Ever since the DC Extended Universe was launched with 2013’s Man of Steel, the film franchise has been struggling to achieve the same amount of commercial and critical acclaim as the Marvel Cinematic Universe — which enjoyed a five year and seven film head start.
While there’s no reason that the separate universes and fan bases can’t peacefully co-exist, it’s near impossible to not think of the two franchises as rivals. After all, the two companies have been duking it out on the comic book stands long before superhero movies were considered mainstream.
Understandably, the DCEU is at a serious disadvantage, having the difficult task of trying to differentiate itself from the highest-grossing film franchise of all time while at the same time trying to recreate the success that Marvel has enjoyed. While we certainly can’t fault DC for creating its own shared universe, we can’t help but notice that plenty of DCEU story arcs are surprisingly similarly MCU storylines. While many of these overlapping elements first appeared in the comics, it’s impossible to deny that Marvel brought them to the big screen first.
Here are 15 Things DC Movies ‘Stole’ From The MCU.
15. A tale of two Steves
Aside from the obvious fact that these two characters from Wonder Woman and Captain America: The First Avenger share the same first name, both Steves also happen to be elite America soldiers at the front lines of a World War against the Germans.
But it’s the circumstances surrounding their “deaths” that are most similar of all. At the end of the film, Steve Trevor decides to sacrifice himself by hijacking a German bomber and flying it to a safe altitude before the poison gas detonates. This entire scenario is strikingly similar to the end of The First Avenger, where Cap boards Red Skull’s aircraft and flies the weapons of mass destruction into the Antarctic.
The major differences are that Steve Rogers is brought back from the “dead” after 70 years on the ice, while Steve Trevor does indeed meet his demise, and that Steve Trevor is the love interest, rather than the hero of the film.
14. A gang of anti-heroes
James Gunn’s 2014 entry into the MCU proved that even the more obscure and downright bizarre comic book characters could make for one of the most beloved and well-reviewed movies in the genre. Then, cut to two years later when the DCEU released a similar movie which also revolved around a group of anti-heroes and misfits forced to band together against their will.
Unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, Suicide Squad proved to be a mess of epic proportions. As it turned out, no amount of added jokes or catchy pop music could make us feel for Captain Boomerang or El Diablo in the same way we connected with the members of the Guardians — proving that it’s always better to serve the source material rather than try to recreate what’s worked for audiences before.
13. The increasingly lighter tone
One of the primary criticisms of the DCEU by far is the brooding tone and overly dark – look prior to Wonder Woman. While we don’t need every superhero movie to be packed wall to wall with laughs, if you’re going to make a movie gritty, you can at least make it more realistic — as seen with Christopher Nolan’s superb Dark Knight trilogy.
Because Batman v Superman experienced such widespread criticism, Suicide Squad underwent extensive reshoots that only served to make the film feel like a more disjointed mess. Wonder Woman at least succeeded by bringing some more color to the screen, but the biggest test will be to see if Justice League can successfully balance the dark visual style with pithy one-liners.
12. Joss Whedon
After Zack Snyder stepped away from Justice League following a family tragedy, Joss Whedon was put in charge of finishing up the film in time for its November 17 release date. While Warner Bros. maintains that the film is still Snyder’s, with the addition of a screenplay credit and rumors swirling about extensive reshoots, we can’t help but wonder how extensive Whedon’s influence in Justice League will be.
Despite the MCU and DCEU being two totally different animals, while looking for someone to take over the reigns for their biggest film to date, the studio still decided to take on Whedon, who proved himself a highly capable filmmaker after the first two Avengers films.
The fact that Warner Bros. decided to take on Whedon — who achieved great success with his MCU outings but expressed dissatisfaction with creative process — makes the studio’s intent extremely clear.
11. The German supervillian and his mad scientist
Though Marvel has a notorious villain problem, here’s another example of where the MCU didn’t just do it first, but they still managed to do it better than the DCEU.
In The First Avenger, there’s no mistaking Johann Schmidt for the film’s primary antagonist — he’s played by Hugo Weaving, he’s a the head of Hydra, he works for Hitler, and his face is literally a red skull. Not to mention that any good villain needs a mad scientist henchman, and here, we get Arnim Zola.
