us to start over just so they could probably do the same thing. And this movie wasn’t bland and depressing. It was about hope and going down the right path. Look how he was treated as a kid. Bullied, cast out from others like a freak. Most people treated like that would grow up to be bad guys. Not superman. He still goes around and whenever he can helps people. And that’s because he knows we are all not bad. He meets people like the kents and lois and pete and that guy on the boat who risks his life to push clark out of the way. He saves the world because in the end he is and has always been more human than kryptonian. superMAN. He kisses lois than cause he has never connected with anyone like that before. It being amongst the ruins of part of a city is not as bad as most people make it out to be because those people and buildings had been avenged. Superman along with the help of lois and the military save the world. Their souls metaphorically speaking can rest in peace knowing the world had been saved. If they had kissed in the middle of the dessert it still wouldn’t have changed the fact that people died. And superman killing zod? Shut up and go read a comic book.

      • ‘Nuff said.

  5. Oh, there is so much to unpack here. Have any of you seen the Justice League Flashpoint Paradox cartoon movie? Barry (the Flash), makes a comment when he stumbled upon Thomas Wayne’s batcave in the adulterated timeline: “What happened to you, Bruce? You were the James Bond of super heroes. What turned you into the unabomber?” I want to see a Batman reboot that balances Marvel’s strategy, Nolan’s “real-world”-iness, and the fantastical awesomeness that is Bruce Wayne in some versions of the Batman storylines. Give me a batman that is totally improbable, incredibly genius, and has a plan for E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. “Darkseid is doing an Apokolips invasion? That’s okay, I’ve hacked into his computer systems and set timers for all of his firepit bombs to go off at once. Only I can stop it, so Darkseid has to retreat or have his planet destroyed.” “Superman has gone rogue? That’s fine, I’ll beat the mother-lovin heck out of him while wearing a Kryptonite ring while I wait for backup from the JLA.” Give me the freaking Watchtower and all the amazing tech, like Iron Man. Batman is supposed to be an intense character, but also one of the singularly most COOL characters in DC!

    The next Superman/Batman movie should feature a more diverse color palette. Maybe offer some contrast of the types of color used in Man of Steel vs that used in the Avengers, except use the Avengers’ strategy of brighter colors for Superman and the more “meh” colors for Batman (contrast the bright hope of Superman and straightforward realism and grit of Batman). Brighter, more vibrant colors really do affect the mood of the audience, and while I thoroughly LOVED Man of Steel, it would have been viewed differently if there was a brighter color scheme like that in the Avengers.

    I dunno. I’ll probably enjoy the movies no matter what, but DC really does need to get organized and put forth a hard effort to follow Marvel’s strategy in world-building to prepare for a Justice League movie. I love Superman and Batman, but I will disavow DC if they make a crappy JLA movie.

    • Colors are a matter of taste. I, for one, was glad they strayed from the primary colors of Christopher Reeves’ costume and went for something that didn’t hurt the eye.

  6. I like Marvel a lot more than DC mostly because the characters are a lot more dynamic compared to the characters of the DC universe and right now DC is just playing catch up while Marvel is on a roll with up coming movies such as captain America 2 and Guardians of the galaxy. DC has had their chance to outshine Marvel but have not been able to do so with the lack of movies they have. For these reasons it can be said that Marvel is winning this race against DC.

    • DC cash grab? Really? Considering half of marvels movies are on a scale of mediocre to crap I would hardly call Marvel a company that genuinely cares about their movies. Rolling out yearly like cod games. Are you going to sit there and tell me that movies like ghost Rider and fantastic four weren’t cheap cash grabs? And marvel being more diverse? If you actually read DC you would know that they are just as diverse if not more than marvel. And of course there are going to be similar people in terms of powers. If you’ve been around as long as dc has you’re going to end of creating rebooted modern takes of the characters. But it’s that fact that really impresses me about dc. That they can create from the outside very similar characters but on the inside have very diverse emotions and personalities. It makes since that younger generations will want to try and live up to these legends that inspired them as kids. Young justice portrays this very well. Go watch it.

      • Marvel just wants to sell kids meals and merchandise. The Marvel movies have no weight because there is no sense of consequence or danger. It’s all wink at the camera and rapid fire quips. Marvel is like a quickie in the middle of the day, a race to satisfaction. They threw everything at building to the Avengers making each movie watered down and very mediocre. Captain America was the one decent film pre-Avengers. It had a developed character and balanced humor and seriousness. All the others were just commercials for the Avengers. “Hey kids watch The Avengers! Coming soon!” They’re quick, unmemorable, juvenile entertainment for the ADD generation. Just a distraction for short attention spans. I like Marvel and DC…comic books. The movies I have to give it to DC for focusing on building characters and having deeper themes. The entire Dark Knight trilogy may only be about Batman/Bruce Wayne, but it’s an actual journey unfolding over three movies. The character grows and falls and rises. That is worth a lot more than a cheeky performance. Lazy quips can never replace a well told story.

        • Funny how you picked the worst movie of them all and called it “the one decent film.” Cap 1 was a cheese-fest of epic proportions.

