Yesterday I’d gone to watch the fantastic animation movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse & thanks to its surreal story, millions upon millions of comic book references, rollicking after credit scenes & one of the last Stan Lee cameos that we’ll see, I, like several others, came back home having had a thoroughly good time & wondering how Marvel manages to knock movie after movie out of the park, that too with such ease.
Some people say it’s because of Marvel’s vast repertoire of superheros , others claim that it’s because of the war chest that they receive from Disney( Which owns Marvel) or because of their star studded cast & crew. Another theory is that they’ve had decades to flush these characters out, thereby giving them a clear roadmap to base the MCU on.
But if that were the case, then why has Marvel’s age-old arch nemesis, DC, struggled to get their Cinematic Universe off the ground?”
They certainly possess all of the so-called ingredients for success. They’re backed by WarnerMedia who with their $31.27 billion revenue stream & 98th rank among the Fortune 500 companies are certainly no strangers when it comes to producing amazing entertainment programs( I mean, these are the guys who gave us GOT!!). If you want to get even more technical, AT&T, the new parent company of WarnerMedia, is 9th among the Fortune 500 thus giving WarnerMedia an even greater war chest than the one they possess now.
DC too possesses an eye-watering array of superheroes that equals & according to some, exceeds that of Marvel. In fact, their equivalent of the Avengers, the Justice League, has 11 characters to Marvel’s 7. In terms of cast & crew, the DCEU has some of the biggest names in Cinema, from Gal Gadot to Ben Affleck, from Zack Snyder to Patty Jenkins, they’ve assembled quite a team.
DC too have had several decades to fine tune & perfect their characters. In fact, out of the two comic book juggernauts, DC is the older one, it was launched in 1934, 5 years before Marvel.
This brings us back to our original question of why despite possessing all the elements that people claim to be the reason for the success of its rival, has DC has failed to replicate its success. The answer starts with the characters.
For decades, DC & Marvel were locked in a war for supremacy, each side winning a few battles here & there, but none able to overpower the other & win the war. This thus caused an uncomfortable stalemate to arise, a stalemate that went on for years & looked to go on for many more. That, however, was not be, because a revolution was underway in Marvel, a revolution that looked to radically change the face of comics & shift the tide in Marvel’s favor. And sure enough, slowly but surely, as the revolution gained steam, Marvel pulled ahead of its nemesis & never looked back.
So what did Marvel do? It evolved or at least it’s characters did. Protagonists were ripped apart, reassembled, killed off & even replaced. Why was this done? This was done because of the fact that people want to see themselves reflected in their superheroes & Marvel did that. Spiderman is no longer just Peter Parker, it’s also now Miles Morales( Half African American & Half Hispanic), Gwen Stacy, Mayday Parker( Both women), Miguel O’Hara( Half Hispanic, half Irish), The Hulk is no longer a fuming Bruce Banner, he’s Amadeus Cho( Korean American), one of the eight smartest people in the world, Ms. Marvel is no longer Carol Danvers , it’s Kamala Khan( Pakistani), Thor, for the last 5 years was Jane Foster( Thor Odinson’s lover who battled against cancer). Marvel’s most powerful character is Captain Marvel( Carol Danvers), a woman.
Meanwhile, over at DC, Batman is still played by Bruce Wayne, Superman does not stay dead & Wonder Woman is certainly not the most powerful among the Trinity.
But that’s over at Comic book land, what about the new arena, Movies & TV shows? Why is the titan flailing helplessly over here? Maybe they should try to replicate Marvel? I’m here to tell you that that is not the answer, it is in fact, the problem.
In its quest for Cinematic supremacy, the DCEU is trying too hard to be like Marvel counterpart & it’s clearly not helping them.
This is not idiotic babble that I’m spouting, the evidence is stark & in plenty. Take the Justice League as an example, the 11 member version in the comics was shredded up & replaced with a 6 member team in the movies to better mimic the 7 membered Avengers. The Flash was forced to become a pseudo-Spiderman( to attract fans of the witty character) complete with a student identity that is nowhere to be seen in the comics. Aquaman became nothing more than a cheap, long-bearded version of Thor & his half-brother Orm, a diluted imitation of Loki.
Then comes in the casting, the casting for the DCEU has been rather half-baked, thus hamstringing the characters these actors portray. We’re left with an aging Batman because the prideful Ben Affleck refuses to relinquish the role & Henry Cavill, while not as bad as his counterpart in Black, lacks a certain sparkle, while over at the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. has become the face of Iron Man & actors like Benedict Cumberbatch & Mark Ruffalo have taken characters like Dr. Strange & Bruce Banner & made them their own.
But there is hope yet, the DCEU can still save itself, for it possesses a silver bullet. Wonder Woman was everything that a DC movie should be. With the perfectly cast & beautiful Gal Gadot as it’s protagonist & Patty Jenkins at the helm, the movie broke the box office, receiving critical acclaim & the love of the public. It was just different, something that had not been seen before, a female-centric superhero movie, directed by a woman( Which Marvel is not set to do till March of this year with Captain Marvel, which is the most awaited film of 2019 according to IMDb, ahead of even Avengers Endgame). This plays to the psychological factor that Marvel used in its comics, people want to see themselves reflected in their superheroes. This is also the reason why Black Panther( Marvel), which featured a nearly full black cast & strong female characters like Shuri & Okoye was so widely successful, becoming the 1st movie since Avatar to hold the no.1 spot in the box office for 5 weekends & the 2nd highest grossing film in the world.
DC must innovate, they must stop copycatting Marvel & start to do their own thing, people will come if they do, but should DC fail to do that, it’s not just their Expanded Universe that faces the chopping block, DC itself will face extinction. Because people like me aren’t exposed to these characters via their comics, it’s through the movies & TV shows that feature them, an arena where Marvel is currently Supreme. And unless DC gets its act together & tries to change that, for the next decade or so, it will face an entire generation of loyal Marvel fans, who will obviously gravitate to familiar characters & franchises, leaving DC cut & dry. If that is not a cause for concern, then I do not know what is.
The DCEU must experience a Rebirth, like how the comics it is based upon have & unless it does so, it’s future is bleak. Let us hope that DC does not become the latest casualty in The Decimation, let us hope that the Finger Snap does not rob us & our next generation of another band of beloved superheroes.