However, things are far more convoluted in Wonder Woman. Not only are we led to believe that General Ludendorff is Ares in disguise, but his mad scientist henchman, Doctor Poison, is a far more interesting villain in both appearance and personality.
Of course, all that is scrapped by the end of the second act, when the audience is forced to refocus their hatred on Sir Patrick Morgan, who has secretly been Zeus’s corrupted brother Ares the entire time.
10. The quirky new recruits
Even though we’ve only seen a handful of clips with Bruce Wayne interacting with Barry Allen, the relationship between the veteran superhero and the newbie already feels strikingly similar to Tony Stark’s relationship with Peter Parker.
In both Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming, we watched Tony bring Peter into the fold, recruiting the quirky new teenager to align himself with his faction of Avengers while teaching him the responsibility that comes with his powers.
Barry Allen seems to be in a similar situation, telling us that “he’s never done battle before,” while Bruce Wayne broods over having to deal with the new recruit who is both inexperienced and socially awkward. We can only imagine that the similarities will continue to mount once Justice League actually hits theaters.
9. Upgraded armor
With a title like Batman v Superman, it was a safe assumption that Kryptonite was going to make its debut in DCEU if the Caped Crusader had any chance of giving the Man of Steel a run for his money. But Bruce Wayne didn’t just have the radioactive element on his side, he also had a specialized suit of armor designed to protect him against the increased threat. And where exactly have we seen this before?
In Age of Ultron, we discover that Tony Stark has created the Mark XLIV — better known as his Hulkbuster suit — just in case the Hulk ever went on a kill-crazy rampage. The suit features multiple power upgrades, including rockets, unibeam, and a punch-repeater.
While both upgraded armor sets have been seen previously in the comics, it’s hard not to draw comparison between the two scenarios on the big screen, especially when Zack Snyder went out of his way to emphasize that the Mech Batsuit doesn’t make Bruce Wayne more powerful, it just better protects him from Superman’s strength.
8. Dancing deja vu
Borrowing from another movie isn’t always a bad thing, so long as the moment serves the story and doesn’t draw the audience out of the movie with any overt plagiarism. This happens to be the case with the dancing scene from Wonder Woman, which finds Steve Trevor teaching Diana how to slow dance in the real world, moments before Wonder Woman marvels over snowfall for the first time.
It’s a sweet scene that takes us away from the action and makes us connect with the characters — something the DCEU has been desperately lacking. A similar scene previously appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, where Star-Lord teaches Gamora (another otherworldly figure), how people dance on Earth.
To be fair, this type of scene has been a cliche for decades now. But we will happily ignore its redundancy so long as its execution doesn’t feel forced.
7. Super siblings pitted against one another
While General Ludendorff and Doctor Poison already reminded us of Red Skull and Arnim Zola, when Ares finally did arrive on the scene at the end of Wonder Woman, it couldn’t help but feel reminiscent of the ongoing conflict between Thor and Loki.
Just as Loki is secretly planning a coup against his adoptive father and brother in Thor, Sir Patrick Morgan is also working behind the scenes to destroy mankind by getting others to do his bidding. When both antagonists’ sinister intentions are revealed, they’re forced to battle with their super siblings, with Thor defeating Loki on the Bifrost Bridge, and Wonder Woman destroying Ares after learning that she is indeed the “Godkiller,” as well as his half-brother.
Of course, Ares can’t even come close to the iconic villain status that Loki has in the MCU – especially now that he is (seemingly) dead.
6. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Probably best known for his role as Mr. Eko on Lost, actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje made his debut in the MCU in Thor: The Dark World, where he played the Dark Elf Algrim who is later transformed into Kurse. Both roles required an extensive amount of time in the makeup chair, especially when the actor was required to work as both characters in the same day.
Then, just a few years later, Akinnuoye-Agbaje was snatched up by the DCEU to play Killer Croc in Suicide Squad — another make-up intensive character which reportedly took five hours of preparation each day before filming.