      • I’ve watched young justice, and in terms of marvel and DC I still like marvel better but I can admit that DC has great comics, tv shows, video games, and toys, but they don’t make enough movies to satisfy fans and that is one of my biggest concerns for them as of right now since the justice league movie was delayed and that caused major setbacks for the franchise.DC has very unique characters that range in personality and ability but like I said before they need to work on their cinematic universe as well as they do everything else and only then can they hope to turn things around even though they have been around longer than the marvel franchise.P.S: young justice was cancelled

  7. “Tony doesn’t have to deal with issues the way real people do” see to me Iron Man 2 did deal with those issues a very real way, just with Comicbooky things going around them. I’ve been in the position of Rhody have to beat down a Drunken friend, so I relate to that on a very deep level.

  8. Boy, does this article need an update or follow up. (I’m frankly not sure how you write an article about movies the marvel way vs the DC way to be published BEFORE the big DC movie comes out, but it was a good article, marred by baseless speculation in the final section).

  9. First things first, I will admit to being a DC fan for a long time. That being said, The Nolan Batman movies are the best I have seen on the screen. Mr Bale portrayed a great batman, and the darkness and the tone of the movies were great. I understand they want to maintain realism, but I would have love to seen the Lazuras pits be part of the story line… my only complaint would be (and someone please correct me If I am mistaken), didn’t they mash 2-4 different story lines together in the 3rd movie? Looking forward to more, Bats and Supes together could e great..PS I thought Man of Steel was excellent they captured the “myth” of Superman very well, and as you stated, serious, not dark good point.

    On to Marvel, I very much enjoyed the Toby Spidey Movies They were innocent, fun and dark all @ once. The Iron man movies were great because of Downey…the Avengers movie sucked because none of the characters could stand up to him as an actor. I enjoyed the 1st 2 X-men movies then they ruined one the greatest comic stories of all time…what a shame, Thor was fun, Hulk Smash, enjoyed DD and Punisher and the 1st Ghost Rider(the 2nd was awful), disappointed w/ FF and one of my favorite characters, Silver Surfer, could have been much better

    What would I like to see done?? How about Kirby’s fourth world saga…”Nuff said”

  10. Like to point out Michael Keaton’s/Tim Burton’s Batman has been the best ever on screen and Bale was good, apart from the third movie, that was horrible and I’ve only seen it one and a half times, didn’t even have the heart to watch it again, that’s a record for me for a comic book movie. Sadly the third Nolan movie took a huge nose dive, especially the last 10 minutes.

    Superman Man Of Steel was okay to good, shame it didn’t have the magic of Superman in it, especially the Superman score we all know and love. Had no problem about the Zod bit, but Lois knowing Clark’s Superman even before he puts on the cape totally spoiled it, should of let Lois find out in the sequel or future sequel. She had no problem finding out Clark Kent is Superman, nor would the Government or anyone else, stupid.

    Looking forward to Superman with Batman even though Affleck seems a stupid move, could pick 100 actors over him right now, saying that I like Ben, just not for Batman. Actually Batman’s easy to play, its the Bruce Wayne part he’s gotta pull off, can’t see it.

    Bring on JLA!

    Yeah Iron Man 3 was a let down too, but no way near as Rises was.

    • “She had no problem finding out Clark Kent is Superman, nor would the Government or anyone else, stupid.”

      Yeah, because a guy who keeps the same face but becomes suddenly unrecognizable when he simply puts glasses on isn’t stupid?

      It was actually a very welcome relief that MoS creators put an end to all these years of the most stupid nonsense when they allowed their characters to easily figure out who he is. The guy wears no mask, for Chrissakes!

  11. As a kid I always thought Marvel comics were darker than DC. But the films are the opposite way around. DC with the Batman movies is far darker and realistic than Marvels cheesy, funny movies. I wish marvel would take a cue from DC and make their movies more human and realistic and less cartoony.

    • On the surface this may seem true. But look at Blade 2 and the Avengers.Blade 2 is pretty much a horror story. The latter has poor Coulson take a spear through his chest (quite graphic). Cap tells Thor to “Light the B**stards up” and Loki calls Romanoff a” Mewling quim!”. The Punisher films (although not my cup of tea), were very violent. I think Marvel has the balance just right.

  12. I can’t for Aquaman movie. It will be so cool.

    • Haha! That’s a good one!

  13. I’ll leave the debating to the “fans.” I’d like to thank Andrew Dyce for a really amazing article that looks at the two sides of Marvel/DC with a true MRI (Most Respectful Interpretation). This kind of balance is needed in most Religion/Science debates, Democrat/Republican conflicts and many others.
    Thanks again for the insightful comments and for helping me understand where all of this is going. I’d say DC has their work cut out for them. Wonder Woman? Real world? THAT will be a challenge. But I now see and respect both sides much more.
    Hey, Andrew, do you give lessons on how to make intelligent, balanced discussions of controversial issues…?

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  15. Although I enjoyed AVENGERS, I tend to prefer the character-driven approach — the BATMAN BEGINS trilogy were not merely good superhero films, but riveting *films*, full stop.

    Having said that, I think this DC-is-serious and Marvel-is-fluff setup is a false dichotomy. It’s extrapolating from one film in each series (the Nolan BATMAN films and AVENGERS, respectively). But DC had the horrid GREEN LANTERN. Marvel had X-Men (in particular, the superb X-MEN FIRST CLASS), as well as WINTER SOLDIER (which had a lot of decent character moments) and, if we can forget about TASM2, the first four Spider-Man movies,

    • Honestly, we need more people like you in these boards.

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