In the modern movie era Marvel movies have consistently outperformed competing DC films due to the strength of Marvel's story and character development.
Since the beginning of film, movie studios have been attempting to outdo each other in both raw box office numbers and franchise popularity. This is especially seen in the blockbuster superhero genre. In recent years, the historic rivalry of Marvel and DC has translated from the comic book realm to the big screen. Despite being evenly matched in print, Marvel has dominated DC on the screen due to several important factors.
Marvel Studios is arguably one of the most successful production companies of all time. Click here for an in-depth analysis of Marvel Studios history. Their films are consistently in the top-ten at the box office every year. DC has taken notice and offered some counter-films. This hasn't done much to stem the Marvel tide. They seem to use the "secret sauce" in every movie and it works. Here are what I believe are the strong Marvel points and DC weaknesses.
Marvel excels at storytelling. From the beginning to the end in each film and across films you are involved in the story. It is believable, interesting, and understandable. There are action packed sequences with plenty of laughs sprinkled throughout.
The plot is well-thought out and you see characters shaping the story. On the other side is DC. Usually just a jealous copycat. Marvel puts out Avengers and DC creates Justice League. Marvel has Captain America fighting in WWII against the Germans, DC has Wonder Woman fighting in WWI against the Germans. If DC movies seem somewhat familiar, it's because you have seen the story before.
The story drives the characters and the characters shape the story. Across multiple movies we see pieces fit together. The story will culminate with Avengers 3 and 4 with the revelation of the infinity stones.
Another major strength of Marvel over DC is character development. We see the heroes grow and develop over several films. You actually care if the heroes live or die. Unlike in Suicide Squad where most of the characters really didn't matter.
A minor character in one film, such as Hawkeye in Thor, becomes an important hero in latter movies. The past of one hero interacts with another's. A camaraderie develops and creates friendships that become torn apart when one character betrays another. Marvel crafts their heroes with great forethought.
This can't be said of the accompanying villains who are often one-shot baddies. But DC also has this weakness in the villain department. The villain across both universes is just the problem to be solved by the hero and not a dynamic personality. The exception to this is Marvel's Loki, who is actually more of an anti-hero than a true villain.
So overall the good guys get motivation, backstories, and dynamic personalities, while the bad guys are very static.
The storytelling and character development combine to create wonderful worlds in the Marvel Universe. They meticulously introduce, grow, and shape their heroes across multiple films. A character might have a small role in another character's movie, then get their own stand alone film, then return to a major milestone movie like the Avengers as a major player.
In contrast, DC just wanted the success of the major movie without the character development. They went right to Justice League with Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash being quickly introduced in this movie instead giving them each their own stand alone film. Thus the audience isn't invested in the characters or the world they inhabit.
These are the strengths and weaknesses of Marvel and DC respectively as I see it. Maybe DC will eventually learn from Marvel and dethrone them. But I doubt it.
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Ethan Hausmann is currently the Vice President of Marketing and Community Outreach for Successtar Enterprises LLC. He is an author, professional speaker, and seminar/workshop instructor. Ethan has extensive knowledge and experience in marketing, customer service, leadership, and other small business related concerns.
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