Though Akinnuoye-Agbaje is by no means the only actor to jump between franchise, he is actually the only one to appear in both big screen productions for the MCU and DCEU, which is likely a result of Kurse meeting his demise in The Dark World, freeing him up to be hand-picked for Killer Croc.
5. The post-credit scene
Even though the post-credit scene was around long before the MCU, it’s hard to deny that Marvel perfected the tactic, which resulted in almost entire audiences waiting around in the theater just to get a sneak peek of things to come.
Meanwhile, the DCEU has been hesitant about employing post-credit scenes of their own, possibly to avoid drawing comparison to Marvel. However, their one and only credits scene from Suicide Squad was not only a massive letdown — as it gave the audience no new information — but it was also strikingly similar to the scene at the end of The Incredible Hulk.
Here, two superheroes meet with a less than enthusiastic government official to propose the idea of getting together a team of superheroes — the main difference being that up until this point in the MCU, audience were only dreaming about a possible Avengers movie, while fans of the DCEU already knew that the Justice League movie was well in the works.
4. Oblivious gods
Things began to really lighten up in the DCEU with Wonder Woman, which found the goddess leaving her homeworld of Themyscira and trying to adjust to life in 20th century Europe. We watch as Diana deals with the ridiculous fashion trends of the time, and her inability to accept that women should be treated as second-class citizens, all to great comedic effect.
However, the same tactic was previously employed in the first Thor film, where yet another godly superhero must leave their homeworld with no promise to return. Thor finds his Asgardian wardrobe to be far less ridiculous than everyone thinks, and he’s also seriously lost when it comes to proper social etiquette.
However, while Thor has continued to be a bit of an oblivious goofball throughout subsequent films, Diana has long gotten her bearings after living in Man’s World since the end of World War I.
3. An ill-fated romance
Due to Diana’s reaction to a long-list picture of him, we knew from the get-go that her relationship with Steve Trevor was never going to last, similar to the love story between Steven Rogers and Peggy Carter in The First Avenger.
In both films, we already assumed that both Captain America and Wonder Woman would need to eventually be brought up to the present timeline (especially since we already saw Diana throughout Batman v Superman), meaning that their relationships in the past were already doomed from the get-go.
But in the case of Wonder Woman, things were really doomed at the start considering her prolonged life and status as a god. These love stories diverge at the end, as it’s ultimately Steve Trevor who sacrifices himself, leaving Diana totally heartbroken – as opposed to Peggy mourning Steve Rogers.
2. The billionaire playboys assembling the team
Though Captain America is often slated as the official leader of the Avengers, in the first few films of the MCU it’s Tony Stark who seems to do the most legwork scouting talent and recruiting teammates. Even up until Civil War, when the Avengers break into separate factions, Tony has clearly been keeping his eye out for new blood, as seen when he brings Peter Parker under his wing.
Since Tony Stark is one of the few members of the Avengers who doesn’t have any superpowers, it makes sense that he would be given the additional role of recruiter and strategist, which is exactly what we’re seeing in the DCEU with Bruce Wayne.
Ever since Bruce witnessed the death of Superman, he’s promised to assemble a team of superheroes using Lex Luthor’s top-secret intel. In Wonder Woman, Bruce reaches out once again to Diana, while in the Justice League trailers we’ve already seen him recruit both Aquaman and the Flash, similar to how Stark helped assemble the Avengers with Nick Fury’s help.
1. The entire idea of a shared universe
Last, but certainly not least, is the entire idea of the DC launching a shared universe after the monster success of the MCU.
While DC had previously attempted to bring Batman and Superman together on the big screen back in the early 2000s, those plans consecutively fell through, along with the idea of making a Justice League film with George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) attached as a director.
While the MCU continued to gain momentum, DC turned out a number of critical and commercial standalone disappointments, including The Losers, Jonah Hex, and Green Lantern, and after Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy wrapped up in 2012, DC finally decided to launch a shared universe of its own.
While this was exciting news to comic book fans everywhere regardless of brand loyalty, the DCEU’s attempt to differentiate itself by diving headfirst into a shared universe has had its ups and downs, and Justice League will undoubtedly be its biggest juggle act to date.
What other similarities did you notice between the DCEU and MCU? Let us know in the comments!
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